Archive for December, 2008

SAINTS FOR OUR TIMES

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I truly hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that this week-end has been a time devoted to family and perhaps some relaxation. Today at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Indian Rocks Beach we said our farewells to Sister Helen Conway who died on Christmas eve at the age of 78 after a little more than two years of living with cancer. Sister Helen chose to forego all forms of cancer treatment and devoted her remaining days to helping others who were facing death to prepare for it and be at peace with it. It is a little unusual for me to attend a funeral for a religious sister, but Sister Helen had been the General of her religious order for twenty years. She was a Sister of St. Clare (they work at a number of our parishes in the diocese). Born in Ireland and a religious for just a few months shy of sixty years, she was the principal of St. Lawrence School in Tampa and worked in New Port Richey, on St. Petersburg Beach and at St. Jerome. My presence was a way of thanking God for the life of this good women and thanking the Sisters of St. Clare for their presence in the diocese. Sister Helen is now resting in peace, home for Christmas as she predicted.

During the seven days between Christmas and New Year’s the Church celebrates a number of saints and one horrific event. St. Stephen, the first martyr for the faith and a deacon of the Church was celebrated on Friday. Most likely stoned to death by an angry mob which included Saul of Tarsus (later the convert, St. Paul), Stephen’s  last words were those of Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

On Saturday, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. John the Evangelist and Apostle. This is interesting because it is highly likely that these were two entirely different men.

On Monday we recall the 12th century martyrdom of Thomas a Becket. Like Thomas More some centuries later, Becket was Chancellor of England to King Henry II who ultimately had him murdered in the Cathedral of Canterbury. Thomas a Becket was also the Archbishop of Canterbury. The “rub” between the two men was the same as for More, the freedoms between Church and State. Canonized only three years after his death, English Catholics would make pilgrimages to his grave in Canterbury, later memorialized by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales and by T.S. Eliot in the wonderful play and movie, Murder in the Cathedral.

The atrocity of which I spoke would have been recalled on Sunday were that day not a Sunday and the Feast of the Holy Family. It is the day the Church remembers all the newborn males slaughtered by a jealous Herod in an attempt to put to death the Messiah born in Bethlehem, in the city of David. We call this day the Feast of the Holy Innocents and it reminds us today’s sad atrocity, the death of over a million of unborn children by abortion each year.

Thursday is a Holy Day of Obligation throughout the United States and attendance at Mass is obligatory. It is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and the World Day of Peace.

I am taking the next seven days off and will resume again next Sunday night, January 4th. Until then, my prayers and very best wishes go out to the readers of this blog and the people of the diocese for a happy, healthy and holy New Year.

+RNL

JOY TO THE WORLD

Thursday, December 25th, 2008
A live "baby Jesus" who needed a diaper change in the front pew just prior to his big moment. Oh, well!

A live "baby Jesus" who needed a diaper change in the front pew just prior to his big moment. Oh, well!

I began my Christmas eve journey at an overflowing Church with well over 1200 men, women and especially children at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Church in Spring Hill. One of the three largest parishes in the diocese, Cabrini serves an across the generations population of Catholics in Hernando County. During the proclamation of the Gospel the children acted out a pageant.  Then I shared with them my absolute best Christmas story which you will never be able to read here but hopefully will sometime attend a children’s Mass on Christmas eve somewhere before I pass on.

The children of the Gospel story pageant

The children of the Gospel story pageant

Thanks to Father Richard Jankowski for inviting me and allowing me the honor to begin my own celebration of the Birth of the Lord Jesus at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini.

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IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Winter is  officially here and Christmas 2008 is palpably close now. Our offices closed at 100pm today and will reopen on January 5th in the New Year. I finally have some time to begin to think seriously about my Christmas homily which I will post here shortly after delivering it at the Cathedral Midnight Mass. I know my priests and deacons, sacristans and music ministry people are very busy getting ready for tomorrow night and Thursday morning.

We know a  lot of people who will be worshiping with us on Christmas eve and day, are not normally in Church. We welcome them and hope they will like and embrace what they experience, the living Eucharist. I especially love this season because it reunites in Church generations: grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren. And there is a certain calm and peace about it all, especially after the stores close on Christmas eve.

I will post again on Christmas Day and follow that with some reflections on the feasts and memorials between Christmas and New Years: St. Stephen, John the Apostle, the Holy Family, Holy Innocents, and St. Thomas a Becket. But the bishop is shutting down for a week beginning on Holy Family Sunday and ending on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. No blogs. No sightings. Also, I will be on retreat with the bishops of all the (arch)dioceses from Wilmington, DE to Miami, Florida, from January 5th through January 9th at Our Lady of Florida Retreat House in North Palm Beach. As soon as I get back from retreat, confirmations begin in earnest right up to Ash Wednesday – the circle of life for a bishop and his priests.

I am so lucky and privileged to serve among you and to all the priests, deacons, religious women and men, seminarians, and people of God of the five counties, I wish you all a most blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with happiness, health, and holiness. It all began so simply so long ago.

SIMPLY AMAZING

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Last week I wrote about the experience some of the staff of the Pastoral Center and I had last Tuesday night at Pinellas Hope. About fifty of our employees eschewed their own Christmas party and chose to spend the evening feeding and serving the homeless at Pinellas Hope instead. In that blog entry I mentioned that an anonymous person had pledged $100,000 if we could match it before the end of the year. It has been matched, and then some, and here are details of which I was not aware last week.

If Pinellas Hope is able to raise $1,000,000 of in-kind assistance (meals, food, service hours, etc. count in this category), $260,000 in donations, and $140,000 in donations for capital projects on the site, then the Pinellas County government will release $700,000 it has budgeted and is holding to support Pinellas Hope this year. Out in search for the $400,000 which Catholic Charities must provide, Sheila Lopez, the great lady of Pinellas Hope and Catholic Charities read an article which said that the wife of the financier and philanthropist Warren Buffet was willing to give to homeless projects throughout the country. So Sheila called Mrs. Buffett and amazingly reached her. After explaining Pinellas Hope to Mrs. Buffett, she agreed to give $100,000 if it was matched by December 31, 2008. That’s all Sheila Lopez needed to hear. They have now exceeded the $100,000 needed for the match. Two very generous members of the diocesan family have given me checks in the amount of $5,000 for Pinellas Hope in the last two weeks and today I accepted a check from the Sun Bank Foundation for $35,000. The donations continue to come in what I believe to be a simply amazing response to a great human need which our diocesan Church through Catholic Charities and its partners are meeting in an innovative and successful manner.

No one who has ever visited Pinellas Hope has left with anything less than profound admiration and pride for what is being done there. Tomorrow night I join the remaining thirty-five of my fellow staff members of the Pastoral Center in serving the last of the two meals which substitute for our Office Christmas Dinner/Party.  On Christmas eve, Father Bob Morris will celebrate a Vigil Mass for Christmas at 6:30pm at Pinellas Hope and at that time the statue of the infant Jesus will be placed in a manger which sits in a tent just like those occupied by the 285 present residents. All this is possible because “angels we have heard on high.”

There is also a small glimmer of hope from the county across the Bay that we may still be able to launch a “Hillsborough Cares” center. That would be simply amazing.

Jeff Dunn of Sun Bank and Dan Mahurin, President of Sun Bank, Tampa present check for $35,000 to Sheila Lopez of Pinellas Hope

+RNL

FOR THE CHURCH AND THE POPE

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Monsignor Robert Gibbons, A Chaplain to His Holiness (photo by Kathy Proefke)

Monsignor Robert Gibbons, A Chaplain to His Holiness (photo by Kathy Proefke)

Sunday evening in the Chapel of St. James located on the grounds of the Bethany Center it was my privilege to present papal honors to six of our priests and eighteen lay people. The priests were given the title of “Monsignor” and there are two categories of said “Monsignors”: Prelate of Honor to His Holiness and Chaplain to His Holiness. Each is entitled to a distinctive form of dress to be worn on occasion and to be addressed as “Monsignor.” It is an honorary title which is given in this diocese near the completion of a lifetime of service to this local Church as a priest. Here it is a recognition of about three decades of dedicated priestly service in and to this diocese or in the military service. The honor entails no additional salary or monetary compensation (in fact when they buy all their trappings, it ends up costing the new monsignors money). It is strictly honorary in nature.

Monsignor Colman Cooke, a Prelate  of Honor (photo by Kathy Proefke)

Monsignor Colman Cooke, a Prelate of Honor (photo by Kathy Proefke)

This is the second time that the Holy Fathers have chosen to recognize our priests and I hope  to continue requesting these forms of recognition from time to time according to our priest’s age and years of service in the diocese. No diocese may have more than ten percent of its active priests accorded this honor and generally, except for those approaching retirement, the Holy See prefers that men begin as Chaplains to His Holiness and then after five years be “promoted” to Prelates of Honor.  Prior to about six years ago, bishops were free to petition for as many monsignors for their diocese as they wished and we usually only asked for Prelates of Honor but things tightened up around 2002 and now it has become more restricted. Here are the names and brief biographies of the six priests honored this year.

Since the announcement of these honors for these priests, most have had individual celebrations with the people of their parishes and the common, recurring thematic during these days has been one of congratulations and expressions of gratitude for priestly service generously given. Those are exactly my own feelings tonight.

The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal and Lapel Pin (photo by Walter Pruchnik)

The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal and Lapel Pin (photo by Walter Pruchnik)

The lay women and men all received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award which translates “For the Church and the Pontiff”. From time to time I ask the deans as well as some pastors in the deaneries of the diocese to provide me with names of lay people who have made extraordinary contributions to the life of the diocese or service to others beyond the parish, the Church, and to the bishop’ ministry of service. Since we annually give the St. Jude the Apostle award to men and women who stand out for their dedicated service to their parishes, this is more of a diocesan recognition. The Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award is the highest recognition the Church can give to lay people. It is a medal and I am attaching a picture:

The medal is accompanied by a parchment which we frame for the recipients. Some dioceses choose to make a few lay women and men Knights and Ladies of St, Gregory, Knights and Ladies of St. Sylvester, etc. but those designations are  different categories and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award remains the highest form of recognition.  This year’s recipients have gone out of their way to provide service and assistance to the diocesan ministry and they are so recognized. To view the names of those to whom this award was presented tonight and the brief introduction of each awardee, please click here.

Dolores Cataldo, foundress of Benedict Haven, receiving her award (Photo by Kathy Proefke)

Dolores Cataldo, foundress of Benedict Haven, receiving her award (Photo by Kathy Proefke)

None of those honored tonight sought this or any other form of recognition. What they have done, they have done out of faith and love for their Church. This evening’s reading at Evening Prayer from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians [4:4-9] captures the spirit of this occasions very well: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving make your request known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received ands heard from me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Congratulations to all.

+RNL

THEY’RE BACK!

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Saturday night was my last Advent/Christmas party (thank the Lord) and it is an annual and very pleasant occasion when we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist with our seminarians and their parents and families. Back from their first semester of study, they all look somewhat haggard from final examinations but very happy to be home once again. Our celebration was more subdued this year due to the budget constraints which everyone in America is facing and the diocesan Church is no exception but given the location (Bethany Center and one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed), the setting and the love in the place, I doubt if any or many noticed. Our Vocation Director, Father Len Plazewski  is not one to allow moss to growth beneath the shoes of our seminarians so most of them are working a two day “discernment retreat” for forty young men which begins tomorrow and ends on Tuesday. Please pray for the success of this retreat and that from it may come more young men who wish to answer the Lord’s call to “follow me.”

COULDN’T DO IT WITHOUT THEM!

Friday, December 19th, 2008

One of the traditional aspects of the season are office parties. At the diocese, we decided in light of the economy and budget short-falls that we would forego the big dinner we sometimes have and cook and serve the homeless at Pinellas Hope instead (see blog entry below Light Shining in the Darkness). Nonetheless, various offices have been getting together for smaller seasonal gatherings and tonight I had my personal staff at my house for a “Honeybaked Ham” dinner. I consider myself to be a very lucky person in many ways, one of which is the competence, dedication, loyalty and patience of my own staff.

Father Bob Morris is a wonderful Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. He misses parish work and particularly pastoring very much but makes the sacrifice to assist me and the diocesan Church. Joan Morgan, the Chancellor, keeps the records, statistics, requests for faculties, etc. all the while being a real “mother” to the priests. No one hangs up the phone after speaking with Joan without thinking, what a great woman she is to them. Elizabeth “Betty” Deptula has been with me for about ten of my years as Secretary for Administration. She oversees the work of the Finance and Accounting offices, Human Resources, Construction and Real Property offices, Information Technology, and has built  the new addition of the Bishop Larkin Pastoral Center, as well as Bishop McLaughlin High School, the Bethany Center, the additions to the three existing high schools and assisted all the parishes in completing and paying for their building projects. Frank Murphy is Secretary for Pastoral Programs and at the same time President of Catholic Charities of the diocese. He is a man of indefatigable energy and provides the energy as well as insight for Pinellas Hope.  At the Pastoral Center Frank would supervise the offices of Faith Formation, Education, Pro-Life, etc. and also serves as the Diocesan Communication spokesman.

Supporting us are only three wonderful women; Cecilia Svab, Vivi Iglesias, and Andrea McSorley. You keep them busy with your phone calls and we keep them busy with the usual and sometimes the unusual demands of a very busy office. Stress is not a stranger to our operation.  Come to think of it, I personally might just be a source for some of it.

I have a housekeeper at my residence who comes a day and a half a week and a very occasional cook who helps me when I have guests for meals which amounts to about one night a month, except during this season of the year. For food the rest of the time, well, there’s McDonalds.

Anyway, the Advent/Christmas season provides an annual opportunity to express thanks to those who help in the triple ministry of teaching, governing and sanctifying and that is what I and others did tonight. Thought you might wish to see what the women and men in my life look like so I am attaching two photos taken this evening.

Left to right, Andrea McSorley, Joan Morgan, Betty Deptula, Vivi Iglesias, Father Bob Morris, Frank Murphy (Cecilia Svab was unable to join us tonight and is missing from this group picture)

Jerry Toth (housekeeper) and Lori Foynes (cooking)

Jerry Toth (housekeeper) and Lori Foynes (cooking)

+RNL

BISHOP TO BISHOP

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I had the honor and pleasure of having lunch today with my counterpart in the Episcopal Church, Bishop Dabney Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. In a few months Bishop Smith will celebrate his second anniversary of consecration as first a Coadjutor Bishop and then as Bishop of a diocese which stretches from Hernando County in the north to Marco Island in the south. Bishop Smith was consecrated at St. Jude’s Cathedral and I was honored to be present on that occasion.

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LIGHT SHINING IN THE DARKNESS

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
The Diocesan Staff seeing replacements for tents

The Diocesan Staff seeing replacements for tents

This evening was the first of two nights my wonderful colleagues and collaborators in the diocesan offices have chosen for serving the evening meal at Pinellas Hope, the homeless shelter located in central Pinellas county on diocesan land. The staff of the Bishop Larkin Pastoral Center, the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, Spirit FM, and Catholic cemetarys are foregoing Christmas parties this year, choosing instead to cook and serve two meals prior to Christmas at Pinellas Hope. There were over sixty of us, cooking, serving, visiting and cleaning up.

Waiting the arrival of the Christ Child

Waiting the arrival of the Christ Child

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WHERE IN THE WORLD IS BISHOP LYNCH ON CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY??

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

This Christmas I will resume the practice that I have followed each Christmas eve and Christmas day since I arrived thirteen years ago save last year when I spent Christmas eve at Pinellas Hope. I will celebrate three Masses on Christmas eve in three of our five counties and one in a fourth county on Christmas Day. Here is the schedule for this year:

Christmas eve, December 24, 2008

600pm          St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, Spring Hill,   Childrens Mass for Christmas

830pm          St. Rita Church, Dade City,                    Mass in Spanish

Christmas day, December 25, 2008

1201am        Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle          Mass at Midnight

1000am        Womens Correction Facility                  Mass for those in jail, Riverview Facility