Archive for November, 2009

MY TOP TEN LIST OF THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR THIS THANKSGIVING

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

1. That I am still alive to celebrate Thanksgiving 2009 with both my brothers still alive, my niece and nephew and their spouses all who were at my side even though I was unaware of it, my friends from everywhere I have lived and worked. Special thanks to Drs. Reilly, Williams, Boulay, Abel and Rizzo, CPICU staff and especially JD and Jim, Therapy persons like Kathy, Jed, my special PT person at St. Anthony whose first name I am unable to remember due to a senior moment  Marcelo, Jennifer, Hermine, Anne Marie, Adela, Kathy B., Ann, Debbie, Beverly, Walter, Lori, Jeri and to Father John Tapp and Father Bob Morris who stood vigil through what had to be one of the longest days and nights of their life. All of you made this Thanksgiving possible and may God bless you all.

2. That thousands of people, most of whom I do not know, have been praying for me since July 27th raising my spirits and helping my recovery.

3. That I have been attended to by the finest surgeon, doctors and nurses and nurses-aids since becoming so sick.

4. That I have a group of priests who have been patient with me, supportive of my enduring the challenges of serious illness and whom I love and think the world of. Now I just need to be more patient with them and perhaps even more supportive in return.

5. That I live in the United States and enjoy so many of the blessings God has bestowed on this nation.

6. That late in life I have been “gifted” with an experience of suffering and uncertainty which I hope as I get stronger I can share with many who also carry the same burdens. Our Gospel is a message of hope.

7. During this time of my long road to recovery that our local Church has been led by Father Bob Morris, our Vicar General, and Elizabeth Deptula, Joan Morgan, Frank Murphy and the wonderful, committed people of our diocesan staff in seeing that the work of the Church continues successfully.

8. Apropos of number 7 above, that I have finally learned that it is not all about me, and that none of us are irreplaceable. It is one of the Lord’s gifts to His Church.

9. That I was baptized into the Catholic faith and am taking more seriously than ever before what it means to be “gathered, nourished and sent”, looking forward to our final convocation in May 2010 and more convinced than ever that the Lord has left me here to proclaim His presence in the sacraments of the Church.

10. This list of things to be thankful for could go on and on but I finish with the thought that I am so gifted to have been planted in this Church of St. Petersburg with its priests, deacons, religious women and men, and active, committed laity for whom faith is more than an obligation but rather a gift. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Bishop Lynch

BISHOP TOBIN AND CONGRESSMAN PATRICK KENNEDY

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Over the past week-end the media began to direct a  great deal of attention to the issue of Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and the Bishop of Providence, Bishop Thomas Tobin. The matter became media fodder when the Congressman chose to reveal the contents of a strictly personal and confidential letter sent to him several years ago by Bishop Tobin following pastoral outreach and conversation between the two on Kennedy’s ardent pro-abortion position. In that letter the Bishop as Kennedy’s bishop asked him to refrain from the reception of the Eucharist unless and until he embraced Church teaching on abortion and pro-life issues.

A few months ago, the Congressman raised the ante in the relationship by being openly critical of the Catholic bishops of the U.S. for risking the defeat of health care which he described as a true pro-life issue for concerns about abortion and conscience freedom guarantees. He stopped just short of calling the Church leadership “anti-life.” Bishop Tobin responded as I would have responded – calling a misrepresentation of the Church’s teaching for what it is. He did not publish his previous request to Kennedy to refrain from receiving the Eucharist and said he had no intention of making it public nor did he instruct the priests of his diocese to deny Eucharist to him (an allegation Kennedy made in his week-end interview). In other words, Bishop Tobin pursued conversation over confrontation and tried, unsuccessfully it would seem, a pastoral approach in asking the Congressman not to continue to give scandal by presenting himself as a member of the Catholic communion for communion. I think this is exactly how I would choose to proceed if faced with the same set of circumstances as was Bishop Tobin.

In judging this situation, please keep the following in mind:

1. Abortion is a moral issue which admits of no compromise. It is taking innocent human life. It has been the teaching of the Church for many decades and perhaps centuries. Catholics who choose to be pro-choice do not embrace the teaching of their Church on this issue and at some point can be considered to have separated themselves from the Catholic communion.

2. The Catholic Church leadership in this country is strongly committed to expanding health care to the uninsured. While it may seem that our commitment here is less passionate than our opposition to abortion, that’s not how I and my brother bishops feel. Abortion as a moral issue trumps but does not vitiate our support for expanded coverage for the poor and uninsured.

3. The Church in making its case before the Congress is acting as Cardinal George, our President said last week, based on principle, not politics. It is allowed to do this under section 501.C.3 of the Internal Revenue Service Code. We would likely cross the line if we endorsed or opposed a candidate for political office, which we do not do. Many of our more ardent pro-life Catholics would like to see more of the latter but it will not happen.

4. Congressman Kennedy, for whatever reasons, chose to take on his bishop and his Church’s teaching in an unconscionable manner. The bishop has responded as both pastor and teacher. I admire his restraint and his strength.

+RNL

SAINTS FOR OUR DAY

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I presented the St. Jude the Apostle Award to over 70 recipients from most of the parishes and missions of our diocese. This annual award instituted some ten years ago is given to a person or couple who in the mind of their pastor, parish council or parish staff works tirelessly and quietly for their parishes throughout the years. I often say when I give these out, “If you wanted the award you probably should not have received it, but if you feel humbled and honored to receive something you never thought of, then this day and this medal is for you.” We award it during solemn evening prayer on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ our King who precisely as “king” came to serve and not to be served. Pilate never got it when he questioned Jesus about his “kingship” but all of those receiving the St. Jude award yesterday understand it perfectly. I list of this year’s recipients by parish and/or mission appears or soon will appear on the diocesan web-site. At the same time as the awards, there were 46 alleged “saints” on the field at Raymond James Stadium (all from New Orleans of all places) while I had 74 at St. Jude’s Cathedral. How sweet was that!

Saturday night I was fortunate enough to preside at the 50th Anniversary  Closing Mass for Tampa’s St. Lawrence parish. An almost full church for Mass and over 400 for dinner in Higgins Hall afterward indicates the special place this parish occupies in the hearts and minds of its parishioners. It has had only two pastors in its fifty year history, Monsignor Laurence Higgins and for the past three years, Father Thomas Morgan, a graduate of St. Lawrence elementary. Both men were greeted by long and sustained applause for their pastoral zeal. The Sisters of St. Clare who originally staffed the elementary school were represented at the Mass and were also warmly acknowledged. A great parish with a great history closing its first five decades with the prayerful hope for many more great years, Congratulations to them.

+RNL

YOUNG PEOPLE – YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

22,000 Catholic youth gathered in Kansas City this week-end for the bi-annual nationwide convention. The gathering of our most committed and devoted young people places them in contact with wonderful presenters who are able to connect with them, gives them time to experience good liturgy, and spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament  which an amazing number of the participants utilize. On Saturday all 22,000 processed through the streets of Kansas City in an Eucharistic procession which gave the locals of whatever and no religious persuasion something to think about. Our own Father Len Plazewski was there along with a good representation from the diocesan youth. One might have though that tough economic times would have cut into the number of participants this year, but no – this was one of the largest.

Youth ministry is a challenge for our beloved Church. There are so many things competing for young people’s time and attention today from sports involving far more youth than in my day to a whole menu of after school options. Parishes still try hard to have good programs for the young people but getting them to come is a real challenge. Everyone points to the success of Protestant outreach to young people and I must admit that it is one of the few comparison points for which I am often jealous. One of the bright lights these past two years has been the three ECHO program members from the University of Notre Dame’s post-graduate program in religious education and youth ministry working in four of our parishes. Their presence and good work has injected some life into our times moribund-like youth ministry programs.

I believe that today’s young Catholic can have a thirst for the faith and it is incumbent upon myself and our pastoral leadership to meet these needs. At the same time, I do  not think it a wise strategy to offer programs where adult leadership assumes the mantle of acting like we were still young but rather we need to help our young prepare for an adult faith which awaits them. We have some extraordinarily generous young people who edify and sometimes humble me by their commitment to the Church, its teaching and values, and the responsibility of the baptized to share the faith with others boldly and fearlessly. I also see in the new interest in vocations to the priesthood and religious life the seeds of a renewal we badly need. It is our job as adult Catholics to provide the fertile soil in which these seeds can settle, germinate and blossom. The Church is looking for good gardeners in the soil of the faith of our young. Do you think you might be able to help?

+RNL

BISHOP’S PLENARY – SECOND DAY

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

First, a confession. I spent all day in a clinic and in doctors’ offices for regular post-op visits. All went very well on that front. What I was not able to do was watch the live video of the second day of the annual Fall meeting so for these reflections, I am dependent on news reports from CNS and other sources. As you know, EWTN is not carrying the bishops’ meeting this year, gavel to gavel, so it was not possible  for me to record the meeting and watch it this evening. Anyway, here goes.

Most all the action items passed with sizable majorities. While almost every action item had one or two votes against, this preventing a unanimous action of the assembly, I have always held that if the Nicene Creed  (the one we recite and pray at Mass) were placed before the bishops, it too would garner two or three negative votes.

One item which had the largest number of “no” votes was a proposed pastoral letter on marriage. Although the bishops’ National Advisory Council encouraged a “yes” vote on the proposed pastoral, bishops who spoke today felt that while there was nothing wrong with the proposed text, there were some issues and passages which could have been rendered better . The pastoral received five more votes than necessary for passage. The bishops also overwhelmingly approved a revision in the “Ethical and Religious Directives” which guide local bishops, health care facilities, doctors and nurses in hard decisions about medical treatment in an age when technology allows life to be maintained and sustained for years. The Pro-Life Committee saw their work product, a statement on life and birth in a technological age pass by a wide margin. All of these actions are available to you now on the USCCB web site.

The long work on a new translation of the Roman Missal is over and now Rome’s approval is awaited. Sometime in 2011, the new Missal will be implemented in the English speaking world. We will have to get use to some new language and there will be a period of catechesis in 2010 and early 2011 which I and our priests will lead to get you ready for the changes.

Finally, several bishops came to the defense of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development whose collection will be taken up this coming week-end in churches throughout the U.S. Founded about 30 years ago, CCHD has given grants to many organizations and agencies and sponsored an education program on the roots of poverty. Conservatively oriented Catholics have beeb taking shots at CCHD since its inception. Several years ago it was learned that a grant recipient was ACORN which was involved in projects not in accord with Catholic teaching. Several years ago before the US Government and Congress became aware of ACORN’s malfeasance, CCHD had dropped all support for this organization. I personally believe in and support CCHD and feel that our bishops’ committee  has acted responsibly with regard to this challenge.

That’s it from m perspective. Some final thoughts and notes on the meeting tomorrow.

+RNL

BISHOPS PLENARY – FIRST DAY

Monday, November 16th, 2009

After an opening Mass in the hotel, the bishops began their annual Fall plenary assembly by spending the morning in what are called “regional meetings.” Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina are all in “Region XIV” so the bishops of the twelve dioceses of those four states comprise the regional grouping. I know that one of the topics which the bishops were asked to discuss is the number of seminaries spread across the United States at this time. This discussion comes at a moment when it appears that vocations are on the rise and seminary enrollment is increasing. As I mentioned earlier here, St. John Vianney College Seminary opened in September with about 80 seminarians (the highest ever) and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach opened with about sixty seminarians but a total enrollment of eighty is not more than a year or two away. Seminaries are expensive operations but there are strong regional arguments to be made for them (training future priests for ministry in Spanish to Hispanics, for example.) No one wants to close their seminaries in this country so I wonder tonight what suggestions may have come from the regional meeting discussions this morning.

The Plenary opened with an hour and twenty minutes of formalities including an address by Cardinal Francis George, our President, and the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. These two talks have always been a part of the opening “ritual” for the meetings. Cardinal George began by speaking about the importance of priests to the ministry of bishops and painted a fine picture of what the Church might be like if there were no priests. He did this largely in the context of this being “the year for priests” as declared by Pope Benedict XVI. It was a fine reflection for we bishops about how important and vital our priests are not just to the Church which is obvious to all of our people, but to our own ministry as bishops.

The Papal Nuncio’s talk spoke about the qualities needed of the bishops in light of love for the Church. He opened with a long quotation from Pope Paul VI prior to his death about the gift of love from Christ to the late Pope in the Church. He then outlined three necessary qualities for bishops: fidelity (allowing here for some application of creativity in addition to preserving the treasury of the faith), prudence, and hope. He paid special tribute to a national meeting of Diocesan Vocation Directors recently held in Newark, finding the Directors to be impressive, resourceful and full of hope. Our own Father Len Plazewski is the President of the National Vocation Directors and God knows he reflects all those adjectives. The Nuncio ended his remarks by sharing a letter which he received from a priest asking for the appointment of “more positive” bishops. “Check, Archbishop. And thanks for your remarks.”

The rest of the afternoon was given over to the introduction of the “action items” which the bishops will begin to debate and vote tomorrow morning. The assembly had only ninety minutes, max, to submit formal amendments to the Action Items.

Finally, my successor as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, gave the assembled bishops a wonderful picture of CRS today, along with a stirring four minute video. The archbishop noted that only 22% of Church-going Catholics could identify CRS as the Church in the US’s overseas disaster relief and development agency.

Cardinal George asked the bishops assembled to support a statement which he wished to make on health care reform. We’ll download that statement for you here as soon as it is available.

+RNL

Update: Cardinal George’s Statement is now available at the USCCB website for this year’s November meeting, or you can access it directly.

AN ANNIVERSARY, OF SORTS

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

I am fairly certain that it was about a year ago that I began this effort at “blogging” when on the way home on AMTRAK from the annual bishops’ meeting in Baltimore, I wrote my first entry. It is an  effort which I  have enjoyed immensely and I am grateful for all the compliments and even the occasional criticism which have met my various efforts. Next week the bishops will be meeting again in Baltimore but I am unable yet to be present. I regret this reality but accept it as an additional part of the occasional suffering and disappointment which accompanies my long recovery.

I spent last night reading the materials for next week’s meeting. The public agenda is rather light and the “Executive Session” agenda looks interesting as it always does. A recent trend which I have alluded to in the past is to put the more important issues requiring discussion and discernment into “Executive Session” and place only those items which are ready for final debate and vote into the open, public sessions. This trend would deeply bother many of the bishops I knew well and admired from the late seventies and eighties who were pleased with the move to openness and transparency but we are a different breed of “bishop-cat” these days, preferring not to air certain issues in public until they are ripe and ready.

What I will do this year since I will have the time is provide my own comments and thoughts on matters before the bishops each day of the meeting and at the conclusion of the daily sessions. Obviously, I will not be privy to closed session discussions and even if I were, I would respect the confidentiality of those meetings. To do otherwise would be “going rogue” as we have recently come to understand that phrase.

Looking back on my year in the blogosphere, I am learning still. I think I made a good decision in the beginning to allow my readers to share comments with me but not publish them. I prefer catechesis to confrontation and have no desire to enter into polemical jousting with anyone. Most of the comments have been helpful and constructive – some, especially from those engaged in keeping “Hillsborough Cares”  from coming into existence have been vicious. But I read them all and have corrected some errors in my own work as a result of the constructive criticism which has come my way through the “comments.”

Finally, if it is indeed an anniversary for the “Blog” it can right be celebrated by all of us, not just myself. Thanks for listening, reading and responding over the last twelve months.

Bishop Lynch

BACK TO ST. ANTHONYS

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Because rumors have a way of spreading, I  want all who are praying for me to know that I visited the OR at St. Anthony’s Hospital again to day for day surgery to place a port in my chest which tonight will begin to supply IV fluid to my body on a daily basis while I am sleeping at night. There has been a growing concern about my kidney function and a great deal of optimism that bypassing the ostomy and directly supplying the necessary fluids, potassium, sodium, etc. to the body through IV drip will turn this situation around. I was in the OR for about thirty-five minutes and back home doing things like this blog by 230pm. So all is well. Just think you have the right to know.

+RNL

A WONDERFUL “VETERAN” PRIEST GOES HOME TO OUR LORD

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Monsignor John Bolger, long time pastor of Transfiguration parish in St. Petersburg went home to the Lord just after midnight last night. He was ready, willing and at peace. A native son of Ireland, while small in stature he stood tall in his love for the people of Transfiguration parish and especially the school which was unable to out survive him. It broke his heart when it closed several years ago. With his Irish brogue and Irish accent, he was not always the easiest person to understand, but the people of the parish got used to it and took him to their hearts. They loved him. I loved him and I am very confident that the Lord loved him as well. I recall with special delight the occasion when for no apparent reason I invited him and some other priests to my house for lunch. It was then that I told him that Pope John Paul II had named  him and the others Prelate of Honor with the title, Monsignor. A small tear came to his eye and he looked at me and said, “there must be some mistake.” When the area was threatened by a hurricane (such as Charley), I would call him and the other priests who I felt were at some risk alone and ask them if they would like to join me in weathering out the storm. Monsignor Bolger would always thank me and say that we wished to remain in his retirement house as there were wonderful friends who would also look after him. To those generous and loving parishioners who cared for him, God Bless You. Rest in Peace Monsignor John – you earned it, “the old fashioned way.”

ONE SMALL STEP FOR HUMAN LIFE

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I am very grateful that the Gator’s game with Vanderbilt turned out never to be close and was somewhat boring since it allowed me to watch intently the debate in the U.S. House of Representatives last night on the Stupak anti-abortion amendment to the House Health Care Bill. I stayed with the U.S. House for the rest of the night until finally the vote on the whole health care proposal. It was an interesting exercise in civics and political science. Just before midnight, the House voted (1) to accept the Stupak amendment adding even strong language to proscribe any use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion under the House Health Care bill, (2) rejected a Republican counter health bill proposal, and (3) pass by the narrowest of margins the omnibus Health Care proposal.

First, the Stupak amendment: I was proud of the almost sixty Democrats who joined a solid, unanimous corp of Republicans to insert this language and generally proud of the rhetoric surrounding this approach. The pro-choice members offered their usual statements of opposition and of course it was embarrassing to listen to some members of the pro-choice caucus in the House speak who were probably born Catholics, may still be Catholics for all I know, but still do not grasp the moral implications and the teaching of the Church of their baptism on the dignity and protection of all human life. I have far more patience with those outside of our faith community who at least struggle with this issue.

It appears that on Friday night a deal which would have met the requirements of the Stupak wing fell through and representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops attending the meeting indicated that our Conference would oppose the whole bill if it did not include the more restrictive language of “Stupak.” Speaker Pelosi then did the only thing she could do knowing that without the Stupak langauge she would not muster sufficient votes for the omnibus health care bill allowed the matter to come before the House for limited debate and vote. I suspect that the Speaker hopes in her heart of hearts that if there is ever a conference committee to reconcile the House version with anything that might come from the Senate, this language which again I suspect she finds odious will the negotiated out. But for the moment, this was a victory for the pro-life cause and the number of Democrats who joined with their colleagues from the other side of the aisle suggests that the polls-confirmed shift in the country from tolerance for “abortion-on-request” to a greater level of uncertainty and even distaste is having its effect even on Congress. Until the health care debate is over, I still consider this “one small step for human life.”

The nation’s bishops and I support health care reform of whatever type will reduce the number of uninsured in the country and assist in covering all people within our boundaries who are currently denied access. I would confess to some personal concerns about the range and scope of the Bill passed by the House last night but it is still “a long way to Tipperary” and this hunt for equity in access and reduced cost is far from over. We will see. All of our Congressional representatives except the very predictable Ms. Castor voted for the Stupak amendment and they deserve our thanks which I will communicate to them tomorrow. They always hear from us when we want something but seldom hear “thanks” when they perform for us. If you have the time to thank them, join me.

+RNL