Archive for June, 2010


Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Holy Name Monastery in St. Leo -- the home of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida

This morning the Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name Monastery in St. Leo invited me to come and celebrate Mass and the blessing of their new prioress. Sister Roberta Bailey who has been a number of years the Principal of St. Anthony School in San Antonio was elected by the members of her community to serve as Prioress for a term of, I believe, four years renewable for four more if she and they choose. Sister Roberta replaces Sister Mary Clare Neuhofer who was been the Prioress for eight years. The installation of the new prioress occurred this morning in a private ceremony at Morning Prayer and attended only by the community of sisters themselves. The Mass and Blessing which I attended saw about seventy-five additional people other than the sisters attending. It was simple, lovely and at times touching but then that is the Benedictine way. They devote their lives to prayer and work and sometimes their work is precisely praying for others. They are a monastic community but not of absolutely strict observance.

It is not the easiest time to be a religious woman in the Catholic Church in the United States. There is a Vatican initiated and controlled visitation of religious communities in this country which has been announced and is already underway and their national organization which is called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is also under scrutiny by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I find the former to be interesting since the constitutions under which every religious community in this country lives have all been given the “good housekeeping seal of approval” by the same Congregation in Rome which now is investigating the sisters. Some time late summer and this fall, visitation teams will spread out across the US and visit the number of religious congregations and orders and then send a secret report back to Rome. If there is anything which the sisters dislike, it is precisely the secrecy of it all since they tend more than bishops or even men’s religious communities to do all their business in the proverbial “sunshine” or out in the open. We have only two possible communities which could be visited in this diocese, the Benedictines and the Sisters of St. Clare and neither of them will receive visitators.

As a man who happens to be both a priest and bishop, I can say categorically that I love the sisters of this diocese. Their total number is down considerably since my arrival (no cause and effect relationship but an indication of the aging and dying of nuns in this country) but they still contribute greatly to the life of this local Church. Many parishes who have one or two sisters working either in the school or doing parish ministry treasure their presence as do I. They are golden and a platinum resource in our midst. The same is true for the Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name who have been teachers since their foundation in many of the schools and presence in other parishes in mostly the northern three counties of this local Church. Today we prayed that God would bless these sisters with new vocations so that their presence and ministry in our midst might continue. And lest anyone forget, may I remind you that the largest national collection taken up in this diocese in terms of money donated is the one in December for the Retired Religious. Catholics also love the nuns and despite the occasional jokes about rulers across hands, our memories of the sisters of our youth are a part of the great mosaic of our faith.

Sr. Roberta Bailey, OSB and Bishop Lynch pose for a photo in front of a painting of St. Scholastica

Sr. Roberta Bailey, OSB and Bishop Lynch pose for a photo in front of a painting of St. Scholastica

Thank you, Sister Mary Clare. Congratulations and blessings to you, Sister Roberta. And love, prayers and best wishes to all the other sisters of our five counties.



Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Now that I have your attention!

In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the forehead and hands are anointed with the Oil of the Infirm

This morning I made my second visit to Bon Secour-Maria Manor Nursing home to celebrate the Eucharist and with the help of five other priests (God bless them) administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to those Catholics who wished to receive it. I am invited twice a year and enjoy going there to do something mildly pastoral as opposed to totally administrative. Since coming here, Maria Manor has always asked and seems to look forward to my visits. The staff go to great lengths to bring as many of the Catholic residents as possible down to the chapel and they come in all manner of wheel chairs, etc. Many of them are fast asleep prior to the beginning of Mass and it is one group you don’t mind sleeping through your homily. They seem at genuine peace. But one can not preach too long or one will be interrupted with an especially loud yawn and then you know you have pushed the envelope beyond its natural resting point. After all, no matter the age, the brain can not absorb what the tush can not tolerate.

Bon Secour-Maria Manor was the source of very negative publicity about six months ago in the local papers when the state accrediting and reviewing agency put them on strict probation for regulation avoidance. Prior to that, the facility had always received a five-star rating, one of the best in the area. Administrators reacted responsibility and were not accusatory. Instead they began to address the areas of concern and probably added some additional ones of their own that were not a part of the state-finding. I sensed a vast improvement this morning and they have already received reaccreditation from the professional agency which accredits nursing homes and are awaiting the unannounced visit of the state inspectors any day now. I would go to the bank that they will get at least four and maybe five of their stars back. It is financially challenging to operate a nursing home in the present environment with the state constantly cutting back on reimbursements for Medicaid patients. At one time, sixty percent of the population at Maria Manor was on Medicaid. The census for the facility has dropped in recent times, perhaps because of the publicity attendant upon the state’s probationary action, but also because here in Pinellas County we are losing elderly population in a significant manner. Father John Tapp, the pastor of Holy Family in which I live and Maria Manor is to be found says that his parish has lost about 1000 family units in the last decade. I truly hope that the Bon Secour Health Care System will hang in there in challenging times and continue to provide the continuum of service from Assisted and Alzhiemers care to full nursing care. As the pictures which accompany this blog indicate, they do lovingly take care of their resident and patient clientele.

Father Al Arvey, a resident of Maria Manor, who in a few days celebrates his 80th birthday receives the sacrament of the sick.

So, I did indeed enter a nursing home on this Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul but I also walked out an hour later having celebrated two sacraments of the Church with a grateful, loving group of believers. Hats off to the staff of Maria Manor.


Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Here’s another set of random thoughts while shaving……..

Vacation days are upon us. At our office we can tell when things begin to shut down in our parishes with pastors and associates taking their vacations and a dearth of phone calls and letters to be answered are the rule of the day here at the Bishop Larkin Pastoral Center. For we older generation types, the window of summer vacation weeks has been narrowed considerably by the earlier opening of school, now in early August instead of after Labor Day as  back in the “days of the giants.” This has it effects not only on parents of school age children and their teachers and administrators, but pastors and associates as well. Generally one can not get away until school is closed and must be back prior to school reopening. What was once a twelve week window for my brothers is now more like an eight week window at best and imagine the complications next year when Easter is on the last possible day it can be observed, April 24th, and Pentecost is not until June 12th. I am ready to resume a full confirmation schedule next year and am hoping that more parishes will choose a date prior to Ash Wednesday and after Christmas or at least the first five weeks after Easter. So we have the same challenges of “when to rest from our labors” as many of you do.

Finally, while on this topic, don’t forget Sunday Mass when you are away. I am edified at the number of people in the summer who fill the huge Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of the Universe at Disney. I am also edified by those who attend Sunday Mass on cruise ships when the opportunity is offered by a cruise line (now just Holland America and Crystal among the major players) and at our national parks. The rule of the Church has always been that you can be excused if you are actually travelling (read that on the road, plane, train or ship) during Sunday Mass times but must attend if at all possible otherwise. The Creator deserves our praise for the beauty of creation, after all.

For readers from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, four priests who were originally a part of our diocese but now minister in the Diocese of Venice (we call them “SOB’s” which means “South of the Bridge(rs)”) have been recommended by Bishop Frank Dewane to the Holy Father for receiving papal honors. Monsignor Edward Moretti, V.G. Vicar General of the Diocese of Venice and pastor of Saints Peter and Paul parish in Bradenton has been named as a Protonotary Apostolic with the title of Monsignor; Monsignor Gerard M. Finnegan, Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea on Longboat Key,  and Monsignor Stephen Edward McNamara, pastor of Resurrection of the Lord parish in Fort Myers were both named Chaplains of His Holiness and Father Fausto Stampiglia, pastor of St. Martha in Sarasota and a member of the Pallotine Order has been given the  Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award. Congratulations are in order to our alumni.

Monsignor Norman Balthazar, for the past decade almost the Director of Catholic Cemeteries is retiring at the age of seventy as is allowed and will be returning to his home on Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts,  next month. Monsignor has done an outstanding job of transforming Calvary Cemetery into a beautiful final resting place for our loved ones and has made all of us proud of what a Catholic cemetery can look like. I wish him well in his retirement.

Finally, stay off the roads at the end of next week because that is when all our priests who are changing assignments and returning to new assignments will be moving. There are quite a few this year but not nearly as many as my first Spring as bishop here when about thirty were reassigned and it was referred to, quite irreverently but comically as “the lynchings.” All the alia I can think of for now.



Monday, June 21st, 2010

No, this is not a blog getting you ready for the coming changes in the texts we use at Mass! I am not even sure how much Latin I remember but I am playing off the words attributed to Julius Caesar after conquering Gaul, when he imperially pronounced Veni, Vidi, Vici or “I came, I saw, I conquered.” If I have the case endings correct in the title to this blog, what I meant to say in Latin, is “they came, they saw, we conquered.” The “they” are the bishops of the United States who came and spent the better part of last week with us.

"For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies..."

After some of them had been here a while and enjoyed the beauty of the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront and its parks, and the area’s finest gelateria on Beach Drive (four night average of 100 bishops a night prior to going to bed went to get an ice cream), they began to inquire about my health, how old I am, and who do they talk to about succeeding me. More than one referred to our city as “the last stop on the path to paradise.” I could not have been more proud.

The diocesan Worship Office assisted the national team in preparing morning and evening prayer, a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and an hour-long penance service plus the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Michelle Rego of old St. Mary’s arranged for the superb musicians and our seminarians served the Masses and helped as lectors at many of the liturgical services. I am proud of them all – boasting like a proud parent, “they’re mine.”

As I mentioned earlier in a blog, this was one of those special assemblies which we hold every four years (the next one will be in San Diego in 2014) and there was practically no business conducted. Thus, we were absent the media, the TV lights and cameras, the staff from Washington and the many observers who attend our business meetings. It was just us, wearing “civies”, enjoying both the topic and the fraternity.

The main speakers were outstanding. Archbishop Dolan began the week with a keynote address giving the history of relations between priests and bishops throughout the centuries. Archbishop Collins of Toronto spoke about the relationship of the spirituality of priests and bishops. Archbishop Carlson spoke of the role of bishop with his priests, father, brother or friend. Finally, Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco spoke of the communion between bishops and priests. To each presentation there were respondents, table discussion and floor discussion. I liked what I heard and hope to incorporate much of it which may have been missing in my ministry as bishop in these remaining years.

On Saturday as we came to a close, more than one bishop came up to thank me, for the hospitality, the hotel and their meals, for the experience, for the weather (humidity and afternoon thunderstorms right on time between 3-5pm) and many said it was the best assembly yet. St. Petersburg conquered the misgivings about coming to Florida in June and what they saw when they came, they surely liked. It will be several generations before they return to the area again – it was only the second time in the history of the conference that they had come to Florida but we set the bar very high. Members of my diocesan family, priests, deacons, religious and laity would have been very proud. I know I was.



Friday, June 18th, 2010

A thoughtful reader of the previous entry reminded me quite appropriately that another distinction between diocesan and religious priests is that the former do not take vows but rather promise obedience at ordination to their bishop and his successor but the latter take vows of obedience and poverty and chastity. Since diocesans promise celibacy as well, the vow of poverty becomes a distinguishing characteristic. There is a distinction without a difference, however, between a promise and a vow. I thank the reader for reminding me of this distinction.

Last week a bishop friend of mine and I had the opportunity to visit the Trappist Monastery of St. Benedict which is located in the community of Snowmass, Colorado, about twenty miles outside of Aspen. I had always heard that the monastery was built in one of the most beautiful spots in the United States and that certainly is the case. The Trappists basically own a valley.

St. Benedict's Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado

There are about twenty monks in the present community who rise early in the morning to pray and retire to bed early in the evening so that they can rise again early in the morning. I sometimes am asked, what is a monastery and what is a cloistered community and what is a contemplative community, so in this blog I will try to tackle all three questions. A monastery is home to a group of men, usually lay brothers and a few priests, who pray the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours at the appropriate times throughout the day and celebrate liturgy daily. When not praying, the monks are usually working with some time built into their lives for rest or reading.

The Snowmass Trappists work a large agricultural field and make and sell jelly to support themselves. If the monks seldom leave the confines of the monastery building itself or the grounds, then they are “cloistered.” There was a time when one or two monks would be chosen by the community and only they could speak to outsiders, the monks could never or very rarely leave the cloister, even to visit their natural families, and they remained silent throughout the day. These extremes of the life have now given way to a little more contact with outsiders and/or visitors and there are fewer and fewer monasteries where absolute silence except for prayer remains the rule. However, even today some monasteries still maintain a relatively strict cloister into which only the members are allowed inside. That seemed the case at Snowmass as there were signs everywhere asking that one not enter the cloister or private confines of the monks.

A "hermitage" at the Trappist Monastery at Snowmass

The Trappists are one expression of monastic life and their monasteries and Abbeys throughout the country often contain retreat quarters for individuals wishing to make a silent retreat. Snowmass also has hermitages (very small one-room houses away from everyone else) if you really want to be alone. The monks provide spiritual direction to the retreatants who are invited to attend the recitation of the Office and Eucharist but the visitors sleep, eat and pray in a different place throughout the day if they choose to do so. It was at the famous Trappist monastery at Gethsemani in Kentucky that Father Thomas Merton lived, prayed and wrote. If you would like to experience what a retreat is like in a Trappist monastic setting, the abbeys at Conyers, Georgia and Mepkin, South Carolina welcome retreatants for private, directed retreats. Food is basic. No one starves.

The Benedictine Monastery of St. Leo Abbey just outside of San Antonio in Pasco county welcomes retreat groups.

So that answers the question of what is a cloister and a monastic community. There is one more iteration which deserves mention here and that is what is a “contemplative” order. Traditionally a “contemplative” order is one whose primary charism is prayer, non-stop prayer allowing the member time to contemplate, for example, on the life and death of the Lord. They often have as their apostolic work praying for others, an obligation they take seriously. Time is spent in the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. These strict communities are dying in the United States but almost every monastic community provides as a part of their daily life periods of prayer and contemplation. So remnants remain today of the contemplative life.

There are priests and brothers who live in monasteries and whose life is spent in work and prayer. Those were the two foundational elements of St. Benedict, ora et labora, in Latin meaning “prayer and work.” I hope this has been somewhat interesting to the reader and if I have not exhausted a possible treatise on religious life, I can assure you I have exhausted my personal knowledge of the topic.



Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Fifty years ago, when I was beginning my college life, there was a joke making the rounds which went like this: What are the three things even God does not know? The first is what is going through a Jesuit’s mind; the second is how many religious orders of women are there; and the third is how much the Vatican Museum’s collection is worth. As the “Year of Priests” now draws to a close, I thought I might make an attempt at answering some questions which are often put to me about priests and priesthood. I have often been asked, what is the difference between diocesan priests and Jesuits, Franciscans, Benedictines, Salesians, etc.? A response which was never really a response suggests that diocesan priests were established by Christ in his commissioning of the apostles and religious orders trace their origins to a human founder (or foundress in many instances of religious women). A better but still incomplete answer is that diocesan priests are ordained to serve in a specific locale and promise obedience and respect to their bishop and his successors. Every priest I have ordained for the diocesan ministry knows that they are likely to serve in one of the five counties which make up our diocese (there is an occasional exception for a priest released to serve as a chaplain in the military or given permission to work or study outside of the diocese for a specific period time).

Religious priests serve a much broader Church geographically and they promise obedience and respect to their superior (could be a provincial, an abbot, etc.). But the distinction does not end there necessarily. Most religious communities were founded by charismatic men and women who focused on serving a special mission in the Church (often called a  founding charism). Examples of charisms which were foundational in the early days of many communities were education, health care, social service, begging (mendicant orders), praying constantly (contemplative and cloistered life), etc. A young man studying for the priesthood for the Jesuits, for example, could probably expect to either teach or work in parish life mostly. A young man studying for the Franciscans could probably expect to either do parish work mostly in poorer areas such as the inner-city or missionary work, etc. And they could spend their lifetime working in many countries throughout the world and/or dioceses throughout the country. They go where their superiors tell them to go.

Their superior must get the permission of the diocesan bishop where the priests are to be sent for the granting of the “faculties” necessary for ministry but the local bishop does not decide which religious priests are to serve where or for how long. He can remove the “faculties” of a priest for good reason which would impede and prevent their ministry but that rarely happens.

So the long and short of this is that every diocese contains two types of priests, diocesan and religious. In our case in the Church of St. Petersburg, our diocesan priests would be the first to acknowledge with gratitude the presence of their brothers from about nine different religious communities who staff some of our parishes and schools. As bishop, I am especially grateful to these men and their sending communities. Religious orders, however, face the same staffing challenges with an aging clergy that diocesan priesthood is facing and sadly from time to time, a religious community informs me and other bishops that they can no longer assume the responsibility for staffing this or that parish or school. Those are sad moments in the life of parishes, the diocese, the priests and the bishop. Here in St. Petersburg we have been fortunate in my fourteen years to have accepted four new communities to serve with us, one of which had to leave after only a few years. Thank God we have  reputation of being a “welcoming Church” and along with little things like the weather, we have been attractive to some communities for which the charism of their founder works well here.

I hope this is helpful but I have been so wordy that I will need to save some other questions often asked for another day.



Saturday, June 12th, 2010

As promised, the audio/video of the major presentations for last May’s Living Eucharist convocation are now available on the diocesan website ( You can if you have the interest and the time click on the Living Eucharist page on the website and watch and listen to the entire, unedited presentations of Fathers Hehir, Radcliffe, and Murray. The several thousand people who attended the convocation in the flesh reacted most positively to the presenters whose theme was, borrowing again the words of St. Augustine, “become whom you receive” and be sent to bring and be Christ to our world. It was not our intention to record in video the presentations but they were recorded and shown simultaneously with the presentation on large screens so that those far away from the stage could watch the interaction of presenter and participants. The camera company then turned their recordings over to us and after several attempts to convert them to a usable format, we were able to put them up for all the view in their entirety.

I watched them again on a long flight this past week and enjoyed them once again so if you were unable to be present, you can now participate via your own computer and/or revisit the presentations if you were there. I gained so much more from listening to them on the plane than in their original presentation because I did not need to worry about anything except the plane safely landing.

Our efforts at communicating with you are increasing proportionately to our comfort in the technology available. You can now listen to major presentations given in the diocese at various times via podcasts and we are even using iTunes and YouTube to spread the word. Try us, I think you will like what we are doing to evangelize, share and spread the faith.



Friday, June 11th, 2010

Governor Crist has now vetoed the bill presented to him by the legislature which would have required an ultra-sound prior to the procuring an abortion and which would have forbidden federal or state funds to be used in paying for abortions. I suspect that like myself, few pro-life Floridians are surprised by the governor’s action today. He has practically predicted that he would do so from the time the Florida legislature passed the proposal in April. His mail and contacts have, we have been told, been running 3-2 against the veto action so he has turned a deaf ear to a strong majority who sought to protect innocent human life and who wrote to him. He also seems unaware of the growing percentage of Floridians who are becoming more and more pro-life and more and more dubious of the value of an abortion-on-request culture . Recent polls indicating a majority of those polled felt that requiring the ultra-sound was excessive or intrusive were probably ignorant of the fact that they are now mandated for second and third trimester abortions and used by almost every pregnant mother and her obstetrician as early as the twelth week.

So now the voice of those in defense of the pre-born can be heard in a different way and in a different forum this Fall. Whatever one wishes to say of the Governor, we now know for sure we can not call him pro-life and it pains me to write this but I feel I must.



Monday, June 7th, 2010

I am led to understand that the Legislative branch presented Governor Crist today with the ultrasound and no funds for abortion bill which they passed late in the legislative session which ended five weeks ago. You can see my first “blog” on this issue published on May 9th and entitled “No Veto Please“.  You have responded admirably to my call to contact the Governor and urge him to sign the legislation or at least not veto it which would allow it to become law. I understand that even though there has been intense lobbying of the Governor by the pro-abortion side, our letters and communications to his office outnumber those against  the the law by a margin of two to one. Good going, folks.

Now Governor Crist has fifteen days to either sign the bill into law or veto it. If he chooses to do nothing, it will automatically become law in fifteen days. The state’s newspapers all predict that he will veto the legislation now that he has become an independent and is allegedly “beholden to no one.” Well he will always be “beholden to someone” who is the ultimate judge and the creator of all human life. Raised a Christian one would hope that the Governor would allow this legislation to become law. He has maintained for some time that he is “pro-life” but in his conversations with editorial boards, he has made it clear that he is having troubles with these proposals.

Governor Crist, listen to the majority of your people whom you claim to represent and allow this legislation to become the law of our state.

If you have not yet written, e-mailed or called the Governor’s office, do so quickly. I suspect he wants this issue behind him as he continues to run for the US Senate seat. We will see what his commitment is on this important issue of human life soon enough. I hope he will stand with us in defense of the defenseless.


Update: You can contact Governor Crist by phone at 850-488-7146 or 850-488-4441 or email him  This piece of legislation is identified as House Bill 1143.


Saturday, June 5th, 2010

This week-end, it seems to me, is definition week-end. It is the week-end when the liturgy calls our attention to who we are as baptized and practicing Catholics in a special way. It defines what separates us from most of the rest of Christendom and focuses on the unique gift we share as Catholics. It is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi which we translate as “the body of Christ.” Easter time has ended and before we get back to “Ordinary Time” we have one more special focus and that is on the Eucharist. When I was young there were two special days: Corpus Christi and Sanguinis Christi. The Church paused to reflect on the two constitutive elements of the Eucharist or the Mass, the body and the blood of Christ. If memory serves me right, one was celebrated on a Thursday after Trinity Sunday and the other was celebrated a week later. We had processions in my youth, of the Blessed Sacrament, mostly through the Church since I lived in towns where Catholics were such a minority that an outside procession in the streets would have occasioned taunts and ridicule from by-standers. And then there was the fact that fifty families, not all of whom would be able to attend, would hardly constitute a procession. The two feasts of the two parts of the Eucharist were combined after the Second Vatican Council into Corpus Christi and moved to the second Sunday after Pentecost.  In Rome there is still a procession of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major and a younger and vigorous Pope would carry the Blessed Sacrament while walking. In recent years, the Pope still holds onto the monstrance (the gold vessel which contains the host) but is driven from one to the other – slowly, with great reverence, hymns and prayers along the way.

Part of our strategy these years here in the diocese has been to turn the spotlight back on the Eucharist as both gift and identifying mark of who we are as Catholic Christians. We are a Eucharistic people and if we do not understand that, then we are missing the source and summit and the central focus of our life with Christ. Through the transformation of bread and wine into his body and blood, the sacrifice on Calvary is re-enacted every Mass in an unbloody way, and Christ comes to those of us who receive Him. We do not consider Eucharist or Communion simply a memorial or a sharing of common cup. That approach was a result of the reformation era. We have remained true to his command on the night before He died to take bread and wine, break it, bless it and then share his body and blood by our own reception and the communion of others doing the same.

It is such a gift and so much a part of what makes us Catholic that when someone leaves the practice of the faith to join another Church, I grieve because somehow we never got through to them that life without the Eucharist is like a day without sunshine, or worse. It is pedagogical failure. It is a liturgical failure. It is a pastoral failure. No one who truly understands and longs to receive the body and blood of the Lord can or should go for any extended period of time without approaching the blessed Lord and receiving the Corpus Christi. The Lord dwells under the “roof of the believer” for a brief but significant and powerful time. Our religious ancestors longed for this intimacy with God. Jesus gave it to us in Himself.

So this week-end, discover once more the greatest treasure of our faith after baptism – the body and blood of Christ. Then thank God for the privileged moment we share with Him in Eucharist. It must be a defining moment in our lives every time we approach the Eucharist.