Archive for July, 2010

SATURDAY IN SOUTH BEND

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I am back from fishing and after a long day in the office found myself on a plane to South Bend and the University of Notre Dame. I had been invited to celebrate the graduation Mass, give out the certificates which precede the diplomas and preach for the seventeen members of the ECHO group who are graduating and those returning this week-end for their second year in their dioceses and those who will be beginning their two year service in the dioceses of the country starting, well tomorrow for some. We have had the privilege of three ECHO students in our diocese for the past two years who are graduating today: Anthony Paz who served at St. Jude Cathedral, Katie Muller who served at St. Paul parish and Holy Family parish, and Ellen Voegele who served at Blessed Trinity parish. Anthony is from Eureka, California and graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, Katie is a graduate of Marquette University and is from the Chicago area and Ellen is from Batavia, Ohio and graduated from Marian College in Indianapolis. The two young women are returning to continue to serve at Blessed Trinity as Director of Faith Formation and St. Paul’s as High School Youth Minister and Middle School Religion teacher and Anthony is joining the staff of St. Luke’s parish in McLean as Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation. Congratulations and gratitude and appreciation is extended to these three wonderful young people for their educational and pastoral accomplishments during the last to years of ECHO. When they are in the diocese of St. Petersburg, Brian Lemoi, the Director of Religious Formation is their mentor and thanks are also due to him. Father Joseph Waters attended the ceremonies in South Bend for Anthony who served one year with the new pastor of the Cathedral.

Happily, their places will be taken by three new ECHO representatives serving at Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg, at St. Jerome parish in Indian Rocks Beach and at Espiritu Santo parish in Safety Harbor. ECHO at Notre Dame is an activity of the Center for Catechetical Initiatives which itself is a part of the Department of Theology. During their two years in the program, its participants called “apprentice catechetical leaders” experience four important dimensions of growth: academic formation leading to a Master’s degree, professional ministerial formation, communal formation, and spiritual formation.

Our liturgy was lovely and what great readings for the Mass this week-end. One can count on the fingers of both hands the number of times in a three year cycle when all three readings can be tied together thematically and this is one of them. It was a great Saturday for me and for the ECHO program. Tomorrow I fly to Orlando for a meeting with my brother bishops of Florida. Who says summer is a time of rest and relaxation. In fourteen years I think I can prove that summer only sees a slight decrease in activities in our Church.

ET ALIA

Some readers have asked me to comment when I return on how successful I was at “fishing” the last few weeks. I caught nothing as my friends would expect but it was relaxing.

I was out-of-town when George Steinbrenner died and I regret that I could not be present to his family at the time of their great loss. I knew him as a very generous and great man whose love for his children and grandchildren was exceptional. He was generous to a number of Catholic institutions (the Academy of the Holy Names and St. Cecilia school to name two) and very generous in this community. I loved being with him as he constantly teased me about the high school which I graduated from in Columbus, Ohio (St. Charles) while he was coaching at our arch-rival, Aquinas High School. More than the Yankees should be mourning his loss. His heart was larger than his reputation was occasionally controversial. Rest in peace, good friend of the Bay area and great head of a family.

Finally, you should be reading new entries several times a week in the coming month. I missed the discipline which this exercise requires. It is nice to be back.

+RNL

Update 8/5/10: Anthony went to Amherst College, not the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

GONE FISHIN’

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Silence descends on this part of the blogosphere for about two weeks. Will be back before the end of the month with an entry plus pictures of Saturday night’s dedication  of the Santo Niño shrine at St. Paul’s, Tampa. Meanwhile, off to the bait shop!

+RNL

THAT’S A WRAP

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Judging from the title, you might think today’s entry has something to do with SUBWAY sandwiches but that is not the case. Word came to me on Wednesday of the death of one of our senior deacons, Jim Blaney, who has been serving for a number of years at St. Luke’s parish in Palm Harbor. Jim’s ministry was full of many things but the one thing for which I will always have the strongest memories was his service in diocesan communications and especially in coordinating the TV Mass when we did it. Jim would arrange to have palms for Palm Sunday, sometimes even though the Mass was being taped  before Lent began, poinsettas for Christmas, the right color of vestments, and when the day of taping came, he was attentive to all who came to help, especially the celebrants, the choirs, the lectors and servers. With Mary Jo Murphy, the two of them kept the Mass tapings running efficiently, reverently, and well. His service was invaluable to Mary Jo and to the diocese. His wife Mary was at his side constantly during recent times of dealing with cancer and the two of them were committed to not allowing cancer to conquer their faith or their spirits and they succeeded. We will say our farewells to Deacon James Blaney at St. Luke’s Church at noon on Saturday and thank the good Lord for Jim’s presence, ministry and devotion to his wife, family and parish family. As they say at the conclusion of every TV program in the studio, “that’s a wrap”, Jim. Well done!

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SIGNIFICANT CHANGE

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

For the last twelve  years here as bishop the diocese has had one single Vocation Director, Father Leonard Plazewski. The role and responsibility of the Vocation Director in the life of the local church is very significant. He or she devote all their waking energy to the pursuit of men for the priesthood or religious life as a priest or brother and of women for religious life as a sister. Theoretically, that is their job description but realistically, since religious communities have their own Vocation Directors, he or she spends most of their time searching for young men who think God is calling them to priesthood. Father Len has done that for us for a dozen years and today he and I are announcing that he will leave that position at the end of this calendar year. I am certain that all of my diocesan family know him because he has in all likelihood preached in your parish four times on vocations (he made the rounds of the 76 parishes and missions four times in twelve years). Since assuming the responsibility, he has put into place many dinners at my residence or occasionally some other place called PROJECT ANDREW dinners where pastors and associate pastors come with interested young men juniors in high school and above for a meal and to listen to our vocation stories. Annually he has gathered the eleven year olds of our elementary schools and for a long time juniors in high school for what is called FOCUS ELEVEN because sociologists tell us that their science has found that vocation decisions begin to be made first at eleven years old and then later during the eleventh grade. In the last few years he has gathered inquirers for a period of reflection and retreat just prior to Christmas.  He never gives up on his search for vocations and as a result, our diocese has been the best in the state in recent years in attracting men to the seminary.  The Church of St. Petersburg owes Father Plazewski a debt of gratitude as he winds down his work and begins in a yet-to-be determined assignment. Along the way, he has served the last several years as the president of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and has visited many other dioceses to assist them in their Vocation promotion.

Today, I am announcing that Father John Blum, pastor of St. John Vianney parish on St. Petersburg Beach, will assume the role of Diocesan Director of Vocations on New Year’s Day. He will continue to serve as pastor of his parish so his appointment is part-time in Vocations where he will serve almost strictly as Supervisor of Seminarians. To assist Father Blum, I am also announcing that Father Carl Melchior, associate pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Largo, will serve as Assistant Vocation Director while continuing in his present assignment. Father Carl’s task will focus on recruitment and when they are accepted by the Diocesan Vocation Board and admitted to the seminary, his work will be complete and they will become Father Blum’s responsibility. To give up a full-time Vocation Director for two part-time Vocation Directors is not the best idea but our current clergy personnel requirements do not allow me at this time to do otherwise. Hopefully and prayerfully in a couple of years, we will return to a single, full time Vocation Director.

When I arrived fourteen years ago, Father Michael O’Brien who is now serving as pastor of St. Justin the Martyr parish in Largo was serving in this capacity. He did a wonderful job also so I have known nothing but good Vocation Directors. And let me add that during my time as Rector-President of the College Seminary in Miami (1979-1984), the Diocese of St. Petersburg had splendid Vocation Directors (Fathers Arthur Proulx, Dennis Hughes, Robert Tabbert, James Johnson) who brought splendid candidates to the seminary for admission. Vocations for and from this diocese have always been a blessing and some who chose to leave and get married remain faithful, wonderful Catholic men. I have always emphasized that quality of candidate is far more important than quantity of candidates but I must confess to being proud that last school year and this coming we will again have 32 seminarians, a testimony to Father Plazewski’s labors.

These men in formation can be assured that the two men soon to split the responsibilities will be every much as supportive, grateful, present and wise as their predecessors. Finally, this is a good moment to offer my thanks to the Diocesan Vocation Committee which has advised Father Len along his way, to the members of the St. Petersburg chapter of Serra International (who pray for, work for, and support vocations to the priesthood and religious life) and to the Diocesan Seminary Admissions Committee which gives a great deal of time to meeting prospective applicants and judging their fitness for the journey to the altar. Today marks the beginning of a significant change in our Vocations Office but I believe it will be seamless.

+RNL

A TOMAHAWK HAVING NOTHING TO DO WITH SEMINOLES

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Yesterday on my “day-off” I visited a property owned by the Diocese of St. Petersburg on the Rainbow River just outside of Donnellan. It is an interesting piece of property with an interesting story. Many priests know nothing of it because of its specialized use and while there has never been any attempt at secrecy, it is largely a secret for reasons I shall soon explain. The property has been called “Tomahawk Lodge” since its inception and here is the story.

In the early sixties, I believe, when all we today know as the Diocese of St. Petersburg was still in the original Florida diocese of St. Augustine, Monsignor George Cummins who was director of Good Counsel Camp in Floral City managed to convince the late Archbishop Hurley to buy almost two acres of land along the Rainbow River in Marion County for a lodge for the campers who would, he envisioned, canoe the twenty-two miles from the camp to the Lodge during their stay at Good Counsel. Archbishop Hurley bought the land which had a four room, two-story, two bath house on it. Th downstairs was all one massive room with a small kitchen and a small bath. The second story was one large bedroom and three smaller bedrooms with one bath. The house was largely constructed of Florida pine and its interior walls and floors were of the same unfinished pine. Campers in the sixties returned to Good Counsel just so they could take the two overnight canoe trips to Good Counsel, paddling from its lake to the Withlacoochie River and then to the Rainbow River and upstream to the camp. The journey took two days with an overnight along the Withlacoochie and then another overnight at Tomahawk.

View of Tomahawk Lodge from the Rainbow River

In 1968 the dioceses of Orlando and St. Petersburg were created by Pope Paul VI and lo and behold Citrus County remained in the new diocese of St. Petersburg so Good Counsel Camp continued to be project of the new diocese but Tomahawk Lodge was in Marion County, just four miles inside the boundaries of the Diocese of Orlando so the property transferred to Orlando. No more overnight canoe trips to the camp’s offsite Lodge. It did not take Bishop Borders, the new and first bishop of Orlando, long to realize he had no use for this property along the Rainbow and Monsignor Cummings, still directing the camp wanted it back. But Orlando, who might have said, “take it off our hands” instead said “buy it” which we did. This property holds several distinctions: it is the only property owned by the diocese outside of our territorial boundaries, albeit only barely outside and we had to purchase it not once but twice.

It remains an outpost for campers during the six week camping season and does not get a lot of other use. The property is stunningly beautiful. The Rainbow River is spring fed and the temperature of the water remains at 76 degrees, winter and summer. It is so clear one can watch the fish swimming by and the banks are marked by large hanging cypress trees in many places providing a canopy from the sun’s rays.  So now you know one of the “hidden secrets” of the diocese which is not really a secret at all. The place is a gem. Outside of the camping season it is available for rental and some parishes in the diocese use it for picnics, outings and other brief retreats. Monsignor Cummings had wonderful foresight in many ways. This property was recently appraised in the present real estate market as being worth about $650,000, even with the generally unrepaired solitary lodge building. Father Jim Johnson who currently directs the camp this year invested in a new metal roof and new windows which are a great improvement. I trust you have enjoyed reading about this “gem” and hope sometime you can do as I did yesterday and enjoy the magnificence and beauty of northern Florida and its rivers and lakes.

One amazing view of the Rainbow River from the lawn of Tomahawk Lodge

Pope John Paul II celebrated a large Mass in Canada using the bottom of a canoe for the altar. I thought I might do the same.

WE MOURN, GRIEVE, UNITE AND PRAY

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Once again death has come to two stellar men, husbands and fathers, and protectors of our freedom and safety. The senseless murders of Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab while they were simply performing their duty defies logic, the fifth commandment of God, and the laws of this nation. As the search for their killer continues, the hearts and prayers of all of us go out to those who survive these two brave men and to the women and men of blue who once again, all too soon since the last senseless killing of one of their own, continue each minute of every working hour to put their lives on the line so that we might be safe.

Officer Curtis, though a member of the Baptist Church, married a Catholic in a Catholic wedding ceremony and has watched with pride as each of his four young boys have been baptized into the faith. So our Church denomination also mourns these days. Officer Kocab, also a Baptist, is a fellow Christian and he too merits our prayers. However, I would go to the bank that God will be good to these courageous men and that they will quickly take their place among the saints and martyrs in eternal life. My love and prayers are more directed to their wives and their families.

Officer Kocab’s as yet unborn child in his wife’s womb will never know his father. Officer Curtis’ sons will remember their Dad to the extent their ages will allow and will miss him terribly and their young wives will never again in this life and on this earth hear their husbands say or whisper, “I love you.” What a tragedy! What a senseless tragedy!

There is no one whom I have encountered yesterday or today who has not mentioned these men and their families to me in conversation or prayer. I think three times in one year in one city is almost more than the common weal of its citizenry can bear. Join me in asking the Lord of all life to protect the women and men who protect us, strengthen the wives and families, born and pre-born, with faith and hope and love at this awful moment, and move us to reflect on our duty to protect others in the future. There may have been no weapons of “mass destruction” found in Iraq, but they are on our streets and in our neighborhoods and they daily threaten the life and safety of our public safety women and men. The Italians have a word for this moment, it is basta, which simply translates into “enough”. It is past time to get serious about the easy availability of guns and weapons. Those who framed the constitution could not have foreseen the consequences which we see played out on our TV news and in our newspapers. It is time to do something about gun control and that would be the best memorial to remember Officers Curtis and Kocab with.

Mary, Queen of Peace, Pray for us.

+RNL