Archive for August, 2010


Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Knights of Columbus present a check to Bishop Lynch for Pinellas Hope

Paul Koppie, State Treasurer; Dick Haight Charities Coordinator and Terry Cunniff, Membership Coordinator present a check to Bishop Lynch from the Knights of Columbus in support of Pinellas Hope.

My work week began with a pleasant surprise. Three representatives of the Knights of Columbus came to my office this morning to present me with a check for approximately $11,450 which was to be used to feed the homeless at Pinellas Hope. It seems that nationwide the Knights of Columbus challenged their member Councils to prove how much each year they give to the poor and needy. Any local Council which could sufficiently document a certain amount of money contributed credits toward their State Council. The Knights of Columbus nationally had made available $1,000,000 which would be awarded to state councils based on their eligibility and combined credits. The money would then be divided among the dioceses of the state based on population and the bishop given a check to use for feeding the poor. The portion allotted to the Diocese of St. Petersburg was the $11,450 presented to me today. And the good news is that national is again challenging their local council affiliates to do the same for at least another year and next year there will be another distribution.

What amazed me about this particular offer was that the national Knights of Columbus was not asking the local councils to adopt a project but merely to reflect and verify what they were currently doing. I think the incentive for gaining credits will encourage my brother Knights to expand their outreach but for the moment, this literally “out-of-the-sky” gift is gratefully received.

The K of C do many good things for our Church and in our community and remains probably the largest, strongest and most faithful Catholic men’s organizati0n in the nation and perhaps even the world. I salute them not just for this latest gesture of good will but for their commitment to the protection of life, their support for our seminarians and future priests, and their love of their Church. I hope young men will continue to consider joining this fraternal organization which does a world of good. Thanks, Knights.



Monday, August 30th, 2010
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Used under Creative Commons License, Wikimedia-Commons User Túrelio

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

There was a nice convergence this week-end in my life which does not always happen when a bishop flits from one thing to another and then to another. On Saturday at the Bethany Center about 250 people gathered who are involved in the various ministries of mercy in 0ur parishes. We get them together once a year to thank them and to share with them not only our own hopes and aspirations but also some “best practices and programs” which are being utilized throughout the diocese. In two hours, max, they leave with a sense of renewed mission, or so they tell me. We also provide them with a nice free lunch. This year the organizers at Catholic Charities brought a welcome new wrinkle to the day by asking representatives of seven parishes to take about ten minutes and visually and verbally share their particular ministry of mercy.

A project initially begun at St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico and now spreading throughout lower counties of the diocese called San Jose Homemakers Ministry recounted how two women responded to a need to furnish an apartment for a homeless or migrant family and now it has become a major ministry. They have grown from collecting and storing furniture in their home garages to two warehouses (soon) with furniture, dishes and flatwear, etc., which are used when someone moves from homelessness to a stable house and has no money or access for outfitting their new residence. It is an amazing story. Prison Ministry in the diocese was presented by a representative from Prince of Peace parish in Sun City Center where their work at the Women’s Faith Based Correction Prison was outlined in detail. Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg shared their story of twinning with a parish in Haiti, helping that parish before and after the tragic earthquake. Espiritu Santo shared their experience running a Sick and Homebound Luncheon Ministry where elderly an physically challenged parishioners can come for Mass, communal Anointing of the Sick, and a lunch and sense of community. Respite Ministry was presented by a lady from Catholic Charities and we were informed of their experience in providing respite for alzheimers caregivers. Parish Nursing is a program in some of our parishes where a licensed nurse visits the homebound whom the system might ignore and checks on their health. All of these various ministries of mercy form an amazing mosaic of  love, kindness and service. I am always so proud of what is done in the name of Jesus.

Those of you in Church this week-end know that two of the readings (the first and the Gospel) focused on the thematic of humility. Both Sirach and Jesus in his parable in the Gospel make it clear that only after we have imitated his love and concern for our brothers and sisters can we expect a place at the heavenly banquet table. Humility suggests that those who work in the shadows seeking neither fame or acclaim have a better chance in heaven than those who puff themselves up and proclaim, look at me and what I do for others. Sirach suggests that humility is not something one assumes in order to become a “casper-milktoast” but there can be genuine strength in humility. Certainly there is strength of character. Those gathered for the convening of the Ministries of Mercy in the diocese on Saturday were living and breathing examples of holy humility placed at the service of others, sometimes demanding great strength and patience.

Finally, I let last week come and go without mentioning the 100th birthday of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. What a week to celebrate the centenary of her birth, when the liturgical readings focus on humility. Make no mistake about it and take it from someone who was in her presence four times in my life, she was no push-over! Yet with unrelenting humility she preached, practiced and lived a life of humble service for God and God’s people. She lit up the world in which she lived even if the owners of the Empire State building refused to light up the sky in her memory. A brief but wonderful tribute to Mother Teresa can be found on the “mother of all church blogs”: Whispers in the Loggia.

Finally, I celebrated two Masses in a parish yesterday which was in need of a priest for that purpose. I thought I had “nailed” the readings in my homily. The pastor inquired of me, “what did you preach about” and I responded “humility and boy was I good!” The pastor appropriately suggested that after that comment, I had better continue to meditate on humility in my own life.



Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Probably the biggest news in the Church world this week was the announcement which all US bishops received yesterday from Cardinal Francis George that finally, after years of preparation, the new English texts for the Roman Missal have been approved by the Holy See and returned to all of the English speaking countries for printing, publication, and promulgation. Cardinal George in his message to the bishops said that in his capacity and role as president of the episcopal conference he was promulgating that the new translation of the texts used at Mass would be utilized starting on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011. So, the long and short of it is that you and I must begin to prepare ourselves for a new translation in English of texts which we have been using at Mass since the early seventies of the last century.

After the fathers of the Second Vatican Council decided that Mass could be celebrated in either Latin or in the language of every country in the world, the English speaking countries founded and financially supported an organization to translate the texts used at Mass from Latin into English. That organization was called the International Commission on English in the Liturgy or ICEL. Latin scholars and English technicians immediately set about to translate the texts used in the Missal on the altar at Mass into the vernacular of every country. There was enormous pressure to change at the time and the translation admittedly was rushed. The translators were allowed by the Holy See to use a translation technique called “dynamic equivalency” in translating which meant that they did not have to translate strictly but could use words and idiom of spoken language at that time. Or to put it more succinctly, both the Holy See and ICEL wished to present a translation which recognized that words change with time and a strict translation might not make sense to the hearer or reader. When published and approved by the Holy See, the translation we currently use served us well but if words can sometimes change and other words pass into disuse, then an updating from time to time was likely.

The bishops of the English speaking world began this updating about fifteen years ago and ICEL produced an absolutely magnificent translation of the Roman Missal which was passed by the US bishops conference by a vote of 235-32. But there was some controversy and the minority complained to Rome that they were not listened to in the debate in the US at least and Rome heard their complaint, refused to accept the new translation, and then amazingly did what the Council documents left to individual bishops’ conferences and changed the rules of translation from dynamic equivalency to a strict adherence to translating the Latin slavishly. The Holy See then ordered a new or third translation attempt, ICEL was radically altered and work begun on the Mass texts which you should be hearing and praying starting next November, 2011.  So, for example, the Latin et cum spiritu tuo which we have been rendering as and also with you is now to be and with your Spirit.

The changes which will be asked of our praying communities will not be a terrible burden, I think. They will take some getting accustomed to but so did moving from Latin followed by some Latin/English to total English in the Mass. If the praying Church did it in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, I am confident that the praying Church will do it again. Only time will tell if the new translation to be brought into being in fifteen months will stand the test of time as well as the current translation has. There are words being changed which will require catechesis on the part of all of us. We use the word offering at Mass but we will soon substitute oblation in its place. The latter is a stricter translation of the Latin. We need to teach our children and others the meaning of a word which is not in common parlance. Perhaps no big deal but change always comes with some pain.

The arguments among the bishops of this country on this translation wore most of us down but I can tell you that in the end, the Holy See did listen and accept many of the greater concerns of bishops who were uncomfortable with some of what was being proposed. I am personally at peace with the translation as I understand it will be coming to us and along with our priests, I will do everything I can to welcome this change, make it as palatable as possible, provide the necessary catechesis prior to implementation, and ready the parishes and chapels of this diocese for the First Sunday of Advent in 2011. I shall be returning to this subject often in the coming fifteen months. I hope we will be one of the best dioceses in preparing for and implementing the new missal. Now is the time and it falls to us as it fell to our parents as well as ourselves and our beloved Church in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. As Christ said, be not afraid.



Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Several things have happened in the last few days which cause me to pause and reflect on my role as bishop. I really think that the definition of what a bishop is expected to be is evolving in the Church though not theologically or canonically. We know that when we were ordained to this ministry of service, we were told that our three principal tasks were to teach, govern and sanctify. Those three words are right there in the episcopal ordination rite itself. However, the office has evolved to include a lot of things which are not directly related to those three munera. The bishop also has to pastor people, albeit in a sometimes slightly different way than say your pastors and priests “pastor” you in your parishes.

I have a special obligation to my brother priests which transcends governance and acquires the characteristics of a familial relationship. Some say the bishop is to be a “father” to his priests and some would say, wrong person in the family food chain, the bishop should be a “brother” to his priests. In the last decade as a result of the sexual misconduct scandals, the bishop’s relationship with his clergy has become in some instances strained. There is hardly room in the typical family definition of either father or brother for a prosecutorial role, yet that is how some priests view their bishop. One phone call can change their lives, whether they are innocent or guilty. I don’t think bishops in the past were ever truly “fathers” to their priests unless what I would call (forgive me, men) the Irish notion of father was operative in the Church. They were administrators, often remote, sometimes threatening in their very character, neither frightfully loving or expressive of their gratitude. Often isolated and insulated by the “trappings” of the office, one did not approach the bishop except for the most serious of reasons. Better to ask forgiveness than permission was often the norm for dealing with one’s bishop. The Second Vatican Council attempted to “humanize the office”, taking away a lot of the trappings and suggesting a more servant oriented definition of bishop.

Today’s bishop, even with the newer paradigm, probably needs to ignore the comparisons of father/brother and just be present to his priests, in moments of happiness and sadness. I had some time to think about all of this yesterday as I was traveling to and from the funeral Mass for John Schneider, the 92 year old father of our Father Bob Schneider, pastor of Espiritu Santo. It was not easy for me to get to Salina, Kansas and Father Bob and his family would probably easily have forgiven me for not being there (I had missed his mother’s funeral several years ago at Christmas time). But I try whenever possible to be with my priests when they lose a parent. I am successful honestly about half of the time and the parental deaths of our Polish, African and Indian priests are very hard to attend, primarily because of the custom of immediate burials (so quick that if the priest son is not present at the time of death, he too misses the funeral) and, of course, the distance, time and expense. I hate to miss them nonetheless and often feel a sense of guilt for a while when I know it was impossible. There is no time when a priest needs the support of his bishop more than the death of someone dear to him. Yesterday, it was particularly heart warming to see the priests of the Salina diocese gather in great number to support Father Bob who prior to coming to the diocese of St. Petersburg had been ordained for and served in his home diocese. The current and retired local bishops were present and about twenty priests and several hundred friends of the family. I felt good coming back last night, feeling that being there was as important for me as for Father Schneider.

In fourteen years, I have had the privilege of saying the funeral Mass for almost all of our deceased priests, if they lived in the area. I shall not soon forget that during even the height of my incapacity last year I was unable to attend the Mass for our beloved Father Stephen Dambrauskas. I still think of that, long after everyone else probably has forgotten it. I feel a strong sense of going to the cemetery after the funeral Mass for our priests even though it is not always the custom for a local bishop to do that. I guess I would want my successor(s) to be with me to my grave and so many of our older men have no natural family, only myself and their brother priests. Whatever we are called, there is a strong element of family among us.

Driving back to the Wichita Airport, I called my office and learned that a Marine son of one of our long-time employees in Finance, Tracy Kelly of Christ the King parish in Tampa had been shot and very seriously wounded in Afghanistan late last week. Alex is going to live but rehabilitation will be long and begins today as he is flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. Most of Tracy’s children are serving in the armed forces of the United States and each time they are sent to Iraq and Afghanistan she has asked me for prayers for their safety. Learning that Alex was shot was like a blow in the stomach to me. How often his Mom had asked for my prayers when Richard (“Ricky”) left for an Army deployment or Katherine (“Katie”) left for the Navy. But I remember especially Tracy asking for prayers for Alex, the Marine, headed back, this time to Afghanistan. Yesterday when I talked to Tracy, she was a strong mom but one could tell she was struggling. I promised more prayers for Alex and she said a remarkable thing: “Alex asks for prayers for his buddies in his company he left behind. He is alive and grateful for it. He is most worried about his buddies.” Even bishops learn a lot from the lived experience of other people.

Maybe I had too much time on the two plane rides, but each year I learn more and more about what the role of the bishop is in the family of Christ’s church. Perhaps in six years, God willing, at the time of retirement, I will have finally learned what being a good bishop really involves.



Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

The new school year is about to begin in our diocesan elementary and high schools, in fact it has already begun in the high schools. The diocese has a new Superintendent of Schools and there are a number of new principals in the various buildings. In the last two weeks, however, I have been looking at some statistics on the measurement of success of transmitting the faith in our Catholic schools in the diocese which I wish to share with you. They are encouraging. But before getting into the results of the testing, I feel compelled to once again raise the question of “Why Catholic schools?” To my mind there is only one plausible and logical answer to this question and that is that Catholic schools are the most effective way of transmitting the faith from one generation to the next. If they fail in this regard, then there is little reason for the Church to spend so much money and energy in maintaining them.

But teaching the faith is only part of the equation, though it is that part that is the responsibility of the schools themselves. Practicing the faith at the same time it is being taught is the responsibility of the sending parents. Like love and marriage in the famous song from the musical OKLAHOMA, “you can’t have one without the other.”

Too often we hear, I don’t know what happened to the faith of my children? I sent them to Catholic schools and yet today they do not practice. It is so sad. Well I am here to tell you that the school alone is not and has never been enough. What is taught must be lived and that lived experience is up to the parents and/or guardians. One can teach the Fourth Commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day” till one is blue in the face, can teach the gift that is the Eucharist to the children, but when Mom and Dad could but choose not to attend Sunday Mass with their children, then all that is taught is in conflict with all that is lived. So I pray and hope that the opening of school this year will be accompanied by a firmer commitment on the part of parent users to accompany their children on the journey of faith and support what is taught in the classroom with what is practiced in Church.

Now, to what is taught and how effective are our schools in transmitting the faith. Each year our elementary schools administer in the fifth and eighth grades the Assessment of Catechesis Religious Education developed and administered by the National Catholic Education Association. Additionally, our four high schools administer a similar test to eleventh graders. Jesuit High School and the Academy of the Holy Names either do not administer the test or choose not to share the results with me and with the diocesan school office. The good news is that in every category tested, our students outperformed the national average, often considerably so. The “domains” which are tested are God; Church; Liturgy and Sacraments; Revelation, Scripture and Faith; Life in Christ; Church History; Prayer/Religious Practice; and Faith Literacy. There are also four “pillars” which are also measured and those are: Creed, Liturgy/Sacraments, Morality and Prayer.  Both knowledge and attitudes are measured and the “domains” mentioned above reflect key concepts of our faith while the “pillars” reflect the Pillars of Faith according to the Catechism of the Church.

One interesting note to me is that for the past three years while the diocese has been focusing on its “Eucharistic Initiative”, the students’ awareness, understanding of and appreciation for Liturgy and the Sacraments has increased – perhaps the first fruit of bring all the teachers of our young together for in-service education on this centrality of our faith. I have before me the scores for the past five years and they have been and remain substantially and significantly higher than the national average. I can also tell something of the effectiveness of each of our elementary schools but these raw scores must be interpreted carefully. Any standardized test requires basic reading skills and some of our elementary schools work with students whose reading aptitude is far below the norm for the year of study. All in all, I wish to compliment our elementary schools teachers and principals for a good year of transmitting the faith.

Our four high schools are also above the national average but not as markedly and remarkably as the elementary schools. I would like to see the results higher in the coming years and I will be communicating this hope to the high school principals soon. There are also some very remarkable variances and differences between the test scores of our four high schools with Tampa Catholic consistently outscoring her three sister schools (St. Petersburg Catholic, Clearwater Central Catholic, and Bishop McLaughlin). Again, I should also note that in the domain and pillar of Liturgy and Sacraments, there are also to be found better results in the last three years. I have reviewed all the results with our Director of Faith Formation, Brian Lemoi, and know that a careful reading, perhaps more careful than I have given which I would term more “cursory” than “careful” is required, but I can affirm to all parents reading this blog entry that I truly believe that in the area of faith formation and transmission, you are getting what you paid for. Now I plead with you to do your part.



Friday, August 6th, 2010
Bishop Lynch with the Seminarians at the Bethany Center

Bishop Lynch with the Seminarians at the Bethany Center

Our seminarians are about to return to their respective seminaries for the coming academic year and I had the pleasure on Tuesday night to celebrate the Eucharist with them and have dinner as well, all at the Bethany Center. We again have thirty-two seminarians this year matching last year’s number. They attend three seminaries. All of our college seminarians attend St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and most of our theology students attend the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. We have one seminarian at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. 2011 will be the last time for a number of years in the future when we have no one to be ordained to the priesthood. Two men will be ordained deacons in 2011 and then priests, God-willing in 2012. After 2012 there will be a regular number of ordinations each year and in six years there may be a class with as many as nine to be ordained but that is too far off to begin ordering the invitations. I am impressed, however, by the quality, dedication and generosity of our men who feel called to priestly ministry.

Getting into the seminary at this moment in Church history is not that easy. A rather long application process includes three interviews with members of the Vocations Admissions Board, one with myself and a number with the Director of Vocations, a physical examination by a doctor and a whole battery of psychological tests by a psychologist. Of course, letters of recommendation are required as is promotion by one’s pastor of one’s parish church. A man beginning the path to priesthood entering as a freshman in college can expect a total of nine years of seminary formation. A man beginning his journey after completing college and earning a bachelors or masters degree can expect seven years. At a time when we desperately need priests, the universal Church has lengthened the time required prior to ordination. Each year of formation, the candidate receives an annual evaluation by the seminary formation faculty in which he is analyzed inside and out. Most of our men do very well academically so that is seldom an issue in advancing toward the altar.

I saw a parish bulletin from last Sunday and noted with great interest a reflection by the parish pastor on a seminarian who would be leaving soon to return to the seminary. I was deeply touched by this pastor’s words and reflection and I want to share it with you. “Our seminarian, Joe ______ leaves us on August 10. I have grown very fond of him and will miss him. The fact that he is leaving means that he is returning to the seminary for his final year of studies and priestly formation. We hope and pray for his ordination to the deaconate [sic] in June 2011 and to priesthood in December of 2011. The decision regarding these days is not final. Joe will make a fine priest, one that I can be proud of. He is a hard worker, energetic, and well motivated to serve the people of God. He has a rich prayer life and a solid spirituality. He instantly connects with anyone he meets. He is positive and he is likable. I look forward eagerly to his becoming my brother priest. Hopefully he has touched some lives in our young people to inspire them to look within for a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The halls upstairs will be empty for me and Dusty. God bless you Joe, and thank you for listening to God’s call and responding.” My thanks to Father Dennis Stillwell, pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Petoskey, Michigan, for these wonderful thoughts and he did not even know he had a visiting bishop nosing around his parish.

I think most of our diocesan seminarians meet Father Stillwell’s standards and I know I would be proud to serve with almost all of them, if not all of them, were I to share a parish ministry. Each ordination finds me seriously asking myself this question: would you like to have this young man as an associate pastor and colleague and I have always been able to offer myself a resounding yes. So off they go to the seminary again. For those beginning first college, nine years seems like such a long time and it is, except it passes ever so quickly if they feel they are in the right place doing the right thing. In fairness, I would also like to add that there are about four other men from the diocese studying for religious orders, including one for the Society of Jesus (aka Jesuits) who will be ordained soon. God and the Holy Spirit is at work in our diocese planting seeds. Thank you, men, for giving God and priesthood a chance. I think they know how proud of and grateful for them I am.


Update: Photograph with seminarians added.


Monday, August 2nd, 2010

August 24th is election day in Florida, primary elections that is. American voters past participation in the elective process is a universal shame, an embarrassment and a wonderment to people all over the world. Fewer citizens of the United States vote, particularly in primaries and off-year elections than almost anywhere else in the free world. I suspect that in Florida, as has often been the case in the past, less than forty percent of the eligible electorate will do their duty and cast their votes.

It is neither appropriate nor the place for a Catholic bishop to tell his people for whom to vote or how to vote. I would consider that an abuse of office, even though I know some people vehemently disagree and think I and other bishops should. A lot of the things which I hold sacred are at play in the primaries and I shall cast my vote as one small step. Particularly on the life and the quality of life issues, there are significant differences in the candidates running for statewide office and for the U.S. Senate. I pray that you will use the time between now and August 24 to study the issues and the candidates’ position on the issues of importance to you and then get out and vote. It is our civic duty, a hard won privilege, a mark of genuine democracy.


Update: Post updated to reflect actual election day of August 24.  August 9 is the start for Early Voting.


Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Here are a few of the thoughts which struck me as I was preparing the homily for yesterday’s [Saturday] ECHO graduation at Notre Dame. I have edited slightly and deleted a large section which probably could not be understood outside of the context in which it was given but perhaps as you returned from Mass this week-end, still wondering about the Gospel, this may or may not help. I hope it will.

When I was studying theology in Boston in the mid-seventies, seminarians then as now were required to do apostolic work of some kind. My assignment was to Boston College where I and about six of my colleagues who on one week with about three hundred undergraduates in a huge lecture hall would listen to the presentation of a Master Teacher on the subject of the Four Gospels. Then the following week, we would break the large group down into small groups and discuss the previous week’s presentation on the Gospel. At the end of each semester, the Master Teacher, who by the way today teaches on this campus, would ask the undergrads this question: Which of the four Gospel writers would you most like to have as your pastor and why?

The result was overwhelmingly in favor of Luke and the reasons were markedly consistent and broken down into three primary reasons for the choice: Luke’s Jesus is more human and focused on doing his father’s will; Luke’s Jesus interacts with women more frequently, sensitively, and occasionally at some cultural and religious risk; and, finally, Luke’s Jesus shows the greatest concern for the poor. Three rather good insights into the Gospel, I thought then and now.

This afternoon we heard Luke at the top of his game. The farmer in the Gospel is not necessarily a bad man. He is rich but there is no sin in that. But in Luke’s Gospel riches can be a barrier to following Jesus (remember the parable of the rich young man?). There are two primary problems, however, with the farmer in the Gospel: admittedly he has all that he or his family will ever need but he suffers from an insatiable appetite for more and second, his rugged individualism has placed him outside of any community and he has little concern for others. To be without a community in the time of Jesus was to be without an identity. You were recognized by which community you were from, Galilee, Samaria, etc.) Consulting no one and with no obvious concern for those who have less, all the rich farmer wants to do is build more barns – not for his family, not for his community but seemingly for his own peace of mind. It might appear to many that this man  has it made.

Jesus on the other hand understands the religious tradition from which he comes. He may or may not have been aware of the teaching from Ecclesiastes in the first reading. Certainly his response indicates as does Qoheleth that the ephemeral is precisely that – it is passing, fleeting, of no eternal value. I once had a married woman tell me of her husband, “Father, my husband brought home without asking a new BMW and he showed it proudly to all our neighbors. He was so happy, until four weeks later BMW introduced an even finer and more expensive version of the same model and then he became depressed.” Ecclesiastes draws our attention from this moment’s accomplishments and directs us towards those things which will last and enrich not only ourselves but our families, our Church, our nation – things that will make for a better world.

St. Paul to the Corinthians begs us to set our sights on higher things. Keeping things in proper perspective is what today’s Liturgy of the Word is all about. It can be a call not only to us as individuals to examine our priorities and values but it can also be a call to communities, local, regional and national, to churches (parishes, diocesan and universal) to see if our sights are clearly set on those things which are not vanity but are from and of God and that hoarding has no place among us, sharing does.

I shall look back tonight and throughout this week on these three readings, reflect on them, apply them.