Archive for February, 2011

TREASURE WE KNOW NOT

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The Boards of Trustees of two of the three seminaries which our students attend met Thursday at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and on Friday at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Our collegians are formed and educated at the former as are college graduates who lack the credits in philosophy and need also to spend some time acclimating to the spiritual life, spiritual direction and to prayer prior to beginning theology studies. The College Seminary is owned by the Archdiocese of Miami which assumes both the financial and staffing responsibility, a sizable commitment of money each year and priests. It was my special privilege to have served as the fifth Rector of St. John Vianney from 1979 through 1984 so a part of my heart is invested there. The program as it exists today is far superior to what I superintended in those five years and the current Rector, Father Roberto Garza, is doing a fine job. All the students major in philosophy which puts them in good intellectual stead to take on the study of theology. Both disciplines are somewhat abstract with very practical applications to life and belief nonetheless and the faculty at the college is, I believe, second to none in the United States. The interviews and time I spend with our seminarians always seems to return to the same thematic and that is the college has an excellent, demanding academic program but the professors are dedicated to helping all the students comprehend the subject matter. A Board meeting at the college level, however, is reasonably easy for me to attend as I have neither a financial nor priest personnel “dog in the hunt.” I am very grateful to the past and present Archbishops of Miami for their unfailing support of the program at St. John Vianney which is expensive monetarily and priest-personnel wise. In hard times in both instances, critics always take aim at the college seminary and suggest its demise. Instead it has grown stronger with a larger number of students and an even more capable administration and faculty than in my time, myself included.

The Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul, however, and its Board are another matter. Since all seven Florida dioceses own that seminary and must provide the priest personnel, at each Board meeting we always do at least two important things: set and monitor a budget and expenses and plan for priest faculty members. The cost-per-seminarian at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary hovers around $55,000 per year depending mostly on the size of the enrollment. More seminarians, the less the per capita expense as one would expect. Each diocese pays for the room, board and tuition of its seminarians which currently is set at approximately $30,000 per year. The balance is made up through a yearly subsidy payment charged to each diocese based on its Catholic population. Additionally, the seminary opened in the early ’60’s and is in constant state of repair and replacement so additional monies are sometimes required for that. When the seminary went “regional” in the early ’80’s, the original six bishops who agreed to join ponied up about 7.3 million dollars for an endowment fund and later in the late ’90’s when the one hold-out Florida diocese decided to join, they made a contribution of an additional $700,000 to that same endowment fund. The funds are invested in equity and fixed market funds and are supervised by a very diligent committee of lay women and men from the Diocese of Palm Beach who meet regularly to gauge the success of our investment managers. We were pleased to learn that after experiencing the same significant drop in value as most of the rest of us endured when the housing market and banking pranks of three to four years ago, the endowment fund now sits at a value of 12.7 million dollars. A covenant in the original agreement of the founding bishops of the regional seminary concept was that the corpus could never be invaded to the point that the fund would be less than the approximately 8 million dollars the owning dioceses have contributed. There have been raids on the endowment fund in the past (a loan subsequently repaid to the trust for 1.2 million dollars for roof replacement, for example) and had we left the endowment fund alone since its inception, it would most likely sit somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million dollars.

But money is one half of the challenge of maintaining a superior seminary for our men. Providing the faculty is the other part. I have always said any bishop will be more willing to write a check than assign away for special service a gifted priest to form and educate our future priests. The Diocese of St. Petersburg currently has given for the last ten years to the seminary one of its greatly gifted priests, Father Michael Muhr, who is a spiritual director to the men and who is loved and admired by faculty, staff and students alike. Additionally, we have two priests currently pursuing graduate studies who will be available to join the faculty in 2012 and 2013. I am deeply committed to giving to the seminary any priest of this diocese who would be an excellent role model for our seminarians as well as a gifted teacher and/or spiritual director. It is probably this diocese’s most important gift or commitment to the vitality of priestly service and ministry here in the years ahead.

So the two seminaries are “treasures we know not” in this state. If any reader has the resources and wishes to make a contribution to the development funds of either place, contact me. In the months ahead, I will try to brush away more of the “sand” which covers the pearls of great price which are St. John Vianney College Seminary and the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul.

+RNL

AGAIN? WHY?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Once again, for the third time in one month in St. Petersburg, the sixth time in six weeks in the state of Florida and the sixth time in two years in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, a peace officer, has been murdered in the line of duty, this time by a sixteen year old troubled teen-ager. I have sent the following letter to Mayor Bill Foster on behalf of the Catholic community which I hope expresses the feelings of all of us in the diocese:

Dear Mayor Foster,

I wish to assure you, the city, and members of our valiant and courageous police force (our earthly “Guardian Angels”) of the prayers, respect, love and sympathy of the Catholics of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

What all of you have had to endure in the last five weeks is beyond belief and I can only hope that as he did with his Son, God Himself can ultimately make something good come from the evil of the last month.

We shall now add the name of Officer Crawford to our Sunday Intercessory Prayers as we have been praying for the two previously killed in the first tragedy.

Finally, the toll that these events are taking on yourself and Chief Harmon are patently enormous. We pray for your continued courage and strength which you will certainly draw from your deep faith.

With every personal good wish during these sad times, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch
Bishop of St. Petersburg

THE ROAD TO HELL . . . .

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I have always loved and found generally true that old aphorism, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It has been about ten days since I last logged on to share some of the things happening in the life of the diocese and each day I rise saying, I am going to write a blog entry and each night I go to bed saying, “shucks.” So there is a lot to cover in this entry.

VISIT TO OUR SEMINARIANS

Week before last I visited our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary at Boynton Beach. We currently have eighteen on campus at the former in their college and pre-theology years and nine on campus at the latter plus two men currently in the diocese of what is called “Pastoral Year.” I try to give each seminarian twenty to thirty minutes for some private time with me, celebrate the Eucharist for them, take them en masse out to dinner and say prayer with them. This year our new diocesan Vocation Director, Father John Blum accompanied me and he too spends time with each seminarian. At the conclusion of our visit, we both meet with the Rectors of the seminaries to gain their perspective on  how they see our men doing in formation. Honest seminarians always admit to the challenges of pursuing their vocations. Think of what we ask of them: celibate chastity all their lives beginning when they enter the seminary gates, living in close proximity to others and constantly under a microscope (not necessarily of their superiors but even their peers) studying two intellectual disciplines which are largely abstract in their origins (philosophy and theology), living, studying and praying in multi-cultural, multi-language Miami and South Florida. There is little that is new here to priestly formation but the experience of recent years in the Church has shone a spotlight much more glaringly on seminary education and formation and our men sense it. Overall, they are doing quite well. Some have decided not to go on after this year and they spoke honestly to me of their reasons and I admire their decisions, hard as they were to arrive at. Most are content, challenged, and eager to move on eventually to priesthood. From the perspective of a soon to be seventy year old, I can not help but admire the sacrifice these young men are making in a youth culture, perhaps even in a secular culture which neither understands nor values a chaste and celibate priesthood. While I stop short of elevating our seminarians to the ranks of heroes or saints, I can not help but admire their generosity and commitment. I left my camera at home on this trip but here is a picture of the college seminarians and one of the theologians will follow as this week I must return to both seminaries for the twice yearly meeting of the Board of Trustees.

College Seminarians 2011 with Fr. Blum

The college seminarians with Fr. Blum.

ROMAN MISSAL WORKSHOPS

Over 750 people attended one of five workshops held the last ten days throughout the diocese on the introduction on the First Sunday of Advent of the new Roman Missal translation of the Mass. I was so proud of both the presenters and those who gave of their time and talent to come and learn about what will be happening and how best we might prepare our parishioners for it. Planned, organized and executed by the Diocesan Worship Office and Commission, I have to admit that I learned some new things myself, even though I had been actively involved in the process of vetting the translation recommendations. In a few days, and I will make note of it here in this space, a video of the two major presentations made during these workshops, one by Doug Reatini on the history of changes in the Roman Missal and the second by Father John Tapp on what to expect on “T DAY” (the last Saturday in November at the Vigil Masses for the First Sunday of Advent) will be available on our Diocesan Website to join the video of Bishop Blase Cupich’s fine presentation to our priests in December of last year. If you are truly interested and I hope you are, take the time to watch both of these videos and I guarantee you will be ready for T-Day. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make these workshops so beneficial. The “buzz” (“buzz” is different from the things which are said to the bishop to make him feel good) on these days has been overwhelmingly positive and grateful. I am proud of our diocese and I know in my heart and mind that we will be ready.

Workshop held at St. Timothy Church in Lutz on Feb. 12, 2011

THE CATHOLIC FOUNDATION DINNER

About 540 people joined me in our annual dinner for the Catholic Foundation which has as one of its principal goals raising money for tuition assistance for children attending our Catholic schools who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Last year they raised just over $150,000 for tuition assistance and this year appears that it will be about the same. It was truly “Women in the Church Night” at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa last Saturday a week ago.  Sometimes when our Church gathers there is this underlying feeling that unless one has a cardinal or well-known archbishop to give the major address, there is little reason to go. Well this year gave the lie to that line of thinking. The major address was given by a woman born in mainland China and the show was stolen by an eighth grade young lady from St. Raphael’s school.

The principal speaker for the evening Professor Carolyn Y. Woo, Dean of the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame University. Dean Woo told of her own personal debt to the Catholic schooling she received in Hong Kong at the hands of the Maryknoll Sisters who had been forced by the communists out of mainland China and had taken up both residence and mission in Hong Kong. It was the sisters who guided this young girl, the fourth of six children, through elementary and high school and gave her the courage to look to the United States for her college. With only enough money to pay for the first year of tuition at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, against her father’s wishes she made her way to the college of her choice, using $1800 (the cost for one year’s tuition in 1972 at Purdue) which she had saved from summer jobs, gifts from her siblings, and help from her nanny. Alone, afraid, but determined, she went to daily Mass at the student center at Purdue and almost immediately met the man to be her husband years later after she had completed her doctorate degree. Purdue hired her, first with a teaching job and then as a part of the University Administration. Fourteen years ago Notre Dame discovered her and asked that she come to South Bend to be Dean of their Business School. In the succeeding years she has led a major school on campus which this year in one ratings system is now first in Undergraduate Business schools in the nation and sixth in their Graduate Program. And she would lay it all at the feet of those noble women from the United States, the Maryknoll sisters, who taught her that a woman can become a leader, even in a culture (Mandarin Chinese) that relegates them to inferior positions behind men. Her story is one of amazing accomplishment and deep faith and one could hear a pin drop in the huge room while she was speaking.

Dean Carolyn Y. Woo, Dean of the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame with Henry Jenkins, currently an ACE teacher at Holy Family Catholic School in St. Petersburg

But even Dean Woo would say the evening belonged to in the eighth grader at St. Raphael who won the diocesan first prize in an essay contest on what it means to be in a Catholic School. Speaking for about ten minutes from memory and with a super accompanying video which she herself put together, she won a long, sustained and enthusiastic standing ovation from those in attendance for her talk and presentation. It was stunning, even to me who sometimes callously thinks I have seen and heard everything. Her prize was full one year tuition which she will spend at St. Petersburg Catholic in the coming year. This young woman stands a great chance of being her generation’s Carolyn Woo. Here is Heather Finster, this year’s winner who has set the bar incredibly high for eighth graders who will attempt in future years to top her. Heather’s mom worked for many years for St. Joseph Hospital and her father died a number of years ago, making this achievement all the more beautiful. Congratulations, Heather, and it will be nice to have you in the neighborhood when you come to SPC.

Winner of the Catholic Foundation's First Annual Essay Contest on "What a Catholic School Has Meant to Me"

The Foundation made a special award to Mrs.Cecile Demers of St. Patrick’s parish in Largo  who with her husband have been strong supporters of  Catholic education, particularly at St. Patrick’s school , Clearwater Central Catholic High School and  St. Leo University. Although her husband is now deceased, Mrs. Demers continues to share the blessings of her life with young women and men who probably could not afford to be in a Catholic school were it not for her generosity and that of her late husband. Here is a picture of my presentation of this year’s Foundation Award to Mrs. Demers who used the moment appropriately enough to tell me to do more for Catholic school kids – truly an amazing woman.

Photo compliments of P. L. Carrillo

Finally, it has been “crunch time” for Confirmations and I have been doing about four a week since a month ago. There are eight more between now and the night before Ash Wednesday when we cease the confirmation circuit to better focus on Lent and preparing once again for Easter and the Triduum which precedes it. All toll, this year I will celebrate the sacrament of confirmation forty-four times before mid-June and will have served fifty-one parishes (some combine their young people and others come to the Cathedral for the two large group celebrations of the sacrament. Here one final picture of that special moment – in my life and hopefully in the lives of the young women and men who receive the sacrament.

Photo by Walter Pruchnik III

This completes the longest blog entry in the short history of this author. But now we are caught up for the moment. I hope reading it has not been something akin to walking that road to hell but in writing this, however late, I did have good intentions.

+RNL

ET CUM SPIRITU TUO

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Welcoming the Roman Missal Third Edition

On the first Sunday of Advent this year, we will change a good portion of the language of the Mass with which many of you grew up. For the first time in forty years a new English translation of the ROMAN MISSAL will be introduced and used in every parish and chapel throughout the English speaking world. While it will take some getting used to, so did the prayers and translation we are currently using when they were first introduced following the close of the Second Vatican Council.

Over the coming months I will use this space to present my own thoughts on how we get from what has become very familiar to the new, from the present translation to the new translation. This week and next over 650 of those working in our parishes in this diocese will come to a workshop presented by the Diocesan Office for Worship in techniques which might be employed to aid in making the adjustments and getting ready for the introduction of the new translation on November 26th. These sessions throughout the diocese will include our priests, deacons, music ministry people, catechists and religious education teachers, everyone who will be working to make this as smooth a transition as possible.

Our priests spent a day at the end of November 2010 listening to a very clear presentation on the new translation and why it has come to be. Y0u can watch the video of the three hour presentation by Bishop Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington below or on our diocesan web site and I highly recommend that to you if you have the time and interest. Bishop Cupich explained to us that the new translation while strictly and closely translating the Latin text is theologically richer than that which we are using and can lead us deeper into the mystery of the Eucharist if we wish to go there. He made a good case and convinced a number of skeptical priests that this was indeed not “the end time” but rather the beginning of a new day in our communal prayer.

Pope Benedict has made it clear since his election that he wanted a uniform translation in English which was faithful to the Latin text. Please remember that no one is making the case that Jesus spoke Latin but rather the oldest versions of the Mass were Latin translations from a variety of other languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. The text which we have been using was rather quickly put together and approved following the Council’s close and certain approved translation liberties were taken (I will spare you here the convoluted details). Now they are being replaced by a literal translation of the Latin. Thus the famous “Dominus Vobiscum” followed by Et Cum Spiritu tuo” will once again be rendered as “The Lord be with you” and the response will be “And with your Spirit.” Bishop Cupich does a very fine job on the video of explaing that and as awkward as this may sound, it is a much more spiritually deeper response than the present “And also with you.”

One prayer in which there is no change is the Our Father. But expect some changes to get used to in the Gloria, Confiteor (“I confess…..”), Holy, Holy, Holy and O Lord I am not worthy.” The task of changing is far more challenging for the celebrant of the Mass as the Eucharistic Prayers have been altered with certain word changes, but the priests and I will work on those.

Change is never easy but I am willing to bet that proverbial dollar to a donut that you will adjust quickly as we did in the ’70’s when the present translation showed up. I intend to reflect more on these changes and hopefully help you prepare for T-DAY (aka Translation Day) throughout this year. Again, I can not recommend enough watching the video presentation of Bishop Cupich to our priests. It will help you enormously.

+RNL

CONSULTATIVE BODIES

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The law of the Church allows a bishop of a diocese a “lot of room to roam” on his own without constraints, if he is so foolish as to do so. Canon Law (the aforementioned “law of the Church”) requires the bishop to have several bodies who have limited jurisdiction over a bishop’s actions. The first of those bodies is called “The College of Consultors” and these are priests whom the bishop selects to serve as something of his senior cabinet. There are a few matters which require a positive vote of the college of consultors and these are mainly financial. “The Presbyteral Council” is also required by the Code of Canon Law in every diocese and it is made up of priests who are elected by their peers as well as appointees by the bishop. This Council meets in this diocese five times a year and is an important sounding board for me in charting a course and direction for this local Church. The third body required by the Code of Canon Law is a “Diocesan Finance Council” which here is made up of about fifteen lay women and men with expertise and personal success in finance, accounting and investing to which a few pastors are added and they advise on all things financial. They meet six times a year here. For fifteen years I have been nothing but blessed by having a wise and prudent Diocesan Finance Council. Finally, there is a “Diocesan Pastoral Council” not required by law but which is comprised of two priests and women and men from all five of our counties. Many of the matters which come before the Presbyteral Council will also be discussed by the Diocesan Pastoral Council and it was their advice that suggested that THE FLORIDA CATHOLIC might no longer be the most cost-effective and communications-effective way of remaining in contact with God’s people.

The very existence of these bodies guarantees absolutely nothing. It is up to the local bishop in his diocese to determine how, how often and what these bodies deal with. I think most of those who have been engaged with me for the last fifteen years would say that only substantive matters are brought for discussion and decision and rarely is the advice of these consultative bodies rejected by myself. Now collaboration and consultation at this level takes time. Many of the issues which the Presbyteral Council deals with are of a nature that further soundings need to be taken among the whole presbyterate and that occurs more at the local level of the seven deaneries in the diocese. When this happens, there will be two readings of something under consideration and since the Council itself meets every other month except for the summer, there is a built in delay.

I would say that the Church in the United States is moving away from the commitment to collegiality and shared responsibility which marked the ’70’s and ’80’s. Some of this movement has been occasioned by the very long and strong pontificate of Pope John Paul II and that of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Both have occasionally made (make) decisi0ns affecting the Church universal with minimal if any consultation with the world’s hierarchy, which is their right as our universal pastor. The Church never has been a democracy and therein is probably the reason we have lasted as long as we have despite human deficiency.

Where collegiality, shared responsibility and consultation will go in the future is pure speculation but here in the diocese of St. Petersburg if something major happens which has been initiated by myself, you can pretty much go to the bank that a lot of others have been involved in the discussion leading up to it. My admittedly biased judgment at this point is that while it might have taken a longer time period of gestation, the delivery and birth of the ideas have been and will be more happily received.

+RNL

VIOLENCE

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Sorry that it has been some time since the last post but I have been busy about many things the last ten days. Tomorrow is the one week anniversary since the funeral for the two slain St. Petersburg police officers. Their deaths were so tragic and so needless that once again sins that cry out to heaven have brought loss, grief, sadness, and shame. There is no topic which elicits the level of verbal violence than the suggestion that the time for appropriate control of guns has long passed. How many more police must die? How many more innocent people need to be shot? I firmly believe that the Constitution’s right-to-bear arms guarantee can be met while the number of guns can be reduced. It is a pro-life issue which never seems to make it into the pro-life discourse but just ask the wives of the two officers whether or not “gun control” is a “life issue.”

Now, having said that, I must prepare for the coming stream of verbal violence which will follow the two sentences above. Civility in public discourse and in the Church has also fallen victim to the radicalization of issues which once could be discussed in accord with the laws of Christian charity. The advent of the blogs which can say almost anything without fear of reprisal adds new opportunities for lack of respect and civility. Words and actions combine to make our world, even in these United States and even in these five counties a more violent place.

“Peace on earth and good will among all men [and women]” the angels proclaimed that first Christmas. Where is it today – even more elusive than ever.

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Petersburg extends once again to a whole police department and to the widows of two valiant peace officers our prayers and sympathy and our thanks for the witness of courage and bravery and service in the midst of an increasingly violent society. May they, like the officers in Hillsborough county last year rest in peace.

+RNL