Archive for August, 2011

OMNISCIENT I AM NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Rachel Gillman from St. Timothy parish, Lutz, with seminarian Dan Angel taken in Bomi, Liberia this summer

Up until this summer, I have not been aware of any of our brothers and sisters from the diocese working overseas doing mission work. Rachel Gillman is from St.Timothy parish in Lutz and hers is an interesting story which with  her permission I would like to share with you. By pure chance, one of our seminarians, Dan Angel, wound up at a remote mission in Liberia where Rachel has been working as a teacher for a year and a half. That obviously is how I learned of her existence and missionary commitment. She comes from a family quite well known in the parish of St. Timothy and her father, a member of one of the youngest parish mens’ clubs in the diocese has worked long, hard and diligently on the vocation to the priesthood promotion campaign known as “Fishers of Men.” Rachel attended Furman University in South Carolina where she majored in both sociology and biology. The latter major required that she spend the summer between her junior and senior year somewhere working as a volunteer and gaining knowledge both learned and practical. She spent that summer in Ghana and worked with those with HIV-AIDS. Returning to Furman for her senior year found her wrestling in a way with a desire to do more for the poor. Immediately after graduation she spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps working in Brooklyn, among some of the most wretchedly poor right here in our own country. With a wonderful sense of social justice and still yearning to do more, she wound up going to Bomi and St. Dominic’s school in the war ravaged nation of Liberia where she has been teaching for what will be two years in December. Rachel intends to remain there for one more semester or until mid-June, 2012 helping her students learn through a whole school year, teaching biology and chemistry. The assignment came through an organization which I have not heard of called the SMA or Society of Missionaries to Africa. Rachel is joined in Bomi by a religious sister and another lay woman, all working under the most challenging conditions. Believe me, using a bucket to shower every day in incredible heat and humidity sans air conditioning is no delight and that is just the tip of the iceburg of hardship which one has to endure working in most places save the large urban areas of Africa. In Bomi even electricity is a luxury.

Upon learning of her presence, I wrote to  her to tell her how proud I was of her commitment and devotion to serving the poor, especially in a country which is just now finally coming out of years of armed conflict and civil war which saw Bomi as a major theatre of activity. I also asked if there was anything which I or the diocese could do to sustain and support she and the other two women at St. Dominics. Rachel wrote the following to me: I think I will probably be here for one more year. My contract is finished in January, bit I have asked for an extension to finish the school year, which will probably go till June, depending on the election [Liberia will have important presidential elections this Fall). I would be happy to receive any donations. The school is trying its best but really struggles. School fees are always a problem for local people to be able to pay. But the school fees alone (if they are paid) are not sufficient to run the school, much less implement much needed improvements and renovations. There are also very few opportunities for girls and young women. Teenage pregnancy is staggeringly high and it is a struggle to keep girls engaged and active in school. We started a soap making project last year which has been a big success. But it is only benefitting a few girls. There has been a lot of interest to try some more projects to keep the girls engaged, busy, feeling proud of something. . . .But while donations would be wonderful, if there is one thing I have learned since being here, as cliche as I used to think it sounded, I would most appreciate your prayers for my students, the school, Bomi and Liberia. They are approaching a difficult time and it can be so discouraging. I thank God every day for letting me know these people. Sometimes I wish I could be the one to change their worlds, to be able to do more, but I know that it will be God. I’m just grateful for being able to witness it.

Rachel’s beloved St. Dominics will be getting a donation from our diocese and she and her students have been in my prayers ever since I received her email. She is one special person to be sure and one of our own about whom I would have known nothing were it not for our seminarian being assigned by CRS to St. Dominics. I began to think that some other people whom we know are also working in remote and challenging areas of Africa. My personal secretary Andrea McSorley and her husband Spence who worked as Youth Minister at Espiritu Santo parish are with the Comboni missionaries in Malawi and they just had their first child, who will be called Seth, while working abroad. If you know of others whose names and places could be listed here, share them with me and tell me a little about them which I can share with my readers. After all, as I said above, I am not omniscient, never was and never will be.

+RNL

SHARE-A-T(H)ON

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

I began my day this morning by celebrating Mass in the studios of our excellent radio station, Spirit FM-90.5 (WBVM). They are the midst of their annual fundraising effort, for years referred to as SHARE-A-THON. Their goal is to raise at least $500,000 to support their ministry for another year and it ends by 7 o’clock on Tuesday evening. Like the several times a year fund-raising weeks for WUSF and other listener supported stations in the area, this is their principal source of funding and our station only does it once a calendar year.

In a period when the Church is thinking creatively about the “new evangelization”, our radio station is already at work spreading the message of Jesus through music, some talk, and a lot of spiritual “energy.” Every year, several people being received into the Church cite Spirit FM-90.5 as the portal of faith which led them to joining the Church. And, about half of the money raised will come from non-Catholic listeners. The on-air and behind the scenes staff are quite dedicated and committed to the ministry.

The staff of our radio station, SPIRIT FM

The first reading for Mass today was from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, confirming them in their faith and calling on them for courage in the face of adversity and care for each other. I could not help but think as I drove across to Tampa that St. Paul would have given an arm and a leg to have the methods of communicating with the faithful that are open to us today. How many people of his time in Thessalonica heard his words? How many could one letter reach? Through Spirit FM, we have the ability to share, spread and confirm the faith with many through the medium of radio. Now we can take the station with us if we have the money to do it since I listen to the RAYS games when away from home on the local radio station brought to me through my iPhone. In fifteen and a half years, the technology jump has been just short of extraordinary and the reach far beyond our signal strength. Donations and pledges have already been received from many people outside of the state who listen through their computers.

I hope our friends at Spirit FM meet their goal these days and I was happy to be a part of the team asking our listeners to share a ton of money with them (just joking – whatever you can reasonably afford to donate.) Thanks to all at the radio station. One of our early alumni who still lives and broadcasts from his  home in north Tampa is Gus Lloyd, host of the morning drive time show for many years and now on “The Catholic Channel” at SiriusXM. My hope would be to some day have something similar to his format. And, finally, who knows, if you share a ton, maybe, just maybe “On the Air with Bishop Lynch” might return. I should not brag, but during the time I was at the station and for the next hour, in a time of day normally dead during the drive, something slightly in excess of $10,000 was recorded. That’s a ton of money.

ps.   The picture of the staff  (above right) was meant to be larger than the one of yours truly (directly above) but I can not figure out how to reverse them. Sorry staff – you are much more important to the organization than I!

+RNL

MY UNCLE, THE PRISONER OF THE STATE

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Viet Vu Nguyen, Seminarian for the Diocese of St. Petersburg

Viet Nguyen is a seminarian for this diocese who will, God willing, within nine months be ordained a transitional deacon. His journey to priesthood included a number of years in prison in Vietnam, held as an enemy of the state because of his deep Catholic faith and his thirst for freedom and democracy in the country of his birth. Parishioners of St. Paul parish in St. Petersburg know this young man well as he spent most of the last year there on pastoral assignment prior to completing his two remaining years in the seminary preparing for ordinations. There must be something about courage, audacity, faith, hope and love in Viet’s DNA because his 63-year uncle, a priest in Vietnam, has just been re-arrested by the  government. I will tell you more in a moment but I have purposely delayed writing this blog to first thoroughly check with our seminarian Viet that nothing I write can possibly bring any harm to his uncle or infringe on Viet’s personal ability to return to Vietnam and see his family in any way. Last week at the seminarian convocation, Viet said that I should proceed as it could  not possibly place him in any more “hot water” with the government of Vietnam than he is already in.

Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly was rearrested on July 25th having already spent about three and a half years in prison. His crime – spreading what the government called anti-communist propaganda. His sentence – eight years in prison. The propaganda Father Thadeus was spreading – that the government did not have a right to summarily take property from individuals and religious communities, that the government of Vietnam consistently plays loose with the basic human rights of its citizens, and that the people deserved democracy. Neither Father Thadeus’ ideas nor person was new to the Government of Vietnam this year; they had previously arrested him for the first time in 1977 and he has spent a total of fifteen years since in prison. During his last “trial” he was visibly and forcibly “muzzled” when he began to recite an anti-communist poem during his hearing.

In March of this year, Father Thaddeus was released from prison for a one year medical leave to seek treatment for a brain tumor. He was residing at a residence for retired priests when he was rearrested last month. He had suffered multiple strokes during his most recent imprisonment and 37 US senators sought his release last year to which the government responded with the medical leave. Now it is all bets off.

As for Viet he wrote this about his own experience: From 1975 to 1992, all seminaries in Vietnam had been closed. Until [In]1992, three seminaries were opened but under the control of the communist government in Vietnam, which limited the number of seminarians. Every other year, each diocese would choose only five seminarians at a time to study at the seminary in Saigon (HCM City). All seminarians had to be reported and interviewed by the communist officials before going into the seminary. In 1995, 1997, and 1999, after passing the tests, my bishop chose me continuously three times to study at the seminary, but each time my entry was revoked by the communist officials. The government did not allow me to enter the seminary.

In 2001, while I was going to apply a fourth time, my uncle, Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly who has been demanding for religious freedom for a long time was arrested. At the same time when he was arrested in May, his mother (she is my grandmother) passed away. For that reason, some overseas Vietnamese in the U.S. asked me to let them know about his childhood life and about my grandmother’s funeral. I wrote a letter to them and sent it by e-mail. One month later, I was arrested; my sister and my brother were arrested too. They accused us of  “spying for the U.S.”

At first they were supposed to give me a 12-year sentence, life or even to a death sentence. But thanks to many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, the Human Right Watch, a German bishop, and especially thanks to many American senators and Congressmen, the U.S. State Department and many overseas Vietnamese around the world, who ceaselessly asked for the intervention for my family, all their efforts brought a good result. As a result, the communists changed my verdict from  “spy” to “democratic and religious freedom abuse to harm the nation.” In court, they did not accept my lawyer who voluntarily defended me. For that reason, I remained silent in front of the court. The judges were so angry about my attitude, so they gave me a five-year sentence. After one week, a  high official of the communists visited me in prison. He confessed that the government wanted to free me if I would appeal to the Supreme Court and say something. he said I could say whatever I wanted but not be silent. I accepted his suggestion. At the Supreme Court they gave me a 32-month sentence. It meant that there were about 50 days more for me in prison.

In February 2004, I was released. One month later, a German bishop sent me a letter inviting me to join his diocese, but the communists did not grant me a visa. Some months later the U.S. Embassy asked us to proceed with the Immigration Department in order to leave Vietnam. And we left Vietnam in 2005.

What made me believe that God so loved me when I was facing the harsh reality in prison? After realizing God’s will, I found hopefulness and peacefulness. those were divine graces which I had in prison. My hope and peace were transmitted to some prisoner friends. When the communists let me live with prisoners, three other prisoner friends converted to Catholicism, one of them would be getting the death sentence. Others fouond peace when they heard me singing hymns. From my small experiences, I have learned that through hardship God loves me more and makes me grow up; he leads me into a deeper relationship with him and with his people. . . .

Our seminarian loves his uncle dearly and has often sought my prayers for him during his time in prison and now again. Viet does not know the exact condition of his uncle’s medical situation because when one is in prison in Vietnam, they do their best to see that the world and one’s family have little to no contact. My prayer has always been that this brave priest can be free, well and attend his nephew’s ordination. Now I am not so sure on both of this counts. However, if you read this, pause now and say a prayer for Father Thadeus and Viet, truly members of the Church militant and profiles in courage. During his imprisonment, Viet Vu Nguyen composed in Vietnamese first and since has translated this prayer into English:

Lord, thank you for my hunger, so that I can truly experience the hunger of beggars.

Thank you ffor my nakedness, so that I can share the poverty with those who do n not have enough clothes to wear.

Thank you for my illness, so that I can feel sorry for those who have to bear their critical illness without any medicine.

Thank you for my loneliness, so that I can sympathize with those who are lonely and desolate.

Thank you for my sufferings, so that I can empathize with those who are in misery and despair.

Thank you for my imprisonment so that I can truly share with those who are imprisoned unjustly.

Thank you for the persecution, so that I can proudly share with your disciples’ hardship and their fears.

Lord, finally, I want to give you thanks because of this situation, this room, this prison. I do believe that you lead me here and you want me to be here with you. I do not know where I will go,what I will do, and when I will go home, but I trust in your everlasting love and unboken promise: you always love me and reveal to me your love for me in this special seminary. Amen.

Prison Camp B34, R12  – 2002 – Vietnam

+RNL

DEATH COMES TO THE SOMALIS

Monday, August 15th, 2011

One of the wonderful aspects of the privilege of serving as bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg has been how generously our people have responded to emergencies and disasters in our own country and throughout the world. I shall never forget that in one nine month span of time Catholics in this diocese contributed 1.7 million dollars to CRS for tsunami relief in the area of the Indian Ocean (that was in early January) and then turned around and contributed an additional 2.1 million for relief the the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Likewise your response to the Haitian earthquake has also been very admirable. One thing which has always helped when I appeal has been the attention the media, radio, television and the electronic media have shed on the human suffering. moving you beyond my words to want to help.

This week-end in conjunction with your pastors we will be appealing for your generosity once again for a disaster of gigantic proportions but which has not received the notice of the media that those I mentioned above received – the famine and drought in Somalia and East Africa. I am told by Catholic Relief Services that tens of thousands of people are on the move in search of sufficient food and water to sustain life. Without it, they know they will die. Thousands already have.

Catholic Relief Services has been on the ground and present in Somalia for some time now and their staff has been warning us of the growing scope of the disaster. They say that it will take about eighty million dollars of aid from our country and others to save the lives which are at risk as I write this. With all the arguing in Congress about debt ceiling and budget cutbacks, our governments normally generous response to prior emergencies like this is embarrassing. So someone has to stand up and feed the starving and give water to the thirsty. I ask your help once again and even in our own hard economic times, this challenge ranks up there with the famous Ethiopian famine in the mid-eighties of the last century as a killer of enormous proportions. What follows is the letter which I hope will be in every parish bulletin this week-end or read aloud in every Church. Think and pray about it and then join me in helping our sisters and brothers in the horn of Africa.

August 11, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

From time to time I have written to ask your generous response to a major disaster somewhere in the world or in our own country. Specifically I recall your incredible charity at the time of the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Hurricane Katrina later that same year and more recently the earthquake and consequent devastation in nearby Haiti.

Less well known but of disastrous consequence is the current famine and drought in Somalia and eastern Africa where millions of people have already been forced from their homes, migrating in search of food and water. I believe that this situation is at least as bad if not worse than the famine and drought which hit Ethiopia in 1984 and 1985 resulting in major loss of life. Even though we as a nation remain in the grips of a recession of our own, the pain, suffering and needless loss of life pales in comparison to the present situation in the horn of Africa.

Consequently, I am asking all pastors of parish churches and administrators of our institutions to appeal for special help through special collections to address the desperate needs of the Somalis and others. Catholic Relief Services is “on the ground in these areas/countries providing assistance with present but dwindling resources. They have an outstanding record of success in these situations.

Please be as generous as you can once again in responding to this appeal and be assured that once again we can make a difference. Then you and I can hear the words of Christ, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.” [Mt. 25:35]

All collections will be sent immediately by the diocese to Catholic Relief Services with the specific intention to be used for famine and drought relief. Thank you once again in advance for your mercy and kindness.

 Sincerely yours in Christ,

+RNL

NEW MADRID FAULT

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

This evening I had an opportunity to celebrate Mass with a group of young people and their chaperones who are leaving tomorrow for World Youth Day next week in Spain. They were accompanied tonight by their parents and some friends and the liturgy was lovely and the singing spirited. I had an opportunity to reflect with them on the relatively short history (short in Church history anyway) of World Youth Days, an inspiration of Blessed Pope John Paul II in the early eighties and my own involvement as General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops when an inquiry was made about whether or not the bishops of the United States would be willing to host WYD in 1993. It gave me an opportunity to recall energy and spirit of those wonderful days in Denver and the witness of 650,000 young people gathered on Saturday night for the Vigil with the Pope and then the Mass the next morning. It remains the last World Youth Day I have been able to attend but the memory lingers quite strong.

Bound tomorrow and this week-end for Madrid and World Youth Day, the pilgrims were given scarfs made for them by the Salesian Sisters to wipe the perspiration away.

Pope Benedict XVI will join the youth gathered next week, lead them in prayer, bless them and encourage them to continue to live the lives which Christ seeks of all of us. Prior to his arrival there will be catechesis sessions in all the major languages for the youth, concerts, eucharistic adoration and prayer, many Eucharistic liturgies, and lots of joy and enthusiasm for the faith. It is highly unlikely the the Prado, the great art museum of Spain housing an incredible collection of El Greco’s, Murillo’s and Velasquez will set new attendance records during these days but Madrid will rock. Which leads me to the title for this blog entry.

Midwesterners know that earthquakes are not only likely in California and on the West Coast, but in the great midwest also. As a matter of fact, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas sit right on top of a plate called the “new Madrid fault” and are candidates for an earthquake or two. “Madrid” is pronounced slightly differently than the capital city of Spain but the earth under some of our midwestern states has already moved in such a way that small earthquakes have recently been felt, recorded, and augur more serious movement for the future.

Well, old Madrid, the capital of Spain will also rock this week as nearly a million young people descend upon it for World Youth Day 2011. The youth will bring their brand of music and Christian rock and they will sing, dance, pray, sway giving new life to the old Catholic wineskins of Catholic Spain. I am told that there are about 190 youth and a good number of adult chaperones leaving now for Spain from the diocese including several of our priests and religious sisters. A record 60,000 youth from the U.S. have signed up to attend and paid their registration fee which I am led to believe is the largest number of any WYD held outside the North American continent. And all the energy, the movement of the Spirit, the joy and enthusiasm remains the “fault” of our late Pope whose idea convening the young people of the world originally was. Travel safely and return to us with an even deeper commitment to your faith, dear young people.

+RNL

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Tomorrow our entering college seminarians are expected to arrive at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami for several weeks of orientation, testing and introduction to the spiritual life. Last night I celebrated the Eucharist with all of our seminarians save two (Ryan Boyle, a first theologian has already arrived in Rome to begin an intensive study of Italian prior to beginning the seminary at the North American College in Rome in October and Daniel Angel continues for one more week with Catholic Relief Services in Liberia, Africa). I am happy to report to you that we will have thirty-four seminarians beginning or resuming their studies this month in four seminaries. Additionally, three men studying for the diocese last year, all at St. John Vianney in Miami have asked for and received permission to take a year off their studies and continue to discern their vocations. Great praise is due to the Lord of the Harvest for planting the seed of a call to priesthood in the hearts and minds of these courageous young men and all of us should join in thanking our Vocation Team of Fathers John Blum and Carl Melchior for their hard work this past year.

Our seminarians are impressive in many ways. They genuuinely like each other and are supportive of each other, sharing their individual talents and gifts with the larger community and with their colleagues. In the midst of all the scandals which have claimed so much attention, they still feel called to serve and have, precisely because of recent history, endured more psychological testings and analysis than ever in modern history. They understand perhaps better than most that the sins and failings of a very few, horrible as that is, does not define for them the priesthood which they feel called to serve.

At our meeting in Orlando earlier this week the bishops of the state all said that the number of young men entering the seminary this year for all seven dioceses is up over previous years and we know that our college seminary is “over-booked” and filled to the gills, the theologate has its highest enrollment in recent years (about 90 seminarians), the North American College in Rome is expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 seminarians in their program this Fall and Blessed John XXIII in Weston, Massachusetts where we will have two men will also have in excess of seventy students and is either running out of room or is full also.

Our men all said they had good summer experiences and were now looking forward to moving on in their journey and returning to the seminary. Here is a list of our seminarians who will be studying for priestly ministry in our diocese this Fall, their home parishes, and the date when they will likely complete their formation and studies. Everyone should understand that all of these men are in discernment as well as preparation for ministry and while some may decide on marriage or the single life outside of religious ministry, we can and should pray for all these men that they will persevere in their hope and dream.

Rev. Mr. Timothy Corcoran, Sacred Heary Parish, Tampa (2012)

Rev. Mr. Victor Amorose, Light of Christ Parish, Clearwater (2012)

Justin Paskert, St. Anne’s Parish, Ruskin (2013)

Viet Nguyen, Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Tampa (2013)

Jonathan Emery, St. Clement Parish, Plant City (2014)

Brian Fabiszewski, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Largo (2014)

William Santhouse, St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish, Tarpon Springs (2014)

Kyle Smith, Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Land of Lakes (2014)

Steven Dornquast, St. Joseph Parish, Zephyr Hills (2015)

Curtis Carro, St. Jerome Parish, Indian Rocks Beach (2015)

Bradley Reed, Cathedral of St. Jude Parish, St. Petersburg (2015)

Anthony Ustick, St. Matthew Parish, Largo (2015)

Ryan Boyle, Nativity Parish, Brandon (2015)

Robert Angel, St. Raphael Parish, St. Petersburg (2016)

Elbert Ballado, St. Stephen Parish, Valrico (2016)

Felipe Gonzalez, St. Paul Parish, Tampa (2016)

Joseph Plesko, Nativity Parish, Brandon (2016)

Jason Priela, St. Lawrence Parish, Tampa (2016)

Jonathan Stephanz, St. Stephen Parish, Valrico (2016)

Gregory Visca, Nativity Parish Brandon (2016)

Kevin Yarnell, Incarnation Parish, Tampa (2016)

Daniel Angel, St. Raphael Parish, St. Petersburg (2017)

Alexander Padilla II, St. Theresa Parish, Spring Hill (2017)

Jackson Reeves, Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Gulfport (2017)

Elixavier Castro, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Seffner (2017)

Daniel Darmanin, St. Frances Cabrini Parish, Spring Hill (2017)

Kyle Bell, Christ the King Parish, Tampa (2018)

Maximilian Hart, Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor (2018)

Lou Turcotte, Light of Christ Parish, Clearwater (2018)

Tim Williford, Light of Christ Parish, Clearwater (2018)

Alec DeDios, Cathedral of St. Jude Parish, St. Petersburg, (2019)

Sergio Fernandez, Incarnation Parish, Tampa (2019)

Joshua Hare, St. Anthony the Abbott Parish, Brooksville (2019)

Dylan Holmes, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Inverness (2020)

+RNL

 

 

DIDN’T CATCH MUCH, EXCEPT A GOOD REST

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Vacation 2011 is now a thing of the past, history. For all intents and purposes it ended last Tuesday when I left my “sanctuary” in Northern Michigan after 31 wonderful days, glorious days really. My final Mass at St. Francis Xavier parish in Petoskey was Saturday night a week ago. In one sense they will be relieved to see me go as my presence was accompanied by unusually hot and humid weather for the most part. But in another way, they expressed their gratitude for my presence in many ways and I toward them. It is too bad I was not there for this week-end and the Gospel story of the storm at sea. The family who make me so welcome race every year in the Chicago to Mackinac race sponsored for the last 103 years by the Chicago Yacht Club and during this year’s race, on a late Sunday night offshore the Petoskey area a strong line of thunderstorms came through, capsizing one boat with the loss of two lives of crew (six survived). It was the first time in 103 years that there was casualties of the race. My friends took every precaution, lost a little time to the finish, but survived whole and in tact.

Tuesday I fulfilled a promise I made to a friend of mine from papal visit days to see him in his present assignment in Scandinavia. He was expecting me the day after Christmas last year but you may recall the two major snow storms which hit the east coast closing the airports on the day after Christmas and delaying our reunion. He is presently in Stockholm and I spent about four days with him before flying home today to a meeting of the bishops of Florida, an annual early August event which always marks the end of summer for me. We spent little time in Stockholm itself as I have been there on three other occasions. I was amazed at what the very, very small Catholic Church is doing there and throughout Scandinavia. All Nordic countries left the Catholic Church en masse following the reformation. Priests were driven out of the countries, Churches and monasteries were claimed for the new state religion which was and is an expression of Lutheranism and the Church became an entity of the state, or an official religion – the one thing which drove our ƒorefathers and mothers to come to America to avoid interestingly. Practically no one attends Church in those countries and our Catholic Church has had to maintain a low profile. However, Norway, Sweden and Denmark along with Finland and Iceland are experiencing a significant growth in immigrant Catholics and the Church is growing with a good number of people in attendance. The Cathedral in Stockholm has been enlarged to accommodate the growing number of people attending Mass and the Jesuits also have a parish in downtown Stockholm, largely prevented by the government from having a physical presence which but still hidden away as it must be is stunning in its simplicity and beauty.

My friend took me to Uppsala which is home to one of the if not the largest Churches in Scandanavia. It was indeed beautiful and home to the grave of Dag Hammersoldt who was General Secretary of the United Nations during my younger years. However, the real miracle is that a stone’s throw away from the primatial church of Sweden, the government last year gave the Jesuits permission to open the first Catholic University in all of Scandinavia since the reformation. It also means that the government will pay for the education of those who attend what is called the “Newman Institute.” It was so exciting for me that a place under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman could begin to recreate his mission and provide an intellectual atmosphere for the study of philosophy and theology. I am sure it will bring many converts to the Church in the months and years to come. Pope Benedict XVI has often said that the Catholicism of the “masses of people” may be ending but the new Springtime for the Church will begin with a smaller core of people who understand and embrace the faith with greater knowledge, understanding and will. If he is right, Sweden may be Europe’s trial balloon. Only time will tell.

Seeds of faith was what I experienced. Planted but not yet sprouting. Full of hope for the future.

Now it is back to work. I meet with all our seminarians on Tuesday night at the Bethany Center and will quickly discover what has been awaiting my arrival. The month off was something of an experiment in what my life might be like after retirement, how I might fill my days and nights and care for myself. It will never be the perfect laboratory because my host family and their children include me in almost everything they do. It was, however, the first time in my life I took a month away and I already miss it. More will appear here in coming days, thanks for your patience with me during my absence and sometime in the next few months I will produce my 500th blog entry. Special thanks to the Farrell family, Bishop Bernard Hebna and Father Dennis Stilwell who made these weeks a relaxing, wonderful experience.

+RNL