Archive for May, 2013

THE “NAYS” HAVE IT

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Generally, an opinion poll is only valid if it supports the outcome one wishes to see. If you don’t believe me, think back to that awful 2012 general election and how the two party’s “spinmasters” would manage to see silver linings in even the worst results from the polling.

The same reaction is now greeting a nationwide poll of priests’ reactions to the new translation of the Roman Missal which we have been using at Mass since late November 2011. Those who like the translation and worked for its acceptance are involved in “shooting the messenger” because they do not like the message and those who support the findings are somewhat smugly saying simply, “we told you so!” Not the hills this time, but the blogosphere is alive with the sound of disenchantment/enchantment and it sure isn’t music to anyone’s ears.

Before I share the reactions of the priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg to the new translation (which is the point of this posting, if I ever get to it), I need to do two things. Transparency and accountability require that I restate that I was not in favor of the translation as it was being presented to the episcopal conference and voted against it in the final vote. BUT, having been passed and approved by the Holy See, I have faithfully and sometimes painfully followed the will of the Church as have my good priests in this diocese, no matter where they stood prior to implementation. We are a universal Church guided by a universal pastor, the pope, and there are some things we accept which left to our own desserts, we might like to see changed.

So, what did the St. Petersburg priests responding to the survey indicate about their opinion of the new translation after a year and a half of its use?

2013_Survey_of_DOSP_Priests

To the best of my knowledge, the bishops were never asked during the long and tedious debate leading up to the passage of the new translation to ask their priests for their opinion. In this diocese we had what I would term very brief mentions of it during Presbyteral Council meetings but the draft texts were never fully shared with anyone other than those in the diocesan Office of Worship. Arguably then, I am partly at fault for not  “vetting” the text more widely.

Allow me to use an example comparing the two translations and I rhetorically ask you, the reader, to decide which is more easily understood. At my first post-Easter celebration of the Sunday Liturgy, I was at a parish which is largely Hispanic but still has a sizable Anglo population and most of the Mass was in English. Here is the text of the blessing of Holy Water prior to the Sprinkling from the new translation of the Roman Missal (on the right) and from the old translation (on the left). I could not help but ask myself, how many of the congregation who joined in the Mass that morning (including the large Hispanic portion who are daily growing more comfortable with English – and that is only a small proportion of them)  truly understood the thought which the new translation was trying to convey?

Comparison_of_Blessing_of_Water

Also, let me include the opening Prayer from last Sunday’s Mass on the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity for your thoughtful review.

Comparison of Trinity Sunday I think most of our worshipping lay women and men would probably not evaluate the new translation in the same way as those of us whose task it is to voice the prayers. But, if you asked them, what is an “oblation”? What is meant by “consubstantial?” Where did the word “prevenient” ever come from and what does it mean?” many would be at a loss. Also, any survey of what the laity might feel about the translation should, in my opinion, test it from two perspectives; (a) do you understand the prayer as you heard it voiced and proclaimed by the celebrant? and (b) if given a side by side comparison of texts, which is more easily understandable (the old translation or the new)? One can, if one tries hard enough, make our public prayer in English almost a foreign language to many. If we have not already crossed that literary and spiritual rubicon, we are at least standing along the shoreline. Some very good priests are beginning to “tinker with the translation” and I know I must tell them to cease and desist. But as predicted during the debate all those dreadful years, that which was supposedly to be eliminated has not been long finding its way back into pastoral praxis and that is what I see the poll of priests preparing us for.

So what, one can perhaps now say.  The Church is not a democracy and it does not depend upon or even listen to opinion polls. Both statements are true, of course, but a Church which is deaf to its priests, deacons, religious women and men, and lay women and men runs the grave risk of irrelevance. And, irrelevance sometimes leads to declining attendance, disinterest, loss of membership. We do need to live with this new translation longer but I would bet the bank that the matter will be revisited sooner rather than later (certainly sooner than forty-five years which is how long the older translation was in possession)  and I would also bet that the Spanish sacramentary is unlikely to undergo much in the way of change even now, or perhaps especially now. This data will be neither determinative nor influential but it could be the first chords of a rising chorus which just may descend upon our beloved Church like the dewfall (whatever that is).

+RNL

TRY TO REMEMBER THE TWELTH OF SEPTEMBER

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

With apologies to the musical The Fantastiks the diocese has begun to dream and think about the day we will dedicate the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, Thursday night, September 12, 2013 at seven o’clock in the evening. Even today looking on the diocesan website at the live-camera pictures streaming from outside and inside the project, the skeptic might be led to believe that there is no way it can be finished by then but it will be, I promise. And what a great evening that will be for all this local church!

In our ecclesiology, the Cathedral is the bishop’s parish, the bishop’s church. It is where his seat or cathedra (from which the very name “Cathedral” is derived) can be found and the only place in a diocese where it can be found. The bishop can and should be found there, in his chair and at the ambo (lecturn) and altar for ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood, for the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent, for special moments like the Marriage Jubilee Mass, the Anniversaries of Religious women and men, the annual award of the St. Jude the Apostle award and for the normal parish major moments: Holy Week, Christmas midnight Mass, Pentecost, etc.

Our St. Jude Cathedral was never formally dedicated as a “cathedral” though it was dedicated by Archbishop Hurley as a parish church building. So when we talk about the formal dedication of the cathedral on September 12th, it is precisely that and not just a blessing of a remodeled Church.

When you see it you will swear that we built a new cathedral church from scratch and not simply remodeled an older building. The dome and roof structures remain the same but they are “clothed” in new coverings (anodized aluminum and tile), about 30 per cent of the structural walls are the same but 70 per cent of the support is new. The inside now has an additional 7000 square feet of space it did not have prior and the altar, ambo, presider’s chair and cathedra are all new. The tabernacle is the same though it has been replated, cleaned, restored and its locking mechanism repaired and spatially it is in precisely the same position as it always has been. A portion of the gate and altar/communion rail from the older building has been saved and will be where people can kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The corpus or figure of the crucified Lord from the old crucifix will hang on the new crucifix which you can now touch in the sanctuary and reverence with a kiss on Good Friday.

The statuary remains though in different spaces but there is a new life-size statue of St. Jude the Apostle in its own shrine which you will see upon entry and a new, beautifully carved wood pieta also in its own shrine. There is a large baptismal pool and baptism by immersion will be a possibility but it is very visible at the main entrance into the Cathedral signifying by placement that it is through baptism that we are received into the Church in the first place.

Speaking of the entrance, in the unlikely event of rain you can be dropped off under a canopied cover for the first time. People with disabilities will find access ramps all over the place to the Church (no longer just in the front of the Church) and there will be ramps into the sanctuary on both sides for wheelchair or walker lectors to approach the ambo. There is a first ever bride’s room and large bathrooms for women and men.

The choir loft remains (for storage only) but you will not be able to see it. There is a formal choir area at the front of the Church which can hold a choir of eighty people (how I wish), a new organ and there is also a music area for a smaller group or organist/pianist and cantor nearer the sanctuary. Going to and from Holy Communion will be less a chore because of wider aisles and easier access to the pews (also new and curved). What you will not see are the working sacristies, the choir practice room, the vesting area for the bishop and for the priests and for the altar servers. And if all goes well, and I may just jump off the Skyway Bridge if I does not, a sound system that is worthy of our new space and a lightyears improvement on the previous sound system.

There are to be three robotic television cameras largely out-of-sight which will capture liturgical action and make it possible for us to livestream the Sunday Mass from the Cathedral and perhaps even broadcast it on paid cable. If you cannot attend the dedication Mass on September 12th, you will be able to watch it via livestream on your home computer. Two very large but unobtrusive flat-screen LED televisions will be available for all to see when there is a need to show something to the assembled.

Finally, there are the windows! Our natural sunshine is God’s gift to us and the Cathedral will have more windows than it ever has had. The main window behind the tabernacle, itself behind the main altar, should be stunning. It will change color throughout the day depending on the ambient light shining in from outside and when it is totally dark outside, the window will still show a remarkable color behind the tabernacle.

For the first time since it was completed in 1962, every one who worships inside the Cathedral will be able to see some of the twelve stained glass windows in the dome (previously hidden from almost everyone save the celebrant of the Mass at the altar – it was just before they were to come down that I noticed them for the first time). They and the windows on either side of the two semi-transcepts will suggest that passage from the third Eucharistic Prayer, “from the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.”

But that will be it for this moment in time for the windows. What we will install and have ready for September 12th will have cost about $125,000. To finish the windows in the ambulatories and the entrance ways would have cost an additional $500,000 and something has to be left to future generations. No Cathedral should ever, ever be finished on the day of its dedication but rather be an expression of faith over generations.

What I love about the new space is that there will no longer be three communities at prayer at the same time but one. Previously those sitting on the side transcepts could not see those in the main transcept. Now the eye can take in the whole interior expanse of the great church. It can seat 1300 if we need it, all visually and spiritually in sight of one another. There are no longer any pillars in the sanctuary blocking the vision of people from the altar and/or the ambo. The altar of sacrifice and the altar of the ambo where God’s word will be proclaimed will all be in view of all (I know, I used the same word twice but for greater emphasis).

Before even thinking of a project of this size, I needed to do something having nothing to do with liturgy. I needed to assure myself that we were doing all we could and effectively for the region’s poor and needy. Catholic Charities has expanded and grown exponentially, caring for many more people than ever at their most desperate moments. We are always in the process of building up our fund to assist parents access Catholic education for their children if they need it or guarantee the best possible experience in Faith Formation outside of a school setting if they choose. These are all works in progress but so is the Cathedral. It was time to do something because St. Jude’s needed a new roof, pointing of the exterior, the replacement of dangerous electrical, dubious plumbing and disturbing sound systems. A few years ago, we replaced the mechanical cooling system with new air conditioning and plumbing which cost us $650,000 at the time and is included in today’s total cost of the renovation. It was time.

Try to remember that time in September when life was slow and oh so mellow.

+RNL

1 PLUMBER + 1 PRISONER = TWO NEW PRIESTS

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

On Saturday, I had the privilege of ordaining to the priesthood two young men whom I have known for a long time.

Two new priests for the Diocese. Photo courtesy of John Christian.

Two new priests for the Diocese. Photo courtesy of John Christian.

St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Clearwater, which we have been using for some time while our Cathedral of St. Jude is being remodeled, was packed to the proverbial “gills” with priests, deacons, religious, families and friends of the new priests, and our seminarians and some who are thinking of the seminary. I would estimate that about 1300 people were present when Justin Peter Paskert and Gioan Nguyen Vu Viet answered the call to orders with their “present.”

The then transitional deacons, Deacon Justin Paskert and Deacon Viet Nguyen. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance with Vidaroza photography.

The then transitional deacons, Deacon Justin Paskert and Deacon Viet Nguyen. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance with Vidaroza Photography.

The ceremony took 135 minutes, but I would be willing to bet the house that no one looked at their watch or wanted to leave at its conclusion. There is something overwhelming about ordinations.

Photo kindness of Dana Rozance of Vidaroza Photography.

Photo kindness of Dana Rozance of Vidaroza Photography.

I call it a veritable tsunami of emotion and feeling which builds throughout the ceremony and the release is often found in thunderous applause from the assembled.

Father Viet alone is quite a story, as is the faith witness of his family. Always wishing to be a priest and attempting on several occasions to enter the seminary in his native country of Vietnam, he was prevented from doing so by the Vietnamese government authorities who have the “right” to vet any and all candidates for the Catholic priesthood prior to their admission into any seminary in the country. In Father Viet’s case, it was probably guilty by association with his uncle who is a priest in the Diocese of Hue and who is at this very moment in prison for the “outrageous” crime of speaking publicly on behalf of democracy and freedom of religion throughout Vietnam. Now in his third decade of imprisonment, his uncle, Father Thadeus Ly, was released briefly when his jailers discovered that he had cancer but he was quickly put back into prison where he remains today. Needless to say, I asked everyone present to pray for Father Ly, for his health, for his freedom from prison, for his liberty to again be a priest to God’s people in his home diocese.

BUT, one member of the family in jail was not enough and when the young Gioan Nguyen Vu Viet protested his uncle’s imprisonment, he too was placed in prison, in solitary confinement and sometimes going days without being fed even subsistence food and water. He was a “political” prisoner of the government of Vietnam. They tried to break him but they could not. They tried to kill him even but they could not. It was all about his faith, his desire for the freedom of his uncle. A human rights group from the United States discovered his case and several members of Congress sought his release to come to the United States and end the punishment of an innocent man.

They succeeded, Viet came to the US and to the Tampa Bay area and soon sought us out to see if he might pursue his longtime goal of priesthood in the United States. We accepted him, put him in the seminary, and on Saturday ordained him a priest. His mother and a few other relatives were allowed to come for his ordination, but the government of the United States refused to approve a request for a visa for Father Viet’s brother and sister, fearing I suppose they might “overstay” their welcome.

The joy among the Vietnamese community over one of their own being ordained a priest  was clearly present, just about every Vietnamese priest in Florida was with us for the ordination, and Viet’s bishop from his home diocese of Phu Cuong, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Tan Tuoc, was present for the ordination of a man who his predecessor as bishop could not get the Vietnamese government to allow to enter the seminary. How sweet is that?

With Father Viet Nguyen and his mother. Photo kindness of John Christian.

With Father Viet Nguyen and his mother. Photo kindness of John Christian.

Father Viet has been assigned as Assistant Pastor of St. Paul Parish in St. Petersburg where he served his pastoral year two years ago and where he became much loved by the parishioners. In time, of course, he will minister closely and directly to the Vietnamese community in our Diocese which currently gathers for Sunday Mass at Epiphany Church in Tampa and Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parish in Largo.

Father Justin Paskert, after graduating from high school joined his Dad and brothers in the family plumbing business in southwestern Hillsborough County. I remember meeting Justin when he was in grade school and high school and he would serve my confirmation Masses at his home parish of St. Anne in Ruskin. Nine  long years ago he came to Father Len Plazewski, then the Vocation Director, and asked him if he might enter the seminary. He completed four years at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and five years of theology at the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. During his pastoral year, he was at Corpus Christi parish in Temple Terrace but any parish that had Justin during his formation years for any purpose felt blessed. Quietly effective in many ways, he was elected the President of the Student Body at St. Vincent de Paul seminary, thereby enjoying the respect and confidence of his peers.

With Father Justin Paskert and his parents. Photo kindness of John Christian.

With Father Justin Paskert and his parents. Photo kindness of John Christian.

Father Paskert will serve his first years of priestly ministry at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs.

I have the greatest level of confidence that these two men, one once a plumber and the other once a prisoner (“for the Lord” in the language of the great St. Paul) will do well. They sure got off to an incredible start at their ordination to priesthood yesterday and for them both, the best is yet to come. If you wish to read my homily on this occasion, you may do so below or via a PDF version by clicking here.

 

HOMILY AT THE PRIESTHOOD ORDINATION MASS FOR

JUSTIN PETER FRANCIS PASKERT AND JOHN NGUYEN VU VIET

By

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg

St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Clearwater, FL

Saturday, May 18, 2013

 

Viet and Justin, may the applause of your family and friends and indeed this local church of St. Petersburg, ring in your ears and remain in your memory long after the doors of this church have once again been locked and all of us have withdrawn. The affirmation just heard and to be repeated several more times is but our only way of expressing our pride and joy in you and our gratitude to the Lord of the harvest who has skillfully planted the seeds of your vocation in your heart and carefully managed their cultivation to this moment.

Our applause is genuine. Our pride is real. Our hope is palpable. Our love for you is unconditional. Our desire to support you even more in the days and months ahead is freely offered. However, praise can be a fleeting thing. Christ Himself who used the same words from Isaiah as we proclaimed in the first reading in his great return to the synagogue of his youth would soon hear applause give birth to skepticism, truth give way to cynicism, and popularity quickly decline to opposition. Today you conform yourself more closely to Christ, the priest. He sacrificed himself, you will offer sacrifice. He forgave sinners in his name and by his power; you will forgive through the ministry of the Church thereby offering both pardon and peace. These and more are awesome responsibilities of which no man is truly worthy but as was Aaron, you too have been called by God. Priesthood is not about power, nor might I add is the episcopacy. We are called to serve, friend and foe alike, the learned and the ignorant, the faithful as well as the erring. In recent days Pope Francis has reminded us with his stark, simple, stunning and stirring words, there is no room in Christ’s church and especially in ordained and consecrated ministry for careerism and a self-reverential approach to priesthood stands in stark opposition to the ministry of Christ. How, often, as in this morning’s readings do we hear Christ deflect praise by reminding his listeners that he is busy not about His business but that of the one who sent Him. Genuine ministry is always at the service of someone higher than ourselves – we are merely instruments in the hands of the Almighty.

It has always been amazing to me in my thirty-five years of priestly ministry how the core or substance of who we are and what we were ordained to do remains unchanged but the accidentals change. Perhaps an analogy might help? Understanding priestly ministry today is something like eating an artichoke – truth and transparency require me to admit that is something I have never done and would not ever think of doing. However, watching others attack this weird looking vegetable, the satisfaction that is gained from peeling off and sipping the contents of the leaves eventually gives way to both gazing at and then eating the core. The leaves are teasers, if you wish, for the delight that remains hidden to both the eye and the palate until the end. The core of the priesthood is our role in the celebration of the sacraments, of transubstantiation and of reconciliation, of baptizing into new life and anointing those soon to pass into life eternal, of reminding those who are about to begin their life together as husband and wife that fidelity has its place in marriage and in ordination and consecration. That’s the core but each priest has an opportunity to sweeten the leaves – to smile when it seems the impossible has been asked of us, to invite to the table those who society and perhaps even our ecclesial community tends to exclude, to eat with prisoners incarcerated and to assist those incarcerated with their own addictions to find new freedom. Christ is the core of priestly ministry, but the leaves can be sometimes of our doing and sometimes under the influence of others.

Justin and Viet, you are the first of what will likely someday be called the “Francis priests.” Almost every priest in this church today can say that they are Paul VI priests, John Paul II and Benedict priests and now Francis priests. I very much consider myself a Paul VI priest but I will not belabor definitions. However, I think Paul VI’s vision of the Church post Council was what excited me enough to shut up and listen to the voice of God calling me to ministry in the Church. A lot of who I am, how I act as a priest and bishop, how I envision Church was shaped by his ministry, his vision, his commitment to the Council. The core of my ministry, the fruit if you will of God’s call is the same as everyone else’s and it has been very satisfying for thirty-five years, to me and I hope to God to others.

But if I were your age, I would be enchanted by Pope Francis. I too believe that the future of the Church depends not on how we serve the comfortable, but how we reach out to the fringes, the excluded, the vulnerable, and the forgotten. Doing that will make some uncomfortable in ministry and some uncomfortable of their ministers. But look at the ministry of the Lord – little time was spent with those whom he was most comfortable with and a lot of time was spent on those who had no other friends. Both of you have great gifts of experience to bring to your priesthood, leaves if you will which have special delight and will want others to continue on until they find the core.

Justin, you know that there is dignity in hard labor for with your father and in the family business you took pride in the product of your labor no matter how dirty your hands and clothes became. You know how hard it is to gain a dollar and how quickly and foolishly that which came as a result of hard work can disappear in a consumer moment. You will be a comfort to God’s holy people as they search for meaning and dignity in their work.

Viet, you have stared your prison guards in the face, conquered incarceration, proved that there is no restraint which can chain the human longing for freedom of religion and when faced with solitary confinement and starvation, you felt the presence of Jesus in a manner which none of us ever will, you cloned yourself to Paul and Silas and Peter for whom chains and ankle irons never confined their preaching and powerful witness and your hunger was for the bread of life.  Who better in this whole diocese to say, “I have come to bring freedom to prisoners?”

My brothers, the leaves, which surround the core of your priestly ministry, raise great expectations in all of us today. Both of you have born the heat of the day and may Francis, our Pope, who understands the challenges of life perhaps better than many of his saintly predecessors and perhaps even of ourselves inspire you to become “Franciscan” – and sorry sons of St. Francis, you know how I mean that!

The daily journey to the core substance of your priestly ministry will provide you with many moments of joy and happiness. Everyone here this morning joins me in welcoming you to priestly ministry at the service of others. AMEN.

+RNL

MILEPOST 35

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to priesthood that took place at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami. It is my custom to try my best to let birthdays and anniversaries pass as quietly and unnoticed as I can, so I find myself wondering why I have chosen this particular day and moment to write a blog entry on the occasion. The Irish “crepe-hanger” tendency in me could be the root cause as, if everything goes as I hope it might, my fortieth anniversary of ordination will likely be spent in the year following my departure as bishop of this great local Church and I really doubt and sometimes hope I will not live to see the fiftieth. So now might be the time to share some reflections and thoughts.

Thirty-five years ago as I entered the Cathedral with four others to be ordained by the late Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, one of the kindest, gentlest, and fatherly people I have ever known, I had no real idea what turns my priesthood would take. My father had died, my mother was fragile in many ways, and my brothers were far away. I had only a small group of close friends who joined my family on that occasion and the ordination and first Mass were on the same day which, like this year, happened to be the Vigil of Pentecost. All that I had waited for, all that I had studied for, all that I had dreamed about, all I had worried about was over in nine hours. I was thirty-six years old that day. Monsignor Robert Gibbons, Father John Tapp, Father Thomas Morgan, Bishop John Noonan, Monsignor Michael Muhr all were in the seminary and some sang in the choir that morning, strangers to me and I to them.

There had been a great discussion on where to assign me for  my first assignment I was later to learn. The Clergy Personnel Board had suggested to the Archbishop that I be assigned to St. Rose of Lima parish in Miami Shores with Monsignor Noel Fogarty but when he was called, he objected apparently, telling them that “I need someone who will stay here a few years and from what I know, Lynch won’t.” The man was prophetic. At the last moment, there was a swap of newly ordained and I was assigned to St. James parish in North Miami, a great working class parish at the time with a thriving school staffed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and a rectory which consisted of a pastor, three associates, and three resident priests. Father Jim Reynolds (still alive and now a Monsignor) was my first pastor and he loved being a cruise ship chaplain and therefore was often gone ministering to Catholics on the high seas. Meanwhile back at St. James, while the proverbial “cat” was away, did the equally proverbial “mice” ever play. It was a great year. I staged the first parish musical (GREASE) and managed to bring the warring Adult Choir and Contemporary Choir together for the event which ushered in a new era of cooperation and working together.

But Monsignor Fogarty was right. Only June 26th, one year plus a few weeks after my ordination, Archbishop McCarthy called me to say that Bishop Thomas Kelly, OP, the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference had called and informed him super-confidentially that the newly inaugurated Pope John Paul II was going to accept an invitation from the United Nations and President Jimmy Carter to visit the United States in October and the bishop’s conference was asking for me to be released to manage the first papal visit to the United States (Pope Paul VI came to the United Nations but never was invited to formally visit the US). I asked the Archbishop for permission to turn it down and told him how happy I was at St. James. He responded by saying that the “deployment” would only last until the Pope returned to Rome after the visit and I could return to St. James. So off I went – never to return to St. James sadly.

I began my work on the papal visit on July 1, 1979, taking temporary housing at the priest’s staff house in Washington, DC. On July 5th, I received a second call from Archbishop McCarthy. After exchanging some pleasantries and asking when the announcement of the visit would be officially confirmed (it had already leaked to the media), he then asked me if I would be willing to return to the Archdiocese of Miami and become the fifth Rector-President of St. John Vianney College Seminary when the Pope left in October. I told him that I did not think I would be a good candidate as I “hated seminaries.” He responded that someone who hated seminaries was precisely the kind of person who could make them better. Check-mate, Archbishop McCarthy. That was the first year and God saw that it was good!

From 1979-1984, I served as Rector-President of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. They were good years. I did not have time to study a learning curve so I made many mistakes, I am sure. But during this time, with a superb faculty and great priest associates, we met, formed and said farewell to over one-hundred and fifty great men, some serving as terrific priests today and some as loving and terrific husbands and fathers.

In the Spring of 1984, Monsignor Daniel Hoye, then the General Secretary of the NCCB/USCC and absolutely the finest “boss” I ever worked for, asked if I would return to Washington as his Associate General Secretary for Public Affairs. My portfolio included “supervising” women and men whose sandal strap I was not worthy really to tie: Father Brian Hehir, Father William Lewers CSC and John Carr in International and Domestic Social Justice, Mark Chopko our General Counsel, Frank Monahan our chief lobbyist, and Fathers Ken Doyle and Monsignor Frank Maniscalco in Communications to name a few of the great people of that era. In 1987, Blessed Pope John Paul II returned to the United States for his second pastoral visit to our country beginning in Miami, with the only outdoor Mass in his long pontificate that was terminated due to a severe thunderstorm, then Charleston, South Carolina, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco and Detroit – ten days and nine cities. He was indefatigable but I sure was not – the future saint wore me out. There were many moments when I thought to myself, “if the kids on the block, or even my dad, could see me now!”

Monsignor Hoye relinquished the position of General Secretary in 1989  and I was elected by the bishops to serve them in that capacity for the next six years. With Sisters Sharon Euart, Monsignor Dennis Schnurr (now the Archbishop of Cincinnati) and Frank Doyle as my associates, we served the finest group of bishops one could hope for. I had Archbishop John L. May as my first president for a year, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk for the next three years, and Cardinal William H. Keeler for my final two. In 1993, the pope came back, this time for World Youth Day in Denver, something I had helped promote in the midst of genuine skepticism on the part of some of my bosses that (a) young people in North America will not come and (b) we could never afford the cost. But finally it was time, I knew in my heart, to return home, to Miami, to a parish and resume the rest of my life. With tears in my eyes and those of almost everyone else who lined a path from the Chapel at the USCCB/NCCB headquarters to the parking lot, I found my way to my packed car on February 2, 1995 and headed to Lorton to catch the Auto-Train south to my archdiocese.

Named pastor of St. Mark’s parish in western Broward County effective June 1st of 1995, I marked the occasion by being in the hospital for ten days with spinal meningitis contracted, according to the Center for Disease Control on a flight from Boston to Miami. When I finally arrived at St. Mark’s it was love at first sight. A contract had been signed for a new elementary school accommodating 1000 students (it was full on the day it was dedicated and remains full today!) and the worship space doubled as a hall and a church. My associate pastor was Father Fernando Isern – the best associate I ever had (not just because he was the only one either) who is now the Bishop of Pueblo, Colorado. St. Mark’s had great music, a full Church for every Sunday Mass, a Hispanic community who came up from Miami after Hurricane Andrew devastated Dade county, lots of life and spiritual vitality. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My mother died ten days before Thanksgiving that year from chronic COPD and the national holiday was tinged with grief. The following Monday, I received a call from Archbishop Agostino Cacchiavillan, the papal nuncio, who informed me that the man for whom I had three times served as “travel agent” wanted me to come to St. Petersburg as its fourth bishop. I was ordained a bishop on January 26, 1996.

That was my priesthood, prior to being ordained a bishop. Reflections on this later period of my life need to remain just that – reflections until I am finished with my work. But what I have shared with you is the “stuff” for which I am so grateful today. So many wonderful experiences of “church” on many levels, so many bright, talented and wonderful people at my side desirous always of helping me, I have been so fortunate. Today at noon, the women and men of the Pastoral Center joined me for Mass. They are the current fountains of grace and success if that measure applies to the present moment. And so are you who read these sometimes rambling (this one may be the longest ever) musings. For them and for all of you, I give thanks to a generous and loving God.

Peace be with you!

Bishop Robert N. Lynch

 

A POX ON ALL THEIR HOUSES

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The 2013 regular session of the Florida legislature has come to an end and the impasse between the Congressional Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate continues with no hint of progress on many fronts. It is enough to drive a person of feeling and compassion to despair. Little was done in Tallahassee of benefit to all the residents of the state (lobbyists for big business generally got what they sought) and a number of important matters were left on the table at the end because of the intractability of many members of the legislature.

Among the more egregious actions to my mind or in some cases inactions would be the following:

(1) The failure to come to any agreement about the expansion of Medicaid benefits for the poor under the Affordable Care Act which practically guarantees that over fifty million dollars and benefits which would have come to Floridians from the federal government will now find their way to another state. Shameless!

(2) Not only does the Florida legislature not wish to do away with the death penalty (as last week did the Maryland legislature and two years ago the New Mexico legislature) but they wish to speed up executions in the state. Establishing a strict timeline almost insures that the number of innocent people executed will increase (DNA results applied to Florida death-row inmates alone has resulted in a score of convictions of those planned to be executed in this state to be reversed but it took a lot of time). I hope Governor Scott vetoes this possibly prairie popular law.

In the interest of fairness, I do wish to acknowledge that additional protection for the pre-born has been provided this session and a long overdue increase in salary for public school teachers has been put in place as well.

Now, for the Washington scene, a major disappointment was the defeat of a very modest first effort at very limited gun control. It came close but not enough. Immigration reform now seems caught up in the party partisan debate and at times it seems like President Obama has decided he can not do anything about the Congress he has been dealt so doing nothing is a virtue. How many more Sandy Hooks (Newtown) or Auroras (Colorado) will it take, ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate? Finally, there will be someday a national debate on drone missiles, but how much discussion on collateral damage and loss of innocent life will precede that?

Some may think that this bishop got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but I hope a few of you can see the strong stream of Catholic moral theology which courses throughout political debate and decisions. Thirty years ago last Saturday, the bishops of the United States issued their pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” It had its critics but it also had its effects, all salutary. Today it would seem that corporately, we bishops, at times, solely tend to focus on abortion, contraception, euthanasia when once all “life and death issues” were a part of a “seamless garment.” No political party I know of is truly and fully pro-life. No legislative body either, at the state or federal level, is truly and fully pro-life. Hence, a pox on all their houses.

+RNL