Archive for August, 2013


Friday, August 30th, 2013
The east side of the Cathedral of St. Jude twelve days before dedication

The east side of the Cathedral of St. Jude twelve days before dedication

Everyone involved in the task of completing the remodeling of our Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle is acutely aware that today (Saturday, August 31) we are just twelve days away from D-Day (that’s “Dedication Day”). I am confident that we will be ready in time and I place my trust in our patron, the patron saint himself of what seems at times like lost causes.

The outside landscaping and paving should be finished by Friday of next week and inside the floor will be totally tiled and the marble applied. The number of crafts and workmen inside seem to be diminishing which is a good sign, especially if one has to lay floor. Final inspections are being given and hopefully a “certificate of occupancy” will be given by the end of the week. But, some people around me are on edge, nervous, worried, anxious. For me, it is “que sera, sera.”

Looking better I think you will have to admit

Looking better I think you will have to admit

I am often asked, well at least twice a year, what is the most beautiful and satisfying liturgical event at which a bishop presides. Ordinations have the first place in my heart (and mind) but dedicating churches is a close second. The liturgy of the Church for such an occasion, if it is done well, is absolutely stunning. All of the senses of the human body are attacked at one time or another from touch to sight to smell to hearing. I have always insisted that the dedications which I preside at of new or extensively remodeled churches be done at or near twilight. We can sometime sit in a dimly lit Church while major liturgical action unfolds before us. Let me lead you through the ceremony because the chances are you have never attended a dedication of a church and/or a consecration of a new altar.

If I am dedicating a totally new Church building, we always begin in the old worship space which is always massively cramped and close quarters. Here, after an introductory greeting, the architects present to the pastor and myself the drawings or plans, the contractor present the keys to the new building, and the bishop leads the people in procession to the new Church where the pastor unlocks the doors and invites the people inside. That may take fifteen to twenty minutes depending on size of the crowd and how long it takes them to find a seat in their new Church. Then the bishop enters and goes first to the baptismal font, blessing it and the water it contains. He then often with the assistance of the pastor and deacons, sprinkles the walls and the people with the water which should remind the latter at least of their day of initiation into Christ’s church. When he reaches the sanctuary, he blesses the bare altar with holy water for it has not yet been consecrated or used for Eucharist. Taking his seat the Gloria is sung followed by the opening prayer. At the end of the prayer, a lector approaches the bishop who presents him or her with the lectionary from which the Word of God is to be proclaimed. The Old Testament reading, responsorial psalm and New Testament reading are then either proclaimed or sung. The deacon of the Gospel then approaches the bishop for a blessing and processes with the Gospel book to what we call the “ambo” or lectern. Following the Gospel, there is a homily after which the ceremony, now performed in lengthening shadow and greater darkness begins in earnest.

The Profession of Faith (aka “Creed”) is said but there are no intercessory prayers because the Litany of Saints will be sung. A special prayer for the dedication is said or sung by the bishop which is a sign of the intention  to dedicate the Church to the Lord for all times and a request for the Lord’s blessing. The bishop then removes his outer vestments and takes the Sacred Chrism which has itself been consecrated at the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week and pours a copious amount of it on the top of the altar. Then using both hands, he spreads this precious and special oil over the entire top surface of the altar. The aromatic perfume which was added to the olive oil at the Chrism Mass can usually then be smelled throughout the entire Church. The altar then becomes for us a symbol of Christ who Himself was called the anointed one. Then joined by and with the assistance of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano and by Archbishops Wenski and Favalora, we go out into the Church and anoint the walls in twelve places (three places for each one of us) where a cross has been placed on the wall and a candle lit, thereby signifying that this building is to be used totally and entirely for worship.

The sanctuary floor in the final stages of preparation to receive the marble

The sanctuary floor in the final stages of preparation to receive the marble

The altar and the entire Church is then incensed but only after the People of God are first incensed. We are still in semi-darkness and probably one hour and fifteen minutes into the ceremony. The women of the Cathedral will bring up the linen and will dress and prepare the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist. Flowers will be put into place where appropriate and all in attendance will be lighting individual candles (pastors usually hate this part because they envision wax everywhere on the new pews!) Servers will light the candles around the altar and with each person holding a candle, the church will be mostly illuminated by tiny flame until finally all the lights in the Church are turned on. The preparations are complete, the altar consecrated and it is time for the Eucharistic portion of the Mass to begin.

At the end of the distribution of communion, the bishop will take the remaining Eucharist in procession to the tabernacle for the first time where it will repose until needed the next day. Music, chant, reflections of the musical cultures of ethic groups living and worshipping in the diocese will guarantee that there is likely no moment when one is either not praying or praying by singing. Next week, in the final of these preparatory blog entries I will introduce you to who will be participating in this liturgy of dedication but again I remind you that if you are minimally computer savvy, you can watch the entire ceremony which will be live-streamed on the diocesan website.

So twelve days from now we will give back to our true love, the Lord our God, the fruit of the labor of many, the vision of a few, and a gift for the future. Stay tuned.



Monday, August 26th, 2013

On Wednesday the nation will pause to remember the famous March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,during which he added to his official text the famous “I have a dream” passage. I remember very well that I was in fourth college at the time in the seminary and while we were not generally allowed to watch any television other than Huntley-Brinkley on NBC nightly save the week-ends, permission was given to watch in beautiful black and white the March on Washington. All of us in the seminary that day were deeply moved by both Dr. King’s passion and compassion. He wanted to stir our consciences and make us examine our own beliefs but at the same time not be condemnatory. He succeeded in such a way that during the summer vacation of 1964 many of my fellow seminarians went south to march and protest and witness against the racial discrimination so much in vogue at that time. I remember so well that in Montgomery, West Virginia, where I spent the first ten years of my life, there was only one public swimming pool open in the summer and only for whites. After we had moved on, and as a result of the civil rights movement, the city fathers of Montgomery voted to close the pool entirely rather than admit blacks.

I remember the train station in Charleston, West Virginia which had both a waiting room and rest rooms marked “Colored Only” and lunch counters in the Kresge stores in West Virginia and Virginia which did not allow black people to sit at the lunch counter. Listening that day to Dr. King laid bare all the things I knew and had observed which were just plain unjust. In our younger years, my brothers and I had a “nanny” who was a woman of color. Clara Hull, was her name and we loved her and she loved us. Our Dad, a just and kind man, never distinguished between the railroad employees under him according to their race or skin color. When at age two I fell through the open furnace grate which was being cleaned and travelled through the heat pipes all the way to the coal furnace, it was two black men that heard my mother’s screams for help and one holding unto the other who was lowered down the same pipes to pull me out. George Wallace disgusted me and with my colleagues we became a group of seminarians who itched for justice for all people. My first year in the college seminary, I was present for the ordination of a young priest for the Diocese (then) of Natchez-Jackson in Mississippi. He was a graduate of Harvard and after ordination among many of his duties, he became the editor of the diocesan paper and marched with Dr. King and a famous older priest of his diocese, Monsignor Josiah Chatham as passionate advocates of equality under the law. The young priest’s name was Bernard Law.

King lit a fire not just in the conscience of America but in its elected leaders as well and the civil rights movement gained momentum and altitude following his electrifying speech in Washington that summer day. A  lot of progress toward racial justice has been made and part of his articulated dream has been realized but we still have a long way to go. In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict I asked myself repeatedly would I have arrived at the same decision as the jurors and I think I would have but more troubling to me was to ask myself, what if the roles were reversed and it was Trayvon Martin on trial for murder – would he have had access to the same level of skilled legal representation as Zimmerman? Would the scales of lady justice have been balanced for fairness. Harsh economic disparity is fertile ground for racial disparity. The proportion of African-Americans in our prisons and jails as opposed to whites is wildly disproportionate. Look at where the failing schools of our five counties are to be found and it is largely in the poverty areas largely populated by people of color. Does the five year old African-American child of a single working mother have the same opportunity at learning as his white counterparts with their iPads which enhance learning at younger ages at a speed and manner that astounds me.

The Catholic Church joined arms with the civil rights movement following the “I have a dream” speech, marched for freedom, opened the doors of our own schools to children of other races (sadly we too in too many instances had bought into the “separation” mentality), and began to serve and service the whole community. Community organizers began to work our cities, exposing injustice and demanding equality of access and treatment. I unabashedly admit I am a political child of that era which I believe not to be totally over and for this reason as well as for many others, I support FAST and HOPE in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties respectively. I lose patience with those schools in our own system which are not open to seeking students under the STEP UP FOR FLORIDA program. Our Catholic schools began to provide safe harbor for the children of immigrants, sparing them the cruel heel of hatred and lack of opportunity, and now I hear from time to time from our own educators, “I do not wish to dilute my school by inviting under-achievers into the quiet success I have.” Dr. King, your dream has yet to be fully realized.

So I have lived long enough to fifty years later remember the passion of that moment and recall those gallant, heroic religious women and men, priests and young college students who energized by a preacher’s speech to 200,000 people on a hot, steamy August afternoon, began the progress of the civil rights movement. But what he dreamed is not yet fulfilled and there remains a lot of work to be done. We too are children of the Gospel and disciples of Christ who ministered to all. He too had a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Pope Francis is  His gift of this moment to challenge our all to safe assumptions and I think he is making some people uncomfortable much like that young Baptist preacher from Atlanta did five decades ago.



Friday, August 23rd, 2013
The Dome with the new windows depicting the rising of the sun to its setting

The Dome with the new windows depicting the rising of the sun to its setting

I think the pictures which accompany this blog entry will show significant progress toward completion but there are still a ton of things to be done before dedication.

One of the more interesting aspects of this project has been the almost total absence of criticism from the people who will use the space the most – the parishioners of the Cathedral. A year or so ago a blog took aim at the project and at me and unlike this present effort, that space allowed for published comments. At the time all we had was an “architects rendering” which showed me regaled in mitre and holding the crosier (staff) talking with three women in front of the first pew. The difference between the rendering and the reality will be the difference between night and day, however.

Back to the subject – one of the comments came from an alleged Cathedral parishioner who was less than thrilled with what was being proposed but he did offer this thought: “as far as destroying something already beautiful, there really is not much beautiful in the Cathedral for this bishop to destroy!” That was something of a backhanded compliment but I’ll take it.

The parishioners of St. Jude’s are getting a place for their daily and weekly worship which meets the recommendations for church architecture and often exceeds them since the Second Vatican Council. It meets all the recommendations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, latest edition, and the best practices of the last five decades. The space will encourage the “full and active participation” of those in attendance with the sacred action in the sanctuary. If a person is a devotee of the Latin Mass (extraordinary form as it is now referred to) they will not like what we have done. BUT, the Cathedral is home in its daily Mass chapel to weekly celebrations of the Mass in the extraordinary form so not much will change for these 125 or so people.

We did not conduct a massive fundraising campaign to restore, renew, or radically alter something profoundly beautiful. I love St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York city and my friend, its archbishop, Cardinal Dolan is spending two hundred million on fixing it and restoring it. St. Jude’s was never in contention with St. Patrick’s or any other Gothic wonder. It was originally designed as a parish Church. At Sunday Mass, there were three different communities and never the twain did meet. One group could not see the other and some could not see much of anything.

Notice the colors in the new transcept windows with the ambient light coming from the outside

Notice the colors in the new transcept windows with the ambient light coming from the outside

But it had its moments, architecturally, also. The dome was distinctive. The light from the outside was representative (of Florida). The tabernacle was beautiful. And the marble communion rail did exactly what it was partly designed for, marked a perimeter for “no lay woman’s or man’s land.” The statues saw some visitation and there was little stained glass, save for small windows in the dome which could not be easily seen from anywhere in the Church and other stained glass at the front of the Church and the two side transcepts. None of those windows contained any religiously significant depiction of the life of Jesus, Mary or any of the saints. Cathedral parishioners, I believe, will find that we have saved some of the nicer things from the original place of worship like part of the communion rail which will offer a place for people to kneel in private prayer before the original tabernacle, the corpus from the original crucifix, etc.

Same windows but now from the outside with low level illumination inside.

Same windows but now from the outside with low level illumination inside.

What they will be gaining is a closer sense of the sacred action in which they are participating, better sound and sightlines, easier access to and from the reception of the Eucharist, the ability to touch the large cross in the sanctuary as well as the stations of the cross, a small chapel with a new statue in wood of our patron saint to pray before when all else seems to be lost as well as a small chapel with a reminder of the price one women and her son paid for our salvation, and glass which changes color with the ambient light of the day so that on any given Sunday, it will likely not be exactly the same color for any Mass. Priest and people praising God in the celebration of the source and summit of our faith.

We did not have the money for gargoyles or gothic spires, gold and silver, doric or Roman columns. But, what we will have at the end of this project is something which will reflect the life of this local Church fifty years after the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the Sacred Liturgy.

I hope and pray that those few naysayers at the beginning of the project will be amazed and edified at what has been done to their Church, that it has become a truly beautiful place with equally beautiful objects, that their children will receive the grace of new life in Christ in a real baptismal pool and not simply something that imitates a “bowl”, that their children will receive their first communion and confirmation and perhaps even stand inside the great sanctuary for the wedding day, that a new generation of priests will rest on a marble floor as the intercession of the saints is sung over and around them, and that this bishop and others who follow will on the last time their earthly body is brought into this church, rest in peace on the same  floor and spot where they were ordained. The “circle of life” in faith will be the home for the people of St. Jude’s. I hope they especially will love it. They have been wonderfully patient during their “exile” to the parish hall for the last fifteen months and understanding of the inevitable dirt and mud which accompanies construction of this scope and size. Soon their pastor will lead then across the Jordan and back to the “promised land” and they journey through the desert will be forgotten and give way to a great sense of pride, in place, in faith, in vision, in worship, in community. Sixty one years after its inauguration, this parish will begin its new life. We are counting on it as well as the days remaining.


Some more “in progress photos.”

What was formerly the east transept - all pictures taken on Friday, August 22, 2013 by the writer

What was formerly the east transept – all pictures taken on Friday, August 22, 2013
by the writer


A view of the pews, columns and ambulatory

A view of the pews, columns and ambulatory


Final preparation of the main window in the Church which will at the rear and right behind the tabernacle. Stained glass to be installed beginning September 5th - ouch!

Final preparation of the main window in the Church which will at the rear and right behind the tabernacle. Stained glass to be installed beginning September 5th – ouch!


Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Monday I received official confirmation from the good office of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, that twenty-two of our diocesan community have been selected to receive the Pontifical Award PRO ECCLESIA ET PONTIFICE, the highest award conferred upon members of the laity by the Holy See. This year’s recipients will receive their medals and parchments at a special ceremony to be held in St. James Chapel at the Bethany Center on Sunday, December 15, 2013. Listed below are the recipients and their home parishes. Short biographies of their engagement with the life of the Church and this diocese will appear prior to the awarding of the medals in December.

1. Robert E. Biasotti, Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Gulfport

2. Diane Brown, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

3. Herbert Brown, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

4. Jay E. Carpenter, MD, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Clearwater

5. Elizabeth M. Deptula, Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor

6. Joseph A. DiVito, St. Paul Parish, St. Petersburg

7. Eleanor A. Foynes, Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor

8. James Hillman, MD, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

9. Richard Hoffman, MD, St. Timothy Parish, Lutz

10. Catherine A. Kaiser, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

11. Gregory Kieler, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Clearwater

12. Anthony Lazzara, MD. Christ the King Parish, Tampa

13. Joseph D. Magri, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

14. Emil M. Marquardt, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater (posthumously)

15. Carol J. Marquardt, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater

16. John J. Moroney, MD, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

17. Mary Sue Oliver, St. Jerome Parish, Largo

18. Sister Sara Catherine Proctor, D.W.

19. Nancy M. Ridenour, St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Clearwater

20. Gail F. Whiting, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

21. Paul L. Whiting, Christ the King Parish, Tampa

22. Sister Marlene Weidenborner, O.S.F.

I rejoice with the families and friends of those receiving this honor and thank the Holy Father for his kindness in confirming these witnesses to the faith.



Sunday, August 18th, 2013
Pews delivered, built but not yet affixed to the floor

Pews delivered, built but not yet affixed to the floor

Just like the construction team at the Cathedral I know I am a few days late with this “Weekend Update” but a trip to Marion, Ohio for a funeral Mass yesterday (Friday) made it impossible for me to visit the Cathedral project until this morning (Saturday).

As the photos show, we will be going right down to the “wire” with this project but I remain more than optimistic, I am convinced that everything will be ready for September 12th and the Liturgy of Dedication. The pews are in but not yet affixed to the floor (waiting for the tile layers to complete their work, obviously), the dry-wall team is gone giving the painters the last opportunity to finish up their painting and withdraw, and the outside  the  landscapers have just about finished their preparatory work and soon there will be sod. Only after sod can come God. The marble for the sanctuary is due to begin on Monday and will take about three weeks to complete since the sanctuary and stairs are circular. The altar, ambo and all other sanctuary furnishings are finished as is the minimal artwork and probably by two weeks from now at the latest, the great stained glass window will be installed. Lots to do, for sure, and dwindling time to get it done.

Meanwhile, others are working on the Dedication activities and logistics and we had a meeting of those parties on Wednesday of last week. As of the close of business yesterday, we have 148 priests indicating they will be present to concelebrate the Mass of Dedication and about eighty deacons. We are bumping right up against the maximum of 1470 seats which the Cathedral is both designed and cleared to hold so I think on the night of the 12th, a ticket to the Liturgy will be harder to get than a ticket to the Rays-Red Sox who will be playing at  the Trop that evening for hopefully first place in the American League East Division. I am monitoring STUB HUB and EBAY in search of anyone scalping tickets to the Dedication.

New roof mostly installed and back section awaiting stained glass installation

New roof mostly installed and back section awaiting stained glass installation

It will be a historic evening in the life of our local Church to be sure and getting everyone parked, to and from their automobiles which will utilize nearby parking lots made available to us for the evening, in some instances fed, keeping all those black suit coats removed for Mass vestments so that they can find their way back to their rightful owner at the liturgy conclusion (“Has anyone seen my black suit coat” just won’t get you far that night), ushers, EMTs standing by and police assistance with traffic and securing the perimeters – all that and much more in the hands of a wonderful group we call the Dedication Team. They have been working hard.

The Liturgy for the evening is also the subject of much activity and great generosity on the part of many. First, we will be doing everything in a new space which we have never used before and that alone takes planning. Five archbishops including the papal nuncio to the United States and eleven other bishops, four past and present Rectors of the Cathedral who will be given a special place of honor that evening and a celebrant for the occasion who sometimes would forget his proverbial head if it were not hooked onto him ensure a lot of planning and practice.

The servers that evening will include five seminarians who are either from the Cathedral parish or who have or are serving in the parish plus an additional four servers from what we call the “Bishop’s Corps” including two alumna returning for the occasion. Those responsible for the music are also finished with the planning and will soon enter the practice phase. Seventy of our more talented voices in the diocese have volunteered to make up the choir that evening and they will be accompanied by a small orchestra (well, maybe more like a chamber orchestra). Both groups will have multiple practices the week of the dedication in the new space. Our hope had been to have the work completed by yesterday and to use the remaining four weeks to get used to the new space and all its “bells and whistles” like the lighting and sound systems but that is not to be. The new Cathedral organ will start to be installed Monday morning and the sound people have already pulled their wires and just await the time when they can return and finish their work. We are getting close but we are not there yet.

As I have mentioned previously, the dedication Liturgy will be what is called “live-streamed” while it is taking place on our diocesan website. Three robotic cameras will be in place that evening and for years to come, I hope so that we can “broadcast” the Sunday liturgy from the Cathedral every week. In addition, on the evening of the Dedication, faithful and faith-filled Mary Jo Murphy will be broadcasting the ceremony over SPIRIT FM 90.5, our diocesan radio station. So you can join us in several ways, even if you do not have a ticket to attend. One of the major Catholic television providers has also already asked and received permission to use our feed and make the night available throughout the country and to anyone else who has on-line access.

They were sweeping up the dirt which accompanies any major construction project today and the tile layers were tediously doing their job. We will see what happens in the coming week and I will share with you by pictures and words exactly what is happening.

Let me conclude with some thoughts about why anyone should give a darn about a new Cathedral in our beloved Catholic Church. As I believe I have mentioned before, the English word “Cathedral” comes from the Latin (and a similar word in Greek) “cathedra” which means “seat” or “chair.” Applied and used in Roman Catholic, Anglican/Episcopalian, and Lutheran terms, it means the Church of the Bishop or the central and main Church in a local geographical jurisdiction which we call a “diocese.” It survived those parts of the Protestant Reformation where some hierarchical structure survived but was dropped by many denominations which abandoned a hierarchical order. Every diocese and eparchy (the Eastern-rite churches word for “diocese”) somewhere has a Cathedral and some even have more than one Cathedral such as our neighbor to the northwest, the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee which has a Cathedral in each of those cities.

In 1968, St. Petersburg was chosen to be the seat and name of the diocese. There was considerable pressure at the time applied to make Tampa the name of the diocese but Rome chose St. Petersburg instead and for an interesting reason. Atheistic communism was flourishing in the late sixties and religious freedom and tolerance was not to be found in the vast Soviet Union. The communists had changed the name of their magnificent city on the Baltic Sea to Leningrad hoping that everyone might forget their religious/Christian roots. Further, the czars themselves were hostile to all other religious expressions than Russian orthodoxy prior to their fall from power and would never allow a Roman Catholic diocese to be established anywhere in their realm. So the great city of St. Petersburg, Russia was off-limits to Catholics even during the time of the czars and after the Communist revolution, the party allowed only three Roman-Catholic churches to remain in Leningrad and they were carefully hidden from sight and the KGB monitored all who came and went (by the way, they allowed only for Mass in the French embassy in Moscow during their days and one other Church not far from Red Square).

So all of this by way of indicating that when it came time to give a name, choose a church for a Cathedral for this new diocese in 1968 which would start with Citrus county in the North and end with Lee county in the South, the Holy See saw some irony in having the very first “diocese” anywhere in the world named for the first Pope as an affront to the Communists in control of Russia.

Even to this day with the name Leningrad erased from almost every marker and St. Petersburg, Russia growing in importance, it is still not possible for the Holy See to erect an Arch/diocese of St. Petersburg in Russia. When it happens, and it will happen sometime, it should always be noted that the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida is the oldest and most venerable diocese to bear that name.

IMG_9133Enough history – one more picture and that is of one of wood-carved gold leaf medallions of the Four Apostles which will hang on the four arches in four weeks. Want to take a guess which Gospel writer is traditionally presented in this form?




Thursday, August 8th, 2013
The interior of the Cathedral on Monday, August 5, 2013

The interior of the Cathedral on Monday, August 5, 2013

Five  weeks from tonight, as many as we can squeeze in will gather for the first time in sixty-six weeks once again inside the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for the dedication the of the newly remodeled space. In 1962, the late Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, Bishop of St. Augustine dedicated a new church for St. Jude the Apostle parish in St. Petersburg. It was prior to the opening of the Second Vatican Council, its marble altar was against the back wall, and the growing parish was justifiably proud of what they had accomplished in funding and building their new Church.

Within the space of five years, however, St. Jude’s would undergo its first transformation which was substantial. Prompted by the first document coming from the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which focused on the Divine Liturgy, a new and temporary altar was placed closer to the people, the original marble main altar was cut up to become side altars and the pedestal for the tabernacle, a wooden ambo (lectern) was placed next to a pillar.

In 1968 Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of St. Petersburg and because of its size, St. Jude’s was chosen as the new Cathedral since it was the largest parish church in the city. Bishop Charles B. McLaughlin was installed in the newly designated Cathedral which was never formally dedicated as a Cathedral Church. Later this sacred space would witness the installation of the second bishop, our own W. Thomas Larkin, the installation of our third bishop, John Clement Favalora, and the ordination and installation of myself in 1996.

Bishop Larkin was the first to raise the possibility of remodeling St. Jude’s and he retained a very famous liturgical consultant to suggest what it might look like. Bishop Favalora also raised the possibility of perhaps seeing the earlier remodeling plans to some conclusion. For whatever reasons, neither of my predecessors pursued the notion to its conclusion. In my first year as bishop I made the ad limina visit to Rome and the late Cardinal Pio Laghi who had been apostolic delegate and the nuncio to the United States asked me at lunch, “Bob, when are you going to do something about that Cathedral of yours?” I asked him what was wrong with it and he gave me several thoughts which do not bear repeating. In consultation with the Presbyteral Council, there were many others things which took priority in those early years and any notion of addressing the Cathedral never rose to prominence. I personally wanted Catholic Charities to continue to grow in its service to the community (we were fifth in the state among the seven dioceses in the scope of our programs for the poor).

Several years ago, I had no choice but to address the Cathedral. The air-conditioning system gave up the ghost. It had never had a capability of providing heat, only air conditioning. It was going to take $550,000 to replace it which was the only option available. Then came news that the Cathedral needed a new roof and it needed pointing. All of that would likely lead to sprinkling, new wiring to replace the code-deficient electrical system. The parish was carrying poorly a two million dollar debt for the new school facilities so whatever must be done was outside of their scope of financing. I was told that just to keep the doors open would require an output of $3.5 million. We started with a diocesan-wide committee to talk about the possibility of the project and then expanded to a committee which included Father Waters, the pastor, and a number of Cathedral parishioners. We also engaged a liturgical consultant just as Bishop Larkin had done years earlier.


Contrary to what some may think, a bishop does not have the power to decide by himself how to spend money of this size. Discussions were begun with Diocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, and the Presbyteral Council. Slowly I made the case to all these bodies, seeking their input and advice. No one was in love aesthetically with the Cathedral so among these bodies, making the case for fixing and perhaps remodeling fell on supportive ears providing funding could be found. I sought permission first to retain an architect and contractor to design and price what we might be able to do to remodel and remake our Cathedral church. I set a max price at $8.5 million total, including the monies already spent on the new air conditioning system. I returned to my consultative bodies and sought their final go ahead for the project. There was a certain time sensitivity at play because the design called for four steel beams to replace the vision obstructing columns in the sanctuary which hold up the dome. No US steel fabricating plants would make the beams because of the density of the steel required. We were able to locate a steel rolling plant in Belgium that would make them but they only roll that density three weeks a year, in January, May and September. So for a cost of about $125,000 the four pillars needed to open the Church up, give everyone in the Church a clear sightline were ordered and the project was off and building on June 4, 2012. The funding of the project will come from two main sources: property holdings which have been deemed to be “surplus” and interest earnings on the diocesan investment portfolio for several years.

I have always said that the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle will not be a finished product the night we dedicate it on September 12th. I have left lots of possibilities for my successors as bishop and for the people of St. Jude’s. Just to finish the stained glass windows would have cost a half million dollars more. There are niches for shrines and places of special devotion to be filled in time. You will find limited new artwork in the Cathedral, a Pieta, a life-sized statue of St. Jude, four medallions of the four evangelists, new stations of the cross. You will also find treasures from the original Cathedral beginning with the original tabernacle which has been cleaned and replated and is stunning and which will continue to be behind the main altar and visible throughout the Church. Part of the old altar/communion rail will set off the Blessed Sacrament area and, I am told, even the old altar will be used within the space.

Previously hidden from the view of all, the Dome will now cast its light and shadow throughout the Church with its new windows symbolizing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer III -from the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.

Previously hidden from the view of all, the Dome will now cast its light and shadow throughout the Church with its new windows symbolizing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer III -from the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.

At the moment, we are counting five archbishops and fifteen bishops joining one hundred and twenty priests and eighty deacons who have signaled their attendance. We will be graced (and I choose that word purposely) by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States representing Pope Francis. Finally, about one thousand of the people of God will be present that night and admitting that it is a tough ticket, if you are computer capable (and you must be if you are reading this) it will be live-streamed as it is taking place. After the dedication, every Sunday Mass from the Cathedral will be available on line and, I hope, we can find a cable company to carry it. Four weeks and counting.



Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Half the fun of writing blogs is to discover a title that arouses interest, gives little away, but inspires me to share some thoughts with you, my readers. I have mentioned to other bloggers that sometimes I begin with a title and work from there rather than write and then search for a title. That is the case now. Here in Florida during this season, nothing arouses interest more than “the National Hurricane Center in Miami is monitoring a tropical disturbance moving westward over the Atlantic for potential development.” We don’t rush out to buy plywood, but we become attuned to listening during weather reports to the “Invest Number ” and then to the Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm, Hurricane, etc., if and as it develops. The vast majority of our threats begin over the Sahara in northern Africa and then move across the increasingly warm waters of the mid-Atlantic. Occasionally, a system develops in the Caribbean and there is less time to prepare but tropical weather problems for us almost always move westward.

Unfortunately, a storm of a different kind developed in the United States recently and was headed toward Africa. It began with a group called the “Population Research Institute” which is an allegedly pro-life group and spread to a few other notoriously and consistently wrong entities who “thrive” on attacking the Church or its entities. While it was meant to inflict harm on a highly respected US Catholic charity, it took dead aim this time at Africa. From time to time, I suspect when these organizations need money, they try to stir up a hornet’s nest or storm by attacking a Catholic organization, usually falsely accusing them of being anti-life, pro-contraception, either pro or soft on abortion, etc., etc., etc. The storms start small enough and then occasionally grow in size. It’s simply a money raising scheme with little regard for the human lives which they allege they seek to protect – well maybe it is only pre-born human life in which they are interested. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has felt the buffeting torrents of accusations in the past as has Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA). This time it was Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which was to be the significant “whipping boy/girl” for these groups. For twelve years of my priestly life I have been on the Board of Catholic Relief Services and six of those I served as President and Chairman of the Board. During my engagement we were mostly spared any of these storms, but from the time Cardinal Timothy Dolan succeeded me as Chairman, these storms have developed off the East Coast of the U.S. and moved eastward toward Africa where CRS does an amazing job of supporting and sustaining human life, even with programs of pre-natal maternal/child health care,  which has helped lower the infant (in and out of the womb) death rate.

These attacks never grow beyond a tropical depression but too much time and energy is spent by CRS and CCHD and CCUSA in responding to them. The latest components of  this “Tropical Depression” were the allegation that in the nation of Madagascar CRS was actively promoting contraception, that the bishops of that country and elsewhere were displeased with CRS, and that you dear reader should not give to Catholic Relief Services because they do not adhere to Catholic teaching but send your money to them so they can develop this into a Tropical Storm and rid the Church of this organization. We’ve heard it all before, responded to it in the past, know its sources, and spend way too much energy in defense of the agency.

So let me take each of the current seeds of the latest storm and tell you the truth. Does CRS staff or the agency in general promote contraceptives in Madagascar or anywhere else in Africa or the globe? The storm originators never identify their sources but just throw mud up into the air. CRS policy is consistent and supportive of the Church’s teaching and we have been excluded from many U.S. government programs over the years because we will not sign on to the U.S. program of condom distribution in other countries. The storm sources have yet, yet in all these years to produce a credible witness to the contrary.

Now, how about the hierarchy of Madagascar? Do they think CRS is acting contrary to Church teaching? Are they unhappy with the presence and work of CRS in their country? Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, President of the bishops’ conference of Madagascar expressed “strong support” for CRS and said that the agency is “acting in accord with Catholic teaching and does not provide or facilitate access to contraception or abortion.” So who do you wish to believe, an organization that will not identify either its sources of the allegations or name its own members of its Board of Directors or the arm of the Catholic church that saves lives daily throughout the world?

Catholic Relief Services readily admits that it is not always perfect. When one has 5000 employees worldwide, is it even remotely possible that one or two of those same employees might incorrectly represent the agency’s position? Yes, it is. If one searches far enough can one find a bishop who is unhappy with CRS in their country? Yes, one can. The primary complaint I heard throughout my dozen years from bishops where we are present and serving, was, “can’t you just send us the money and let us spend it?” or “why can’t you give us money to build a headquarters building for our episcopal conference?” Patiently I would explain how we are different from the European Catholic Aid agencies because our scope is limited to disaster relief and human development through programs of microfinance, food maintenance, pre-natal medicine and HIV/AIDS interventions, etc. They also often complained about the demands of reporting required by the government of the United States if federal program monies were involved and I would quickly respond, we don’t like it either but it is the cost of doing business. When I queried would they be better off without CRS in their diocese of country they were quick, unanimous and emphatic in saying “no, stay.”

I am convinced that many so called Pro-Life groups are not really pro-life but merely anti-abortion. We heard nothing from the heavy hitters in the prolife movement in the last week when Florida last night executed a man on death row for 34 years having been diagnosed as a severe schizophrenic. Which personality did the state execute? Many priests grow weary of continual calls to action for legislative support for abortion and contraception related issues but nothing for immigration reform, food aid, and capital punishment. And, this is a big one, priests don’t like unfair attacks on things they highly value and esteem, like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services.

So this little storm which was headed in a way to harm CRS’s work in Africa has run into a ridge of dry air and will stall. But when the Population Research Institute or others need money from Catholics who want to believe the worst about their church, its leadership and their service agencies, then it will suck up the mud-filled moisture and try to stoke up another storm. I suspect that if he ever got this blog, Pope Francis would agree with its content. Keep on doing the good work of Christ and be an instrument of mercy to the world.



Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Apropos of my previous blog entry, I can do no better that to quote Mark Twain who once wrote “rumors of my imminent demise are greatly exaggerated.” There was nothing deeper to be implied in the previous blog except that I am getting older and having a difficult time dealing with it. I hope everyone who knows me believes that if and when something is really wrong, I will be the first to admit it. Thanks to those early responders who could connect with the final paragraph themselves and thanked me for it and to the others who care enough to express concern to some of my priests. Stay tuned – the next two blogs are written and awaiting review by myself and they should indicate that there is still a lot of life and passion for the Church left in me.



Sunday, August 4th, 2013

This page has been remarkably quiet for about four weeks and I suspect regular readers correctly deduced, “he must be on vacation.” Right they were. For the last three years, I have attempted to take the entire month of July as vacation. Now July is over, I am back in St. Pete, and there is a lot of work to be done and rather quickly. So what does a bishop due with a month on vacation? I can only speak for this bishop and share with you some thoughts and experiences and a few pictures.

First, some words about the place of rest (not to be confused with the final place of rest). For forty-one years I have had a close friendship with two absolutely wonderful people who married in 1976 during my first summer in the seminary and who live in St. Louis. Their love for each other produced four of the most terrific children one could ever wish to meet, the second one of whom was the first to marry in April and “FaBob” as they call me was there. In a typical year I see this family altogether about three times, often at Thanksgiving where I share an even larger family table, and when they gather in “Mich” for major moments during the summer.As they have grown up and older, I marvel at how well they reflect their parents’ faith, values, graciousness, warmth of welcome and genuine hospitality. The fourth and youngest just graduated from Marquette and it made my leaving this year particularly emotional as I know he will not likely be there for the full summer next year for the first time. For perhaps the first time in my seventy two years I think I know better what parents feel when their children do leave the nest. It’s inevitable, expected, but it leaves a hole in one’s heart. This family has had the joy of being together for the last ten years with their father sailing their own boat, BANSHEE, in the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. They took a second one of the ten years but I have been at the finish line at least five of those years, cheering regardless of where they came in. This was to be their last year as the family is growing and there is the expectation that one or the other will not be available to crew in the future. Mom has spent many hours buying and preparing the food and taking it to the starting line in Chicago each year and Dad has rearranged his professional life to skipper the annual family competitive outing.


Second, during my time in the north, I have for three years taken the place of the lovely pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Petoskey so that he might have some semblance of a vacation during the summer (or, as the locals refer to it, “the season”). This means that I hear confessions on Saturday for an hour, celebrate and preach the Saturday Vigil Mass at 5pm and do the same for the two Sunday Masses at 8am and 10am. The crowds attending Mass are huge, the liturgy quite nice for the summer time with almost everyone in the Church singing and praying very well. I have been enthralled with the faith of the resident parishioners and especially the younger members (high school and older) who often come to Mass without their parents because of work commitments, serve Mass longer, assist in many ways, etc. I asked Bishop Bernard Hebda what the secret of St. Francis might be and he replied that he thought it could be found in the number of adults who belong to “Teams of Our Lady” in Petoskey. Apparently there are a lot more “teams” and the witness of parents morphs into the faith practice of children. We have a number of “Teams of Our Lady” in our diocese and they are also a grace.

Anyway, celebrating the sacraments without the usual formality that accompanies a bishop, finding my way through the preparation of the gifts at the Offertory without a Master of Ceremonies taking care of all that for the “old man” and greeting people after Mass who seek me out really renews and refreshes my own ministry. By the way, Bishop Hebda had a letter of complaint against me. On the first Sunday of July (check the first reading) I was alleged to have the audacity to quote Pope John Paul I to suggest that limiting the traits of divinity to simply those of a male, e.g. “Father” was to ignore that many of the traits of divinity are also those of females leading me, like the Holy Father before me, to suggest (you may wish at this point to skip the conclusion of this sentence and go right to the next paragraph) that in divine traits, God is both male and female. I think the lady wanted me “banned” from the diocese. Bishop Bernard is a part of my delight in July always. We may only find time for one dinner together but he is  great bishop, good friend, and terrific example in many more ways than even he could imagine and would never admit.

I had to fly out of the north country three times in July. First was a trip to South Bend and Notre Dame to honor the three ACE students who were graduating that weekend from the Master’s degree program, to thank them and their mothers and fathers for their presence in this diocese. I also use the occasion to meet the incoming ACE students (this week there will be eight in the ACE house in Pinellas Park for the coming year), wish the four ECHO students in that super Notre Dame program blessings as they take the courses required of them before they return to their four parishes in Hillsborough County, and this year, joined about 600 young college students who were on campus for their 900pm Mass at Our Lady’s Grotto on campus. Father Lou Delfra, CSC of the ACE progrm preached one of the finest, if not the finest, daily Mass homily I have ever heard and certainly never given on that night. What a way to finish a great day on that holy ground. I also flew home to celebrate the funeral Mass for Monsignor Harold Bumpus who died unexpectedly. Finally, I came south to TIA a third time to witness a marriage so the month was broken up and the major beneficiary was DELTA airlines.

Sunset on the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan

Sunset on the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan

Finally, and this is very personal and I have debated whether or not I wish to include it. As one ages, and that is certainly happening with me, my childhood and its joys and apprehensions seems to return in strange and different ways. Probably what I am about to reveal is “fodder” for therapy but when I was a kid, all of our family vacations of two weeks duration were spent in an annual trip to Boston and our only and annual visit to my paternal grandparents. There are a lot of great memories of those vacations. My grandmother Lynch was a “spoiler” and my brothers and I loved her. My grandfather Lynch was up in years, had suffered several heart attacks but was mentally sharp but verbally restrained. Well, the point of this was I remember so clearly the last moment of every trip, grandparents on the porch, we in the car to the train station, and my grandmother crying, waving and blowing a final kiss. Each and every time I had this awful feeling that I might not be able to see them alive again, saying farewell is hard to do, wishing they were closer. Now I find the same feeling inside myself when saying goodbye to my Michigan/Missouri family but I know that my sunsets are limited. I am beginning to feel my age, my growing physical and mental limitations, and the richness of my life to this moment. Someone will come for the car keys sooner rather than later and I will be left with the words to that haunting song of long ago by Barbra Streisand, “the way we were.” I know I am not alone in these feelings and I know I am in good company – like Pope Benedict XVI. For the moment I have my job, my faith, my family, my friends, and the Rays to keep me going.