Archive for January, 2014

THE MARCH, THE COLD, THE ABANDONED, THE EUCHARIST

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

THE MARCH IN THE COLD

Our diocese is well-represented at the March for Life!

Our diocese is well-represented at the March for Life!

Today in Washington, DC., tens of thousands of people of all ages have gathered once again to recall and regret the 1973 decisions of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. These decisions gave rise to the present situation of abortion-on-request which for forty-one years  now has existed in this nation. Questions have arisen in the last ten months about Pope Francis’ position on abortion and I can find no better statement of the Holy Father on this important subject than this paragraph which is taken from his Apostolic Exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel:

213. Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular  love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among  us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with  them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone  from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the  Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position  as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life  is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It  involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in  any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in  themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction  disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights,  which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.  Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single  human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith,  “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in  vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”.[176]

214. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message  about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her  position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This  is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not  “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the  other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany  women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution  to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is  the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved  before such painful situations

In the intervening forty-plus years, the Pro-Life movement has kept the issue alive and the educative force of law which is usually present has been kept at bay. Successive presence in Washington in the midst of winter with regular travel disruptions due to the weather, the bitter cold and again this year deep snow has not stopped those committed to the protection of human life in the womb of the mother from making their presence felt.

I am especially proud of the large contingent of young people from our Catholic High Schools and our seminarians from both seminaries who are present in DC today for their courage and enthusiasm. I pray that they will travel safely home and thank them for their witness.

Pilgrims from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish. Photo graciously shared with us by @kathylifeteen.

Pilgrims from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish braving the cold. Photo graciously shared with us by @kathylifeteen.

View more photos from our pilgrims by clicking here. Photos are being added to the album as they are received.

THE ABANDONED AND THE COLD

Last Friday, the TAMPA TRIBUNE kindly published an op-ed piece which I prepared on the matter of homelessness in Hillsborough county. Yesterday it was revealed that the county has made available an additional one million dollars in a grant to Metropolitan Ministries for additional assistance for the homeless. While I join with Metropolitan Ministries in welcoming this grant, there are two things which I feel I should note. The grant adds no additional housing units for the homeless and by the will of the recipient charity, it is used only for homeless families. That is all good, but the fact remains that there are still well over a thousand  homeless on the streets of Tampa and elsewhere in the county tonight during this second visit of very cold weather. Someone is likely to die but nothing will be made of it by the media, the government or many people. On a cold night like we are having, driving by a homeless person under I-275 or I-4 in Tampa is like the priest and the Levite passing by the nearly lifeless body of the man robbed on the road to Jericho. All that I said about neglecting the largely abandoned in my op-ed piece remains in force and we should do all we can to stop and care for these children of God. If you wish to read my op-ed piece, simply click here.

Also among those whom society is paying scant attention to is the working poor. Two weeks ago Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami authored an op-ed piece which appeared in the FORT LAUDERDALE SUN SENTINEL. It addressed in very clear and very cogent terms the issue of income equality in our nation and the need for raising the minimum wage for those who earn insufficiently to sustain either their own lives or that of their families. It is a topic which I have wanted to address in this blog for a while given the discussion and debate which is taking place in the Congress on the issue and it also arises in my consciousness from the statements and remarks of Pope Francis on the subject. Raising the minimum wage is hardly a Marxist agenda. Archbishop Wenski’s  perspective is very much worthy of your time and thought and can be accessed by clicking here.

COMING IN FROM THE SPIRITUAL COLD THROUGH THE EUCHARIST

Finally, shortly after lunch each day I check several of my favorite blogs. I have already mentioned my respect for whispersintheloggiablogspot.com because I believe that its author/editor Rocco Palma works very hard to cover the church in a fair, loving and respectful way. The other day he called my attention to another thoughtful source on the Church today written by Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter. In the past, every time I mention this journal I get about five angry comments from people excoriating me for reading and worse yet referencing this publication. Sad that there are such closed minds. I don’t agree with everything in the NCR and I doubt seriously if all of their staff would agree with everything I write from time to time, but I learn a lot from them and especially from Winters. Whispers referenced an article by Winters which made it possible for me to read one of the finest pieces of writing on the Eucharist by Michael Gerson which appeared first in Notre Dame magazine. Read it – it’s worth the time and effort and you can do so by clicking here. Even though it is harsh in its criticism of the Church, its episcopal management, its priorities, etc. it is so refreshingly affirming of the gift of the Eucharist today. So I am grateful to the triad of Palma, Winters, and Gerson for stirring my pride in the gift of Himself which Jesus left to us in the Eucharist. (p.s., I sometimes, maybe even often, do wish that all bishops not be painted with the same brush, but, oh well.)

+RNL

SO LONG, FOR A WHILE

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
With Betty and her husband Stan yesterday.

With Betty and her husband Stan yesterday.

Any U.S. bishop who remains in office for any length of time beyond a decade will inevitably face changes among his principal advisors and associates. Vicars-General change (I have had four in eighteen years), Chancellors (I have had two), and the closest collaborators will often turn-over.

Since coming to St. Petersburg on January 26, 1996, I have been blessed with an executive staff who have served this local Church with incredible devotion and dedication and advised me well.

Among the non-clerics, the first took her leave last Friday after almost sixteen years at my side. The affection, admiration and appreciation  has been extended to Elizabeth Deptula, my Secretary for Administration by many over these last few weeks. She received the longest and most heartfelt applause and standing tribute from the Presbyteral Council at her last meeting in November of last year.

Yesterday the entire staff of the Diocese bade their farewell to this great woman of the Church. It was a very difficult moment for me and to help you understand just how important the voice of women is in the Church and how much they are capable of, I am taking the liberty of sharing my parting words to her yesterday. Pope Francis is spot on when he calls for more women in the highest echelons of Church governance and no one, least of all the ordained, should ever be worried about that. After reading this, I hope you will agree with me.

Farewell Remarks to Elizabeth Deptula
on the occasion of her retirement from
The Diocese of St. Petersburg
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

“Eighteen years ago, on the occasion of the public announcement that Blessed Pope John Paul II had named me bishop of St. Petersburg, the local media present at the Cathedral Hall asked me this pointed question: “You were known in Washington for appointing women at the bishops’ conference to major positions of responsibility. Can we expect the same here?”

My answer then was “competence trumps gender but when I can I will utilize the great gifts of women in my role as bishop.” After a first year of getting to know both place and people, I began to search for my first associate who would serve as secretary for the administration of temporalities. One day Father Joel Kovanis called me to ask if I was still searching and I said I was. He said that he knew of a woman, a long-time friend of he and his family, who had just retired as city manager of Clearwater but who might be interested in our position. Soon, Betty Deptula walked into my life and yours. She exuded competence from the start and she has served the Church, and me, and you with loyalty, love and longevity.

After fifteen years she takes her leave of us today. She leaves behind almost a quarter of a billion dollars of construction which she has deftly supervised with some of your help. She has filled key positions in the structure with women and men who have quickly become not just bosses and supervisors but friends and co-workers in the vineyard. She is the Martha and Mary of Bethany, the mother of that special place and she concludes her work by watching over the remodeling of our Cathedral. 

With Paul Ward she saw all of us through the economic downturn with its consequent economic challenges to many sectors of employment, saved your jobs they did, came up with the notion of expanded week-ends in the summer in lieu of raises we could not give. Inevitably she would be asked to referee disputes within our family and no one ever left those moments being mad at Betty. It is she who constantly around Labor Day reminds me that I need to make and announce a decision about our Christmas holiday schedule and she who with Joe Loeber seeks to share bonuses and adjust compensation within the narrow confines of our ability to pay. And with Joan Morgan (our Chancellor) who lovingly cares for the priests, Betty is the sympathetic ear of management whose door has always been open to anyone struggling. That’s what she has been for all of you.

For my office staff, she is the island of calm in the sometimes turbulent sea of problems arising, faced and settled. She has been our friend, our co-worker, our treasured and beloved colleague.

For me, this moment is particularly tough. She was there for me when I embarrassed her and all of you. She gave me strength for the journey then and throughout our time together. She has been my wise and in the language of this season wonder counsellor and she is the first to leave, beginning the last chapter of all of our time together. Sometime ago I asked my team to consider whether or not they would be able to remain with my successor for a few years to help him get started, meaning in all likelihood another five years on the job. I told them that were that unlikely or impossible I would not take it badly should they choose to leave though I would miss them with all my heart. 

Today my heart is neither shattered nor broken. I am happy for Betty and Stan that now they have no work complications for the love they have for each other for forty-five years. Their three sons, the second of whom will soon be ordained deacon and priest, now can claim full ownership of their parent’s time and love. Because they can now divide their time between Peoria and here, I am fairly confident that all of us from time to time can renew the bonds of our friendship with them both. Thank you, Stan, for sharing the woman you have loved all these years with all of us. You both have earned happiness in the years ahead.

Finally, Betty, parting is indeed such sorrow. Your chair was empty at the Side Door Deli this afternoon and your office was dark. For me and for many, we will lovingly, gratefully, and constantly remember these days we have spent in our journey of faith together. These people gathered here today love you, I love you, Stan and the boys love you and God clearly loves you. Thank you for far more than the memories. You were everything I promised this local Church on December 6th, 1995 and far more.”

+RNL

OLD BUSINESS, NEW BUSINESS

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I find myself afflicted with yet another monster cold which has slowed me down slightly from things I intended to do this past week, including updating this blog site with a new post or two.

In the area of old business, I am deeply touched to once again point out to the readership how greatly generous the people of this diocese are when asked to help other people in desperate need. Remember Typhoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) which devastated several islands in the Philippines? On the 23rd of December I was able to forward to Catholic Relief Services a second check in the amount of $500,000 (added to the $100,000 I had sent one day after the Typhoon passed). We have therefore sent $600,000 to CRS so far with a few parishes not yet reporting. Catholic Relief Services has responded with great gratitude for a level of generosity which ranks among the highest of any monies sent to them for this purpose. Please keep in mind that monies collected for disaster relief are forwarded in total to CRS and not sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Just prior to the beginning of the year, we closed out our consultation on the questions proposed by the Holy See on Marriage and Family Life in the United States. As most of you know, we used an on-line survey instrument. Once again I am proud to report the response of the faithful of this diocese to the survey questions: 6,462 people responded to the survey (4% were between the ages of 18-28), 21% were between 30-49 years of age, 47% were between the ages of 50-69 years, and 28% were seventy or older). 36% of the respondents were male and 64% were female. An amazingly high percentage of the respondents indicated that they were registered parishioners (85%) and 87% said they attend Mass: daily (9%), Sunday and Holy Days and some weekdays (37%), and Sundays and holy days (41%). 11% of the survey population indicated that they were single and never married, 61% currently married, 9% divorced and never remarried, 4% divorced and remarried in the Catholic Church, 4% divorced and remarried outside of the Catholic Church, 9% widowers. This is the easy part of summarizing the results.

At the outset there were questions about whether or not the Holy See wanted a broad consultation in the local Churches or were just expecting bishops to consult with Presbyteral and/or Pastoral Councils. That seems to me to have been answered, as broadly as one can given the time constraints. Then of late there has been a question of whether or not the results can be shared outside of the Synod office in Rome. The present answer seems to be a solid “no” to that at this moment. That raised a problem for me since when making the decision to go online (and make a paper survey available to those who could not access the on-line instrument) I said I would share the results. While I work on that an Executive Summary is being prepared by the Diocesan Pastoral Council which will be reviewed by the Priest’s Council and off the results will go to Rome. Stay tuned.

Finally, this afternoon (Sunday, January 5th) we held an Evening Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for those who were baptized into the Church at the 2013 Easter Vigil. You may recall that because the Cathedral was under construction the important annual ceremonies of the Rite of Election were held at St. Catherine of Siena parish in Largo. I promised those in attendance at that time that when the remodeling project was complete, I would invite them to return to the Cathedral for a “Neophyte” gathering. I attach here my homily for that occasion.

Thirty archbishops and bishops from Wilmington, Delaware to Miami along the eastern seaboard and the Military Archdiocese will be gathering tomorrow for our annual retreat at The Bethany Center. I hope they bring their winter clothes because it, as you know, is supposed to get very cold tomorrow afternoon [Monday] and night. I know I will have to listen to a few voices which will say “why did we have to come all the way to Florida to freeze?” But by Thursday, they will know why. Pray for us as I shall for all of you. Happy New Year.

+RNL