Posts Tagged ‘anniversary’

FOUR DAYS AND TWO DECADES AGO

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Tuesday, January 26th marked my twentieth anniversary of episcopal ordination and brought to completion two decades of presence and, hopefully, service to this wonderful Church of St. Petersburg. For those who were here twenty years ago, it was quite a day. In attendance were six cardinals, fourteen archbishops, and sixty bishops from around the nation. St. Jude’s was filled to the rafters as I was and still am the first and only bishop to be ordained and installed in the diocese.

I have not been one for big celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, having allowed my 25th anniversary of priestly ordination to pass largely unnoticed and we had small celebration of my tenth anniversary of episcopal ordination with only the priests of the diocese present in 2006. Last Tuesday I repeated the tenth year experience by asking my brother priests to join me for a simple celebration of the Eucharist and a simple dinner in the Cathedral hall. No gifts and no speeches being the mandatory rubric. About 137 priests were able to be present on Tuesday which was a gift and brought joy to my heart. A few photos are included below, you can see more here.

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Celebration of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

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Starting from the far left of the photo: Msgr. Jude O’Dougherty; myself; Msgr. Daniel Hoye; Bishop Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne; Archbishop Emeritus John C. Favalora, the third Bishop of St. Petersburg and former Archbishop of Miami; and Bishop John Noonan, bishop of Orlando. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

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Talking to my brother priests. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I also wished for one final time to have an opportunity to begin to say good-bye. I believe that on May 27th of this year, my seventy-fifth birthday, that we need to begin to prepare both our hearts and this church for its new shepherd, whomever that might be. I have outlined the procedure for the selection and appointment of a new bishop in this space and if you did not read it before, you may do so by clicking here now. However, I thought you might wish to read my homily to the priests last Tuesday (it’s far from “Lincoln-est” as the title of this blog might tempt you to believe) but it is my heart as I wind up my work among all of you.

Until my successor is named, expect more blogs but perhaps a few less as I am growing old and tired in unison – the only part of my life that works in unison at this age! God Bless.

+RNL

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES

Monday, October 14th, 2013

CRS is celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year, a child of World War II and a Church in one nation which had an unquenchable desire to help those outside its own borders as they coped with the horrors of war, famine, earthquakes and tsunamis, hurricanes and floods to name but a few. Occasionally I am asked (and sometimes I prompt others to ask me the question) what three things have been the greatest blessing of your priesthood (now thirty-five years old) I respond, the episcopal conference of the United States of America, the church of St. Petersburg, and Catholic Relief Services. The first, now called the USCCB, has laid claim to fourteen years of my life as a staff member in the early part of my priesthood; the second has been my home and my joy for seventeen years, and the third has seen me intimately involved as a member of the Board of Directors for twelve years, including six as Chairman.

Catholic Relief Services has established over its seventy years a well-deserved reputation as among the very best of first-responders when disaster strikes. Secondly, among disaster relief and development agencies, it spends less on every dollar contributed on funding raised and advertising than almost any other agency (seven cents on the dollar). Third, it operates in ninety-six countries throughout the world and in one year helps millions of people in their struggles for daily life. The great tsunami of the day after Christmas in 2004 occurred on my watch as Board chair and within forty-eight hours we had a team on the ground in Banda Ache, Sumatra, Indonesia helping people live, cope, survive, revive and move on. I have witnessed women in India using microfinance tools (they get small CRS backed loans from banks in their towns and villages) band together for the first time, pool their loans and start small businesses which soon turn enough profit to feed and cloth and educate their children (and the loan failure rate among these women’s microfinance initiatives is close to zero). Proving they can do it, banks often on their own will then lend them more money and their businesses grow. It’s absolutely amazing in its empowerment. In famine stricken Africa I have been present for “Seed Fairs” where farmers gather on a Saturday in a village and bring their unused seeds from the prior year and trade them or sell them where as in the past they were simply thrown away. I have been present for pre-natal clinics for expectant mothers supported by CRS which have impressively and effectively lowered infant mortality rates. AND, I have never visited a country where having been invited by a local Church to be present have had that Church ask that we withdraw. It just does not happen. When CRS has to withdraw from a country, it most often happens because that country and the local Church have reached a level of self-sufficiency that our presence is no longer necessary. Do we occasionally disappoint a local Church? Yes, but often it happens when US-AID cuts back a program, usually and most often food support, as the US tries to balance its budget. Sometimes the local Church would like us to hire only Catholics. I remember during the height of the Ethiopian Famine in the mid-1980’s while visiting Addis Ababa the local Cardinal Archbishop was quite upset with me and with CRS because we hired Coptic Orthodox auditors and did not take well my response that we tried and failed to find Latin-Rite auditors who were capable of managing the US government reporting forms.  Many African churches wish we would just send them a check and let them spend it as they would want like the Germans and Italians do (or used to do in the case of the former donor nation/Church) and don’t realize that CRS does not build seminaries, restore or build churches, buy trucks for diocesan CARITAS organizations (unless we are present to help manage and supervise the use of vehicles) – we help people.

American Catholic women should see the faces of gratitude and happiness on their African and Central American counterparts (women) when we teach the community how to build a well in the midst of their village and eliminate the long walk to the well or water source miles away with the water jar on top of the heads of the women of the village. Why is the Catholic Church so well suited around the world to act as a delivery agent for human relief and development? Partly, it is due to the fact that we have the parish structure which serves the whole community regardless of religion and our local partners, most often diocesan CARITAS or Catholic Charities agencies, serve as the primary instruments of outreach. It is a great Church, good readers, and CRS is a great organization.

The Board of Catholic Relief Services takes its responsibilities quite seriously. It can by statutes and by-laws consist of thirteen bishops elected by the USCCB and twelve non-bishops elected by the Board. They meet four times a year as a whole and more often as committee assignments requires. World headquarters is in an old department store in downtown Baltimore. The chair of the CRS board is a member of both the USCCB Administrative Committee as well as the USCCB Finance Committee. CRS makes its annual audit and finance statements publicly available. It is transparent, accountable to its owners (the bishops) and its donors (God’s generous people).

Last week the priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg gathered for our annual priests’ convocation for three and a half days at the Bethany Center. Monsignor David Garcia from the Archdiocese of San Antonio and two other representatives of CRS spoke to us about the social justice responsibilities of the Gospel and pointed out ways in which CRS enfleshes the Gospel imperative in today’s Church in a unique and special way. We left that session “pumped up” to perhaps better do the work of justice and if any agency of the Church in the United States mirrors the Justice and Peace Gospel imperatives, it is Catholic Relief Services, now seventy years old and getting better all the time. Happy Anniversary, CRS!

+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

 

TOGETHER FOR LIFE

Monday, February 13th, 2012

358 couples gathered to celebrate twenty-five, fifty, or more years of marriage during the Wedding Jubilee Mass at Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

If the Bible is the all time best selling book year after year in the publishing business, I would be willing to wager that the tiny booklet entitled TOGETHER FOR LIFE, written years ago by Syracuse diocesan priest, Monsignor Joseph Champlin is the best seller among Catholics. Used by practically every engaged couple preparing for marriage, this compendium of the possible readings one might choose to be proclaimed at ones’ wedding, the choices of prayers, prefaces, nuptial blessings (a few of which are very sexist) and prayers over the couples allow those approaching the sacrament to plan almost every last detail of their liturgical ceremony with greater ease I often say than planning the reception, the honeymoon, the rehearsal dinner, etc.

Barbara and Bob Owens, from St. Ignatius of Antioch parish, renewing their vows. They are celebrating 25 years of marriage. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

On Sunday in our Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, about 358 couples from 60 of our parishes came to celebrate twenty-five and fifty or more years of marriage – truly together for life. There was an abundance of joy in that Church on Sunday for what was basically a simple Sunday Liturgy with a renewal of marriage vows thrown in for good measure. All total there were some 17, 793 years of successful married life there staring each other in the face, looking at one another and holding right hands, repeating the words of many years ago.

Greeting John and Mary Kampschroer, from St. Thomas Aquinas parish, celebrating 71 years of marriage. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

Two couples were celebrating special milestones:  one their seventy-first anniversary and the second their seventy-second anniversary. John and Mary Kampschroer,     originally from Wisconsin and from our St. Thomas Aquinas parish in New Port Richey, were present for their 71st anniversary. Normally, that would have taken the proverbial “cake” and they would have walked off with first prize.

However, Toan and Chai Nguyen, a Vietnamese couple who could speak no English, dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothes, have been married 72 years, tying the knot in their native Vietnam on November 11, 1940. Their marriage brought 12 children into the world who have given them 54 grandchildren, who have given them 57 great-grandchildren. They are from our St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Homasassa. Together for life and not in the most easy of circumstances either.

Greeting Toan and Chai Nguyen, parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle, who have been married for 72 years. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

The Gospel today spoke of the incredible power of “touch” when Jesus touched the leper and healed him even though to do so was against the law and anyone caught doing it was immediately considered unclean themselves. I reminded our jubilarians how important that gift of touch most likely was in their married lives and how it too healed at extremely difficult moments. An embrace when a child dies, a kiss to end a brief spat, a hug when one has been aware for days and returns to their spouse. Then I asked them to once again touch one another’s hands and “repeat after me.”

Marriage Jubilee Sunday and the Church’s World Day for Married Couples are among my most pleasant annual duties. It took about as long to stand for pictures following the Mass as did the liturgy before it, but the gratitude of the couples always makes me realize just how much the gift of presence and touch can mean. To each I spoke a “Happy Anniversary” followed by the photographer’s equally automatic, “look this way and smile please.” Together for Life – how sweet it must be!

The number of couples who attended:

59 couples celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary

133 couples celebrating their fiftieth anniversary

88 couples celebrating their 51st through 59th anniversary

76 couples celebrating their 61st through 69th anniversary

1 couple celebrating their 71st anniversary

1 couple celebrating their 72nd anniversary

+RNL

I AM SIXTEEN GOING ON SEVENTEEN

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Yesterday marked my sixteenth anniversary of ordination as a bishop and the same for my service to this wonderful local church. I try to ignore these occasions and usually only a few friends with really good memories interrupt my private reverie. However, there is a little book published each year called an ORDO which while it mainly serves as a reminder of which Mass and Prayers of the Divine Office one should pray each day, also includes information like the anniversaries of the deaths of all priests in the province of Miami and other useless facts like which bishop was ordained and/or installed on which day. Were that information not there, then the day would pass a little more quietly.

There is also the challenge of a loving staff which though they know I wish such occasions to pass generally unnoticed still find some way of spreading the news. Yesterday the whole student body and most of the teachers of the adjacent St. Petersburg Catholic came secretly (500 strong, but traveling secretly into my office area), set up a sound system and had the Glee Club then sing my favorite song from the TV show GLEE entitled “Don’t Stop Believing.” In true GLEE style I could not restrain doing a typical “dance” which at my age and stamina lasted all of twenty-seconds. But to be truthful, I loved it.

There was a confirmation last night at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Seffner and prior to its start I had a chance to visit with its pastor emeritus, Father Chris Fitzgerald, a prince of a priest. The years are not all that kind to Father Fitz these days but we exchanged some thoughts of the challenges of getting older and quite simply told each other how much we loved one another. That affirmation from him, one of my heroes, was enough to make the day memorable and special. To all those who remembered and sent e-mails of good wishes thanks. To all those who were unaware or unable to acknowledge the day, even more heartfelt thanks.

Going to bed last night, tired but also exhilarated somewhat, preceded by Night Prayer in the chapel, gave me some moments to thank my God that if one had to be called to the ministry of bishop, this lovely church was and remains pure gift. There are other signs also that I have been blessed thus far with a “good ride” and for that my heartfelt thanks to my priests, deacons, religious women and men and the greatest accumulation of faithful and faith-filled laity one could ask for. In the words of that lovely lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE SOUND OF MUSIC, I am “sixteen, going on seventeen” and still in love with my Lord and those whom He has sent to “dance” with me. God Bless You All.

+RNL