Posts Tagged ‘Bethany Center’


Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
With Sr. Gladys Sharkey, OSF, who celebrates her 60 years of consecrated life and service to the people of God! Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

With Sr. Gladys Sharkey, OSF, who celebrates 60 years of consecrated life and service to the people of God! Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

Within forty-nine hours of each other, I had the wonderful occasion to spend time with sixteen sisters (view photos by clicking here) who will or have celebrated major anniversaries of their life in religion and with the retired priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg as well as elsewhere in North America. Both are annual occasions but what made them very enjoyable this year is that both occasions occured within the penumbra of Thanksgiving.

Regular readers of this blog should already know of my love and fondness for our sisters and the few brothers who are either active or retired and living in the diocese. The sisters have a hard time with the Church at times when it seems that they only arouse interest when someone or some part of the ecclesial bureaucracy is angry or frustrated with them. They often do not hear or do not hear often enough words of thanksgiving and gratitude from the likes of myself and would have reason to wonder if anyone even cares any more.

Of the sixteen of twenty-four who are celebrating anniversaries this year, there were two Benedictine sisters (blood sisters as well as sisters in religious life) who are celebrating eighty years of professed life. Imagine, they left their homes in Texas in 1932 to travel to San Antonio, Florida, and begin eight decades of witness to their Lord according to the rule of Benedict and Scholastica. The great depression was just getting rolling when they committed themselves and Hitler and his evil empire had not yet begun to make its presence known in Germany or Europe. Both taught school for years and years.

There were no twenty-five year or silver anniversary jubilarians this year (they are getting less and less) but there were a good number of golden (50) and diamond (60). One can’t help but love them. Their stories which are briefly summarized as they get a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble (am I cheap, or what?) are always amazing. We would not be where we are were it not for the great work of these great women over the years. They know I both admire and love them and I suspect every reader of this post does as well. Health, happiness and holiness are my prayers for Brother Chris of Tampa Catholic and the sisters with whom we shared both the Eucharistic table on Saturday as well as a nice, simple meal. One requirement last Saturday, however, smacking of my memory of sisters of previous decades – we had to be through and back in place for the kick-off of Notre Dame’s amazing eleventh win against no losses. No losses in these jubilarians either – they are precious before the eyes of the Lord.

On Monday, I celebrated Mass (view photos by clicking here) at the Bethany Center for about sixty-two of the retired priests who reside within the five counties of the Diocese. We have about thirty-four retired priests of the diocese and another forty or fifty from other dioceses in the U.S. and Canada who spend either part of or the whole year here with us.

With our retired priests at the St. James Chapel at the Bethany Retreat Center. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With our retired priests at the St. James Chapel at the Bethany Retreat Center. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Many of them have no place to go for Thanksgiving and were it not for our annual Mass and outing, there might be no turkey and all the trimmings for them. They are always so appreciative and those from other dioceses are amazed that they are invited and welcomed to this event. Unable to be present this year but in 2013 to be celebrating their seventieth anniversaries of ordination are Monsignor George Cummings and Benedictine Father James Hoge. Both are approaching or have reached their ninety-fifth birthday and there is a Franciscan Father who is also at or soon to reach this threshold.

I often suggest to our priests that we do not reflect enough on the “shoulders of the giants” on which we walk and among our retired diocesan priests, there are to be found outstanding examples of priestly zeal, courage, fidelity and effective ministry.

With both groups I reflected on the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council which we are beginning to observe. More about that in forthcoming reflections here. For the meantime, even though my brother from Buffalo is arriving to spend Thanksgiving with his son and wife who live here and his grandaughter of two and his 8/9s of grandchild number two, a great part of my Thanksgiving has already been observed with my friends.

Finally, I would be a real ingrate if I did not thank God for all of you whom it is my privilege to serve, and I will tonight and tomorrow, at Mass and throughout the day. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL.



Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

“Spaghetti model” for Issac as of 5pm EST on August 23, 2012.

I suspect I have your attention!

Those of us who live along the coast of the Florida peninsula have learned a new form of spaghetti, non-edible to be sure, but equally hard to handle. I speak here of “spaghetti models” which have nothing to do with variations of ancient pasta recipes but rather squiggly lines which are produced by high speed computers which track  unpredictable variables leading to an uncertain result – or in plain English, hurricane predictors. Which leads me to “swords” and recalling the biblical story of father Abraham who was commanded by God tobuild an altar on which his one and only and long prayed for son, Isaac would be slain. As the reader knows, God stayed the sword-wielding hand of Abraham, spared his son Isaac, and fathered a great people. Well, we in Florida in general and here on the central west coast of Florida in particular are asking the Lord to spare (us from) Isaac, a tropical storm gaining intensity in the eastern Caribbean and, according to the spaghetti models, building up steam and headed toward us. And complicating the issue, we citizens of this state are not the only ones asking God to slay Isaac, but so are about 40,000 people descending on our community next week for the Republican National Convention.

What does a diocese do in the present situation by way of preparing? Pray first. Then, begin to take the proper precautions. A direct hit of a major hurricane would bring significant damage and loss to this local Church. Much of southern St. Petersburg where I live and work would be susceptible to tidal surges. We have five parishes that are at sea level (or slightly less than five feet higher). A storm surge of ten feet would do significant damage to those buildings and facilities. We are already contacting our retired priests that we know of who live alone to see if they wish to seek higher ground in which case we would encourage them to come to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat center. Tomorrow we will move enough cash to keep the whole diocese operating should the power be down for several days (and the banks’ computers go down). We will make plans to relocate the homeless from our Pinellas Hope facility to higher and safer ground (we are averaging about 400 a night who will need to be resettled.) We are preparing a “command center” at Bethany where I will go if the storm is higher than a category one and be joined by the principal players who will need to spring into action when the winds subside and the waters retreat. All of our parishes have had emergency storm preparation but for everyone here, we have been through this so often without a real need, that taking any of these spaghetti models seriously becomes challenging. We have become somewhat lethargic and that’s what worries the Emergency Relief Personnel where we live. Is this the big one, or is this just another “false alarm?” When, in about forty-eight hours, the spaghetti models converge and the “cone of uncertainty narrows,” we will have a better idea what to expect but then it may be too late.

I drove by a Home Depot and a Lowes on the way to work this morning and saw no great accumulation of plywood taking place nor did the supermarkets seem victims of panic, but it will happen sometime between now and Sunday, even if the storm is predicted to miss us. And then there is that haunting and unsettling reality that even if we survive another near miss, someone, somewhere else in our area of the nation is going to get hit. So join us in praying for a better result. This time, O Lord,  it is A-OK to slay Isaac and the only thing certain in my part of the vineyard is that Mitt Romney will be nominated next week – somewhere!



Monday, January 9th, 2012

On Friday of this week, while on retreat with twenty-five others bishops of the Atlantic region at Bethany Center, word came that Pope Benedict XVI had named new cardinals and called a consistory to install them for mid-February. There was a time and quite recently, that the naming of cardinals was a major secret, shared by the Holy Father with a few others whom he consulted, but this group was anything but a “pontifical secret” as the Italian press not only knew a week in advance the date of the consistory but had the names of most of those archbishops and bishops who would be elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Among their number are two Americans whom I admire and for whom I am happy, as well as happy for the Church. I have known Cardinal-designate Edwin O’Brien since the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States. At that time, he was secretary to Cardinal Cooke who would be hosting the pope during his stay in New York. I have known Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan since the mid-eighties when I returned to Washington to work at the bishops’ conference and he was working at the Apostolic Delegation (only later with full diplomatic recognition first given by President Ronald Reagan would it be called the Apostolic Nunciature). At that time, working alongside of soon-to-be Cardinal Dolan were now Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Bishop Blasé Cupich, Bishop Michael Cote, and a saintly priest named Monsignor Bernard Yarrish of the Scranton diocese who subsequently was diagnosed with MS and is today in a nursing home in Wilkes-Barre, PA. They were a wonderful group of men who made our work, then at the other end of Massachusetts Avenue, easy and easily conducted between Archbishop Pio Laghi and ourselves a delight (as did the Apostolic Delegate/Nuncio Laghi). We would recreate together on occasion but it was always hard to get on Father Dolan’s dance card as it filled up quickly with friends and acquaintances of his in and around Washington (he had studied Church history under the famous Monsignor John Tracy Ellis at Catholic University, earning a doctorate).

In my lifetime as a priest, the role of cardinal in the Church in the United States has morphed somewhat and this occurred during the early days of the papacy of John Paul II. It was often said in the years following the Council that a Cardinal could not be elected President of the Conference of Bishops. While Detroit’s John Dearden,  Baltimore’s William Keeler, Chicago’s Joseph Bernardin were all presidents and cardinals, they did not become the latter until first elected the former. Until Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George four years ago, only Philadelphia’s John Cardinal Krol had been elected president while a member of the College of Cardinals. On three occasions, usually in closed session, I have heard three different archbishops ask rhetorically when baffled by an instance of cardinalatial intervention in a diocese, “what did I miss in ecclesiology about the role of cardinals in the life of my archdiocese?” Pope John Paul II early on decided that the College of Cardinals in addition to electing his successor would be an advisory council to him on important matters and, on occasion, his personal representation in a specific country at a specific time. In 1983, it was clear that he trusted and entrusted his new definition of the role of cardinals to Cardinals Law of Boston and O’Connor of New York. It was no secret that Pope Paul VI, while still alive and contemplating the meaning of episcopal collegiality and shared responsibility, was thinking seriously of inviting the duly elected presidents of episcopal conferences to vote in conclave for future popes. Cardinals working in the Holy See itself talked him out of it. He did make a number of them angry, however, when he limited their participation in papal elections to only those cardinals less than eighty years of age. That antagonism remains but the decision has also survived three popes.

But I digress (badly looking at the word count). Cardinal-designate Dolan enters the college as the sitting president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He already represents us well, in my opinion, here in the United States where he is both clear and compassionate in articulating Church teaching. Like myself, he clearly wants more people to join the Church than be driven from it. One should not under estimate his intellect because driving that delightful sense of self-deprecating humor is a keen intellect with probably one of the best memories of the history of the Church in even more difficult times, both here in the United States and throughout the world. People like him and through him they come to like the Church better. I suspect that fifty years from now, his place in American Catholic church history will be both proud and assured. From St. Louis and a die-hard Cardinal’s fan, he is now one himself – maybe not “Stan the Man” Musial but “Tim the Man” Dolan.

Cardinal-designate O’Brien has been a wonderful archbishop for Baltimore and since all his auxiliaries were on retreat with me last week, I know they already are missing him since his appointment as Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher a few months ago. When his successor is installed in America’s oldest diocese, he will be full time in Rome. He will represent the true and best of the church in the United States well over there.

One final local note. Both Archbishops O’Brien and Dolan served as rectors of the North American College in Rome. Two of their students, Fathers Kenneth Malley, pastor of St. Timothy’s parish in Lutz and David Toups, pastor of Christ the King parish in Tampa plan to be present on February 18th and 19th when their two former rectors are given the red hat of cardinal by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s. And just prior to the consistory, another superb American cardinal, Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. will be the principal speaker at our annual Catholic Foundation dinner in February 11th in Tampa at the A La Carte Pavilion. Cardinal Wuerl was also on retreat last week at the Bethany Center with me and he is looking forward to his next visit to the Bay Area from which he will fly directly to Houston to formally begin the new Anglican Ordinariate in the United States. Dolan, having previously given the talk, and Cardinal O’Brien, often a visitor here, lead me to close with “some roads may lead to Rome but all roads lead to the Diocese of St. Petersburg.”




Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Worshipping together - seminarians and family on the Feast of the Holy Family. Photo kindness of Walter C. Pruchnik, III

Last night at the Bethany Center I attended, perhaps even hosted, the annual Christmas dinner for our thirty-four seminarians and their families. If most bishops were to tell the truth, attending banquets and dinners while a part of our job description are not those things which we most like to do. We do them because it is expected and more often than not our presence lends some importance to the event which can be anything from an annual affair of a diocesan organization to a major fundraiser for something important in diocesan life. For myself, the annual Christmas gathering of the seminarians and their families has always been something I both look forward to and enjoy. Usually it occurs just prior to Christmas when the sems have just arrived back from their semester of studies but this year we had to delay it because the major seminary calendar went right up to three days prior to Christmas – thus last night. Everyone was there except for our first year theology student, Ryan Boyle, who is attending the North American College in Rome. However, Ryan’s parents were present.

Deacons Victor Amorose and Timothy Corcoran will be ordained priests in mid-May. Photo by Walter C.Pruchnik III

The dinner is preceded by Mass and occasionally there is a ministry or candidacy to be conferred but last night gave me a rare opportunity to reflect on five of the major figures of our faith who get lost in the days between Christmas and New Years: St. Stephen the first martyr for the faith, John the Apostle, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket, and because Sunday is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of the Church, last night the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was transferred to Friday this year. Each of these major figures gives to the community of Christ a gift: for Stephen it was courageous proclamation of Christ, for John the Apostle, it was loyalty to the charge given to him by Christ on the cross, for the Holy Innocents it was their unknowing sparing of the life of Jesus, for Becket it was the supremacy of conscience, and for the Holy Family it was bearing the sword of life’s unpredictables with faith and hope.

A good dinner followed the Mass and we adjourned for another year in about three hours. As the photos which accompany this entry show, Bethany is an absolutely beautiful place to gather all together and starting next Tuesday, thirty cardinals, archbishops and bishops of the east coast from Delaware to Miami will gather for their annual retreat, their second here with us. I shall be on that retreat myself.

Almost all of the seminarians were accompanied by their pastors or association pastors. Photo kindness of Walter Pruchnik III

Pray for our seminarians. If you knew them as I know them, you would be very proud of their sacrifice in today’s secular culture, their commitment to pursuing ministry in today’s Church and world, and their hopes for the future of us all. Their hope and enthusiasm is infectious and every once in a while, even a bishop needs to catch the “fever” which today’s candidates for priestly ministry have.






Monday, November 21st, 2011

With Sister Emeline Schneider, OSF, one of the three religious jubilarians celebrating 70 years professed. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

People often ask me what gives me the greatest joy in being a bishop and I respond unfailingly, ordaining priests, rite of election, and acknowledging the talents and gifts of many people serving the Church in the diocese humbly and joyfully. Well this week-end I was on overload starting with a Mass and luncheon for nineteen religious women and men whose combined service to the Church as professed religious amounted to 1000 years. We had three seventy-year professed/ordained jubilarians, all of whom are still quite active in their ministry. Organized annually by our Office of the Vicar for Religious, I look forward to Mass and lunch with these great women and men. There is to be found not one scintilla of regret or unhappiness in the life lived, but a joy which is contagious, infectious and life-giving. If you wish to know the names of those jubilarians honored this year, click here.

On Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, for the last twelve years we have honored women and men from almost all of the parishes and missions of the diocese for their service to their Church. When instituted there was some resistance to the idea of singling out people annually. First, there was a fear that to honor one person would upset others but that quickly went away when all came to realize the true servants of the Gospel in our parishes and missions do not seek or wish for any recognition and are embarrassed if given it. So from the outset, parish communities were proud of those whom either their parish council or pastor chose for the honor. A second concern was that it might be difficult to sustain an annual honoree since the pool was “limited.” I did not believe that for the moment as there is an endless pool of generosity in our parishes and many people who could in time be selected to receive the honor. We named it after the patron saint of the diocese, St. Jude the Apostle.

With the St. Jude the Apostle Medal recipient from St. Anthony the Abbot Parish in Brooksville, Dianne Swain, and Reverend Craig Morley. Photo courtesy of Ray Bassett from Maddock Photography.

The Cathedral of St. Jude was almost full to capacity yesterday afternoon as in addition to their pastors and spouses, the honorees often were accompanied by loving and admiring children and grandchildren. To a man and woman, they always approach me and say something like, “Bishop, I am embarrassed because I am not worthy of such an honor” and I know that is exactly the kind of person the award was designed to thank. They receive a beautiful medal bearing on one side the image of St. Jude the Apostle and on the other side the diocesan coat-of-arms with the inscription, “St. Jude the Apostle Award.” The list of those honored yesterday can be seen by clicking here.

Finally, today I celebrated Mass with and invited to lunch the retired priests of the diocese and others who served other local churches and religious communities but who are retired and living in the diocese. Our senior priest is Monsignor George Cummings who is well into his nineties and close behind is Father James Hoge, OSB of St. Leo Abbey. This too is an annual event in one of the three days that run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday. I had this idea the first year I was here, certain that some of these men had no where to go for Thanksgiving and we needed an annual opportunity to thank them and encourage them. Now that I am seventy and a half years old, you will probably find me putting into place a lot of things which will help guarantee that the local Church does not forget those who have served so well for so many years (there is a growing sense of self-interest I told my confessor).

With the retired clergy gathered for the pre-Thanksgiving Mass. Photo courtesy of Deacon Rick Wells.

We had sixty-one for Mass and lunch at the Bethany Center at midday today and any bishop who does not love the wisdom, wit and commitment of his retired priests is not living on planet earth. I love and respect these men so much. I know that one or more may not be here next year and that we are all preparing for the moment when we enter eternal life now more than perhaps when we were younger. I attach my homily this morning and you can read it, if you wish, by clicking here. By the way, the reference to my culinary nemesis “vegetables” is today’s first reading which is taken from the Book of Daniel, 1:8-20 in which Daniel and his brothers grew more healthy when sticking to a vegetarian diet. My how I am glad that such “penance” is not an article of faith!



Friday, October 7th, 2011

The group of priests at this year's convocation, October 6, 2011-Photo kindness of Ed Foster

Approximately eighty-six priests and I have just completed the annual convocation when we get together for prayer, fraternity, and continuing education. From time immemorial, these annual convenings have taken place in a hotel/motel beginning with a Holiday Inn originally in Plant City and in more recent years at the hotel at Sable Park which has changed franchise at least four times in my fifteen years. But, this year, the majority of the priests stayed at the Bethany Center where we have fifty-three private rooms, others stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn, fifteen minutes away at FL 54 and the Suncoast Parkway and a few commuted to and from their rectories. Our topic this year was “Cultivating Unity” which had two aspects: unity among the priests and unity of the priests with their bishop (moi). We are the twenty-first diocese to contract with NOCERCC (National Organization for the Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy) and with CARA (Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate) who guide and lead the sessions based on input and feedback provided by the priests in advance of the convening through a long questionnaire and focus groups. We currently have 203 active and retired priests in the diocese who were mailed the questionnaire and 127 responded for a 63% response rate. Thirty-four of the priests attended one of the two listening sessions and a CARA representative interviewed me for about an hour. Because these same two groups have conducted the same interviews and measurement process in twenty-one other dioceses, they now have a statistical sampling to compare our priests and the sense of unity with one another and with myself against a larger Church.

Fifty-nine percent of the priests indicated that they felt the unity among themselves was either somewhat strong or very strong and eighty-two percent said that morale among the priests is high. Perhaps the best news is that ninety-five per cent of the priests indicated satisfaction with their lives as priests.  It would be too self-serving of me as the author of this blog to interpret both the data and the days together about the priests’ perception of their relationship with me as their bishop, but it was wonderfully affirming of my presence the past fifteen and one half years, and I will leave it at that. The fathers had four opportunities to discuss among themselves both the survey results and what they might mean for their ministry and for mine. Worries and anxieties tended to settle on the amount of work occasioned by the reduction in the number of priests, the poor position in which they perceive the diocese to be in for serving the rapidly growing Hispanic Catholic population, and some possible initiatives currently being discussed such as a capital funds drive and an initiative to save and/or strengthen Catholic schools. That comprised the work element of our time together.

I have not seen the evaluations of this year’s convocation but I would be very surprised if the presence, wisdom and insights of our Spiritual Moderator, Bishop Paul D. Etienne of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming were notBishop Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne off the charts. Again in the interest of transparency, Bishop Etienne and I have been friends for twenty-seven years now and you may recall that I preached at his episcopal ordination two years ago, December 9, 2009. Bishop Etienne spoke to us in homiletic fashion at Mass and Morning and or Evening Prayer each day. Yesterday as we were breaking up to leave for home, one priest after another came up to him to thank him for his presence, to wish him well, and say good-bye, they hope only for a while. I began the practice of asking bishop friends to be present and help us during these convocations for several reasons, not the least of which is that sometimes the office of bishop often seems defined by the governance or administration phase and the sacramental phase, notably presence at confirmations and other significant calendar moments. Some bishops though not this one has a wealth of wonderful theology to share but seldom have an opportunity to do so. That’s why over the fifteen convocations which I have been present for, with the concurrence of the planning committee, I have invited bishops to serve as Spiritual Moderators. They also hear confessions and make themselves available to any priest who wishes to see them. Bishop Etienne was simply wonderful at that. Like myself he writes a regular blog to his people, often rich in spiritual insights (sadly unlike myself) and if you would like to take the measure of the bishop servant who spent four days with your priests, you can access him by Read him after you have read here. I am so proud to be a friend of Bishop Paul and I use this moment to thank him.

Finally, the annual convocation is a major event of planning and execution. For twenty years, Father Michael O’Brien has chaired the committee which works long and hard in advance and during the week to see that we are care for in every conceivable way. I wish to thank Father Mike who is finishing his work (he is now a “Dean” of his deanery) and his committee as well as our outside guests, Father Stephen Fichter of CARA, Father Mark Hession of NOCERCC and Trish of NOCERCC for their invaluable contribution and presence during these days.



Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

With USF medical students. Photo courtesy of Dana Rozance.

Two events in the recent week remind me of how lucky I am as bishop and this local Church is as diocese. On Saturday night last, I celebrated the Eucharist for about 100 physicians and their spouses in what is called the annual “White Mass.” Added to this group of practicing physicians were seven medical students from the University of South Florida College of Medicine, invited guests of the physicians and their spouses. The beautiful Bethany Center was the site for the annual gathering. They always invite someone to give a talk during the dinner and this year we were pleased to hear from Doctor Peter Morrow, who in 2014 will be the President of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) of the United States. Dr. Morrow and his wife are from St. Cloud in the Orlando diocese and he is a convert to Catholicism. His presentation was on the identity of the Catholic Physician and the responsibilities in the practice of medicine which accompany the doctors’ Catholic faith. I was impressed with not only his insights into what it means to be a “Catholic physician” but also the medical-moral precepts which should guide that same practice. We had guest physicians from the diocese of Orlando and Venice and they were amazed at the size of the turnout of doctors who came to our White Mass. I suspect we lead the state in this regard and this is due in no small part to the founding physicians who started the event even before I arrived as bishop. Some of them were also present for the night.

With members of the local guild of the CMA. Photo courtesy of Dana Rozance.

On Tuesday night of this week I hosted at Bethany the members of LEGATUS, an association of Catholic professional persons who are deeply committed to their faith and who commit to bring it into their workplace in an appropriate manner. LEGATUS was begun by Thomas Monahan who though raised in a Catholic orphanage went on to found the Dominos Pizza chain, owned for a brief time the Detroit Tigers, and now has founded and funded Ave Maria College near Immacollee in Collier County with its attendant law school. This group of dedicated Catholic business people, physicians and lawyers meet for Mass and dinner once each month and hear impressive speakers raising faith values. There are some fairly stiff requirements to belong to LEGATUS but their membership is gaining and I embrace them because they are a strong core group working for Gospel values in the world of business.

My week finishes with a meeting of the Board of Directors of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami today (Thursday) followed by the same for St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach tomorrow and the Florida Catholic Conference on Saturday morning, also at St. Vincent Seminary. This will be my first opportunity to visit with thirty-three of our thirty-four seminarians (remember one is studying in Rome at the North American College and I will see him in November) since their school year started. At both the White Mass and LEGATUS Mass, the good news of God’s blessings on us in the persons of our young men preparing for priesthood was greeted with sustained applause and clear delight. God is truly good to us – now we must not squander that divine goodness.



Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Fair Warning

The bishops of the lower east coast (Diocese of Wilmington all the way down to the Archdiocese of Miami and including the Archdiocese for the Military Services) held their annual four day retreat for the first time this year at the Bethany Center. Our “retreat master” was Bishop Jaime Soto, the bishop of Sacramento, California and his short talks to us focused on the psalms and their meaning and application for our lives today. I found his insights and his applications to be challenging, thoughtful and very rewarding. The retreat master in addition to speaking to a “gaggle” of bishops, has to give ten conference and three homilies at Mass during the three and a half day annual retreat. This was the first time that my brothers from episcopal regions 4 (provinces of Baltimore, Washington and the Military Services) and 14 (Atlanta and Miami) met here in this diocese for the retreat and they found our Bethany Center beautiful, seductively silent, comfortable beyond belief for retreat centers, and the food as one bishop who had probably eaten too much, “better than on a cruise ship.” (We used to call a comparison like this, “damning with feint praise”) The staff at Bethany went out of their way to make the two cardinals, six archbishops, and twenty-four bishops in attendance comfortable. The non-spiritual highlight of the week occurred on Wednesday when Cardinal Wuerl spied two alligators. That word spread more quickly than the word of God. Then there were the herd of twenty deer who appeared at appropriate moments, the resident armadillo, the wild turkeys, the herons and a second alligator. Amazing the lengths we go to in pleasing our guests. This diocese shines, dear friends, in its people, places and programs. In a few days I will acknowledge my fifteen anniversary of ordination as a bishop and we have come through a lot and come a long way.




Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Many things on my mind today and the week just ended has been one of the most physically taxing in a long time since the normal Advent and pre-Christmas schedule was interrupted by a trip to Baltimore for a meeting at Catholic Relief Services. So, here goes,

Bishop John Noonan was installed as fifth bishop of Orlando on Thursday at the Shrine Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe. A congregation in excess of 2,500 warmly welcomed their new shepherd and in his homily, the new shepherd demonstrated the warmth of his love and fondness for his new diocese. The ceremony was quite lovely and lasted less than 105 minutes which is a miracle in itself. Bishop Noonan did a wonderful thing at the end of Mass when in speaking of Advent as the season of hope, he invited all the seminarians present to come forward as witnesses to hope which the faithful should have for their Church. The bishop has spent almost seventeen of his twenty-seven years in the priesthood working in seminary formation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, as Dean of Men and then for a good number of years as President-Rector. About eighty seminarians came forth to a standing and prolonged ovation from the people at the Shrine and proudly I could identify about twenty-five as being from our diocese.

Last night saw the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families (about 190 persons), their pastors and priest friends, and myself. Following Mass in the St. James Chapel we proceeded to Archbishop Favalora Hall where we had dinner and bade farewell with great gratitude to Father Leonard Plazewski who has held the position of Vocation Director of this diocese for twelve and a half years. An earlier post here indicated the transition and who his replacements would be in that very important position within the diocese. The seminarians are fond of Father Len and so the leave-taking was not that easy for him or for many but the Church of St. Petersburg owes him a debt of thanks for his hard work over the years recruiting and assisting seminarians through to priesthood. It is always wonderful to see our men and their families in a relaxed atmosphere and to begin to acknowledge the coming of Christmas with their return to their homes.

Fr. Len Plazewski

Father Len Plazewski saying his good-by and thanks to those present for the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families. (Photo courtesy of A. Padilla, seminarian)

The Bethany Center is fast becoming my second home as I seem to be spending many nights there lately. Prior to last night, I held the third of my overnights with our priests, this time being the international priests (born and formed in other countries like Poland, India, African nations, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and Central and South America). Our lengthy conversations about their experiences in coming to minister in the United States and in this diocese were both illuminating and helpful to me. They are a great and generous group of men who understand the challenges of language, culture, accent, etc. and who wish nothing more than to be accepted by me, by you, and by their brother priests as no longer a category (e.g. “international priests”) but just as priests of the diocese.

I have had only one angry over-the-top “comment” to a blog entry here which focused on the lack of a “corpus” (figure of Christ) on the large crucifix at Holy Family Catholic Church and made much of the stained glass window of the “Risen Christ” in the rear of the sanctuary. I regret ruining this readers day then and now as I failed to mention that the wood-carved body of Christ did not arrive on time to be installed on the cross and is due in a few weeks and as for the “stained-glass window”, it was in the church since its first dedication and was a sine qua non for the older parishioners in the renovation. When the figure of Jesus arrives and is placed, I will put a picture here in the profound hope that the reader will calm down but I would bet not. He was from Michigan, anyway, not the parish or the diocese.

This evening a number of the staff of our Pastoral Center gathered at Pinellas Hope to prepare, serve and feed the 262 residents on this cold Florida night. Working without a raise for the last two years, this group paid for the food, prepared it, and served it. I lent them my presence and not my culinary expertise of which I have none.

Pastoral Center staff serving one line at Pinellas Hope on December 19, 2010

Father Bob Morris and his mom also helped out

When the new year begins, forty bishops from the East Coast (the Wilmington diocese down to Miami) will gather for their annual retreat from the 3-7 of January at the Bethany Center. Several Cardinals, four archbishops and the rest bishops will spend their first visit to Bethany being led in our prayer and reflection by Bishop Jaime Soto who is the bishop of Sacramento, California. They are all looking forward to coming back to the Diocese of St. Petersburg after having spent a week here this past summer, hoping for warm weather (a coin toss in early January as we locals know), and ready to enjoy our hospitality and the beauty and comfort of Bethany. So I still have some blogs left in me right up to and including the Feast of the Holy Family a week from today but after that – SILENCE until the 7th of January.

That just about empties the file I have in my mind. Enjoy this final week of hope and expectation.



Friday, December 3rd, 2010

As I promised in my blog entry “AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT” videos of Bishop Cupich’s presentation on the new translation of the Roman Missal are now available on our diocesan video site.  The videos are divided into the three parts of Bishop Cupich’s presentation: History of Language and Translation in the Mass, The People’s Parts, and The Priest’s Parts.  The videos are also included below so that you can watch them here.  You may also be interested to download a PDF handout of the presentation slides From Sacramentary to New Roman Missal.