Posts Tagged ‘Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School’


Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I can see the light at the end of the annual “spring” tunnel and so can many of our priests, educators, parish personnel and others engaged in the enterprise of spreading the Gospel in the five counties of the diocese. As I write this, I have four more confirmations scheduled, one cook-out tomorrow night with those few seminarians remaining in the diocese for the summer and the graduation exercise next Monday night for this year’s participants in the Lay Pastoral Ministry effort. I have two commitments outside of the diocese in the next three weeks including a meeting in New York of the Catholic Medical Mission Board on which I serve and an invitation to give the first Bishop Joseph Sullivan lecture as the keynoter at the annual Catholic Health Association Assembly in Chicago. I think I’ll make it! So allow me a few paragraphs to do some summing up of the year in review.

First, I wish to express my profound gratitude to many of you who through comments, e-mails, and letters, etc., shared with me your sorrow for Father Vladimir Dziadek and your concern for myself. No blog entry has achieved the number of comments as did the last posted here and with a single exception of one person who utilized two comment opportunities, all have embraced the twin themes of forgiveness and mercy. Father’s funeral in Poland is today (June 3, 2014) and my Mass this evening will attempt to connect spiritually with those with whom he had familial ties as they grieve his loss. St. Joseph parish under their new administrator, Father Carlos Rojas, is recovering very well with renewed energy and commitment from everyone and that is reassuring.

My annual rounds of the high school baccalaureate Masses (Jesuit, Clearwater Central and Tampa Catholic) and graduations (St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names, and Bishop McLaughlin High School) are now history. I have listened to four salutatorian addresses (St. Petersburg Catholic had a tie for this honor), three valedictorian addresses, five lengthy remarks from school principals, and way too many acknowledgments of my presence at the events which reminded me too much of the old days when the bishop was treated like royalty.  I have been impressed with the seriousness of the graduates this year in particular, with the love and admiration they hold both for their sacrificing parents as well as their teachers (quite often mentioned by name) and their references to their basic faith in God. At times it has seemed like a long desert had to be plowed through, arid and with little water of refreshment and regeneration as neither God nor faith nor Catholic nor thanks were extended to those who really deserved the recognition. Don’t know what is currently in the air, but it is refreshing!

There is not much left of summer vacation, even though it has yet to begin. Our seminarians are either in Guatemala or Honduras studying intensive Spanish, in Omaha at Creighton’s Institute for Priestly Formation studying how to be holier, at Tampa General Hospital in Clinical Pastoral Education learning how to listen, or working in parishes with everything from youth ministry to painting. By my count they have only nine weeks until they are back in the seminary, scratching their heads and wondering where the time as gone. Teachers and school administrators are closer to reporting for the new school year today than recalling Easter Sunday and their Spring break. Such is the rhythm of life these days. When I recall that my summer vacation started a day or two prior to Memorial Day and ended a day or two after Labor Day, that was a real summer vacation.

Priests too used to take a month (or if you were from Ireland where there are six weeks in a month) off but now they are lucky to grab a few weeks. There are less of us which means less priests to cover and the shortened summer has shortened most summer vacations for your priests. We seem to all have become prisoners of a new reality which is more occasions of shorter times off. My men work hard for the most part and it is generally acknowledged that few of them take care of themselves in the manner in which they should. Sad really but something of a sign of the times. I wish them the best and begrudge them little. Understandable when a trip home means lengthy and challenging travel such as to Ireland, Poland, India and Africa, the time away should be a little longer as there is no home for these men to go to recover from Christmas and Easter and the mad and merry month of May.

Despite it all, the wonderful work of sharing the “Joy of the Gospel” continues unabated throughout the summer months. Where there was once a full choir at a Mass, there may now be only a cantor and organist; where there once may have been a youth group, there may now be only trips to Cove Crest. The Church, like nature, abhors a vacuum and the Spirit whose coming we recall this coming Sunday leads and guides us. I intend to continue posting from time to time throughout the summer because my mind never shuts down but my episcopal clock is still working its way toward ecclesial midnight. Like Robert Frost, I feel “I have miles to go before I sleep” and with you, to continue to choose “the road less travelled by.” Have a great summer.





Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Baccalaureate Mass at Tampa Jesuit High School Chapel

Last night I was given the privilege of celebrating and preaching at the 2012 Baccalaureate Mass for the graduating seniors of Jesuit High School in Tampa. In a normal year, which this has not been, I usually, as I have mentioned before, celebrate the Baccalauerate Masses for Jesuit High School, Tampa Catholic High School, and Clearwater Central Catholic High School while handing out diplomas at commencement ceremonies for St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names and Bishop McLaughlin High School. However, this year I only had the opportunity to join the Jesuit High School community on the night prior to the graduation ceremony for their 165 seniors.

For some time, I have observed the typical social interaction of young people with each other and with others through the use of the so-called “social media.” I know it is here to stay and to argue too strongly against it could put one in the category of simply being a “dinosaur.” But communicating and living the full message of our Christian life requires far more than tweeting and texting. To focus on one or the other to the exclusion of developing those conversational skills necessary to fully convey and proclaim one’s faith in Christ Jesus requires far more. So what follows is my farewell discourse to this year’s graduating class of 16o young men. I try to make the case for expanding beyond the social media while still acknowledging that even the Church can use it. For example, look at this blog or our Diocesan Facebook or Twitter. If you have time, read the homily below and let me know what you think.

One hundred and forty characters; one hundred and forty letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation marks.  That is the limit of the length of a tweet.  That limit was originally established, as you may know, so that an entire tweet could fit into one text message.  It is short and efficient, but in that economy of length, depth of meaning is sacrificed.

It is not just in Twitter though where we find this kind of communication.  If one stops to look at today’s media as a whole, we find ourselves enmeshed in a culture of the sound bite.  News programs try to fit all stories into a segment that lasts 30 seconds, or perhaps a minute or two for a longer, feature report.  Today we tend to prefer reading headlines and/or watching highlights of speeches, debates, or even sporting events.  We can be inundated with information from countless sources, but it is all in short, snappy and slick snippets.  To communicate the truth of our faith, however, this kind of communicating will not work.  140 characters are simply not enough.

If the apostles in the upper room when Jesus appeared to them had simply reached for their iPhones and taken a photo of Thomas reaching out to Jesus and, tagged Thomas and Jesus, and posted it to Facebook with the caption “My Lord and My God,” would the depth of Thomas’s confession have been fully revealed?  I think not.  The story of our salvation is so immense, that simply sound bites or snapshots will take us nowhere.

How then, does one communicate the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that communicates today preferably with texts and twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and other ways, which personally I find incredibly impersonal? The computer, the smart phone, the iPad and iPod may take us to exciting technological places but far from the personal. Technology trumps the intimacy of personal interactions.

Nearly 2000 years ago, a small group of most-certainly illiterate fishermen used “The Social Network” of their time to do just this.  They did not have Facebook or Twitter.  They could not spread the good news of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit by posting a video to YouTube.  They could, however, let it shine through their lives and their speaking, and this is precisely what they did.

As we heard in last Sunday’s first reading for Pentecost:  the Apostles went out after receiving the Holy Spirit and told of the wonders that God had done for them and everyone heard them speak in their own language.  They did this without Google Translate.  Rather they did it with their actions: curing the sick, healing the lame, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans.

And people began to “follow” them.  They then did for others what they saw done by the apostles.  They did not retweet their words, they told and retold their stories and repeated their actions.

So, tonight, my dear brothers in Christ and soon to be graduates of Tampa Jesuit High School, I would like to propose that you are the answer to the question I posed earlier of how one can and should communicate the Gospel in a world sometimes seemingly limited to 140 characters and driven by the sound bite.  The answer has been with us from the beginning; it is, as St. Peter reminds us in the first reading simply to do as Jesus said, “be holy because I am holy.”

While we needed the words of Scripture to be written down, we will also need you to share your faith by words.  Use your education to argue rationally and passionately for what you believe.  More importantly, though, live what you believe.

Each of you has a unique character, which you have formed under the guidance of your first teachers, your parents, as well as your teachers here at Tampa Jesuit to be a witness to the Gospel.  You have been nourished in faith, given a magnificent education in the arts and sciences, and formed in the tradition of St. Ignatius Loyola to do all things for the greater glory of God and be truly men for others.  As you go forth tomorrow night from this Jesuit High School, I am convinced that with 160 human ” characters” constituting your senior and graduating class, you can and I pray you will communicate far more through your actions than simply 140 characters in a tweet.  That is how you will build up a social network for the Kingdom of God on this earth.


AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – Day One – Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

To the thresholds of SS. Peter and Paul

One does not have to be a dead pope to find one's name inscribed in marble in Rome - the story of this follows in the post

Delta delivered us to the threshold of SS. Peter and Paul almost on time this morning. Leaving JFK in New York the captain was almost delirious about what an absolutely glorious day today would be in Rome: seventies, not a cloud in the sky, gentle breezes out of the southeast. As we were bouncing our merry way along Newfoundland, he repeated his weather forecast like Santa Claus on the night before Christmas.  Couldn’t see the ground when landing, bumpy on the way down from brisk winds and temps in the low sixties. But we were here, thank God, safe and sound.

I am accompanied on this trip by several of my long time, long suffering staff: Joan Morgan, Chancellor and her husband, Dick; Elizabeth Deptula, Secretary of Diocesan Administration and her husband Stan, Paul Ward, Diocesan Chief Financial Officer and his wife Claudia, and Monsignor Bob Morris, my long-suffering Vicar General. All but the Morgans have been to Rome before so there will be no surprises for them.

The Holy Father this morning met with the bishops from U.S. Region XIII (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona) to give them the fourth in a series of five talks which means that in all likelihood we will not have a second meeting with him next week. There are fifteen episcopal regions comprising the Church in the United States and Region XV consists of all the eastern and oriental rites, which are in communion with the Holy See – it appears they will get the last word. We also know today upon arrival that the province of Atlanta will meet with the Holy Father on Monday leaving us likely candidates for seeing him on Thursday or Friday. He must be tired of the string of American bishops he has been seeing almost every week since the fall.

Ryan Boyle, our seminarian completing the first of his four years as a student here at the North American College met me at the front door when the car turned in. I have come here so often in my life, found my room number at the front door and just gone right to it that it was a pleasure to have Ryan at my side with the suitcases. He beams when describing his first year here at the College and at the Gregorian where he studies. Himself a graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs; he is no stranger to discipline and good order. We “co-sponsor” Ryan with the Archdiocese of the Military Services and this means that after three years in a parish in the diocese, he will be released to return to the Air Force, this time as a priest-chaplain. I am looking forward to spend some quality time with him this week. He will be joined in late summer by another of our diocesan seminarians, Alex Padilla from Spring Hill (and our first vocation from Bishop McLaughlin High School) so next year we will have two and each will have a brother to share life and experiences with.

The North American College is a monstrous building erected after the close of the Second World War to house the expected increase in American seminarians who would be studying in Rome. Sitting on Vatican owned property directly above St. Peter’s and the Vatican City State, it commands a sweeping view of the city of Rome as well as the Vatican City State. I have often thought what would Conrad Hilton or J.W. Marriott have been willing to give for a spot like this. The  almost two-hundred and fifty  seminarians living here basically just sleep, study, pray and play here. They walk thirty to forty minutes each day to one of the several Pontifical Universities in city for their education. Oldest among the universities are the Gregorian staffed by the Jesuits, the Angelicum staffed by the Dominicans, the Anselmo staffed by the Benedictines, Holy Cross staffed by Opus Dei, and many others. U.S. seminarians usually attend one of the first two aforementioned. Here at the North American College the staff is comprised mainly of diocesan priests from the United States of America with some religious sisters included. Monsignor James Checchio has served as Rector for about the last seven years and has presided over a major increase in enrollment making the NAC the largest diocesan seminary-training priests for the United States.

The view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica from the screen-end porch of the "Bishops Lynch-Larkin Suite"

One more piece of nonsense. I am writing these words while staying in the “Bishops Larkin and Lynch Suite” at the North American College, a beautiful four room suite looking right at the dome of St. Peter’s. Other “suites” on the hall are devoted to the late Cardinal’s Bernardin of Chicago, Sheehan of Baltimore, Wright of Pittsburg, Hickey of Washington, D.C., and Cooke of New York. What, you might ask, is Lynch doing among the dead cardinals and he is (a) alive and (b) just a lowly bishop?

The living/dining area of the "Bishops Larkin-Lynch" Suite

In 1996 when I was in my first year as bishop, my friend Timothy Michael Dolan was Rector of the North American College. He asked me if I would gather together some people of means from the diocese so he could meet with them and make a plea for money for the North American, which he led. Fool that I was, I quickly agreed and Dolan came to my house for the first time to raise money. That night he left with about $750,000 in pledges and gifts. There was money for a new gymnasium so the men could safely and seriously exercise (c. $200,000), there was money for a new computer lab ($100,000) so the men could write papers, send e-mails etc. which was not possible then from their rooms, there was money for two new vans which could help the seminarians get to and from their apostolic work ($100,000) and finally there was a gift for a new suite of rooms being built on the roof of the college which would house bishops when they were in Rome. The diocesan donor of that gift wanted the suite to be named the Monsignor Timothy M. Dolan Suite but the Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the time said it would be unseemly for a sitting rector to have a monument to himself dedicated while still in the Rector’s Chair. So the diocesan donor from St. Petersburg reluctantly gave in and insisted that it be named for Bishops Larkin and myself. So there is my name in marble above the “threshold” just like two others we have come to venerate and recall. If the kids on the block could see me now! My humble home away from home.



Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

The new school year is about to begin in our diocesan elementary and high schools, in fact it has already begun in the high schools. The diocese has a new Superintendent of Schools and there are a number of new principals in the various buildings. In the last two weeks, however, I have been looking at some statistics on the measurement of success of transmitting the faith in our Catholic schools in the diocese which I wish to share with you. They are encouraging. But before getting into the results of the testing, I feel compelled to once again raise the question of “Why Catholic schools?” To my mind there is only one plausible and logical answer to this question and that is that Catholic schools are the most effective way of transmitting the faith from one generation to the next. If they fail in this regard, then there is little reason for the Church to spend so much money and energy in maintaining them.

But teaching the faith is only part of the equation, though it is that part that is the responsibility of the schools themselves. Practicing the faith at the same time it is being taught is the responsibility of the sending parents. Like love and marriage in the famous song from the musical OKLAHOMA, “you can’t have one without the other.”

Too often we hear, I don’t know what happened to the faith of my children? I sent them to Catholic schools and yet today they do not practice. It is so sad. Well I am here to tell you that the school alone is not and has never been enough. What is taught must be lived and that lived experience is up to the parents and/or guardians. One can teach the Fourth Commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day” till one is blue in the face, can teach the gift that is the Eucharist to the children, but when Mom and Dad could but choose not to attend Sunday Mass with their children, then all that is taught is in conflict with all that is lived. So I pray and hope that the opening of school this year will be accompanied by a firmer commitment on the part of parent users to accompany their children on the journey of faith and support what is taught in the classroom with what is practiced in Church.

Now, to what is taught and how effective are our schools in transmitting the faith. Each year our elementary schools administer in the fifth and eighth grades the Assessment of Catechesis Religious Education developed and administered by the National Catholic Education Association. Additionally, our four high schools administer a similar test to eleventh graders. Jesuit High School and the Academy of the Holy Names either do not administer the test or choose not to share the results with me and with the diocesan school office. The good news is that in every category tested, our students outperformed the national average, often considerably so. The “domains” which are tested are God; Church; Liturgy and Sacraments; Revelation, Scripture and Faith; Life in Christ; Church History; Prayer/Religious Practice; and Faith Literacy. There are also four “pillars” which are also measured and those are: Creed, Liturgy/Sacraments, Morality and Prayer.  Both knowledge and attitudes are measured and the “domains” mentioned above reflect key concepts of our faith while the “pillars” reflect the Pillars of Faith according to the Catechism of the Church.

One interesting note to me is that for the past three years while the diocese has been focusing on its “Eucharistic Initiative”, the students’ awareness, understanding of and appreciation for Liturgy and the Sacraments has increased – perhaps the first fruit of bring all the teachers of our young together for in-service education on this centrality of our faith. I have before me the scores for the past five years and they have been and remain substantially and significantly higher than the national average. I can also tell something of the effectiveness of each of our elementary schools but these raw scores must be interpreted carefully. Any standardized test requires basic reading skills and some of our elementary schools work with students whose reading aptitude is far below the norm for the year of study. All in all, I wish to compliment our elementary schools teachers and principals for a good year of transmitting the faith.

Our four high schools are also above the national average but not as markedly and remarkably as the elementary schools. I would like to see the results higher in the coming years and I will be communicating this hope to the high school principals soon. There are also some very remarkable variances and differences between the test scores of our four high schools with Tampa Catholic consistently outscoring her three sister schools (St. Petersburg Catholic, Clearwater Central Catholic, and Bishop McLaughlin). Again, I should also note that in the domain and pillar of Liturgy and Sacraments, there are also to be found better results in the last three years. I have reviewed all the results with our Director of Faith Formation, Brian Lemoi, and know that a careful reading, perhaps more careful than I have given which I would term more “cursory” than “careful” is required, but I can affirm to all parents reading this blog entry that I truly believe that in the area of faith formation and transmission, you are getting what you paid for. Now I plead with you to do your part.



Sunday, May 16th, 2010

For centuries the Church has put “funny” hats on its bishops. In our case, they are called mitres and zuchettas (Italian word for the purple beanie). The mitre can be traced back to a certain headgear that was worn by Jewish High Priests but in Catholicism is evolved into a front and back of somewhat triangular shape and various colors. I thought of the mitre today as I presided (without wearing one) at the first of six high school graduations and/or baccalaureate Masses. But we bishops do not have a lock-on distinctive headgear. The traditional headgear of a high school and college/university graduate can be even more distinctive and occasionally troublesome. Of course, I am speaking of the mortarboard or cap worn at graduation ceremonies. The graduate has worked hard at various levels of educational activity for the privilege of wearing a cap and a gown at their graduation. Unlike bishops, they only have to wear them a couple of times in their lifetime and in some graduation ceremonies they can not wait to toss them into the air. Bishops can’t do that – they cost too much for one thing. But in the history of civilization, headgear has often been a sign of accomplishment or office.

The graduation season at the six high schools in the diocese began this Sunday afternoon (May 16th) and for all but last year, I have tried to be present to the graduates and their families at this special moment of achievement. Some of my brother bishops have chosen not to attend graduation or baccalaureate Masses for a variety of reasons but I see it as one last opportunity to accomplish several goals: to briefly remind the graduates that they are being sent to the world to among other things make Christ more present; that the education they have received is a sign of the love for them which their parents or guardians and the Church have as today it comes at considerable financial sacrifice; and, finally, that at least in our Catholic schools, administrators, teachers, and staff also make a big sacrifice to be present to them and help them. It all has to  be done rather expeditiously because the graduating class just wants to get out, get on with the parties and celebrations and get on with their lives. This afternoon I tried to remember who spoke at my high school graduation, who were the salutatorian and valedictorian. Couldn’t! Could not even remember who did it for my college graduation either. So the “who” of graduation day and the “what” he or she said is very transitory.

I did look at the graduates however and I do have the feeling that we have done the best we can for them to prepare them for their next adventure. At least at St. Petersburg Catholic I see them arrive in their freshman year and grow, physically, emotionally, spiritually and educationally. I can tell that their Catholic school experience made some difference. Our schools compete against a lot in the culture and world which teen-agers experience today. High schools do not always win that tug-of-war, but I still think we make enough of a difference that we must be committed to keeping the opportunity available for future high school generations. A sometime endless debate centers on whether or not, if one could have only one, would elementary or high schools be the place where one deposits the greatest investment. At the moment and I hope up to the time I leave, it will never be “either-or” but “both-and.” The elementary schools after all are the principle feeders for the high schools.

To all the graduates of St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names, Bishop McLaughlin, Tampa Catholic, Jesuit, and Clearwater Central Catholic, I offer my congratulations but I save my greatest good wishes for those loving parents and guardians and faculties and staffs who make this day possible annually.


Updated: Here are some photos of yesterday’s (5/16/2010) Graduation at St. Petersburg Catholic.

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