Posts Tagged ‘Bishops’ Meeting’

HARBORING INNER THOUGHTS

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
The sun rises on Monday over Baltimore's Inner Harbor

The sun rises on Monday over Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

I was ordained a priest by Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, the second (arch)bishop of Miami. I cherish his memory still and love him as a father. But he had a habit whenever he flew anywhere on Church business to write out in longhand a letter to the people of the Archdiocese which he entitled “Devotedly Yours.” They would always in some way share the experiences of the meetings he attended, the agenda or ideas presented, etc. and he always wrote them on the airplane coming home.

As he grew older, the cynics among us used to ascribe what could at times become mere musings to the effect of altitude on the brain. Well, I am now at that age and am on the plane home following the November meeting of bishops in Baltimore along its beautiful inner harbor with pictures from my hotel room at dawn and dusk. We are at 36,000 feet, so if some ideas don’t compute or all the dots do not connect, attribute them to altitude not age.

My first thought about the meeting just concluded is that there was so little business there must be a cheaper and more efficient way of doing it. Beginning on Monday morning, we had seven and one half hours of public session business. I looked around the room and felt sorry for all those observers and invited guests, the media (feeling sorry for the media is a tough task for me) and others who sat around waiting to hear us engage in something which might effect their lives or make them proud in some way.

There’s always some business like the budget, the priorities and plans of the organization, elections (more about this later) that are required and necessary. But ever since the end of the “liturgical wars” a few years ago, our meetings seem to me to lack a lot of substance. For a long time I attributed it to the conference reorganization which took place about six years ago and the need for the new committee structure to learn how to crawl, walk and then run but that does not seem to be it. I served in the General Secretariat of the NCCB/USCC for eleven years and we struggled to fit everything into a three and one half day time frame so we could adjourn by noon on Thursday. This time we finished our public business by noon on Tuesday. True, we had three hours of meeting by regions and a nearly full day of Executive Sessions but other than approving some necessary liturgical texts, giving permission to a committee to develop a pastoral statement on pornography, we didn’t do a lot to advance the kingdom of God on earth – at least publicly.

That brings me to the growing tendency to seek the shelter of “Executive Sessions” which seems to be expanding. Bishops don’t particularly like the glare of the cameras, the presence of the press and photographers. We seem to be intimidated by it and often choose to place the more “juicy stuff” into Executive Sessions.

There have been many times in recent years when I wished that God’s people could hear the debate and the engagement of their bishops on many of the topics in the Executive Sessions. Some of the best, most thoughtful, charitable debates and discussions have taken place therein. If I am edified after almost forty-one years of attending these annual meetings, that must mean something. There certainly are times and subjects where we need to be in an Executive Session, but that is becoming more the norm than the exception. The church suffers, credibility flies out-the-door in certain circles, and can seem to some to be cowardly. I don’t think this area of our communal life and ministry of bishops is going to change anytime soon.

A lot of pre-meeting hype went into the elections for the office of President and Vice-President this time. Notwithstanding the unexpected which happened three years ago, the expected happened this time and we gave the Church in this country a fine President for the next three years. I would wish to be able to “dream” that my early endorsement in these pages had something to do with his first ballot victory (it’s the altitude thing!!!!).

Archbishop Kurtz is a fine man and a grand bishop. So is Cardinal Dolan and it irked me the other day when a certain columnist in the Catholic press suggested he might have engineered the surprise of three years ago. He did not – take it to the bank. He was nominated on the list of ten and was also embarrassed at that turn of events. He has had a difficult three years with the Affordable Care Act and the contraceptive mandate and at all times he has been compassionate and caring. He’s genuine. I have known him for a long time and he has not changed. Most of the men who had him as their Rector at the North American College idolize him (he would himself prefer a more modest verb like “respect”). He can now look forward to a lot more time in and with New York and the local Church he has been called to serve. You can not appreciate how much time and energy being President of our Conference requires of a man and he deserves our thanks. It is important to remember that the success or failure of any elected officer depends on the skill and work of the executive staff, the General Secretary and his Associates. They anticipate his needs, sometimes his thoughts, and execute his wishes which flow from the actions of the majority of its membership.

Finally, on the matter of elections, the choice of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as Vice-President means that the Diocese of St. Petersburg will provide His Eminence with his first speaking engagement since being elected, this Saturday night, at the Foundation for Life Gala in Tampa. He will be my house guest on Saturday night.

Planning and executing our twice yearly meetings of the bishops of the United States is a herculean task and it is well handled by the staff of the USCCB every time. I think sometimes we appreciate them more than our elected officers for they are ready for our every need.

I have heard from some of you who watched the TV feed of the meeting and have contacted me to ask what I was addled about regarding the Collection for the Philippine Relief .

From time immemorial, Catholic Relief Services has raised money for disaster relief and development for people and not for Church infrastructure needs. When the massive earthquake hit Haiti four years ago, many Church structures were destroyed including the Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, the seminary, hospitals and parish churches and schools. We took up in our diocese significant gifts of money to help people, but for the first time, a decision was made that in this one instance, some of the money would be split and go to church and institutional rebuilding. I did not like the idea when I learned of it because in our diocese we raised the money to help those thin, emaciated bodies of children and adults who were homeless and in immediate need of food, clothing, water, etc. Additionally the decision to split was made not by the plenary assembly, which usually has competence in national collections, nor in this instance was the Board of Catholic Relief Services queried or the Conference’s own Committee on Budget and Finance. It was just announced. Poof!

During the discussion of CRS on Monday afternoon I learned for the first time that any monies raised and sent to the Conference for the Philippines would also be split. Eventually I was able to ascertain that each bishop who raised money in this current moment of devastation and lack of hope in those islands could do one of three things:

1. He can take the collection up and send it to USCCB knowing that it will be split.

2. He can take the collection up and send it to USCCB and indicate that it not be split but go to one of the two uses only.

3. He can send the money directly to CRS which will not split it but use it for humanitarian aid only.

In the Diocese of St. Petersburg, all monies collected for Typhoon relief will be sent to Catholic Relief Service and used to help those desperate brothers and sisters we see on the front page of both of our papers or on TV.

The sun sets over another USCCB Fall Assembly of Bishops - same scene as above but nine hours later.

The sun sets over another USCCB Fall Assembly of Bishops – same scene as above but nine hours later.

They are threatening me now on the plane to get ready for landing in Tampa. It will be great to be home for the holidays.

The sun in setting on Baltimore now but the five counties are still bright and shiny.

+RNL

IF IT’S NOVEMBER, IT MUST BE BALTIMORE

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

The bishops of the United States are gathering in Baltimore beginning next Monday for the annual Fall meeting of the United States Catholic Conference so this morning I dug out my overcoat which is only used on this occasion, gathered 1.2 pounds of paper which has been sent out in advance of the meeting together, and selected several long sleeve shirts and one sweater along with my alb and stole to be used for concelebrating Mass. I’m all set to go. But, before leaving I have the funeral Mass for Deacon Rafael Quiles who died at age eighty-six after serving twenty-two years as a deacon in this diocese (he was ordained for Cleveland), mostly spent in jail ministry and at Transfiguration Catholic Church in St. Petersburg. Then Saturday night I will celebrate and preach at the annual White Mass for doctors, dentists, nurses and others in the medical profession. And on Sunday morning I will officially install Father Alan Weber as the third pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in Clearwater. I leave for Baltimore at six on Sunday night, arrive at 11:30pm and check into the hotel for three nights.

The USCCB meeting is once again rather thin on agenda items although we will be looking at and voting on new translations for the Order of Celebrating Marriage and the Order of Confirmation. Also action will be taken on adaptations to the Misal Romano or Spanish translation of the Roman Missal.  I don’t foresee long debates on any of these items but in our episcopal conference, the bishops abhor a vacuum and verbal sparks can sometimes fly when least expected. The Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth is proposing a formal statement on pornography for our action and then there are the budget for the coming year and the plans and programs and some other housekeeping matters.

What is likely to capture the greatest attention will be the vote for a new president and vice-president of the Conference. Three years ago I went to this meeting having heard that there was something of a “putsch” afoot to block the election of the sitting Vice- President but I did not think it possible. It has always made very good sense to me that the task of the President of the conference is better served and filled with someone who prepared for three years by serving as Vice-President. Early in my lifetime in the episcopal conference, that wisdom was born out when on two occasions I think the elected Vice-President was too old to serve a term of three years as President. When the vote was taken and my friend Archbishop (then) Dolan was elected, I was astounded, disappointed and somewhat ashamed. He had nothing to do with the shenanigans and was bright enough to have served well but knowing him as I do, I would bet he might say that three years as Vice-President might have helped some. Anyway a great bishop was embarrassed, a group of bishops within the conference were celebrating their victory, and I thought it was one of the worst experiences of being a bishop I had experienced.

I know of no such underground-swell this time and I expect, hope and pray that Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville is elected. He is a great churchman, a good archbishop for his diocese, and would represent us well as has Cardinal Dolan. I will cast my vote for Vice-President out of loyalty and confidence for my former colleague in the Office of the General Secretary, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati. Those two neighboring ordinary Ohio River ordinaries would serve the Church well for the next three years.

Usually I return from Baltimore on the train which gives me times to reflect and write of the meeting for this blog but I must be back in St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening to receive a special award so fly I must.

I don’t like to make nice people mad by what I write in this space but I did it to a few in the post on the growing presence of Hispanics in this local Church. I didn’t make the Hispanics mad, I made my own people of Irish lineage mad. You see I suggested that I doubted that the Blessed Mother had ever really been at the Shrine of Knock in Ireland because I have always found it too cold there on umpteen visits at all times of the year. I should not have even remotely suggested that even though there is this marvelous story about the Monsignor who built the shrine and the “international” airport at Knock from the ground up and his conversation with the Irish Prime Minister at the time of the grand opening of the airfield. It is a great story but I would only make more people mad so I am sorry and enough said. It is awfully cold there,  however.

+RNL

50/25 – PURE GOLD AND SILVER

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Florida bishops (minus Pensacola-Talllahassee which is still waiting for a new bishop to be announced and installed) met in Miami on Tuesday as guests of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. It took us four hours to dispose of the business of the Florida Catholic Conference. Conference Executive Director Dr. D. Michael McCarron presented us with a lengthy agenda of action items about which there were no real differences of opinion but a need to know more about the challenges which face the Church in Florida in 2012. This state is so lucky to have a superb Executive Director who is assisted by a very able, competent and committed staff. The results of the Conference over the years in the public square far exceeds the per cent of the state population which is Roman Catholic and stands as a testament to prudent, respectful and appreciative engagement with past Administrations (Chiles, Bush, Crist, and Scott in my time) and legislatures.

From left, bishops who attended the Mass included: Bishop Victor Galeone, retired of St. Augustine: Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo.; Bishop John Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice; myself; and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

In the evening we reconvened at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami to celebrate retired Archbishop John C. Favalora’s golden anniversary of priestly ordination and silver anniversary of episcopal ordination. I hope and pray that you remember kindly the five years that Archbishop Favalora served as our third bishop here in St. Petersburg. About one hundred and forty priests, nine bishops, and a good representation of the laity came for this special Mass of Thanksgiving.The Archbishop was both the principal celebrant of the liturgy and the homilist. I must say that St. Mary’s Cathedral has a music program to “die for” and as good as I remember it, it has never been better than this evening. The celebration took about seventy-five minutes which is not bad when one gathers that many bishops and others.

Archbishop John C. Favalora sits in the cathedra, a symbol of a bishop's authority, during the Mass. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

Archbishop Favalora gave a beautiful homily on the occasion, focusing not on himself but on the Lord’s call to serve in the priesthood. In twelve minutes (I time myself and everyone else who preaches because I firmly believe that the mind can not absorb what the tush can’t take) he gave a ratio fundamentalis or foundation reasons for what the gift of priestly ministry means in our own time. Only at the end did he quickly express his thanks to those gathered for nourishing his ministry in the past twenty-five and fifty years. At the conclusion, he was greeted with prolonged applause and standing appreciation, I believe not just for his lucid homily but for his many years of service. The Diocese of St. Petersburg is about forty-four years old now and its first bishop, Charles McLaughlin served for the first ten years, then Bishop W. Thomas Larkin succeeded him for just shy of ten years. Archbishop Favalora’s tenure was about five years and my own is soon to enter its sixteenth year. I think each of us has attempted in our own way to nourish and fashion a community of faith at the service of Christ’s Church. I have always been grateful that the Lord in his kindness allowed me to follow Archbishop Favalora because things were in great shape when I came. I only hope I can with God’s help leave them that way for my successor. In words spoken and written yesterday I extended to the good Archbishop the gratitude of the Church of St. Petersburg for his presence in our midst. He seems incredibly happy to be free of the burden of administration and I am admittedly jealous.

+RNL

DEVOTEDLY YOURS TOO – 40,000 FEET

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Hearkening back to my blog entry on the way to Seattle I find myself once again on United, flying over one of those big square states that all look alike between Colorado and the Mississippi River. Our bishops meeting in Seattle ended one hour later than scheduled last night in Bellevue, Washington with a very long Executive Session. The public agenda was very light as I have previously indicated and pretty much devoid of disagreement as I have noted already.

There is a short, succinct statement of the bishops on the matter of Physician Assisted Suicide which can be read on the USCCB website by clicking here. I found it interesting that the site of the acceptance of the document happened in a state (and along with its neighbor Oregon) which allows for it legally and that it follows closely the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian a few days ago – probably the most famous and fatal administrator of assisted suicide in the history of this nation.

Attention was given to fixing some things in the Dallas Charter for another two years before it will once again be revisited and reexamined. I know that some people, particularly victims and groups representing them believe that there are large lacuna in the charter and things which the bishops do not wish to change. Personally, as I have written earlier this week in the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, I recognize that the Charter is not a perfect roadmap to complete and total child safety but its efficacy can be seen in the radical drop in new reports of sexual misconduct against minors by priests and other Church employees. In our area of the country, our diocese, you have not had a reported instance after 1995 and contrast that with the instances in the five county public school districts and other organizations dealing with kids.

Our Diocese will be audited under some new rules as well as under some previous rules in October of this year. There is a new auditing firm. They do what are called compliance audits to make sure you are doing precisely what you promised to do. My staff and I welcome this visit and are prepared to tell them that there have been no complaints against priests, religious, volunteers, staff, faculty or volunteers during the period of the audit.

The bishops did agree to start implementing the music attached to the new Mass translations which will be used throughout the Liturgy on the First Sunday of Advent this year, so we will begin to sing the Gloria and the Agnus Dei in English using the new translation in our parishes beginning in September. I need to consult with the staff of my Worship Office to find out how best to accomplish this, so stay tuned here for more information as it becomes available.

Bishops’ meetings are opportunities to spend time with old friends, from the staff of the Conference as well as with brother bishops. This meeting marked the 51st General Meeting I have attended, either as staff (22) or as a bishop (29). My good friend Bishop Paul Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyoming, boarded the flight with me in Denver last Sunday and we spent Monday on Puget Sound and celebrated his birthday on the 15th.

What is always hard for me is that the membership of the episcopal conference is about eighty per cent new since I left the Conference’s employ and became a bishop myself. Faces that I could recognize in a nano-second are no longer present and the new faces one does not see often enough to etch them in memory. The outgoing General Secretary paid a nice but unnecessary compliment to me in his farewell speech and now I shall miss him unless and until he returns as a member.

Finally, they almost all want to come back to St. Petersburg for a meeting and soon. They loved the Vinoy, the waterfront, the gelateria on Beach Drive, the walks to Albert Whitted Airport and the Rays baseball games. I told them, you had better hurry, and the clock is ticking quickly on my time. I was happy they loved our area so much. Also the Bethany Center gets brought up often as a destination of choice for retreats and meetings. So we may not have Mt. Rainer (saw it for the first time this morning in all its glory) or Puget Sound or a seafood store where the employees toss salmon at you but we do have things which give birth to good memories. I will be glad when in one hour I step forth at TIA once again and am back with those I love.

+RNL

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

My brother bishops trying to stay awake at times. Photo furtively taken by me.

Today (Wednesday) is the first full day of the Spring meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops and we are in Seattle this year (Atlanta next year in June, then San Diego, then New Orleans). I had a ten hour meeting yesterday involving Catholic Relief Services and find that I am falling asleep around 830pm every night and waking up around 430am. I am not unhappy with that since I hope to somehow “trick” my b0dy into thinking it is still operating on Eastern Daylight Time for my return trip early on Friday morning (a 545am departure).

There are about 200 bishops present for the Spring meeting and the weather has been, well rainy, what else? We are not exactly meeting in Seattle but in a suburb called Bellevue which is the home of Microsoft. Lots of tall buildings, high end shopping stores, and not a McDonalds in sight. There is no view of Puget Sound to be had from Bellevue and no view of Mt. Ranier which has not been available since I arrived from any vantage point due to the very cloudy and overcast weather. So what else is there to do but sit in a meeting room, listen intently and look at one’s watch for the next break.

We passed a few items this morning which did not allow for amendments and listened to some oral reports. One of the more interesting was led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, who has been appointed to work with communities of Episcopalians in the United States who wish as a congregation, including their priests, to come over to the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict has reached out to these communities and their priests and will allow them to come into full communion, their priests to be ordained as deacons and priests and they can bring with them the treasured aspects of what is called the “Anglican Rite.” I listened with interest even though I know of no such movement of any parishes or communities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg wishing to come over.

There is one more hour of public session tomorrow and then we dive into the rest of the day in Executive Session which means I will not reveal any of the discussions which take place under that rubric. Overall it is a light agenda and to have come such a long way. Tonight I am invited to a farewell dinner for the departing General Secretary of the Conference, Monsignor David Malloy who will be returning to his home Archdiocese of Milwaukee after completing five years as the chief operating officer of the episcopal conference. Monsignor Malloy is the fourth occupant of that position since my own departure in 1995 (the term is for five years and it can be renewed as it was in my case but annually after five). It is customary that there is a dinner for the departing GS and all living former General Secretaries are invited. By my count there are exactly six of us remaining on this mortal coil. Monsignor Malloy has a priest brother who is residing and working in our diocese as a Chaplain at Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital, Father Frank Malloy. His successor was elected last November and will assume office on Friday with the closing gavel of this meeting.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, our new President, is chairing quite efficiently and we are considerably ahead of our meeting agenda’s schedule going into the Executive Session.

So from the shadow of the Cascade Mountain range, greetings to all back home, leave the light on as I will return on Friday.

+RNL

DEVOTEDLY YOURS

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, then the second Archbishop of Miami, ordained me a priest. He was an incredibly fine man, almost a kindly uncle to me and to most of the other priests in the Archdiocese. His primary way of communicating with the people of the Archdiocese was through an occasional column in THE VOICE  (the weekly Archdiocesan newspaper)and later the FLORIDA CATHOLIC which he entitled “Devotedly Yours”. Every time it would show up, we knew the Archbishop was writing at “altitude” or above 30,000 feet on an airplane going to someplace or coming home. Laptops were not available in those days so the Archbishop would take out a brown pen and write on the back of the air-sickness bag, a piece of hotel stationary – anything he could get his hands on and his wonderful secretary would transcribe it on a typewriter prior to submission for publication. Priests can sometimes be quite “catty” and occasionally when someone would read one of his “Devotedly Yours” columns, some crack would be made about a lack of oxygen at altitude. But those columns were very personal and one never had to struggle to discern what the great man meant.

Well, I am tonight at altitude, on board a small United Airline plane bound first for Denver and then I must switch to their fiancée in the airline business, Continental for the remainder of the trip to Seattle. Having left Tampa on Pentecost night at 710pm EDT, I will arrive Seattle at 235am EDT (1135pm PDT) and probably climb into my Hyatt hotel bed about 4 am by my body time. The Catholic bishops of the United States are holding their spring meeting this month in Seattle. You may recall that last June they held a longer assembly in St. Petersburg which they loved enough to talk about coming back again. How I wish I could once again drive down the street for twenty minutes to attend the meeting.

The actual meeting begins on Wednesday morning and ends on Friday evening but I must leave Seattle at 545am on Friday to return for the celebration of a “Blue Mass” for policemen and firemen on Saturday morning and the second and last wedding of my summer later Saturday. On Tuesday, however, the Search Committee on which I serve for a new CEO/President for Catholic Relief Services will present two candidates to the CRS Board of Directors for their ultimate decision. I am no longer able to fly coast to coast and start a meeting the next morning without some kind of rest day in between. How I hate being 70 (except that on Saturday I was called for Jury Duty in Pinellas County and discovered that if you are over seventy you do not have to serve – the first “bene” from being ancient!)

On these two very long westbound flights I have been able to read the documentation, which precedes each meeting. The most important thing I find on the public agenda is a discussion of the Dallas Charter, which was passed in 2002, and deals with how the Church will handle accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor or vulnerable adult. I have written an “Op-Ed” piece at the invitation of the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times for today’s paper in which I outline the experience in our diocese in the last ten years. It is possible that this agenda item will receive more than its share of media attention this week, but reading the changes, which are being recommended to the bishops to me indicates that there will not be a wholesale re-working of the Charter but some tightening up and tweaking. There will be a first discussion of a new document of the Conference on physician-assisted suicide entitled “To Live Each Day With Dignity, another seeking permission to develop a document on preaching, and some liturgical matters all dealing with the liturgy in Spanish. Once again it is not a particularly heavy or burdensome agenda.

So as I chase the sun west tonight on a never ending evening, I recall celebrating Pentecost this morning at St. Jude’s Cathedral and a lovely confirmation of about seventy-five young people. What a great day to confirm! Pentecost, the birthday of the Church which is the body of Christ. Have a great week and stay tuned – I intend to interrupt any boredom which may occur with blog posts.

+RNL

 

 

TRAINING

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Two years ago I took AMTRAK back to Tampa from the Fall General Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and during that trip I wrote my first entry on my new blog site. You know the rest of the story. Well, this evening I am on the “SILVER METEOR” which is neither silver nor meteoric in its speed. As a matter of fact, we are this moment stopped at the station serving Richmond, Virginia. But it is a very restful way to ease back into diocesan life and gives me ample opportunity to reflect on the week that was.

Our agenda this week was light and there were no good arguments which serve to liven up the long sessions of presentations and listening. My vote for the new President of the Conference was in vain as my Vice-Presidential preference leap-frogged my Presidential preference.

Tonight, however, my mind seems intent on focusing on whether or not we did anything helpful for the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the St. Petersburg diocese and my instinct says not really. We seem, to my mind, these days to spend a lot of time “navel-gazing” – talking about budgets and assessments, etc., at least in the public sessions. The Executive Sessions did address issues of greater concern to pastoral ministry but I respect the confidential nature of those discussions.

I have been thinking a lot about the number of people who are leaving the Church and the possible reasons for this. I am thinking about the sacrament of marriage which is under challenge from several directions such as its very definition which we do talk about but today there were results announced of a recent Pew Research Study which found that 39% of adults surveyed said that “marriage is becoming obsolete,” that couples that do get married do so later in life (28.6 for men and 26.1 for women) and therefore, no surprise 44% of adults lived together before marriage among whom 64% said they considered it a step towards marriage. While we have expressed strong support for the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, I don’t think we have ever pastorally addressed what every priest in my diocese knows, couples are not coming to the Church to get married in significant numbers or at least the same numbers.

Then I think about my task of being a leader to my priests. There is theologically one priesthood in the Diocese of St. Petersburg but there are at least three different categories of priests: those sixty and above who see the end in sight, those forty-five through sixty who sometimes dread the way in which they see the priesthood and Church in the U.S. going, and the younger priests filled with enthusiasm who seem to say that we are not adapting quickly enough to what is needed, sometimes what was a part and parcel of the past but which fell into some disuse following the Second Vatican Council which for them is largely a historical moment as Trent is for me.

Then there are the youth. I had lunch with two young students of Loyola Baltimore during my stay this week and their love for their faith and the amount of time they give to sharing it with their peers is just this side of incredible – a sign of hope in an ocean of disconnect for many their age.

These are some of the pastoral challenges which it would help for me to spend time on and perhaps at some moment they will be resolved. Until then I can only listen and lead. Arriving in Petersburg, Virginia, the porter wants to put my bed down for me (so he can go to bed himself I suspect for a precious few hours). It’s a cold night in southern Virginia but tomorrow morning I will wake up in Florida warmth and so will my hope and love for the Church.

All Aboard!

+RNL

WHAT EVERY BISHOP SHOULD BE READING

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

My Cousin the Saint by Justin Catanoso Cover ImageAt a time when I should be spending my time reading documentation in advance of next week’s annual meeting of the bishops of the United States, I found myself totally engrossed in a book, which I highly recommend to anyone. Titled My Cousin the Saint (Harper Collins, 2008), this masterful account was written by Justin Catanoso, a professor of writing and editing at Wake Forest University and a Pulitzer nominated journalist. It details the author’s journey to faith through the unlikely path of having a member of his family, a distant cousin, proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict the XVI in 2005. St. Gaetano Catanoso was a priest for much of the first half of the last century in the southern Italian region of Calabria. The author’s own family had emigrated from the region early in the last century and settled in Philadelphia and Wildwood, NJ. The knowledge about their uncle back in their native Italy was largely unknown to the American side of the family until Pope John Paul II declared Father Gaetano a “blessed” at one of his last beatification ceremonies prior to no longer being capable of presiding at these events.

The book actually has three distinct tributaries flowing into one stream of faith: the life of Saint Gaetano, the faith of an Italian family in Italy and the United States, and the author’s own search for the true and deeper meaning of the Catholic faith of his baptism from which he drifted following Catholic high school. Filled with poignant moments, it can serve as a primer on such diverse Catholic topics as, to name but a few, the making of a saint, the faith of our ancestors, the road home, coping with tragedy, making sense out of the seeming senseless. Just let me say that I have seldom been as captivated by a personal story as I was by this one, finding it hard to put my iPad on “off””. Every proud Italian American should read this book just to grow in love and appreciation of the absolute best of what it means to having been born Italian. Every serious adult Catholic should read this book to appreciate even more their own gift of faith. Every struggling Catholic or non-practicing Catholic should read this book for a source of hope for the journey.

I first heard of the book from a wonderful Catholic husband and father who spent summers with the author life-guarding in the Wildwood-Cape May area. He happens to be the brother of one of my priests. I downloaded it long before I got to it to read. I am so grateful to him for informing me of the work as I am to the author for the time spent in his family research and in his own struggle with the meaning of Catholicism.

As I leave to attend the annual meeting of the bishops of the United States and as I prepare to enter my seventieth year of age and fifteenth of my privilege of serving the Church as a bishop, I find far more comfort and hope for the future in a book like this than all the documentation (and there is not that much of it) for meetings such as next weeks. The real work of faith takes place not at my level of ministry in the Church but at the parish and service levels through the work of good priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, and committed loving lay people. I am indebted today to Justin Catanoso for sharing the moving life of his cousin, the priest and now a saint, with me and humbled to reflect on how far even I must travel still till facing the Lord in eternity.

BISHOP’S BEST BLOG BOGS

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Besides being somewhat in love with alliteration, the title of this post is somewhat tricky. Does it means where one can bog down in the blogs which this bishop follows closely and enjoys immensely or does it mean that I am reviewing my work of the last three years searching for the place where I “bogged” down on an issue or a topic. Actually, it is the former and is in response to perhaps the most often asked question which I receive on my blog. Everyday, without fail, I look at the following three blogs:

Screen shot of Whispers in the Loggia

Whispers in the Loggia

Rocco Palmo, Author of Whispers in the Loggia

Rocco Palmo, Author of Whispers in the Loggia

As I have often pointed out, the mother of all ecclesial blogs and the inspiration for my beginning this effort three years ago is called Whispers in the Loggia. Written by Philadelphian Rocco Palmo, this blog covers the Church incredibly well and very fairly. I suspect and suggest it is clear that the author loves his Church, while realistically understanding that wholeness is an eschatological reality and between here and there, the Church sometimes has aspects that are neither tidy nor perfect. Whispers it seems to me does not get polemical but can sometimes be absolutely poetical in its reflections on saints of today and yesterday, historical moments in the Church’s life and a good spin on what popes, conferences of bishops and individual bishops and others are saying. I used to say that one could be a very learned person on many things if one just took the time to read (in its old format no longer extant) the Wall Street Journal’s three front page articles, the right, left and center stories which would go on for pages illuminating in great detail life on this planet in its various manifestations. In the world of our Church, I think Whispers serves the same purpose – it is at once illuminating, informative, and fair. I suppose it does not hurt that when it comes to appointments of bishops, if that is one’s interest, the author of this blog is often ahead of the curve  by a few hours. Anyway, it was this blog bog that moved me to begin to write this current effort and if you have not acquainted yourself with it, I suggest you try it week after next during the Fall meeting of the nation’s bishops. I will be reading to see if other than elections to Conference office, Rocco Palmo finds many other reasons for our meeting this year. Try it, I think you will like it.

Screen shot of Truth in Love

Truth in Love, Bishop Paul D. Etienne's blog

Most Rev. Paul Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne

Most Rev. Paul Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne

In a classic case of the student outshining his mentor, my dear friend Bishop Paul D. Etienne is a faithful blogger since his ordination to the episcopacy last December 9, 2009. I wish I could write so well about things spiritual as this young bishop does. While one has to be patient with more than an occasional picture of a fish hanging at the end of a line, there is good fishing for sound spiritual theology in Bishop Etienne’s reflections, often on the daily readings, saints, and life in the vast Wyoming space. He has agreed to be the spiritual director of our October 2011 Convocation of Priests here in St. Petersburg and that alone should be worth the time my priests take to be with one another. Bishop Etienne’s writings come from his own life in priesthood and from his love of such diverse realities as St. Catherine of Siena about whom he wrote his Licentiate paper in Rome to nature and the outdoors. If one is looking for that thought where you might best connect with God’s loving plan for creation and redemption, a few minutes spent with Truth in Love is a great place to start.

Screen shot of Catholic Education

Catholic Education, Michael Zelenka's blog

Michael Zelenka

Michael Zelenka, Principal of Incarnation Catholic School

Finally, I am not the only person in the diocese of St. Petersburg to spend some time time blogging. There is a new principal of Incarnation School in Tampa who posts something new, timely, reflective, thoughtful and theologically very sound about once a week. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Michael Zelenka came to this diocese as a graduate of Notre Dame and spent two years teaching at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in ND’s Alliance for Catholic Education program (ACE), followed that with five years as the first Athletic Director of the new Bishop McLaughlin High School in Pasco County, then after gaining a second Masters degree, this time in Educational Administration from Notre Dame, he was Assistant Principal at Christ the King School in Tampa before beginning this summer at Incarnation.  I witnessed the marriage of Mike to his wife Emily (herself a teacher at Villa Madonna School in Tampa) and have remained close to them since their marriage. Now having warned you of all my prejudices, I invite you to take a look at Michael’s blog entries. Mike was a “walk-on” in football all four undergraduate years as Notre Dame and his older brother, Joe, is the long snapper for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL, so he speaks passionately and convincingly on occasion of a spirituality which should infect all sports and athletics. However, you don’t have to know a shuttlecock from a racket to appreciate his thoughtful reflections on the faith formation role of Catholic Education. Try it and you will like it.

Well that it. That’s where you can find me bogged down in my best blogs. And I thought this was going to be a short entry. I am bogged down myself. Watch this site for the next entry which will be entitled and focus upon “pajama parties.”

+RNL

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist with about 140 doctors and their spouses in what is called the “White Mass”, obviously taking its name from the color of the coat that many doctors used to and still wear when seeing patients. We have a somewhat embryonic attempt at organizing a local chapter of the Catholic Physicians Guild and Saturday’s gathering gives myself and the organizers great hope for the future. It is not easy to get physicians to take the time and come to an event of this nature given the challenges of their schedules.

Group photo after the White Mass and Dinner at the Bethany Center

Group photo after the White Mass and Dinner at the Bethany Center

A local physician, Dr. Averill  from Clearwater and a member of St. Catherine of Siena parish who has combined his practice with his promises as a Third Order Franciscan was the principal speaker. He commented, and it was the first time I heard this, that many modern day graduates of medical schools either do not take the Hippocratic Oath or take a revised oath which meets the requirements more of political correctness than the traditional oath. Each year at the annual Red Mass for judges and lawyers, I hear these men and women repeat their oaths taken at the time of their admission to the bar and admire their promises to their profession and I have always until now assumed and admired the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. It is a sad commentary on our times that this very important foundation of medical practice is falling into disuse.

Bishop Lynch with students from USF Medical School

Bishop Lynch with students and physicians from the USF Medical School after the White Mass & Dinner

The Liturgy was followed by a dinner and brief program at our beautiful Bethany Center and it was wonderful being with these fine Catholic women and men. Also, ten students from USF’s Medical School with one resident and one of their mentors were in attendancee, two of them graduates of the University of Notre Dame, and they have asked for a follow-up retreat at Bethany prior to entering their respective practices and upon completion of their residency programs. That, good people, is a very, very positive sign and a benefit coming from the work of the Guild.

The encounter Saturday evening followed three days of meetings on our Southeast coast of the Board of Trustees of both St. John Vianney College Seminary and St. Vincent de Paul theologate and a third meeting on Saturday morning of the Florida bishops for the Florida Catholic Conference. I am of the mind that when and if I get to heaven’s gate, if there is a meeting board announcing a meeting for newcomers, I think I may wish to go the other direction.

+RNL