Posts Tagged ‘Deacons’

NO “TEN LITTLE INDIANS”.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Agatha Christie, that marvelous writer of mystery fiction and plays once wrote for the stage a mystery play entitled “Ten Little Indians” about ten friends who gathered for a reunion and one by one they disappear, victims of murder perpetrated by some one among them. As in another of her dramatic mysteries entitled “The Mousetrap” she was clever enough to write several endings so that if you saw the play on Broadway and attempted to give the finale away to someone who was going to attend the play, there was a one in three chance that the ending would not be the same. Great stuff.

On Saturday last, I ordained ten married men to the order of deacon at St. Jude’s Cathedral in an ancient ceremony made new every time by the excitement and participation of those in attendance.

View of the Litany of the Saints from inside the Spirit FM 90.5 radio booth. Photo courtesy of John Morris.

View of the Litany of the Saints from inside the Spirit FM 90.5 radio booth. Photo courtesy of John Morris.

Prayer of Ordination over Mark Manko. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Mark Manko. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Jorge Suarez. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Jorge Suarez. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Joe Zucchero. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Joe Zucchero. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Glenn Smith. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Glenn Smith. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Tony Quattrocki. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Tony Quattrocki. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Ted Martin. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Ted Martin. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Steven Girardi. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Steven Girardi. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Greg Nash. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Greg Nash. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Frank DeSanto. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Frank DeSanto. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

For most of these men, and their wives, it was the culmination of eight long years of preparation, some first in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and then in the deacon formation program.

The wives bringing the newly ordained deacons their stole and dalmatic. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The wives bringing the newly ordained deacons their stole and dalmatic. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

While it is always a joy to see the pride and happiness on the faces of parents, grandparents and siblings when I am ordaining priests, it is even more of a “kick” to witness the same on the faces of spouses, children, and even parents of married men being ordained.

Seminarian Elixavier Castro greeting his father, the newly ordained Deacon Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Seminarian Elixavier Castro greeting his father, the newly ordained Deacon Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Newly ordained Deacon Glenn Smith offering the Blood of Christ to his father-in-law. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Newly ordained Deacon Glenn Smith offering the Blood of Christ to his father-in-law. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

We have a great diaconate program in this diocese and the formation is about as good as it can get given the first and overriding obligation of the candidate to his family. The path to priesthood is much longer, more intensive, and delves much deeper into the wonders and mystery of theology, scripture, and pastoral practice. But the four years of education and formation for these ten men was demanding and no small accomplishment, given their work and family responsibilities. Most of you who read this blog posting will encounter them on Sunday and when they are exercising their preaching office so I thought I would share my homily for the occasion with all of you. Men who get ordained in their own mind just to preach and teach do not comprehend the awesome nature of the order to which they have been ordained. But preaching is integral and should  be a small part of “witness.” Here is my homily for last Saturday and I hope it lived up to the high standard God’s people have a right to expect.

           Ten men supported by ten women have just responded that they are both present and willing to assume the ministry of deacon in our beloved Church. For each it has been a long journey and I am certain that on many occasions there must have been doubts in their minds as to whether or not this day would ever come. Well, dear brothers, never forget that on this, your ordination day, the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs will be playing their first game in the National League Championship Series. Who would have thought?

            This morning I wish to devote a few moments to a sacred trust, which will soon be yours – the gift of preaching that accompanies this ministry in the Church. Preaching is a privilege. It often defines our ministry. We can have the finest bedside or graveside manner but if we strike out in the twelve minutes or so that are ours on Sunday, we have likely failed in the exercise of one of the most important aspects of our ministry.

            Good preaching begins with four verbs: receive, believe, teach and practice. Put another way, as you will hear when I place the book of Gospels your hands: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.

            The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading of your ordination received from God the task of preaching to a resistant people. Each of us should be like Jeremiah and doubt whether or not we are truly up to the task for we certainly are not worthy. Yet faith affirms that God has chosen us for this task. Each of us must receive and embrace this privilege with genuine humility, knowing that only God can open our lips and invade our hearts.

            We do not approach preaching operating from a tabula rasa. We preach from the experience of the Church in defining and developing its beliefs over the course of two plus millennia. It is not the duty of the deacon, priest, or for that matter even the bishop to share his own personal core beliefs but rather to adopt, adapt, and apply the insights of God’s people from Abraham to the last apostle as well as the understandings of the faith community to the present moment. Breaking open the Scriptures means wrestling every time we preach with a well-defined belief system and making application to the present moment. Trust me, this task is not easy, and success is not guaranteed by the grace of ordination but most likely born from an acquired ability of trial and error. You must share with God’s people to whom you preach timeless truth and also present reality. That struggle is mirrored every day in the Synod on the Family now meeting in Rome on this weekend of your ordination. It is not an easy task but it is an essential task.

            Preaching is teaching and not just proclaiming. The best teachers we have had in our lives have reached that status because they inductively led each of us to a conclusion that we likely could not have acquired on our own. No one in your congregation is going to learn just because you said it. They will learn when like the wise teacher you lead them on a journey of discovery to a point where they say, “ah, now I get it.” Pope Francis on several occasions has reminded us that more often than not, those to whom we preach are likely smarter than ourselves. And, successfully teaching through preaching, today, is more Montessori than Mueller. Apodictic, non-apologetic statements of perceived facts are dismissed by today’s well educated Catholics as simply one person’s opinion where a didactic teaching, breaking open of the word has a better chance of ultimately taking root.

            However, the best weapon to be found in the arsenal of effective preaching and proclamation is to be found in the witness of your own personal faith practice. God’s people know a genuine article when they see one and even more when they hear one. “You are the light of the world” today’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying. Jesus did not say, “You are the voice of the world.” He was pointing out that example trumps words on most occasions and here, dear soon-to-be-deacons, you have an advantage over we non-ordained clerics. Your love for your wives and children should always be the “take away” from those whose lives you will soon touch in your ministry. Your wives have accompanied you in this journey with loving patience, generous support and constant encouragement. They preach so eloquently as you will by continuing to live fully your first vocational commitment – together for life, practicing what you preach, loving one another constantly as the prophet Micah says.

            Finally, as the second readings from Acts notes, the early Christian church and its leaders needed help. It needed assistants. It needed workers and not itinerant preachers. It needed lovers who could lead if they must but who were more interested in helping the members on the margins. So it chose seven whose task was not specifically preaching but rather doing the ministry of mercy. I think it can be fairly said in this moment in the life of the Church in the world as said in Acts, “brothers, select from you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Today we have ten such men and brothers, as important as preaching may be in your ministry, practice what you preach in the less glamorous but more grace-filled ministry of caring for those on the periphery of society and our Church.

With the ten new deacons and members of the Office of the Diaconate. Deacon Peter Andre, Deacon Greg Nash, Deacon Jim Grevenites, Deacon Joe Zucchero, Deacon Mark Manko, Deacon Steve Girardi, Deacon Ted Martin, Deacon Tony Quattrocki, myself, Deacon Frank DeSanto, Deacon Jorge Suarez, Deacon Glenn Smith, Deacon Elix Castro, Deacon John Alvarez, and Father Ralph Argentino. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With the ten new deacons and members of the Office of the Diaconate. Deacon Peter Andre, Deacon Greg Nash, Deacon Jim Grevenites, Deacon Joe Zucchero, Deacon Mark Manko, Deacon Steve Girardi, Deacon Ted Martin, Deacon Tony Quattrocki, myself, Deacon Frank DeSanto, Deacon Jorge Suarez, Deacon Glenn Smith, Deacon Elix Castro, Deacon John Alvarez, and Father Ralph Argentino. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Maria Mertens, who superbly manages our diocesan website and use of digital/social media, has some spectacular pictures of the event beyond those shown within this text, which you can see here. You can watch the video replay of the ordination ceremony here.

These were not “ten little Indians” ordained last Saturday but the latest additions to a “tribe” of incredible deacon ministers in the diocese. Blessings on their ministry.

+RNL

HOPE IN ABUNDANCE

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

One of the surest signs that it is Fall finds me visiting both of our seminaries, the college program, St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, and the Theological program, St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. At conclusion of the second, each September, the bishops of the province of Miami meet for several hours as the corporate members of the Catholic Conference of Florida. Thursday, September 25 was the meeting in Miami, Friday, September 26 was the meeting for the Board in Boynton Beach, and Saturday morning, September 27, saw me exit the Florida Catholic Conference meeting to catch a plane to Rome to meet with our two seminarians at the Pontifical North American College and to attend the ordination to the diaconate of one.

I almost always take AMTRAK to Miami and Monsignor Robert Gibbons who is on the board of the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary usually accompanies me as far as West Palm Beach. I had hoped to take sixteen seminarians at the college in Miami out for a light dinner but AMTRAK’s tardiness killed that good idea. We have sixteen men studying in six different years of the program. In recent weeks, Father Art Proulx has moved in as a house Spiritual Director and he is doing just great. So are our sixteen fine seminarians who come from three cultures with four native languages.

The men attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami with Father Arthur Proulx, Monsignor Toups and myself.

The men attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami with Father Arthur Proulx, Monsignor Toups and myself.

The seminary has plans for expansion, as they are too full this year with 97 seminarians living in space maximally designed for 72. The Miami Archdiocese has monies to fund these projects whole and in entirety so we will see what happens. They were in great form and fun to be with when I was not otherwise occupied in a meeting.

Thursday night we left St. John Vianney College Seminary for St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary (about eighty minutes north) where all the seminarians were waiting for dinner and received sad news. One of their brothers, second year theologian Tim Williford’s mother lost her valiant battle against cancer. Here was to be found a group of men so close to one another that the pain and loss of one affected the others. We immediately prayed for Lisa Williford and had a special, second Mass the next morning for her and her family. Our meetings were properly sober and when she was buried on Friday at St. Paul’s St. Petersburg, all of his fellow diocesan seminarians (34) and nine (9) others were present at the Mass to pray and sing.

Our own Monsignor Toups has a mostly new faculty at St. Vincent’s this year and is in the in finishing stage of his twelve plus million construction project which will be ready for occupancy in late November. He has some 87 seminarians on campus and about fourteen in Pastoral Year programs in the dioceses, which send men to St, Vincent’s. They seemed a happy lot and Friday night was devoted to their major fundraiser, FRIENDS OF THE SEMINARY.

With the understandable and lovely exception of Lisa Willifords’ death, the men at St. Vincent de Paul seminary were enthusiastically well into their school year. Please remember that in God’s grace and assuming no departures, our diocese will ordain five men to priesthood in May 2015, seven men to priesthood in May 2016, two in May of 2017, and four in May of 2018. At no time in its fifty year history will this diocese see so many ordained in a four year window – something to be proud of, thank God and these young men and their families for, and continue to encourage others to think of a life of service to God and neighbor in religious life or priesthood. I also with to mention that another seminarian is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, and will, God willing, be ordained a deacon this coming Spring. Kevin Yarnell previously was on the faculty of Tampa Catholic.

Earlier I mentioned that I was in Rome for the diaconate ordination of Ryan Christopher Boyle. Home grown in the Diocese (attended Bloomingdale High School), Ryan graduated from the Air Force Academy and began flying the air forces’ version of the Boeing 767 which serves as a “gas truck in the air to refuel” air force jets as they fly their missions. Along, among and in the “wild blue wonder” Ryan began to see the call to life as a priest, made the decision with the encouragement of his military superiors and with my permission entered that could be called a “co-sponsorship” between our diocese for which he would be ordained and the Military Archdiocese as an Air Force Chaplain. He loves our diocese and its parish work but he knows he must meet his promise to the Air Force for at least seven years.

Thursday morning last (October 2) dawned absolutely beautiful in Rome and several thousand people crowded the area known as the Altar of the Chair behind the Main Altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Donald Wuerl was the ordaining prelate for the occasion and gave a magnificent homily.

The “laying on of hands” by Cardinal Wuerl on Ryan Boyle with a proud bishop looking on.  Photo credit: Daniel Hart, PNAC Photo Service

The “laying on of hands” by Cardinal Wuerl on Ryan Boyle with a proud bishop looking on.

Photo credit: Daniel Hart, PNAC Photo Service

See more photos from Deacon Ryan’s ordination here. Later the same day, Deacon Ryan assembled his family and friends for a Mass of Thanksgiving at Santa Maria in Trestevere, one of Rome’s oldest and in some ways loveliest Churches and the parish of the Saint Egidio community in Rome, which is quite active for social justice.

At the Mass of Thanksgiving, the new deacon and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese and myself.

At the Mass of Thanksgiving, the new deacon and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese and myself.

It was a great day and week for our still young seminarian and this morning he put his family and us into cars and buses for the airport breathing a great sigh of relief and likely climbing into bed for a long and well deserved Fall nap. Tanti auguri, Ryan!

So I am back and have Father Chris Fitzgerald’s funeral tomorrow (Monday, October 6) followed by our annual priests convocation at the Bethany Center.

+RNL

*Note: This blog was originally written on Sunday, October 5.

IN THE SHADOW OF ST. STEPHEN

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Deacons' Annual Mass of Recommitment. Photo kindness of Barbara Wells.

One of the major developments in the life of the Church, which followed the end of the Second Vatican Council, was the restoration of the order of the diaconate by allowing married men to be ordained. My study of the background at the Council was that the discussion of the Council Fathers envisioned a vibrant and vigorous married diaconate in countries throughout the world where a celibate priesthood would, by sheer terms of numbers, require assistance from the diaconate (too few priests and no major increase likely). I clearly remember in a small group conversation, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States in the seventies, Archbishop Jean Jadot, a Belgium by birth who had been sent to the US by Pope Paul VI, noting the immediate interest in the US of the permanent diaconate and saying that in the Cameroons, where he was assigned prior to arriving on our shores, the Church would never consider ordaining married men, period. It preferred instead to build up catechists in lieu of an ordained diaconate. That prediction has remained largely true and intact in mission countries.

In the years since the Council, the United States has led all other nations in the world in the number of ordinations of married men to the diaconate. It all began in a period when a shortage of priests was considered on these shores unthinkable (perhaps it was indeed the presence of the Holy Spirit which encouraged this local Church to pursue the restored diaconate). The service of these generous men and their equally generous wives and families, who share their husbands and dads with us, has been laudable, helpful and gifted. Deacons may baptize, witness marriages outside of Mass and communion services, preach, and assist at the altar. But, in our living out the post-conciliar married diaconate, they are especially helpful to their parishes in preaching, in preparing the faithful for baptism, confirmation, and marriage, and in conducting wake services and graveside ceremonies. They may not administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick since that sacrament includes the hearing of confessions and sacramental reconciliation. What they can do to be helpful far outpaces what they are not able to do and therein is to be found the blessing.

Deacons' Annual Mass of Recommitment. Photo kindness of Barbara Wells.

On May 2 of this year, our first diocesan class of “married” deacons will celebrate their silver anniversary of ordination. On that day twenty-five years ago, thirty men were ordained deacons for the Diocese of St. Petersburg at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle by Bishop W. Thomas Larkin. Throughout their formation, this class was guided and directed by Monsignor Colm Cooke, who was assisted by Joan Morgan (our present diocesan Chancellor). Some of those ordained have died subsequently, some are now mostly retired, some have lost their spouses in the intervening years, and two have left diaconal ministry. On Saturday last, we had our annual Mass of Recommitment for our deacons. I am not certain of the exact number, but I think there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 active and with faculties to function as deacons here. We have had five other ordinations for the diocese in the twenty-five years since and currently have about fifteen in some stage of education and formation. They are here as a ministry to stay and most of your priests and pastors would strongly support their presence and assistance in our local Church. I know I certainly am grateful to them and to their wives and families. Almost all, at one time or another in their ministry as deacons, have held “day jobs” and since the diaconate does not pay a salary (unless they are in full-time employment by a parish or institution), they depend on outside employment for their daily bread.

Many deacons come to us, as do many parishioners, from other dioceses and while, perhaps retired from their former and principal employment, they still wish to be helpful to the Church. After the necessary background check, we accept them and grant them faculties.

So even though the diaconate was not restored for service in the “first world” by the Council Fathers, the Church in the United States and in St. Petersburg and our five counties owes it a lot. Blessings, please, Lord, on all our deacons and their wives and families as we take note this year of the ordination of our first class twenty-five years ago.

+RNL

Chrism Mass

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

The oil which will be consecrated as the Sacred Chrism before Mass.

For fifteen years now I have both feared and loved the annual Chrism Mass which in this diocese occurs on Tuesday of Holy Week. I fear it because each year I have to preach before almost 200 of my brother priests using the same readings and the same themes each year. I love it precisely because I am with my brothers who animate this Church and make it great. In the end they are a loving and affirming group and I promise myself I will stop worrying about it.  Hope you enjoy it!

Dear brother priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and good people of faith gathered here on this day traditionally devoted to the ordained priesthood,

Approaching these holiest of days, one might easily find oneself preoccupied about many important things. Priests and deacons are busy about final preparations for the Triduum and all of us are looking forward to recall again the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a day for celebrating and strengthening the bond between the bishop and his priests. In one major archdiocese in our own country, there is talk of a boycott by the priests of this Mass this year. It will not happen because the priesthood is too important1in their lives to use this day to send a message. In Australia, ten percent of the diocesan priests in the country have expressed “no confidence” in their bishops yet I know they love their priesthood too much to use this day to send a message. In Ireland, of all places, doubts and concerns have caused one fourth of that nation’s priests to call for an indefinite postponement of the “dewfall” of the new translation of the Roman Missal but the Irish priests will be present this week for the blessing and consecration of sacred healing and anointing oils. Today, I stand before you, my brothers and sisters, look at you, and count my blessings.

Deacons and Priests at the Chrism Mass

Over the past three years I have had the opportunity of gathering with and carefully listening to almost all of the priests involved in active ministry. I can safely say that generally they feel fulfilled in their ministry, consider themselves privileged to be of service to God’s people, and are happy in their priestly ministry to which they will recommit again later at this Chrism Mass.

However, during these days of sharing and reflection some concerns were also expressed by our priests, more pastoral than personal, and always spoken in love, not in anger. At several of the sessions one or more of the fathers stated that “they did not know what was happening to the Church for which they were ordained” and by that they generally meant that there seemed to be a withdrawal from commitment to liturgical renewal, from active pursuit of social justice, from the sense of the Church as being relevant to the people to whom they were ministering, from real concerns about declining membership and declining faith practice. Additionally, concerns about a growing feeling of alienation of many of the faithful which can be occasioned when we bishops choose to draw lines in the sand of who is a good Catholic or a bad Catholic, an uneasiness stemming from deep questions and real concerns about the need for the new translation of the Roman Missal concomitant with the perception caused by the seeming support in certain sectors of the extraordinary form or Tridentine Rite, the priests of this diocese see steps backward from the headier days of ecumenical enthusiasm and lament the lack of timely responsiveness to requests by the diocesan pastoral center, from the growing sense of our inability to reach the youth of our parishes and diocese, fewer priests but greater expectations placed on those presently serving, uncertainty about retirement and the future, dramatically fewer Catholic marriages, fewer funerals, fewer confirmations and the list could go on and on.

Again, I wish to be clear, our time together was far from being that of a gripe session but more an opportunity to speak to me and to one another about where that same spirit of the Lord first spoken by Isaiah and later embraced by Jesus Himself is taking us. What does “anointed in the Spirit” mean for the near future of the Church? What kind of Church can these twenty-nine seminarians with us this morning look forward to and, God willing, the seven who may join them this summer?

My response after thinking about the matters my brothers brought to the table may surprise some and perhaps even disappoint others but in my very deepest being I think that the dreams and decisions that drove our personal commitments to this holy ministry will survive us, and will survive this particular moment in the Church. I say this because I know that Christ is with His Church today and tomorrow and promised to be with His Church until the end of time. Isaiah could rhapsodize about the Spirit of the Lord present in a very tough time because for this prophet the future was to be found in faith in the future and not in the terra firma of the lived faith experience of his moment. Jesus could reaffirm from day one in his public ministry that he was willing to proclaim the good news to an audience that was known for being stiff-necked, intransigent, judgmental and argumentative, and dismissive at the least and bellicose at its worst. For both Jesus and Isaiah, it was neither the best of times nor the worst of times.

What is happening in the Church at this moment in history is also happening in the secular world. Narcissism flourishes while love of neighbor languishes. A decade of war and financial shenanigans leaves little left for the poor and vulnerable. Do unto others has diminished limits and a more muted call except for the catastrophic like the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan. The focus of our personal charity is more determined by media interest than Gospel imperatives. And no one, in the Church or in our nation wants to admit that by 2025 Catholic Hispanics will equal Catholic Anglos even in this diocese, a sure and certain moment for which we are poorly preparing.

Dear brothers, yours and my priestly pulse perks up when we proclaim the Gospel as counter-cultural to the world in which we live. For those of us who anguish about the direction of the Church today, we still most often feel at our best when preaching about what ought to be than necessarily what is. If the Church is to be ever more relevant to our people today, it gains the greatest credibility from what you say, how you act, than from the actions of a conference of bishops or even the Holy See and you have no idea how painful it is for me to say that. It is the Spirit of the Lord, which is upon you Sunday after Sunday as you bring good news to the poor, as you proclaim liberty to those who are captives of so many things. And when it comes to the sacred liturgy over which we preside, the true “clear voice” is not a commission of bishops meeting in Rome, but the parish priest and his deacon proclaiming and unpacking the Scripture withs clarity, applicability, passion, dignity and love Sunday after Sunday and celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments with reverence, wonderment, awe and beauty. Do that and God’s people will not care that the Lord is with our Spirit once again or that we will find the place under our roof unworthy as it may be for the Lord to come but we will believe that He only need to speak the Word and we can be made worthy. The relevancy of what we say, of what we teach, of how we act is a shared responsibility of priests and bishops. It is we who can and will renew the Church and the face of the earth with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is we and none other who can make the Spirit of the Lord take root in our five counties. And while it is to be expected that we might have concerns about the future, we can and should never despair of the future for it will be then as it is now presided over by none other than Jesus Himself.

It is clearer to me as I approach the final quarter of my time among you that the Church which you and I will leave to those who follow will be quite different than what we have experienced. It will be financially poorer but most likely spiritually richer. It will be more demanding but yet more rewarding. The new evangelization may well almost replace the traditional classroom as the engine of religious education. The role of the laity will be even more significant. The pendulum will once again swing from the current focus on the past to the genuine needs of the present and the future and, though not in my lifetime, to perhaps another Spirit-filled ecumenical council to restate, review, and renew the vision for Church articulated fifty years ago. The Church’s message to the world will cease being less “no” to more “yes” even while traditional values, morals and teaching remain in place as they must. Guiding the world in how to live in the midst of reality in a relevant way will bring back some of those whom we have lost along the way. Until that movement from the current global ecclesial inertia begins, progress from the present will come from you my brothers, for you have been anointed, chosen, assigned and empowered to make Christ present to the world and the world open to Christ.

The hope then for the present of our beloved Church rests with all of us here today who renew again our commitment to the priesthood we sought however long ago, received on the day of our ordination and day after day practiced. We make Christ present to the world when we act like Christ in the world. God’s people hear the words of Christ when we speak with compassion, understanding of human failure, with love and patience. Those words endure while others fade. You, my brothers, make Christ real, Christ present, Christ for today and tomorrow. If from time to time in the last 2000 years the Church of Christ has confronted its own weaknesses and failures, it is, as St. Paul said, Christ who has made it strong. You are to your people both the witnesses to hope and the bearers of the truth.

Finally in this context, I think of our four senior priests who this year are retiring from active ministry. Two are sons of Ireland and two are sons of Spain. Imagine the uncertainty that was theirs when they left to come to serve on the Florida peninsula. They left a majority Church in Spain and Ireland to preach to the minority of Catholics. For almost five decades they proclaimed the Good News, set people captive to all kinds of bad things free, and made Christ present day after day in so many ways. They began their ministry during the pontificate of Blessed John XXIII and lived much of it during the time, of soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II. Through an ecumenical council and its implementation, five popes, five bishops and God knows how many letters from the Chancery, they have served God’s people with fidelity to mission and message, with joy and sorrow, with grace and good will. They leave believing that the rest of us will strive hard to keep the flame of faith alive, and like they we shall succeed because our beloved Church belongs to Christ and to none other and we are servant shepherds, serving God’s people and proud of it! No person or scandal can remove from the face of God’s earth, the good we priests do in His name. We are like those courageous men who stormed Normandy’s beaches, often unknown to one another, united by a single commission to take the highest ground for virtue and charity whatever the cost for Christ Himself. We are indeed a band of brothers. Blessed be God forever!

+RNL

THE LORD TAKES AND THE LORD GIVES

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
The Most Rev. John Noonan, Bishop-designate of Orlando

The Most Rev. John Noonan - Bishop-designate of Orlando

On the day I was ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of Miami, the final step in my journey to priesthood, as we were preparing to leave St. James Catholic Church in North Miami to drive to St. Clement’s Church in Fort Lauderdale where I would be the first ordination of Miami’s new archbishop, Edward A. McCarthy. one of the senior priests whom I had been living with, Father George Razzutis, was rushed to the local hospital with what appeared to be (and was indeed) a heart attack. From the stretcher on the way from the house to the ambulance, this grand old priest said to me, “It is OK, God today gives us a new priest and takes an old one.” Father Razzutis lived for three more days in the hospital and each day when I would visit him would take my hand and say almost exactly the same phrase. It is a characteristic of our God, He sometimes takes away but then if we wait long enough, we can see His provident hand at work once again as He gives us something unexpected to raise and buoy our spirits. Yesterday was one of those days with the death of our dear Monsignor Scully but I did not have to wait long to witness God’s loving care for his Church at work again.

This morning at noon in Rome (6:00am EDT), it was announced that my brother Miami priest and bishop, John Noonan, was chosen by the Holy Father to become the fifth bishop of Orlando, our neighbor the east, starting in the border counties of Polk, Sumner and Marion. Bishop Noonan was a classmate in the seminary of our Father Michael Muhr and escaped myself as his Rector by several months as he was already in the theology seminary in Boynton Beach in 1979 when I was made Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary. Born in Ireland but with most of his education, certainly in the seminary, in the United States, once ordained he became a priceless, hard-working parish priest. He would later return to St. John Vianney College Seminary as Vice-Rector and Dean of Men as well as Rector. A number of our younger clergy ordained the last twelve years remember him fondly in this capacity. Astute, holy, hard-working, Bishop John Noonan would earn the respect and, I would say, fondness of the priests of Miami during the recent years when he has served as Auxiliary Bishop and touchstone with the priests often in their relationship with their archbishop.

A segment of our diocesan family will remember that last October he came to St. Jude’s Cathedral and ordained nineteen of our permanent deacons, in so doing winning the hearts of all those in the Cathedral that day. Orlando does not yet appreciate how lucky they are in this appointment but it will not take them long. I thank the Lord this morning that a good and dear friend has been chosen to lead the Church adjacent to my own, begun on the same day as my own, now slightly larger than my own. There is a world of difference between being an auxiliary bishop in the Church and an ordinary or bishop-in-charge. Together let us pray between now and his installation on December 16, 2010 for our sister Church in Orlando and for Bishop Noonan. Orlando I hope appreciates that they did not have to wait long when the Lord took their previous bishop and then gave them their new bishop. Vere dignum et justum est (it is truly right and just.)

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FEVER

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

This morning I woke up only to find that I had a “fever.” No, my temperature was 98.6 and I am not suffering from the sweats or anything like that but I do have a fever. It’s called pennant fever. First, a confession is in order. I am a die hard Rays fan, almost addicted to this team. I listen to their games on the radio when I am traveling throughout the diocese, I come home and watch the conclusion of the games on TV even when they are on the West coast and I attend whenever my schedule will allow it, which is not that often. But I was there last night for one of the greatest pitching duels I have ever seen between the New York Yankee’s veteran C.C. Sabathia and our young David Price. Only a hardened heart (or worse, a Yankee fan) could not have been proud of what our team accomplished last night in the first of seven final games with the Bronx bombers. If we are successful, it looks like we might once again win the American League East Division and at the worst, we may just about have earned the wild card spot for the Fall Classic. I find my interest getting stronger even though I know I have a ton of things to do between now and the Series which will take my attention away from my beloved Rays.

Rays Jerseys for Longoria, Peña, Bishop Lynch, and Crawford

The Jerseys of 1 Rays fan with some Rays stars.

I remember when I was a child in the forties and the priests did listen to Notre Dame football games while hearing confessions, using the revolutionary new toy called a “transistor radio.” Now I struggle with NOT connecting my iPhone to an ear bud and listening to the Rays on WDAE. Tonight is a good example as is tomorrow night. I have a Mass and dinner tonight for the local chapter of a fine Catholic organization called LEGATUS at the Bethany Center. The game will be half over before I can tune in from the car coming home. Tomorrow night I am in Miami for the first of our two seminary Board meetings. Thanks to MLB.com, I will still be able to listen to Andy Freed and Dave Wills on my iPhone but it will not be like watching the team on the tube. I find that in the morning upon waking I get up and before Morning Prayer or the Mass, I must read today’s Gospel according to Marc Tompkin, Gary Shelton, John Romero or Joe Smith, the four evangelists of sports in my life. It is definitely a fever, an addiction, a marvelous distraction.

Fortunately, there is the Lord’s work to be done and a lot of it right now and I feel so blessed to be back at it with full strength. To continue the baseball metaphor, last year I was on the injured reserve list and this year I have been called back by the Lord from the farm team to the big leagues. Like the Rays who delight in playing before a large crowd of fans who are into the game at a much deeper level than even myself, it is wonderful once again to be back on the roster. On Saturday night I attended the special dinner that our married, permanent deacons held during their annual retreat and thought to myself, how lucky I am to be here when last year I could not even summon up the strength to ordain the new nineteen deacons. Earlier in the day, I attended the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting and yesterday attended and participated in a meeting of the Dean’s of our diocese and the twenty-six member Priests’ Council. For me the Fall Classic is not the best of seven but rather the wonderful work being your bishop entails.

One more baseball analogy and I will bring this “fantasy baseball” metaphor to a conclusion. This Fall as I enter what is my own “Fall classic” which will precede the Winter and Spring classics which follow, I must be feeling something like a major league pitcher whose pitching arm elbow simply gave out on him. After “Tommy John” surgery and a long period of rehab, he finally comes back to his major league team and while he may not pitch a perfect game, he does finish it and helps his team accomplish their goal. That’s exactly what I feel like this Fall. I still have a few more seasons in me, games to pitch and complete for the Gospel and for the Lord. It is not just my beloved RAYS who have helped me back on my feet but all of you by your prayers, love and support. Now it is time to try for a “spiritual sweep.” I promise, this is the last baseball talk, even when we beat the Philadelphia Phillies in October (you see, that is the team of the author of the mother of all ecclesial blogs). To my great team mates in the Church of St. Petersburg, its priests, deacons, religious and good people, let’s play ball together until His Kingdom comes.

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The Rays Jerseys of Longoria, Peña, Fr. Morris, and Crawford

The Vicar General wears Number 2 for the Rays

MARRIED CLERGY – THEY ARE HERE ALREADY

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

This morning (Saturday) we held the annual deacon recommitment Mass at the Bethany Center for our 125 “permanent deacons” and their wives. It is always a very pleasant moment in the life of the diocese and it is followed by a luncheon and a report from Father Ralph Argentino on the state of the diaconate in the diocese. He told me that forty dioceses are represented among our deacons on assignment or with faculties. These men were all trained elsewhere and eventually moved to the central west coast of Florida and sought permission to minister (“faculties”) from the Diocese of St. Petersburg. In addition, we currently have forty-three active deacons who have studied here and been ordained for service here. No matter where they are from, they are an impressive group.

Deacons are members of the Roman Catholic Clergy, hence the teaser in the title. Their wives are an important part of their ministry, both supporting their husbands in their initial choice to pursue the diaconate and in assisting in many instances in the performance of the service which their husbands give to the Church. Some of the wives have taken all the courses that their husbands were taking in preparation for their ordination (and it has been said that the wives would outshine their spouses sometimes on tests and papers). Once ordained the deacons mostly work in parishes, baptizing, witnessing marriages, preaching on Sundays and weekdays, preparing parents for the baptism of their children, adults and children for Christian initiation, and readying confirmation classes. They also preside at wakes, graveside services and really help the priests out in many ways. Some are involved in special ministries such as prison, hospital, port chaplaincy, etc. Roman Catholic ministry in the United States would be generally bereft without these good men.

At the time of their ordination, the deacon understands that should their spouses die, they are restrained by the law and practice of the Church from getting married again so in addition to the sacrifice of time (we ask 10% of their waking hours each week as a minimum) they also must be ready to embrace celibate chastity as well. Our new class ordained last October was present today and all those to whom I had an opportunity to speak reported that they were happy in their ministry. So is the Church of St. Petersburg, gentlemen and ladies, and thanks for the gift of your time and talent in your ministry of service.

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NINETEEN NEW SERVANTS OF THE GOSPEL

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Our diocese was singularly blessed yesterday by the ordination of nineteen new deacons to serve in our parishes and institutions. They have been studying and preparing for eight years, probably the longest period of formation in the United States (four years in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and four more in the deacon formation program. One can not easily calculate the time spent in class. But they persevered and prospered. All their hopes and dreams became a reality yesterday morning at St. Jude’s Cathedral as Bishop John Noonan, Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, imposed his hands on each of the men asking the Holy Spirit to impart the power of the office on each of them. In the front rows of the pews were their wives, children, and parents, so proud and beaming. And there was their bishop unable to perform the ordination rite at home praying for them and asking the Lord for the gift of coming to the Cathedral for a few words at the conclusion of the two hour ceremony. God heard my prayers and I made it.

Bishop Lynch with some of the newly ordained deacons. (Photo by Ed Foster Jr.)

Bishop Lynch with some of the newly ordained deacons. (Photo by Ed Foster Jr.)

When the fathers at the Second Vatican Council restored the  married diaconate, it was clear that it was something envisioned for the mission countries of the third world. Instead, the United States has the highest number and percentage of married deacons in the world and the mission Churches have not utilized the opportunity choosing lay catechists and leaders instead. Having listened to the late Cardinals Dearden of Detroit and Bernardin of Chicago express their doubts about the new phenomenon of all these new deacons and their fear of the “clericalization” of the laity, I began my service here as bishop with certain doubts – enough to seek a seven year hiatus in preparing new deacons while we evaluated what we had. Our pastors convinced me that the diaconate has been enormously helpful in their ministry in the parishes and their work in the prisons, jails and the Port of Tampa filled holes in our ministry for which there simply were no priests. I was wrong in my reservations and about five years ago we began plans to prepare more men for this ministry of service.

Four years ago twenty-six men started their final four years of formation. Nineteen persevered. We contracted with St. Leo University to see to their theological and pastoral formation. They attended classes during the week and on week-ends. With the loving support of their spouses and the patience of their children, year by year they came closer to their goal and then there was yesterday. Today at Sunday Mass they began their ministry. They can preach, baptize, witness marriages and assist at the altar. Many of them will help in the RCIA and have a hand in religious formation in their parishes. Some of them may ultimately administer some of our smaller parishes if the number of priests available requires it. Even though we have the greatest number of men in the seminary in our forty-one years as a diocese, there will always be a need for deacons.

They promise not to marry should or when their spouses are call home to God. They are generally not paid and promise ten percent of their time assisting in their assignments. They must now, as of this class, be prepared to serve where ever they are sent and since they are clergy, they now with this class come under the Clergy Personnel Board for assignment. Several of the new ordinands were asked to serve other than their home parishes where my Personnel Board felt their was a real need and they graciously accepted.

I feel very good about these nineteen men. If your parish receives one of them as a deacon you will be lucky. Congratulations to them are in order and to our local Church.

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Updated: Watch Bishop Lynch’s Remarks at the Ordination