Posts Tagged ‘Fr. John Tapp’


Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Last night, approximately 3100 people gathered at Tropicana Field for the annual Spring Nehemiah Conference of FAST (the acronym for “Faith and Action for Strength Together.”)




FAST and the Nehemiah Conference are no strangers to this blog as I have written about them now almost yearly. Each year I am strengthened by the growing participation of the various church and synagogue communities which belong to FAST, by the dramatic increase in attendance by committed congregants, and by the growing political maturity of both the organization and the elected representatives they invite to come and participate.

Once again this year, they asked me to open with Nehemiah Conference with a prayer and I want to include it here because I hope it set the proper tone for the evening. By the way, accountability and transparency mandate that I share with you that I am not the author of the prayer, Father John Tapp of Holy Family parish composed it for me, but I embraced it fully:

Father of Mercy, Father of Justice,
        we thank you for gathering us together this evening
        for our 10th Nehemiah Action Assembly in Pinellas County.

In the spirit of your prophet Nehemiah,
      we assemble here this evening
      because we have listened to and heard the cry of those most in  need.

We come from different backgrounds, religions, and ethnic traditions,
      but you have joined us together as one,
      working as one,
      so that YOUR justice may rain down upon the earth
      and guide the hearts and minds of those who lead us. 

In this time when our Jewish sisters and brothers anticipate
      the great feast of Passover,
      we think of Moses demanding that Pharaoh “Let my people 

We think of the new life won for your Chosen People,
      the journey from slavery to freedom,
      from scarcity to abundance,
      because of his selfless dedication to the Lord and his people.

Give us that same spirit this evening.
      May our focus be on your people – especially those most in 
      May we constantly commit ourselves to the good work of 
      May our efforts be mighty and fruitful.

      As we celebrate Passover as a perpetual institution,
      May we continuously work for greater justice in our world.

We also find ourselves in this holy season of Lent – a time of
prayer, fasting and giving alms.
      During this time, we remember the words of the prophet

      “THIS is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound
      unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free
      the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

Give us the grace, the courage, the persistence, the wisdom
      to do this great and holy work.
      May we always be aware, that what we do for others,
      we do for you.

May our quest for justice in Pinellas County
      serve to build up your Kingdom in our midst.
      And may those who see our work give glory to you, our living
      and true God.

We offer this humble prayer in faith,
      confident that you hear us and help us,
      giving us what we need – today and at every moment.

And let us all cry out together: AMEN!

This year, FAST chose three areas of concentration and I wonder what person of sound mind could object to any of the three.

First, a note that last year the City of St. Petersburg committed to requiring that any city funded construction contract in excess of $700,000 would only be awarded to contractors binding themselves to hire local labor, which includes people who have committed felonies in the past but have reformed their lives in the present. Now, again, in the interest of honesty, I have to admit that because of our SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM put in place to protect children, this diocese and its entities can not hire or allow to volunteer anyone convicted of having committed a felony. I regret this but understand it, hoping that some day we can move beyond it.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was unable to be present but his deputy mayor was present and indicated that the Mayor would like to expand the commitment to construction projects well below the $700,000 threshold. That was a YES even though the exact threshold amount could not be identified last night.

The second area of concentration focused on youth arrest for less serious crimes. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and State Attorney Bernie McCabe were asked if they would work to implement a program which would direct first-time offenders for less serious crimes away from jail time and toward programs of changing behavior leading to non-repeat. Florida, by the way, arrests and places in jail more youth that any other state in the union, many for crimes which, while felonious, are by their nature less serious than others.

Both men affirmed their intention to use alternate forms of punishment short of incarceration for such crimes and McCabe passed the proverbial football right back into the laps of the attendees saying that the communities’ best interests were best served when the whole community works together to see that youth and law enforcement never meet. Another YES recorded to the delight and satisfaction of those in attendance.

The third and final issue of the evening was addressed to the Pinellas County Commission which had four of its members in attendance. This issue concerned making dental care available to the indigent and poor and a story was related by a member church of a woman who died because she was unable to access care for a dental abcess. The request made of the commissioners was to use $5.9 million dollars of the projected county surplus (due to an improved economy and rise in taxes and assessment revenues) which is currently estimated to be about $20 million for this fiscal year to give access to no-cost dental coverage for the truly indigent. All four commissioners promised their support but one noted that the spurplis predicted needed to be attained before a final number for the program could be agreed to. The assembled took these responses as another YES.

As the Catholic bishop for this area, I am proud of the achievements of FAST and its Hillsborough counterpart HOPE which is holding its annual conference tonight (I am with the Franciscan fathers this evening for Mass at St. Joseph in south St. Petersburg and then dinner with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiga who is their guest for a chapter meeting so I am unable to attend). But I swell with pride when I see my pastors and associates sitting either on the dais or with their people in the crowd.

And I am even prouder of the Catholic participation in FAST which is substantial. To those priests and parishes which have not yet chosen to participate, I simply remind them that FAST is a good way to reach out to Pope Francis’ “peripheries” and bring Christ to the desperate poor. The elected officials are learning how to handle FAST better than some of our own people.

A great night at the TROP and as Father John Gerth, who summarized the results said at the end of the evening, a “grand slam” had taken place on the Trop’s outfield.

Congratulations, FAST, and good luck tonight, HOPE.



Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The second visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was radically different in many ways from the first. President Ronald Reagan had invited the Pope to make a pastoral visit this time and the United Nations was not involved. Since the last visit in 1979 both the Pope and the President were survivors of assassination attempts and so security concerns were ratcheted up significantly. More people and dioceses wanted the Pope even though the cost to the host diocese ran at least three million dollars a day and with nine years in office behind him, every US Church agency wanted a piece of the action. Disney World wanted him desperately for a meeting with the youth of the world at EPCOT (making me one of the few Floridians to ever say “no” to Disney and live to tell of it).

In Rome my dear friend Archbishop Marcinkus had been replaced by a new team of papal advance members led by the Jesuit head of Vatican Radio, Father Roberto Tucci, SJ who is now a cardinal. Assisting him were two of the finest men one would wish to work with, Monsignor Emil Tscherrig from the Secretariat of State and Dr. Alberto Gasbari from Vatican Radio. But John Paul remained the same, just a little older. There were two preparatory meetings with him, which included lunch in his apartment, and a meeting of all the host bishops and the archbishops of the United States with him in Rome in advance of the meeting. Tensions were running somewhat high as agendas were beginning to emerge in the United States. In the visit of 1979, only an address by Sister Theresa Kane, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had raised some concerns but I am certain that the Pope did not hear her. Little known to anyone at the time was that the young pope was near deaf in one ear and the sound in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was not advantageous for him to hear. Almost every picture ever taken with him never shows him looking at the person but turned so he could hear with his good ear.

But it seemed in 1987 everyone wanted an opportunity to speak to him, hoping to elicit a favorable response. So Monsignor Frank McNulty of Newark addressed him on behalf of priests in Miami, Donna Hanson, a lay woman from Spokane, Washington addressed him in San Francisco, Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop Quinn, Archbishop Pilarczyk and Archbishop Weakland addressed him in Los Angeles, the National Catholic Education Association, the Catholic Health Association, and many others spoke their concerns. The Holy Father always had a prepared response as those writing for him had advance looks at the texts.

The Native American Blessing with an Eagle's Feather

Three things gave him special energy in this visit. Although earlier in the day for the first and only time in his entire pontificate his Mass was interrupted and rained out in Miami, he was at his best that day in Columbia, South Carolina on the campus of that state’s University. He could lot believe the tens of thousands of students in a state he knew to be 1% Catholic would gather on the quadrangle and cheer for him and remain while he conducted a ninety minute ecumenical and interreligious exchange with religious leaders from throughout the United States. There were as many students still there when he exited as when he went in and he commented to me, “These young people, they are not Catholic?”  Later he and Billy Graham were to share the stage in the football stadium for a truly ecumenical prayer service, which was frowned upon by some of those travelling with him from Rome.

He also enjoyed a meeting with Native Americans in Phoenix, which included their ritual blessing with an eagle feather, also causing some alacrity with his travelling party that a largely pagan sign would be used with him but something, which clearly he enjoyed.

The Holy Father Meeting Young People at the Superdome

And as in 1979 at Madison Square Garden, in 1987 the meeting with the young people of New Orleans and elsewhere who would fill the vast Superdome brought him special happiness. He was more comfortable and at ease with kids than with bishops by far. Their spontaneous response to his obvious thrill of being with them and their love for him drew them closer to him always.

Popes carry burdens of soul, which few others have to carry. The 1987 visit was right when the AIDS pandemic was spreading and becoming better known in the U.S. Church teaching on condom use and abstinence were not well received in many quarters and to those involved in AIDS ministry and even to those suffering from the disease, the Church in general and the Pope especially seemed insensitive, uncaring, even cruel. When at the old Serra Mission in San Francisco at a prayer service for those with AIDS the pope picked up a child with aids and hugged an adult and embraced him, hearts melted and compassion marked the Gospel. It was quite a moment for me, one that I had helped arrange with the assistance of my Roman colleagues but somewhat looked askance at by others.

John Paul II arrived in Miami with a long and warm meeting between two men nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet and it ended with Vice-President George H. W. Bush offering farewell remarks in Detroit, a city added at the insistence of Archbishop Edmund Szoka which required flying back two thirds of the way across the U.S. and then West again into the Northwest Territory to Fort Simpson in Canada to keep a date he had to cancel several years prior due to fog precluding the landing of his plane at that time. The Holy Father was clearly weakened by his horrible moment with history and not exactly the same as in 1979 but he kept a hectic daily schedule nonetheless and there was always that time for meditation and prayer. Bone tired at midday, on this trip with a scheduled brief rest he would recover well enough to keep a schedule that would kill me at his age, drawing strength from inside himself and at prayer, never wishing to disappoint anyone, and renewed by the adulation of the masses of people who came to pray, listen and reflect with him, especially the young. On both occasions he was impressed with the vitality of the Church in the United States and liked the manner in which we prayed. He mentioned this to the officers and I after his trip in the Fall of 1987 at lunch with him in Rome. For this trip I asked Bishop Larkin if I could have the services of Father John Tapp to assist essentially in the care and feeding of the papal entourage who came with the Pope from Rome and he had his hands full. Also I hired a young lay man from Indiana to work for a year and a half with the Secret Service and the USCC Communications office in arranging for the needs of the local and traveling press (about 300 travelled with us on the full ten day trip). His name was Paul Etienne and he is now the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

On the TWA 747 in Detroit I climbed the steps once again. This time he was ready for me having been reminded by someone of my quip in Washington in 1979 that he could come back but not too soon. He gave me that half smile and said, “Father, will I be welcome again?” Off he went to Fort Simpson and my life returned to normal.




Monday, February 21st, 2011

I have always loved and found generally true that old aphorism, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It has been about ten days since I last logged on to share some of the things happening in the life of the diocese and each day I rise saying, I am going to write a blog entry and each night I go to bed saying, “shucks.” So there is a lot to cover in this entry.


Week before last I visited our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary at Boynton Beach. We currently have eighteen on campus at the former in their college and pre-theology years and nine on campus at the latter plus two men currently in the diocese of what is called “Pastoral Year.” I try to give each seminarian twenty to thirty minutes for some private time with me, celebrate the Eucharist for them, take them en masse out to dinner and say prayer with them. This year our new diocesan Vocation Director, Father John Blum accompanied me and he too spends time with each seminarian. At the conclusion of our visit, we both meet with the Rectors of the seminaries to gain their perspective on  how they see our men doing in formation. Honest seminarians always admit to the challenges of pursuing their vocations. Think of what we ask of them: celibate chastity all their lives beginning when they enter the seminary gates, living in close proximity to others and constantly under a microscope (not necessarily of their superiors but even their peers) studying two intellectual disciplines which are largely abstract in their origins (philosophy and theology), living, studying and praying in multi-cultural, multi-language Miami and South Florida. There is little that is new here to priestly formation but the experience of recent years in the Church has shone a spotlight much more glaringly on seminary education and formation and our men sense it. Overall, they are doing quite well. Some have decided not to go on after this year and they spoke honestly to me of their reasons and I admire their decisions, hard as they were to arrive at. Most are content, challenged, and eager to move on eventually to priesthood. From the perspective of a soon to be seventy year old, I can not help but admire the sacrifice these young men are making in a youth culture, perhaps even in a secular culture which neither understands nor values a chaste and celibate priesthood. While I stop short of elevating our seminarians to the ranks of heroes or saints, I can not help but admire their generosity and commitment. I left my camera at home on this trip but here is a picture of the college seminarians and one of the theologians will follow as this week I must return to both seminaries for the twice yearly meeting of the Board of Trustees.

College Seminarians 2011 with Fr. Blum

The college seminarians with Fr. Blum.


Over 750 people attended one of five workshops held the last ten days throughout the diocese on the introduction on the First Sunday of Advent of the new Roman Missal translation of the Mass. I was so proud of both the presenters and those who gave of their time and talent to come and learn about what will be happening and how best we might prepare our parishioners for it. Planned, organized and executed by the Diocesan Worship Office and Commission, I have to admit that I learned some new things myself, even though I had been actively involved in the process of vetting the translation recommendations. In a few days, and I will make note of it here in this space, a video of the two major presentations made during these workshops, one by Doug Reatini on the history of changes in the Roman Missal and the second by Father John Tapp on what to expect on “T DAY” (the last Saturday in November at the Vigil Masses for the First Sunday of Advent) will be available on our Diocesan Website to join the video of Bishop Blase Cupich’s fine presentation to our priests in December of last year. If you are truly interested and I hope you are, take the time to watch both of these videos and I guarantee you will be ready for T-Day. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make these workshops so beneficial. The “buzz” (“buzz” is different from the things which are said to the bishop to make him feel good) on these days has been overwhelmingly positive and grateful. I am proud of our diocese and I know in my heart and mind that we will be ready.

Workshop held at St. Timothy Church in Lutz on Feb. 12, 2011


About 540 people joined me in our annual dinner for the Catholic Foundation which has as one of its principal goals raising money for tuition assistance for children attending our Catholic schools who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Last year they raised just over $150,000 for tuition assistance and this year appears that it will be about the same. It was truly “Women in the Church Night” at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa last Saturday a week ago.  Sometimes when our Church gathers there is this underlying feeling that unless one has a cardinal or well-known archbishop to give the major address, there is little reason to go. Well this year gave the lie to that line of thinking. The major address was given by a woman born in mainland China and the show was stolen by an eighth grade young lady from St. Raphael’s school.

The principal speaker for the evening Professor Carolyn Y. Woo, Dean of the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame University. Dean Woo told of her own personal debt to the Catholic schooling she received in Hong Kong at the hands of the Maryknoll Sisters who had been forced by the communists out of mainland China and had taken up both residence and mission in Hong Kong. It was the sisters who guided this young girl, the fourth of six children, through elementary and high school and gave her the courage to look to the United States for her college. With only enough money to pay for the first year of tuition at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, against her father’s wishes she made her way to the college of her choice, using $1800 (the cost for one year’s tuition in 1972 at Purdue) which she had saved from summer jobs, gifts from her siblings, and help from her nanny. Alone, afraid, but determined, she went to daily Mass at the student center at Purdue and almost immediately met the man to be her husband years later after she had completed her doctorate degree. Purdue hired her, first with a teaching job and then as a part of the University Administration. Fourteen years ago Notre Dame discovered her and asked that she come to South Bend to be Dean of their Business School. In the succeeding years she has led a major school on campus which this year in one ratings system is now first in Undergraduate Business schools in the nation and sixth in their Graduate Program. And she would lay it all at the feet of those noble women from the United States, the Maryknoll sisters, who taught her that a woman can become a leader, even in a culture (Mandarin Chinese) that relegates them to inferior positions behind men. Her story is one of amazing accomplishment and deep faith and one could hear a pin drop in the huge room while she was speaking.

Dean Carolyn Y. Woo, Dean of the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame with Henry Jenkins, currently an ACE teacher at Holy Family Catholic School in St. Petersburg

But even Dean Woo would say the evening belonged to in the eighth grader at St. Raphael who won the diocesan first prize in an essay contest on what it means to be in a Catholic School. Speaking for about ten minutes from memory and with a super accompanying video which she herself put together, she won a long, sustained and enthusiastic standing ovation from those in attendance for her talk and presentation. It was stunning, even to me who sometimes callously thinks I have seen and heard everything. Her prize was full one year tuition which she will spend at St. Petersburg Catholic in the coming year. This young woman stands a great chance of being her generation’s Carolyn Woo. Here is Heather Finster, this year’s winner who has set the bar incredibly high for eighth graders who will attempt in future years to top her. Heather’s mom worked for many years for St. Joseph Hospital and her father died a number of years ago, making this achievement all the more beautiful. Congratulations, Heather, and it will be nice to have you in the neighborhood when you come to SPC.

Winner of the Catholic Foundation's First Annual Essay Contest on "What a Catholic School Has Meant to Me"

The Foundation made a special award to Mrs.Cecile Demers of St. Patrick’s parish in Largo  who with her husband have been strong supporters of  Catholic education, particularly at St. Patrick’s school , Clearwater Central Catholic High School and  St. Leo University. Although her husband is now deceased, Mrs. Demers continues to share the blessings of her life with young women and men who probably could not afford to be in a Catholic school were it not for her generosity and that of her late husband. Here is a picture of my presentation of this year’s Foundation Award to Mrs. Demers who used the moment appropriately enough to tell me to do more for Catholic school kids – truly an amazing woman.

Photo compliments of P. L. Carrillo

Finally, it has been “crunch time” for Confirmations and I have been doing about four a week since a month ago. There are eight more between now and the night before Ash Wednesday when we cease the confirmation circuit to better focus on Lent and preparing once again for Easter and the Triduum which precedes it. All toll, this year I will celebrate the sacrament of confirmation forty-four times before mid-June and will have served fifty-one parishes (some combine their young people and others come to the Cathedral for the two large group celebrations of the sacrament. Here one final picture of that special moment – in my life and hopefully in the lives of the young women and men who receive the sacrament.

Photo by Walter Pruchnik III

This completes the longest blog entry in the short history of this author. But now we are caught up for the moment. I hope reading it has not been something akin to walking that road to hell but in writing this, however late, I did have good intentions.



Monday, December 13th, 2010
Shrine to the Holy Family

The New Shrine to the Holy Family in the renovated Holy Family Church.

Saturday night was a long-awaited moment in the life of Holy Family parish, St. Petersburg. After a little more than seven months worshipping in a woefully small parish hall with over-flow Masses in the school cafeteria, the great people of Holy Family returned to their Church and found it amazingly remodeled into a beautiful, new house of worship. Begun in 1956 as a parish, and after first worshipping at Northeast High School, then their temporary Church which is now the parish hall, a large fan-shape church was dedicated an altar consecrated on October 7, 1984. I am sure that the parish welcomed and were proud of that building which represented their dreams and sacrifices over twenty-seven years. The sanctuary was very, very small and the Church itself was very dark. Time was not kind to that building and in recent years termites, broken and dangerous pews, a near-defunct mechanical (heating and air-conditioning) system and a veritable laundry list of other material challenges presented themselves to the parish for prayerful reflection and decision.

Holy Family Church Altar

The new altar in Holy Family Church

Significant consultation preceded the formation of a Steering Committee to guide the development of a plan for remodeling the Church. A capital campaign was launched but approximately one million and indeed the first million was spent on bringing the school up to code, replacing windows whose frames left wide gaps with the structural walls, and new bathrooms for the children quite appropriately had to be responded to first. The Church could wait until the children were guaranteed a safe building in which to study. Over the last year and a half, the parish under the leadership of their pastor, began to flesh out the dream of a remodeled worship space.  What they saw on Saturday night and what I blessed and the new altar I consecrated were both astonishingly beautiful and amazingly simple in design. The Church was made brighter by a new lighting system, its internal walls were removed and replaced, the sanctuary was brought out so that the priest could be seen by everyone in the Church. New pews replaced the dangerously deteriorating, termite infested old pews. A new tile surface was placed on the floor under the congregation and a beautiful tile used in the sanctuary. A new ambo from which the Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed was installed resembling a “table of the word” and it can hydraulically be raised and lowered for a child who serves as lector or a wheel-chair bound person who can now gain access to the sanctuary by a much-needed ramp. There are shrines to the saints, icons to be placed, the artwork of the previous building was preserved and moved to places where it is much more accessible and prayerful, and the stations of the cross lowered and discreetly lit. A new organ and grand piano grace the space. But to me the most stunning new addition is exactly what it should be, the main altar. Made of natural stone, steel and wood, it can not be mistaken for anything but a table where the Eucharist is celebrated and from which we are fed the bread of life and the blood of Christ. Weighing exactly one ton, the new altar in almost any other space would seem to be out of proportion to the environment but in the remodeled Holy Family, it catches one’s eye and you know you are to be invited to and fed from the table of the Lord. There is no ornamentation, just granite, steel and wood triangulating to suggest what an altar should be – a table.

On the Wednesday night last week which was the Holy Day (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) I celebrated the seven p.m. Mass in the parish hall with about two-hundred people. While we were praying some one was leafletting the cars in the parking lot warning against the coming abomination of Holy Family Church. Our diocese’s liturgical Thomas Paine (of course, they choose to remain anonymous) railed against the moving of the tabernacle at Holy Family and lots of other things he/she does not like about myself or the diocese or the Universal Church today. The tabernacle is exactly where it was in the former building prior to renovation, beautifully illuminated, and elevated for all to see. I doubt if Father Tapp, Father Mangiafico, and the people of Holy Family will see a “correction” or “Apology” on their windshield anytime soon.

Holy Family after Renovation

Holy Family after Renovation

It doesn’t matter. When the lights came on during the ceremony lighting up the darkness of an Advent Saturday Vigil Mass, there was an audible gasp as how beautiful their new worship space is and a strong sense of pride at what they had accomplished. From where I sit, I can say without fear of contradiction, that led by Father Tapp and his Steering Committee, the parish received a lot of “bang for the buck” using the same building as before but restoring it to a beauty that will last far longer than that which went before it. Congratulations Holy Family for a vision well executed and a dream for many come true.

If you want to watch the video series which Holy Family had on their website throughout the renovation, you can view them on YouTube.  If you are interested, here is a PDF copy of my homily.  Here are some more photos from that evening.

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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Now that I have your attention!

In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the forehead and hands are anointed with the Oil of the Infirm

This morning I made my second visit to Bon Secour-Maria Manor Nursing home to celebrate the Eucharist and with the help of five other priests (God bless them) administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to those Catholics who wished to receive it. I am invited twice a year and enjoy going there to do something mildly pastoral as opposed to totally administrative. Since coming here, Maria Manor has always asked and seems to look forward to my visits. The staff go to great lengths to bring as many of the Catholic residents as possible down to the chapel and they come in all manner of wheel chairs, etc. Many of them are fast asleep prior to the beginning of Mass and it is one group you don’t mind sleeping through your homily. They seem at genuine peace. But one can not preach too long or one will be interrupted with an especially loud yawn and then you know you have pushed the envelope beyond its natural resting point. After all, no matter the age, the brain can not absorb what the tush can not tolerate.

Bon Secour-Maria Manor was the source of very negative publicity about six months ago in the local papers when the state accrediting and reviewing agency put them on strict probation for regulation avoidance. Prior to that, the facility had always received a five-star rating, one of the best in the area. Administrators reacted responsibility and were not accusatory. Instead they began to address the areas of concern and probably added some additional ones of their own that were not a part of the state-finding. I sensed a vast improvement this morning and they have already received reaccreditation from the professional agency which accredits nursing homes and are awaiting the unannounced visit of the state inspectors any day now. I would go to the bank that they will get at least four and maybe five of their stars back. It is financially challenging to operate a nursing home in the present environment with the state constantly cutting back on reimbursements for Medicaid patients. At one time, sixty percent of the population at Maria Manor was on Medicaid. The census for the facility has dropped in recent times, perhaps because of the publicity attendant upon the state’s probationary action, but also because here in Pinellas County we are losing elderly population in a significant manner. Father John Tapp, the pastor of Holy Family in which I live and Maria Manor is to be found says that his parish has lost about 1000 family units in the last decade. I truly hope that the Bon Secour Health Care System will hang in there in challenging times and continue to provide the continuum of service from Assisted and Alzhiemers care to full nursing care. As the pictures which accompany this blog indicate, they do lovingly take care of their resident and patient clientele.

Father Al Arvey, a resident of Maria Manor, who in a few days celebrates his 80th birthday receives the sacrament of the sick.

So, I did indeed enter a nursing home on this Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul but I also walked out an hour later having celebrated two sacraments of the Church with a grateful, loving group of believers. Hats off to the staff of Maria Manor.


Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Theology on Tap is a program for interested Catholics who wish to know more about their faith. While it was begun for and principally attracts twenty and thirty somethings, it is open to any interested Church member. They are held in bars and restaurants so that those attending can combine post-wok relaxation and dining with learning more about their Church. This Spring’s four weeks of Theology on Tap are ended and since most of us missed the occasion of hearing the presentations, I wish to draw your attention to the podcasts of the speakers which can be accessed by going to our diocesan podcast or to the iTunes store where you can download or subscribe for no charge. Apropos of this week, you might especially like to listen to Father John Tapp’s presentation on the Sacred Triduum.

Tomorrow at St. Jude’s Cathedral at 1130am is the annual Chrism Mass, a liturgy which takes it name from the fact that the Sacred Oils of the Sick, the Catechumens, and Chrism are blessed and consecrated during the ceremony. However, it is also the annual occasion for the priests to renew the promises and commitments which they made on the day of their ordination and they turn out in great number for this lovely liturgy. Delegations from all the parishes and missions in the diocese accompany the oils so the Cathedral is fairly full but there is always room for some more so if you have nothing to do and would like to experience the Church at its best, please join us. If, however, you are unable to be physically present, you can join us by tuning into Spirit FM 90.5 [WBVM] for a live broadcast.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II (on Good Friday, April 2nd) and last week was the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador who was wantonly murdered in his own Cathedral. We should pray for them both. The Holy Father is well along in the process of beatification prior to canonization as a recognized saint by the  Church and the latter should be further along than he is but that will come in time.

Finally, this is the last blog posting of Holy Week although my homilies throughout the week will be posted here. Easter week I am retreating “into my shell” for some R&R but will be back on the blog on or around the First Sunday of Easter (April 11th). I take this moment to extend to all my readers my prayers for a most blessed Triduum and Easter joy. Welcome to our near 1500 catechumens and candidates who will be entering the Church at the Easter Vigil and the love of Christ and my own to all of you.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch (aka “+RNL”)


Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

1. That I am still alive to celebrate Thanksgiving 2009 with both my brothers still alive, my niece and nephew and their spouses all who were at my side even though I was unaware of it, my friends from everywhere I have lived and worked. Special thanks to Drs. Reilly, Williams, Boulay, Abel and Rizzo, CPICU staff and especially JD and Jim, Therapy persons like Kathy, Jed, my special PT person at St. Anthony whose first name I am unable to remember due to a senior moment  Marcelo, Jennifer, Hermine, Anne Marie, Adela, Kathy B., Ann, Debbie, Beverly, Walter, Lori, Jeri and to Father John Tapp and Father Bob Morris who stood vigil through what had to be one of the longest days and nights of their life. All of you made this Thanksgiving possible and may God bless you all.

2. That thousands of people, most of whom I do not know, have been praying for me since July 27th raising my spirits and helping my recovery.

3. That I have been attended to by the finest surgeon, doctors and nurses and nurses-aids since becoming so sick.

4. That I have a group of priests who have been patient with me, supportive of my enduring the challenges of serious illness and whom I love and think the world of. Now I just need to be more patient with them and perhaps even more supportive in return.

5. That I live in the United States and enjoy so many of the blessings God has bestowed on this nation.

6. That late in life I have been “gifted” with an experience of suffering and uncertainty which I hope as I get stronger I can share with many who also carry the same burdens. Our Gospel is a message of hope.

7. During this time of my long road to recovery that our local Church has been led by Father Bob Morris, our Vicar General, and Elizabeth Deptula, Joan Morgan, Frank Murphy and the wonderful, committed people of our diocesan staff in seeing that the work of the Church continues successfully.

8. Apropos of number 7 above, that I have finally learned that it is not all about me, and that none of us are irreplaceable. It is one of the Lord’s gifts to His Church.

9. That I was baptized into the Catholic faith and am taking more seriously than ever before what it means to be “gathered, nourished and sent”, looking forward to our final convocation in May 2010 and more convinced than ever that the Lord has left me here to proclaim His presence in the sacraments of the Church.

10. This list of things to be thankful for could go on and on but I finish with the thought that I am so gifted to have been planted in this Church of St. Petersburg with its priests, deacons, religious women and men, and active, committed laity for whom faith is more than an obligation but rather a gift. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Bishop Lynch


Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Recently the Diocese of Venice celebrated the golden anniversary of its first bishop, now retired, Bishop John J. Nevins. Founded in 1984, the Diocese of Venice was created mostly out of territory which once belonged to the Diocese of St. Petersburg with only Collier County (Naples and Marco Island) coming from Miami and several interior counties (Hardee, DeSoto, and Glades) coming from Orlando. After flying up and down the coast from the Skyway Bridge to Florida City, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States  (Pope’s representative) chose Venice to be what we call the “see city” or home of the Cathedral of the new diocese. He chose an auxiliary bishop from Miami, John J. Nevins to serve as its first bishop which he did for twenty-three years.

Bishop Nevins is special to a number of us in this diocese. He was the Vocation Director of Miami when I was accepted as a seminarian for that archdiocese. In the initial interview he got after me about my weight at the time and I thought to myself, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.” But he and admissions board accepted me.

He was the Rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary at the time I was ordained and many of our current priests in this diocese were students there during his time (Fathers Muhr, Tapp, Morgan, Weber, Rebel). He had a knack for what might be termed “baby talk” and would often approach you and disarm you with something like, “Hi, brother in Jesus” or “Hi, holy man – you’re going places.” Sometimes he would approach a seminarian who had been with him four years in the seminary by asking, “Are you new here?” I suspect he did a lot of this to gauge the response.

In 1979 he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Miami while serving as the Rector and with the new duties expected of him, I took his place as the fifth rector of that seminary. He lived on the seminary property and we became close.

Venice owes Bishop Nevins a lot for his time as their bishop. He took a large geographical area and built the Church up amazingly. He opened about fifteen new parishes in his time as bishop. To staff these new parishes he turned to sources for priests outside of the state and sometimes even the nation. He was always a man of good humor with a love of history. When he was a child, the late Norman Rockwell drew him in color for one of his famous covers for The Saturday Evening Post and the good bishop also was a contestant on an early TV program called Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. Both parents were born and raised in Ireland and he loved the Irish.

My dear friend is suffering the ravages of aging but his mind is still sharp and his sense of humor remains in tact. His successor, Bishop Frank Dewane had a special celebration of his fiftieth anniversary two weeks ago when I was in New Orleans so I drove down to Venice to take Bishop Nevins to dinner last night. I told him that the priests, deacons, religious and people of his neighbor to the North were praying for him on his golden anniversary and he said, “I hope so, brother. I hope so.” And of course he greeted me  with, “Hi, holy bishop.” What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him I suppose but I sure wish I could do some of the things as well as he has done them.

We have five retired bishops at the moment in this state – all wonderful men with great histories of service: Bishop John Snyder, the former bishop of St. Augustine, Bishop Norbert Dorsey, the former bishop of Orlando, Bishop Nevins, Bishop Agustin Roman, the retired auxiliary bishop of Miami, and Bishop Gilberto Fernandez, retired auxiliary bishop of Miami – big shoes for those of us still “walking the walk” to fill. Ad multos annos to Bishop Nevins especially and to all my retired brothers.

Now it is off to Mount Rushmore.