Posts Tagged ‘Monsignor Bob Morris’


Friday, May 11th, 2012


Monsignor Robert Morris and I in the Cortille San Damaso awaiting the audience with the Holy Father

The seventh and final day of our week-long ad limina is now over and this will be the final posting as I will be travelling back to Tampa tomorrow all day. My flight leaves Rome at 655am EDT (1255pm Rome time) and I arrive back home at 1035pm EDT (435am Rome time) if all goes well. The layover in New York’s JFK airport is scheduled for two hours and ten minutes so I should be “at altitude” for thirteen hours approximately.

Our final day in the eternal city seemed to go on eternally. We began with a visit to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which is responsible for Catholic schools and colleges and universities, religious education and the catechism, and all seminaries throughout the world. The presentation by the Prefect, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski,  in this congregation was quite lengthy filling the whole hour and I had my cassock on throughout the meeting, was dying from the heat, and wishing for air conditioning somewhere, anywhere and soon. It came when we arrived at the Apostolic Palace for our visit with Pope Benedict XVI. More about that later. The bishops from the Atlanta province (Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, SC, and Savannah) had the rest of the morning off and were driven back to the North American College while the six bishops and one bishop-elect of the Miami province were driven to the Apostolic Palace.

The Holy Father lives on the top or third floor of a massive building to the right of St. Peter’s Square. His bedroom is a small room on the far right side which is accessed through a small parlor which is itself accessed through his private office where he sees no one officially but writes and works. When one has a private audience with the Pope, you go no higher than the second floor, which is full of formal reception rooms. His private quarters are small so the term “palace” is barely applicable. Also living on the third floor are his two priest secretaries, and the sisters who perform the housekeeping and prepare his meals. His very private chapel is there as well.

For an audience appointment of eleven o’clock which was our appointed time, one usually arrives at least thirty minutes early, passing a number of Swiss Guard who stand impressively tall and still. For the minutes leading up to being led into his presence, you can usually count on remaining for a time in about three reception rooms. As one person or group exits the waiting area and into the presence of the pope, you are moved forward one more reception rooms until you make the turn and are on the side facing St. Peter’s square. When I first started doing this routine in 1979, my knees would knock, my hands would sweat, I would begin to perspire all in anticipation of that final door. Today we were led directly to the final waiting room. Then we were ushered into his presence. The successor of St. Peter was standing this morning with a welcoming smile on his face and each of us was allowed to bring one priest or seminarian in with us to have a quick picture taken and then whomever we chose (Monsignor Bob Morris this morning) were ushered out and we were asked to take seats close to the Pope.

The pectoral cross given to us by Pope Benedict XVI today

He was interested in hearing from each of us whatever we wished to share with him from our diocesan experiences and he would offer a brief reaction to whatever we said. All told with seven bishops present, we took about twenty minutes of his time.  To me he seemed more tired than when I was with him in November, breathing a little more deeply and heavily but still so gracious and humble. This man, like Paul VI, is a very humble priest, despite his reputation sometimes to the contrary. I think I could capture the feelings of our group of seven bishops that we were genuinely grateful that he could still take the time to welcome each of us. Traditionally at the end of the Ad Limina visits with the popes, we receive some gift and it has been for the last four visits of US bishops a pectoral cross which we wear close to our heart as a constant reminder that sometimes shepherding the churches can be an invitation to carry a cross.

In the afternoon I had pranzo (aka “Lunch”) with Monsignor Gerald Cadieres, a student of mine at St. John Vianney College Seminary and the first South American to complete his theology work in Rome as a student at the North American College. He gave me the privilege of vesting him for his diaconate ordination here at St. Peters and it is always wonderful to see him during my visits. He works in the Spanish language section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Later in the afternoon a highlight for me was meeting after a long absence Cardinal Agostino Cacchiavillan, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America and a man with whom I worked during my six years as General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of the United States. He was a wonderful friend and mentor then and remains such even today. It was a terrific penultimate way to say farewell to Rome.

The “proof sheets” of the several hundred pictures taken of us this morning by the one photographer were back at the North American College by two o’clock and the bishops behave like parents at confirmation trying to get the pictures taken of their child with the bishop. It was like Disney animal time at the Magic Kingdom with people ordering photographs by the score. I am supposed to get a digital disc tonight later and if it arrives, one of the seventy pictures taken in less than two minutes of Monsignor Morris and I and it should be on this blog.

Sunday I celebrate my thirty-fourth anniversary of priestly ordination and Monsignor Bob Morris celebrates his twenty-first a few days later, so with our colleagues from the Pastoral Center we had our final dinner in Rome and attempted to make it memorable.

I leave with some very strong, mostly emotional feelings. First, I took Pope Benedict’s leave with the very strong feeling that I likely shall not be seeing him again. It was that same feeling in the gut I had when as a child we would take our leave of our 80 and 90-year-old grandparents. Secondly, I am clearing out my closest in the Bishops Larkin and Lynch Suite and bringing almost everything home tomorrow, as I do not anticipate coming back again, at least for business. Thirdly, all of us had a hard time tonight saying goodbye to Ryan Boyle our seminarian here who has shared much of his time with the eight of us. If generosity, hospitality, and helpfulness are predictors of a successful priesthood, Ryan will do very well. The seminarians at the North American College could not have been more hospitable this week, unfailingly kind and solicitous. Likewise the staff, priests and domestics which have in the last six months watched two of their former rectors made Cardinals, fifteen regions of the US bishops pass through for at least a week and the normal flow of guests and visitors coming to Rome, they have all been just terrific. All of the bishops of Region XIV are grateful to them.

So it is arrivaderci Roma, good-by, farewell to Rome, city of a million moon lit places, city of a million smiling faces, far from home. I believe this is my forty-fifth trip to the Eternal City and the Italian language had a great single word for how I feel tonight, basta, “enough.” Thanks for reading these entries and now it is back to confirmations, ordinations, graduations, birthday and anniversary. Ciao for now.


P.S. The much anticipated disc with the pictures seems not to have arrived as of this writing and posting of this blog entry, so I will post some of them tomorrow or whenever. If you can’t stand the wait, the mother of all ecclesial blogs, has them available for viewing. You can view more photos from the trip, graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with the Catholic News Herald, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte, here.

AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY SIX, Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Mass this morning at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral Church of Pope Benedict XVI

The sun begins to show itself here in Rome right now around 530am and I was up by 600am as the bus left for St. John Lateran Basilica at 645am for a 730am Mass. I was the celebrant and homilist this morning at what is in reality the Cathedral Church of the Pope in Rome. One of the four major basilicas, St. John Lateran is a beautiful place and we were in and out before the daily hoard of visitors arrived. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. After returning to the North American College for a quick breakfast, we were back on the bus for our first visit to the Congregation for Religious (its abbreviated title). The prefect was not present but Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSSR, the Secretary was present. The Congregation is very much pro-religious and understands well religious sisters, brothers and priests.

My group went on to the Pontifical Council for the Family but for the first time I absented myself so that Monsignor Morris and I might meet with another Council for a discussion of some plans, which I have for the diocese. Time is getting so short now for us (tomorrow is our last day and most of the morning will be taken up with meeting the Holy Father) that if we need to see someone else, it has to be at the expense of something scheduled for the whole group. I had lunch with an old friend who works in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and came home to be subjected to two different interviews, one with Catholic News Service and the second with Vatican Radio.  Tonight I am meeting Father Richard Warner, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross at their worldwide headquarters, hoping and praying for nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My feet hurt. Indeed, my feet ache. One does a tremendous amount of walking here in Rome, even if one is bussed to a certain site. For example, yesterday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, the bus parks about a half mile from the sacristy so there is a mile and walking down the hill from the North American College using a moving sidewalk built by the Vatican (which never moves when you wish to use it) is about a mile. I know I have lost several pounds since arriving.

Our meetings continue to go well, some obviously more interesting than others and some better than others. If they are faking and I do not believe that they are, the congregations and councils seem to enjoy these moments. They not only hear some of the things, which are on our minds, but share their concerns as well. To anyone who thinks we are called upon the carpet on these occasions, it just does not happen. They are more of a “love feast.” We serve and love the same Church. I wish more of my diocese would have an occasion to meet here with those whom we are visiting. We pray well together and quickly learn how to pass the butter and jam down a thirty-foot table in the dining room.

Ryan Boyle, Seminarian for the Diocese of St. Petersburg and in his first year of theology at the North American College, Rome, is the Lector for the Mass at St. John Lateran this morning

Tomorrow we wrap it all up with an audience with the Holy Father, two more meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then it will be time to pack for the return trip.


AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY FIVE, Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Our day began with a visit to the first new Council created by any Pope in probably at least thirty-five years, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI established and appointed as the President of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who made a believer of me in about thirty minutes. His passion for the task, his real world sense of the obstacles which would be met and his methodical approach to the task left me leaving his presence sensing that this man, give time, treasure and support, could make it happen. If we are to spread the Gospel successfully in our time, we must have a plan, which targets our own first, making missionaries of them. Successful at that, then it makes sense to go after those who have left our Church and those who are unbaptized or uncatechised or searching for the one, true Church. The three tools which must be put at the disposal of a successful New Evangelization are formation, homiletics, and lifestyle.  We can no longer take for granted that Catholic children even know how to make the sign of the cross, much less understand Jesus as Lord. The delivery systems of the past are not present to the same extent as they once were. The principal moment of catechesis for people who are in Church is the homiletic moment. And what we do as fully committed Catholics for the communities, in which we live, work, pray and play must be welcoming to those to whom we reach out. It was a fast hour and I would wager that my brothers and I left inspired and desirous of now working in our local Churches to make this initiative alive.

Our next stop was at the Congregation for the Clergy and our dialogue there centered on the priests’ relationship with their bishop and questions concerning the permanent (married) diaconate.

We ended up the morning with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where our own Cardinal William Levada greeted us as Prefect of perhaps the most important congregation in the Curia. It was a pleasure to spend the time listening in our native language of English.

Mass at the Altar of the Chair, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Photo kindness of Ryan Boyle

In the afternoon, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami was the principal celebrant and homilist for our Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of two basilicas where each bishop must visit and offer Mass since it and St. Peter’s are the grave sight of the apostle/martyrs to whose threshold (limina) we have come. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. Monsignor Morris, myself and my six pilgrims then travelled back to the North American College where we sat on the rooftop, which overlooks all of ancient Rome. It was a spectacular evening and sunset.  Dinner was at a local neighborhood restaurant and bedtime was early for me as we have to be on that darn bus at 645am in order to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. John Lateran tomorrow morning at 730am. Since I am to be the celebrant and homilist for that liturgy, I need my “beauty” rest!




Monday, May 7th, 2012

Today was “turn-over” day at the North American College as Region XIII left for home and Region XIV arrived en masse.  We held our first “organizational meeting” this afternoon and assigned leadership roles to bishops for the meeting this week with the dicasteries of the Holy See (dicasteries is a formal name for “offices”). Offices in the Vatican Structure have an order of importance: Congregations are the most important, followed by Councils, followed by Offices, etc. And within Congregations and Councils there is also a certain “pecking order”: the Secretariat of State is preeminent among the Congregations, followed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, followed by the Congregation of Bishops, and so on. Councils also have the same pecking order, Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, followed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and so on – more than you ever need or want to know. We will be meeting with a number but not nearly all the Congregations and Councils during the coming week and this afternoon we chose a leader to introduce both our group and our topics, which we assigned to interested bishops.

It has poured rain most the day and the same is predicted for tomorrow, followed by clearing weather for later in the week.

We exchanged money (dollars to Euros – ouch it hurt), talked some more about transportation to the Churches where we will be saying Mass, assigned celebrants and homilists to the Masses throughout the week (I have the honor of being celebrant and homilist at the Basilica of St. John Lateran which is the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome) and attended to other technical details. Tomorrow we start but as I mentioned, the Province of Atlanta has their tete-a-tete with the Holy Father tomorrow morning.

Opening Mass at the North American College celebrated by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta - photo kindness of Ryan Boyle

Sundays in Rome are nice days if the weather is favorable. The Holy Father appears exactly at noon from his window in his living room to lead the Regina Coeli, which is the Easter season replacement for the Angelus prayer. He also always adds a brief message and then imparts his blessing. I would say that there were about 10,000 in the Piazza San Pietro at high noon to see and hear him. It always bugs me when we have such hearing problems in our US and diocesan churches with the sound system and this man with his somewhat weak voice can be heard for two miles away. When it comes to sound amplification: Americans 2 – Italians 10.

We had Mass this evening with the seminarians at the North American College at 530pm and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta was our celebrant and homilist and he is simply superb at both.

Monsignor Morris arrived this morning by way of Miami and Madrid. He had First Communions at his parish of St. Catherine of Sienna on Saturday and was unable to travel with us yesterday. So now my party is complete and the work of the week is about to begin.



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

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

To the thresholds of SS. Peter and Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Bishop Lynch gathers with a group in prayer at the 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil

Bishop Lynch gathers with a group in prayer at the 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil

The Diocese and other sponsoring Churches have just begun the now annual “Forty Days for Life” effort which spans some of September and all of October which in our Church has traditionally been RESPECT LIFE MONTH. Father Bob Morris, our Vicar General and I have been gathering for prayer vigils within the legal distance of abortion offices throughout the diocese. Happily we are joined by ministers of other faiths who are either themselves pro-life or their Churches are. We pray, sing and hope during these vigils for an end to abortion-on-request as currently practiced in our country. Throughout these days at least two people will stand vigil on the sidewalks outside of the abortion parlors, praying that women who enter will change their mind. They know for certain that during last year’s forty days, at least four women did and their babies are now alive. It is impressive to me that every hour is covered at the Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa abortion sites from eight in the morning until five at night, Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. This principle of the exercise of free speech is peaceful and non-confrontational but highly symbolic. We are slowing changing public opinion on abortion-on-request in our country and courageous and dedicated people standing vigil aid in this educational effort.

Respect Life Program 2010-11 PosterWhile the 40 Days observance focuses on abortion, RESPECT LIFE MONTH from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concentrates on many other life issues as well. These span the gamut from abortion and euthanasia to access to health care, immigration, affordable housing and care for the elderly and, of course, to the one life issue that only Popes and Bishops seem prone to talk about, capital punishment.

It is not by accident that Respect Life month comes in October because this month for generations has been the month of the Holy Rosary and second only to May, the month of the Blessed Mother. But once every two years it is also the month just prior to national elections. No political party that I am aware of is truly pro-life according to the teachings of the catechism, Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae or the materials annually prepared by the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. And quite frankly, I for one do not find one party even more amenable to pro-life issues or any candidates for that matter. I had occasion to review last week the early responses of the candidates for Governor and Senator for and from Florida and none of them perfectly meets the matrix of the broad range of “pro-life” issues. So once again, as so often before, the voter of conscience spends these forty-days wondering  who is the lesser of two evils. The Florida Catholic Conference Candidate Questionnaire with the responses of our candidates will be published shortly and well before the election.

So you may not be joining us in the prayer service near abortion clinics or on a picket line but you can use these “run-up” days to study the issues and the stand of the candidates on the broad range of pro-life issues. Abortion is the worst of all the evils but it is not alone in its threat to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”



Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I believe that one of the hardest things which bishops have to do is to assign priests. Thankfully, in this diocese I am assisted in this task by a fine group of priests who serve for five years (Fathers Pellegrino, Hunter, Malley, Johnson, Plazewski, Piotrowski, Morris) and who are very happy when their term ends. In a collaborative Church, the bishop must listen to many voices on clergy assignments. Our process runs something like this:

In January/February every priest is written to by myself under “Confidential” cover and asked if they would like a change of assignment in the Spring. Admittedly we do not receive a 100 percent response rate but those who are thinking of moving usually use this occasion to signal their openness.

Once we know the parishes which are going to be open, two members of the personnel board visit the parish and meet with the staff, pastoral and finance council membership and others who are either invited or interested enough to come. Those meetings are usually helpful. We warn that we are not looking for names of candidates for pastor but we get them anyway, usually the same person.

During February, Father Morris and I spoke to several priests who are past the retirement age of 75 to determine their wishes, which this year along with one retirement at age 70 created four pastor vacancies. Information on the four parishes outlining the sacramental life of the parish as well as the financial resources was sent to every priest eligible to apply. Finally, on Tuesday of Holy Week, we interviewed the two men who will be ordained to the priesthood this May to ascertain what type of assignment would best fit them.

The Chancellor of the diocese (Joan Morgan) assembles all the responses and relevant information for the use of the Personnel Board in their discussion. Our deliberations are supposed to be confidential and contained to the meeting itself. Sometimes I or the Vicar General know something about a parish or a priest which would exclude them from normal  consideration. Additionally, we get “demands” which I don’t think are particularly Church-centered, such as “don’t put me with a smoker” or “don’t put me with someone with dogs”. There are many dioceses in the United States which still follow the old procedure of “you go where I tell you, Father, like it or not.” Here we strive as best we can for happiness on all sides. A new priest who is miserable about his assignment from the get-go is not likely to get off to a good start in a new assignment.

I personally require that every newly ordained priest spend their three years or more of their first assignment in a rectory setting where the pastor lives under the same roof, eats at the same table, and is open to mentoring his new associate in his infancy as a priest. Sometimes people will ask me why their parish never gets a young priest or a newly ordained and nine time out of ten times it is because there are separate houses for pastors and associates. It is a personal “hang-up” which many other priests in this diocese understand and support.

Meeting day(s) come, lively discussions occur, phone calls are made to see if the receiving pastor will accept the person being proposed and associates we are considering moving are called and asked on the spot if they would be open to going to St. Dymphna. It is a house of cards – when you think you have it built, someone says no, the house collapses and one starts all over. There is no bench with priests waiting to be assigned to which one can turn and I and my colleagues must keep in mind obligations in justice to older men who transferred into the diocese and younger men who were ordained for the diocese to see that they become pastors of parishes in due time.

Basically, and I end where I started, we play with men’s lives and happiness and it is not something we cherish. It is hard work. I think we have concluded most of the assignments for this Spring but it was very hard this year, very hard indeed. Perhaps these words give you some insight into how this diocese goes about choosing your pastor or associate pastors.



Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Homily for the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Is there any pain, any tragedy in life, to equal the sense of loss and betrayal of someone we love rejecting us, ending a relationship, telling us after a close and sometimes intimate relationship that we are no longer needed and should just leave their lives? When a spouse suddenly tells their partner that their marriage is over? When a boyfriend or girlfriend with whom one is serious suddenly announces that they are leaving for someone else? When a trusted colleague at work approaches a common supervisor for the purpose of more money or greater position and “sells us out” for personal gain? Almost all of us have some experience of the pain and suffering caused by the betrayal of a friend. It is a common tragedy of life on planet earth and it can take one a long time to recover.

Two people leave the table of the “Last Supper” in tonight’s liturgy. For Judas, betrayal leads to the tragedy of suicide, all for thirty pieces of silver. For Jesus, betrayal leads not to resentment, emotional paralysis, an over-abundance of self-pity but rather to one more astounding moment of triumph, of victory, of a final lesson to be taught to His closest friends. Before His death, one more time He demonstrates that as He had proclaimed in better times, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” and that He would never leave the world of believers alone but would be with us all days.

Judas served his own self-interests. Jesus served the interest of all of us. Judas cuts a deal with those who would wish the death of Jesus. Jesus allows for His continuing presence even after His death in the gift of the Eucharist. And as Paul says in the second reading, the Eucharist, bread and wine taken in hand, blessed, broken, and shared “proclaims the death of the Lord until He comes.” For Judas, the moment of betrayal is transitory. For Jesus, the moment prior to His death is eternal.

The first reading recalls the moment of Passover when the angel of death spares the faithful people of Israel in bondage in Egypt. For the many who will not be spared it is a moment of tragedy but for the believer, the Passover is a moment of triumph – triumph of God’s power, God’s love, and God’s forgiveness. They are spared to live and believe another day.

Faith allows us to overcome the lower moments of our human existence because faith tells us that in time, God’s plan for us is one of love. If the Father would not spare even His own Son from the events which would follow upon this last Passover meal with the Son’s disciples, but rather would await the right moment to demonstrate to the believers the triumph of life over death, of good over evil, then we too must endure the challenges of life knowing that in the end, God will spare us further suffering. God and only God has the power to ultimately make something good come from something awful.

To get from here to there we have the Eucharist. To have the Eucharist, Jesus chose twelve to serve as priests and they in turn chose others to make Christ present in the breaking of the bread. The Eucharist is our food for the journey. And during this journey we serve one another, soon beautifully portrayed for us by the washing of the feet, reenacting the final lesson of the Lord prior to His passion. All of this occurred “on the night he was handed over.”

If the script we have written for our life sometimes veers from what we expect or wish for, then think of Jesus this night.

If a friend betrays the love and trust we have long invested in him or her, then think of Jesus this night.

If we are starved for spiritual help and seem to be roaming in the desert of our individual Egypts, then think of Jesus this night.

With trust in the Father’s presence, Jesus now begins His journey to Calvary and to the tomb and to the Father. He was a man like us in all things save sin and we would do well to embrace His faith, accept the consequences of things sometimes going badly in our lives, and await the moment of ultimate triumph by serving others, not being served.

Update: You can also download a PDF of this homily.

Update 2: You can listen to this homily on our podcast.

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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


Friday, December 19th, 2008

One of the traditional aspects of the season are office parties. At the diocese, we decided in light of the economy and budget short-falls that we would forego the big dinner we sometimes have and cook and serve the homeless at Pinellas Hope instead (see blog entry below Light Shining in the Darkness). Nonetheless, various offices have been getting together for smaller seasonal gatherings and tonight I had my personal staff at my house for a “Honeybaked Ham” dinner. I consider myself to be a very lucky person in many ways, one of which is the competence, dedication, loyalty and patience of my own staff.

Father Bob Morris is a wonderful Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. He misses parish work and particularly pastoring very much but makes the sacrifice to assist me and the diocesan Church. Joan Morgan, the Chancellor, keeps the records, statistics, requests for faculties, etc. all the while being a real “mother” to the priests. No one hangs up the phone after speaking with Joan without thinking, what a great woman she is to them. Elizabeth “Betty” Deptula has been with me for about ten of my years as Secretary for Administration. She oversees the work of the Finance and Accounting offices, Human Resources, Construction and Real Property offices, Information Technology, and has built  the new addition of the Bishop Larkin Pastoral Center, as well as Bishop McLaughlin High School, the Bethany Center, the additions to the three existing high schools and assisted all the parishes in completing and paying for their building projects. Frank Murphy is Secretary for Pastoral Programs and at the same time President of Catholic Charities of the diocese. He is a man of indefatigable energy and provides the energy as well as insight for Pinellas Hope.  At the Pastoral Center Frank would supervise the offices of Faith Formation, Education, Pro-Life, etc. and also serves as the Diocesan Communication spokesman.

Supporting us are only three wonderful women; Cecilia Svab, Vivi Iglesias, and Andrea McSorley. You keep them busy with your phone calls and we keep them busy with the usual and sometimes the unusual demands of a very busy office. Stress is not a stranger to our operation.  Come to think of it, I personally might just be a source for some of it.

I have a housekeeper at my residence who comes a day and a half a week and a very occasional cook who helps me when I have guests for meals which amounts to about one night a month, except during this season of the year. For food the rest of the time, well, there’s McDonalds.

Anyway, the Advent/Christmas season provides an annual opportunity to express thanks to those who help in the triple ministry of teaching, governing and sanctifying and that is what I and others did tonight. Thought you might wish to see what the women and men in my life look like so I am attaching two photos taken this evening.

Left to right, Andrea McSorley, Joan Morgan, Betty Deptula, Vivi Iglesias, Father Bob Morris, Frank Murphy (Cecilia Svab was unable to join us tonight and is missing from this group picture)

Jerry Toth (housekeeper) and Lori Foynes (cooking)

Jerry Toth (housekeeper) and Lori Foynes (cooking)