Posts Tagged ‘Ordination’

FIVE GUYS

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Yesterday, Saturday, May 21, five men were ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. To a Cathedral packed to the rafters with a local Church loving and welcoming, these five men embraced the call to be good shepherds to the People of God whom they will soon serve.

May 21, 2016 - Fathers Felipe Gonzalez, Alexander Padilla, Bradley Reed, Jonathan Stephanz and Kevin Yarnell were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Robert Lynch at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Please keep them in your prayers! (DOSP Photo / Maria Mertens)

With the newly ordained. Father Jonathan Stephanz, Father Felipe Gonzalez, myself, Father Alexander Padilla, Father Bradley Reed and Father Kevin Yarnell. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Elsewhere on the diocesan website you can see pictures of the ordination and, if you have 145 minutes, you can even watch the whole ceremony. Below I wish to share my words to the men, likely to be my last as the power and privilege of ordaining will pass to a new good, maybe even better shepherd.

ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
St. Petersburg, FL
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop

“It is a reality that God often interacts with humanity through the medium of dreams. While few of us have the experience of St. Joseph to whom an archangel, no less, appeared in a dream with life changing news, most of us who are ordained or to be ordained began to seriously develop our notion of priesthood through dreams of some day becoming one. Throughout formation, we sometimes made it through the more challenging and darker moments by dreaming of our ordination day or our first Mass or our own image of what kind of shepherd we might ultimately become. But as our five deacons soon to be ordained will find out, reality can and often does supplant dreams and today I would offer my counsel that this can be tragic when unforeseen and ill-prepared for.

When tomorrow afternoon, they literally roll the proverbial stone before the tomb and all your family and friends withdraw leaving you alone with your new reality, I would counsel it is precisely then that you need to begin to fashion new dreams in which you see yourselves, Felipe, Alex, Brad, Jonathan and Kevin as good shepherd of God’s people. What you are soon to become is far deeper, richer, transforming than what you have dreamed you might be on the day of your ordination.

Pope Francis almost daily reminds his priests of what God wishes them to be and what they may or may not have become. His dream is that we become so attracted and attached to Jesus, the Good Shepherd that “we press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith that is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and to be guided by his words, to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps to have his same sentiments. And what are these sentiments of Jesus? Humility, mercy, closeness to others but also a firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity, and idolatry. The way of Jesus is a love which is faithful to the end, and even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross.” [Pope Francis, Marian Day, 10,12,2013].

Francis is redrafting the dream of priesthood. It is far from an office of privilege for the ordained, but rather a privilege which through ordination allows us to be Christ to the terrified immigrant father and mother facing deportation, to the confused and wounded young mother who has chosen to take the life within her womb for fear of being unable to care for the child once born, to pray with the condemned prisoner on death row or the overnight visitor to the county jail who has been arrested for a DUI or a lesser offence, to promise a parent that their parish will work hard to improve literacy at the miserably failing local public schools their children are attending by working with FAST or HOPE in two of our counties, to comfort a dad who has just lost his job that while searching for new employment, we will work to retain his children in our parish or diocesan school even though we might be at a loss also of how to make ends meet. These are a few of the pastoral realities which must reshape the dream of how we are to become that good shepherd tomorrow when all withdraw and a lifetime of priestly ministry awaits and begins.

“Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way…. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” [Francis, JG]

It is almost the nature of dreams, especially about priesthood, to see us as ministers of the sacraments and indeed that is an essential part of the job description of today’s priest. But that you can accomplish in several waking hours, what are you going to do in the remaining time – wait for the phone to ring or the doorbell to sound? Pope Francis calls us to dream of using more of our time as good shepherds in a different way – as ministers of God’s mercy, taking the initiative to seek out the lost, recapture and reclaim the disenchanted and disenfranchised, to get dirty in the hubris of daily living by giving special attention to the poor, to the lonely, to the forgotten, to the angry,

If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, might and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them; without meaning and a goal in life.

            More than a fear of going stray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within the strictures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat.” [Francis, JG]

Dear Felipe, Alex, Brad, Jon and Kevin, I wish I were younger and could join with you and my brother priests who may live the dream of a new form of priesthood born of the vision and the conscience of Pope Francis. It is far more challenging and exciting than anything I have experienced to date in my life and even somewhat scary. But it is more faithful to the image of Christ the Good Shepherd whom I was to become at my priestly ordination than the “dream I dreamed in times gone by” [Le Miserable]. It is the Good Shepherd who loved us to death, the alter Christus who in a few moments you are to become and I once became.

Today this Church is filled with love and great expectations. Your soon to be brother priests are renewed that in these times and with these challenges, you have already said “yes” to the call of Jesus, “follow me.” Together with me, they welcome you as brothers. God’s people whom you will serve will honor you as “father”. May Jesus welcome you many years from now as “faithful servant.”

+RNL

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

NEW LIFE COMES TO THE ARCHBISHOPS

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

I do not often attend episcopal ordinations and/or installations outside of my own province (all the seven dioceses in Florida) or our episcopal region and then when I do venture forth, it is almost always for a friend and/or close associate. Such occasions have taken me to Spokane, Washington, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Tyler, Texas, Duluth, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Camden, New Jersey to name just a few places. Today (Thursday, June 4, 2015) I am in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico and have just attended the installation of Archbishop John C. Wester (formerly of San Francisco and Salt Lake City) as the eleventh archbishop of this historic diocese.

But I am also here to be with my longtime friend, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan who retired this afternoon as Santa Fe’s eleventh archbishop. Archbishop Sheehan is an important part of my own vocation story since as a layperson working for the national episcopal conference from 1992 till the fall of 1995 I lived in the same residence with the Archbishop and the late Bishop Lawrence McNamara of Grand Island, Neb. They inspired me to return to seminary studies and Archbishop Sheehan preached my first Mass in 1978 in Miami, Florida on the day of my ordination, May 13th.

Archbishop Sheehan has spent twenty-two years leading an archdiocese, which was among the first to be hit hard with the reality of the horrors of sexual abuse of minors. His predecessor, a good man, had admitted to have sexual relationships with age appropriate women and had to step down. There also had been a clergy treatment center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico which treated priests with sexual disorders and a number of priests while on or having completed the program worked in the parishes of the Santa Fe archdiocese and had continued to abuse minors. In a terrible mess came Archbishop Michael Sheehan, at the time the first bishop of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas, of “Buddy Holly” fame. He mentioned privately this afternoon that in time here, he had ordained sixty priests and dismissed twenty-five from the priesthood. That was only an inkling of the state in which he found at archdiocese on his arrival.

Michael Sheehan was born and has lived as an incurable optimist. His approach to life is something akin to the story of the six-year-old boy found at the bottom of a compost pile with a small shovel who tells his parents, “it’s OK, there has got to be a pony down here somewhere”. With bankruptcy looming, clergy morale lacking, trust of the Church and the hierarchy in this territorially large Archdiocese waning, the Archbishop waded in with his genuine trust in God, in the essential goodness of people and their willingness to forgive and while it has taken a long time, he leaves to his successor a local Church thriving (he ordained seven new priests two weeks ago), recovering from its occasionally sadly sordid past, and teeming with hope and promise. He has more than earned his retirement.

Cathedral of St. Francis

Cathedral of St. Francis

Today’s installation took place in the venerable Cathedral of St. Francis. Early Church history in the southwest is omnipresent here from the earliest Spanish missionaries to Archbishop John Baptiste Lamy (immortalized in Willa Cather’s historico-novel, Death Comes to the Archbishop) who arrived in 1850. The first Spanish conquistadors accompanied by Franciscan friars arrived in 1598. I was unable to be present last July when Archbishop Michael celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination due to a funeral of a priest in our own diocese. I had the honor of preaching for part of his 25th anniversary of ordination celebrations in Lubbock. So I was here for my dear friend and for his successor who is an absolutely wonderful bishop, John C. Wester. At precisely 221pm MDT the twelth Archbishop of Santa Fe took possession of the bishop’s chair (“cathedra”) in the beautiful mother Church of all of New Mexico. New life came to the two archbishops here in Santa Fe today and you can make your choice which one it came to, or perhaps even both.

+RNL

FIVE FOR THE FUTURE

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Father Carl Melchior, Father William "Bill" Santhouse, Father Ryan Boyle, Father Steven “Chuck” Dornquast, myself, Father Anthony Ustick and Father Curtis Carro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Father Carl Melchior, Father William “Bill” Santhouse, Father Ryan Boyle, Father Steven “Chuck” Dornquast, myself, Father Anthony Ustick and Father Curtis Carro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens. See more photos from the ordination here.

ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
St. Petersburg, FL
Saturday, May 16, 2015

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop

Hebrews 5:1-10
2 Corinthians 5:14-20
John 15: 9-17

The entire Church of St. Petersburg rejoices this morning that these five young men, Curtis, Ryan, Chuck, Anthony and Bill are offering their lives to Christ and his Church in priestly ministry. It is worth noting  that this morning’s ordination is of the largest class since 1991. God is good and these men are incredibly generous.

They chose the readings for their ordination Mass and their choices they reveal to me, and I hope to all of you as well, their hopes and aspirations for their priesthood beginning in just a few minutes.. For a few moments then, I wish to reflect on what we might expect from our new priests based on the readings they have chosen (five points): from Hebrews: deal patiently with the ignorant and the erring, reverence, and obedience. From 2 Corinthians: being an ambassador for Christ; and from the Fourth Gospel: love without limit.

Earlier this week, research from the Pew Foundation revealed two things that I suspect we all knew but were reluctant to admit. First, Pew said, for every new convert to Catholicism, six people leave our Church. Second, Catholicism in this country would be in deep decline numerically were it not for the Hispanic immigrants we currently enjoy and even there thirty-five percent of all Hispanic Catholics are leaving the Church of their baptism for other religions. In fairness I have to admit that we are not alone in the loss category and we know that America is becoming less Christian.  Nonetheless, we as Church have a Gospel challenge to face, meet and defeat.

We don’t teach what we believe as well as we should. We rely perhaps too heavily on old methods of communication and put too much reliance on traditional vestige, hierarchy of orders and judgment. We often hide in the clothes of the past as well as some of the ideas of the past, disregarding the fact that to today’s younger generation not only are these things devoid of meaning and anachronistic but also some can suggest tendencies that may not otherwise be present.

Dear brothers, we can basically only choose two paths to our ministry: to cling to a notion of priesthood and ministry and see our older Catholics and ourselves off to eternity, or adapt when possible and stop fighting some of these the new realities. Your generation will never be content with simply embracing a religion that they feel helped their moms and dads but has little meaning and relevance to their own lived experience. They are there, this younger generation of the baptized Catholic,  ripe for the picking, when approached with a reasoned, kind, patient, welcoming ministry, which includes not only we who are ordained, but people like themselves as well, the people of God.

Reverence is a two-way street, not one way. God so loved the world that even Jesus’ “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death” to many seemed unanswered. The Son was forever and always reverent to the Father, BUT he continually showed reverence to those to whom he ministered. If we are indeed made in the image and likeness of God, then every person you meet expects to be treated with reverence. And that is not an easy task, especially when someone is mad at you, frustrated with you or with the Church and to them the Church is nothing more than a  seemingly endless list of do’s and don’ts. Allow me Just a hint from a thirty-seven year old veteran: cry out and cry to the Lord, not to the person in front of you remembering that God still asked his Son, the great high priest, to die for us.

Obedience today is elusive. It may mean something to you today when you already know where you are being assigned and are happy with it and it will mean something else to you when you are asked to go somewhere, do something, which you really do not want to do. Obedience this morning is easy, tomorrow it might be difficult. But here the writer of Hebrews points out something I hope none of we priests ever forget: Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” If you wish to act in persona Christi then like Christ himself, accept the tough, the unattractive, the taunts and taints, yes, even the sufferings as he did. He could have exempted himself from this passion but he did not and why should we? Understand well the deep meaning of the promise of obedience and respect and make it a part of your regular prayer.

In Paul’s words to the Church in Corinth, all of us are to be ambassadors for Christ. When the President of the United States appoints a “fat cat” who contributed millions to his or her campaign to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James (Great Britain) that person surrenders their personal agenda, their personal ideas of defense and finance, their personal likes and don’t likes, part of their intellectual independence to the will and person of the President who appointed them. They carry both the message and agenda of their President and his ideas, his mission in service, his goals and objectives to the government and people where they serve, and not their own. In other words, apart from their personal and private lives, ambassadors become more than merely a representative but they take on the persona of the person who sent them. If we are to be ambassadors for Christ, we should never be content with just being his emissary but rather we should strive to present his persona: kind, compassionate, loving, forgiving, merciful, healing, non-judgmental except and unless all else has failed.

Style your ministry after Pope Francis. Ever the teacher, he is a master of the use of the gesture which captures the hearts of the world. Why, because he acts like most of us think Christ would act. He speaks with authority only when he has to but with wisdom and understanding and openness. He doesn’t hide behind rich vestments and vestiges of power and privilege but leads by example using words only when absolutely necessary. When Raul Castro can suggest that this Pope is truly an ambassador for God, we least of all,  should never take him for granted.

Deacons Ryan, Bill, Anthony, Curtis and Chuck – for God’s sake and the people’s good, be the first of the Church’s Francis priests. It means you will always make yourselves  open to vulnerability, ever in search of the lost, truly satisfied with little material things, consistently a lover of the poor, forever a true promoter of justice –  in other words, ambassadors for Christ.

Finally, try to remember the motto of the man who in moments will lay hands on you and anoint your hands for God’s work. Love one another and stay close to each other as friends in the priesthood, which for a few years will be tricky given Ryan’s ministry. You have chosen the chapter and verse of John’s Gospel from which nineteen and a half years ago I chose the words by which I would try to live out my ministry in this great diocese.  God chose you, I did not. Others have formed you, I did not. Love God, love one another, and join me in loving and working tirelessly for our friends. Priesthood is a privilege but not a privileged place. Like the master, choose always to serve and not to be served. Love one another as he has loved us.

+RNL

THREE NEW “LINEMEN”

Monday, May 19th, 2014

In a week which witnessed this writer on an emotional roller-coaster, Saturday was a beautiful day of rejoicing and being glad.

Somehow, with God’s help, I squeezed the ordination of three new priests and two weddings into the daylight hours. Our Cathedral of St. Jude, newly remodeled, was the scene for the ordination as well as one of the weddings and the new space works magnificently.

Filled to over-flowing, the ordination ceremony is certainly the most beautiful liturgy at which any bishop presides. You can relive the two-hour and twenty-minute ceremony by watching the archived “livestream” replay of the ordination ceremony by clicking here.

Should you not wish to watch the whole ceremony, you may look at a few photos that I am including below (see more photos by clicking here). You may also read my homily on the occasion which is included below the photos (click here for a PDF version of my homily). However, if you wish to merely listen to the homily and neither watch it nor read it, that too is possible by clicking here. Isn’t technology amazing?

Deacons Jonathan Emery, Fabiszewski and Kyle Smith processing in at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Deacons Jonathan Emery, Brian Fabiszewski and Kyle Smith processing in at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle was full for this glorious occasion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle was full for this glorious occasion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Litany of Supplication (Saints).

Litany of Saints. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Laying on of Hands upon Deacon Kyle Smith. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Laying on of Hands upon Deacon Kyle Smith. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Anointing the hands of Father Brian Fabiszewski with the sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Anointing the hands of Father Brian Fabiszewski with the sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Greeting Father Jonathan Emery during the "Kiss of Peace". Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Greeting Father Jonathan Emery during the “Kiss of Peace”. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

The new fathers at their seats among the priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

The new fathers at their seats among the priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Father Brian Fabszewski, Father Jonathan Emery, myself, and Father Kyle Smith after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Father Brian Fabszewski, Father Jonathan Emery, myself, and Father Kyle Smith after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Ordinations to the Priesthood
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
Acts 10:37-43; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; John 15:9-17

            Barely nine days ago, much of the attention of the nation seemed to be directed toward the annual National Football League draft. Countless commentators spouting off on who might be chosen first, second, and third in the draft all listed the following requisites: height, weight, size. This morning the Church of St. Petersburg’s annual “draft day” has all that going for it and far more.

For these three men there was no suspense about whether or not their names would be called; there certainly was no “money sign” given by any of the three a few moments ago when we signaled our pleasure at their generosity, courage and determination, and in thirty to forty minutes, each of these men will “don” our equivalent of the “team jersey” – the chasuble worn at Mass.

            Our new “offensive linemen” will not get monetarily rich either. Their agent, St. Paul, in lieu of telling them how much their life and talent is worth in worldly terms, instead “urged [them] to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Clearly this isn’t the football of Vince Lombardi. This is the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

            In our world, love trumps violence. These men came today with excellent coaching: by their parents, by the example of priests they came to know and admire; by women and men in formation who shaped their vision of vocation and service. They did not have to first go to Indianapolis, to try out, prior to being called. Brian, Jonathan and Kyle’s calls came much earlier in their lines, as we heard moments ago in the Gospel, “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. . . .This I command you: love one another.” Quietly, humbly, patiently, persistently, presently, fully and completely, these three men are in a very real way laying down their lives for the friends of Jesus.

            And when they might wish to be watching football on a Saturday afternoon, they will more likely sit in the dim light of the confessional waiting for that someone who has not darkened the door of the same for years to arrive seeking the reassurance of God’s mercy and compassion.

          When they might wish to be watching football on a Sunday afternoon or spending time with their family at both the end and the beginning of a long week, they will instead be pouring the water of new life over the head of a child screaming as if he or she wants God in heaven to know that they are free of original sin, the devil’s grasp and now here present, in His Church.

          And in that daily split-second of Divine accomplishment when the bread and the wine, the body and blood of the Lord is raised aloft at the words of institution, at the Great Amen, or at the invitation to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, all eyes and all light will focus on the Eucharistic Lord, not the person of the celebrant. It’s a whole new world. It’s a whole new way of loving. It’s a whole new manner of self-giving. It’s not about us, no matter how long we have been waiting for the moment. It’s all about Jesus and his love for us. We cannot give what we do not have but what we have to share is worth spending the rest of our lives for.

           Today, then, is not draft day. Jesus took care of that nine years ago, or seven years ago when these men first entered the seminary. And today is not the Super Bowl either, for that moment of glory in the sun is all too fleeting. Luke’s words, quoting Peter in the first reading from Acts, capture the essence of this moment perfectly as he reminds us of: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

            So Brian, Kyle and Jonathan, after invoking on you the assistance of the saints, laying my hands joined by those of the presbyters on your heads, and anointing your hands with the same Holy Spirit and power, you shall take your place at the altar of God. It’s absolutely amazing. After multiple years of preparing for, dreaming about, working hard for this moment, it will be over very quickly. But a wonderful, rich lifetime of ministry is only just beginning. Priesthood is more than just a moment. It is a way of life.

          Everything that the NFL, major league baseball, the New York Times and CNN or Fox and the media in general think are the true markers of success in life are merely passing idols. For you and me, for your brother priests, Jesus Christ is the constant and like him, as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, we must be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing messengers of his presence. Today and perhaps even tomorrow you and I are dressed in our finest. These are signs of celebrations, of a festive occasion but they are not what Christ would have worn today. We earn our stripes which identify who we are and what we do not by what we wear but how and to whom we minister.

            Brian and Kyle, please give me just a moment for a special word to Jonathan. Many here present today do not know that from the second to the sixth year of my priesthood I served as Rector/President of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. For two of those five years I had a student named Robert Emery, Jonathan’s Dad. He was a larger man than even his son and at times he was even larger than life. He could be a handful. But Bob Emery was at his best when he was on his knees in the chapel and at prayer, often asking God if he should continue in the seminary perhaps not putting up with the likes of me. After I left St. John Vianney, he left the priestly pursuit and we did not meet again until twelve years later when I confirmed Jonathan and he told me, “this one has a true vocation.” I have thought about your Dad, bigger “Bob”, a lot these last couple of days, Jonathan, and I know he could not be prouder of this moment and the other good things which have happened to his family following his sudden, unexpected death seven years ago. I truly sense a presence among us this morning, a twelfth player, if you will, very proud for sure, but telling his son, it’s past time to get on with the rest of your life.

            Three great men present themselves to the Church today. But we reaffirm that there is, “one Lord, one faith; one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” This you can take to the bank: rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made!

Newly ordained celebrate what is somewhat inaccurately called their “First Mass” following the ordination rite and normally on the next day, Sunday. Father Kyle Smith left the cathedral, went home for a few minutes, and then was off to his parish church, Our Lady of the Rosary for his Mass on Saturday afternoon.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O' Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’ Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

 

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O' Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’ Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Click here to see more photos from Father Kyle Smith’s first Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish.

I did the same thing thirty-six years ago, having been ordained on the Saturday just prior to Pentecost and managed to get everything out of the way by sunset on the day of ordination itself. The other two priests celebrated their Masses on Sunday. Truth to tell, they actually concelebrate their first Mass with their bishop following the ordination rite itself but we all know what they mean when they invite you to their “First Mass of Thanksgiving.”

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

 

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Click here to see more photos from Father Jonathan Emery’s first Mass at St. Clement Parish in Plant City.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

 

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Click here to see more photos from Father Brian Fabiszewski’s first Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Clearwater.

So now they are priests and are given some time to relax between seminary, ordination day, and reporting for their first assignment. The faithful parishioners of St. Cecilia, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Most Holy Redeemer will now have the task of “breaking them in” as their associate pastors and I am sure that these three communities, led by loving and hard-working pastors, will see to it.

But it will still be some days before the applause of gratitude and affirmation dies down in their memories, the love and pride of their families diminishes once again in commands to clear the family table or dry the dishes, or do your own laundry, the joy of their brothers already in priestly ministry subsides. Saturday was a great day for the ordained, for their families and friends, and for their bishop who badly needed such a wonderful moment. (Apropos of the difficulties of last week, please watch this space the next several days as I attempt in homiletic form and information source to share with you what I know and believe relative to the death of Father Vladimir Dziadek).

The country singer Glen Campbell, back in the age of dinosaurs when I was growing up, sang a song called “Wichita Lineman” which began with these words, “I am a lineman for the county. .  . .” Our three new priests are “linemen for Christ” and we wish them many happy, wonderful years of playing in the “big leagues” of ministry and service.

+RNL

THE LORD GIVES AND THE LORD TAKES AWAY

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Father Thomas Stokes, S.M.

Father Thomas Stokes, S.M.

Word came to me late yesterday of the deaths of two wonderful people. The Marist Fathers province informed us of the death of our dear Father Thomas Stokes, for many years the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ybor City. Father Stokes retired last summer but remained around until the Fall when he returned to Ireland for the final time. I wrote lovingly about this man and his time among us last year and you can access that tribute by clicking here. For this moment, Father Tom did not have a long period of restful retirement, but now he rests in peace in that better place to which we all aspire and to which all of us who knew Father Stokes know that he is almost there, for sure.

When I arrived in the diocese in January of 1996, our communications officer was Joseph Mannion. He also died yesterday after a long struggle with cancer. Joe was one of the first people I heard about after my appointment as bishop became known as he had been a classmate and friend in Rome at the North American College of Cardinal William Keeler, a wonderful friend of mine and mentor to me. He told me that Joe and his wife remained close friends of his and that the diocese was blessed to have a communicator of his talent. Upon arriving, I found that Joe had been an on-air personality of Channel Eight here in the Tampa Bay area for a number of years and was a highly respected journalist in the newer medium of television. Joe was also the lobbyist in Tallahassee for Pasco County which necessitated his presence in the capital during legislative sessions and we were beginning to have the challenge of coming to know and handle the sexual misconduct claims of priests and other diocesan employees. It became almost impossible for Joe to represent both the county before the legislature and the Church before the media and he chose the county. A part of me always thought that because of his lifelong love of the Church and the priesthood, it was just awful for Joe to have to speak to these crimes of unspeakable pain and suffering perpetrated largely on minors. I would see Joe and his wife on occasion, always when his friend Cardinal Keeler was in town, and at the annual Red Mass in Tallahassee once each year when the bishops were in town. He was a great man in every way, a great servant of his Church and his faith, and a witness to both. May he rest in peace and may his wife Elizabeth and his sons be comforted by the memories of a life well lived and a service to the Lord and to humankind of the highest quality.

Finally, this brings me to the Lord’s most recent gifts. On Saturday last, I ordained eleven men to the transitional diaconate (this means simply that they are on their way to priesthood ordination next year and will serve as deacons only during a transitional period of thirteen months).

Photo kindness of Alexander Rivera, seminarian at the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary

Photo kindness of Alexander Rivera, seminarian at the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

The ordination took place at our regional seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach where Monsignor David Toups is Rector and Monsignor Michael Muhr, both priests of our diocese, is spiritual director. Three of the eleven men were ordained for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. They are Brian Fabiszewski from St. Catherine parish in Largo, Jonathan Emery from St. Clement parish in Plant City, and Kyle Smith from Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Land O’ Lakes.

Deacon Kyle Smith, myself, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski, and Deacon Jonathan Emery. Photo kindness of Alexander Rivera, a seminarian at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

Deacon Kyle Smith, myself, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski, and Deacon Jonathan Emery. Photo kindness of Alexander Rivera, a seminarian at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

The other new deacons were from the Archdiocese of Miami, and the dioceses of Palm Beach, Orlando, Jacksonville and Pensacola-Tallahassee. My opportunity to ordain at the seminary to the diaconate comes once every seven years as the owning bishops of the seminary rotate the privilege. It was a glorious day with a glorious liturgy and I departed confident that six of our dioceses would be getting eleven great priests a year from now. Pictures from the occasion can be found by clicking here, as is my homily (click here to read it) on this occasion.

So indeed with two deaths of friends, colleagues and witnesses to the faith, the Lord has taken from our midst great people, but in the ordination rite, the renewal of ranks continues and he gives us continued hope for the future.

+RNL

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD! WHAT A WONDERFUL WEEK!

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I have had a great week in so many ways which I wish to share with the readers of this blog. My Thanksgiving began with a Liturgy of Thanksgiving last Wednesday on the night before the great American holiday. With the Cathedral church closed for remodeling, the Mass was celebrated in the parish hall where a very lovely temporary worship space has been created and the children’s choir reminded all in attendance of innocence, spirit, gratitude and joy. My brother came down from Buffalo to be with my nephew (his son) and we had Thanksgiving dinner together for the first time in a long time. Brother Tim, whom many of you met only rhetorically from the train trip across America in June, was unable to come up from South Florida not because, for once, of any physical limitation he has at the moment, but the need to care for a very special person in his life who is suffering from very severe back pain. Nephew Chris and his wife, Julie, and their two year old daughter Brinleah plus their 8/9th second daughter (due January 3, 2013) hosted not just myself but several others who had no place to go to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

On Friday, I celebrated Mass at St. Clement’s Church in Plant City which is beginning to celebrate the centennial (100 years) of the celebration of the first Mass in that small city. About 300 people gathered to thank the good Lord for 100 years of blessings and faith and it was a lovely Eucharistic celebration.

On Saturday, I hosted about twenty people to watch the Notre Dame-Southern California game at my residence. The rule was that hamburgers and hot dogs would be served between 7 and 8pm after which the cook/chef (moi) would retire to concentrate on the game. Ninety minutes prior to the beginning of the game, my cable box blew out and I was certain that tragedy had struck. But a second cable box in the bedroom was moved to the Florida room and none of my guests were even aware of the trauma that preceded their arrival. The outcome of the game, of course, made rest come easy that night but it was one a.m. before the mess was cleaned up and the bishop could retire.

Sunday began with a Mass during which I installed Father Damian, T.O.R. as pastor of old St. Mary’s in downtown St. Petersburg. A full Church and a magnificent choir contributed to the spirit of thankfulness the people held in their hearts for both Father Cletus Watson who had to retire from being pastor (he still lives there and assists) and for Father Damian whom they had come to know well in the last year. Prior to coming to St. Mary’s he had been pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Bradenton and lots of his old parishioners were present to pray him well.

With Wilfredo and Suzanne Huertas, and Rev. Anthony Coppola of Sacred Heart Parish in Pinellas Park. Photo kindness Ray Bassett.

With Wilfredo and Suzanne Huertas, and Rev. Anthony Coppola of Sacred Heart Parish in Pinellas Park. Photo kindness Ray Bassett.

One of the nicest things I do each year occurs on the Solemnity of Christ the King when I present the diocesan medal struck in honor of our patron saint, the apostle Jude, to nominees from each parish and mission in the diocese (view photos by clicking here). Accompanied in almost every instance by their pastor or occasionally their assistant pastor, these people who have given years of quiet and humble service approach the altar and receive their medal and a picture taken with me of that moment. Many are weeping tears of joy and humility as they come forward. None of them do for God and His Church anything to eventually cop this recognition. In fact, I always say that if you think you deserved this moment and medal, you probably don’t, but if you think you are unworthy and should not be receiving it, then you are exactly who it was meant for. Great people receive this medal annually, and before them I am humbled.

On Monday, I met with the Presbyteral Council and they talked about many things. It was one of those meetings where I could sit back and enjoy the conversation as they wrestled with giving me advice on issues of some moment and consequence. There was a great, lively and honest discussion and progress was made on several fronts. After lunch I reviewed the results of a number of studies about the Church in the US at this precise moment and said that the statistics needed to help us develop a pastoral plan for the short-term future. For instance, there are 75 million Americans who identify themselves as Catholic but only 17 million are in Church every Sunday. 68% of those who identify themselves indicate that they would not advise a young person to consider a vocation to the priestly or religious life. I’ll be sharing more of these realities with you in the coming months here as we discuss them in the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Presbyteral Council. They are important for the future.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Tyler website.

Finally, yesterday (Wednesday) I was in Tyler, Texas for the ordination of a young new bishop whom I have known for some time through a mutual friend, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe (instrumental in both of our priestly vocations and who preached both of our first Masses as priests). Bishop Joseph E. Strickland is a priest of the same diocese he is now called to serve as bishop which is rare in episcopal appointments in the United States. But the priests and people of Tyler loved him and yesterday they showed it many times during the ordination ceremony. Tyler is in east Texas, about 150 miles east of Dallas from which it was mostly cut off in 1986. It has 89,000 Catholics now and is one of the more missionary of the Texas dioceses. Tyler is the “Rose Capitol” of the world, or so it claims and so does the Papal Bull of appointment (Father Reginald Foster in Rome or whomever must have had fun writing that one for the Holy Father to approve). Fall is just now beginning to arrive in East Texas so I will end by quoting those lovely lines from Louis Armstrong, “I SEE LEAVES OF GREEN, RED ROSES TOO, …WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.”

+RNL

NEW BISHOP, NEW HOPE

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes. Photo kindness of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahasse.

At a time when the male leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States is taking something of a beating, some of which arguably might be deserved, it was wonderful to be present in Pensacola on Tuesday for the ordination and installation of their new bishop, Gregory L. Parkes, formerly a priest of the Orlando diocese as well as its Chancellor and Vicar General. At both Monday evening’s Evening Prayer Service and at the ordination/installation Mass itself, it was abundantly clear to me that God’s people still have great hope in their leadership and still welcome and receive their new bishops with fond expectations and great affection and affirmation. I am certain that Bishop Parkes must have retired for the night on Tuesday with a very good feeling at the end of the day. His new diocese opened their hearts to him in two ceremonies where the music and liturgy were both well planned and well executed. I’ve included a few photos of the ordination and installation that were graciously shared by the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahasse at the end of this blog post.

The custom in the United States is that archbishops ordain their “suffragans” (hundred dollar word for bishops of other dioceses within their province which in our case is the whole state of Florida) and the privilege fell to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami both in that role and having been Bishop Parkes own bishop for about nine years in Orlando – it was, as it should be, a sort of father-son moment. Both the Archbishop and Bishop Parkes thanked the former bishop of the diocese, John Huston Ricard, SSJ, for his almost thirteen years of service and the church literally erupted in a warm, long, standing ovation for Bishop Ricard. The same electricity of gratitude was in the air when Bishop Ricard exchanged the greeting of peace with his successor at the end of the ordination rite itself. No one worked harder for the nearly 75,000 people of the Panhandle Diocese than did Bishop Ricard and as I have said here several times in the last eighteen months, I miss him greatly as he was my closest friend and collaborator among the bishops. So old and new, standing together and embracing one another, is a memory I brought home with me, thanking the Church of my baptism for its constant opportunity to move on from what might become the routine and continue to renew itself and grow.

I have no doubt that two days away from the ordination, Bishop Parkes has said farewell to visiting family and friends and is already enundated with the decisions which necessarily had to await the installation of a new bishop – some of them certainly problems and challenges.  That happened in my case seventeen years ago, but life and love, faith and friendship, patience and perseverance ultimately prevail and the new Bishop has a huge war chest of good will from which he can draw strength and inspiration and support. Archbishop Wenski liked to joke often about Bishop Parkes 6’8″ height but that is not the lasting memory for those like myself who were there on Tuesday. Rather, it will always be of a warm, kind and gracious man accepting the challenges which come today with being a bishop in the United States and promising his best to the local Church to which he is now wed.

Finally, assuming no sitting bishop gets moved, I leave you to guess who will be the next to be replaced and which diocese will next experience renewed hope. And as promised, the photos from the ordination and installation are included below.

+RNL

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

 

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

 

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

GIVING BIRTH

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

After a blog a day from Rome about the ad limina visit, regular readers may wonder what has happened to me. First, this week I paid for my sin of being gone for a week during the height of the confirmation, graduation and anniversary season. Additionally, it seems I broke a leg in Rome on Friday, the last day there. It was confirmed only on Monday of this week with an X-Ray which revealed a “hairline, stress fracture of the right fibbula.” Happily this type of break does not require either a cast or a boot, and one can continue to safely walk on it while it heals itself. Today (Saturday, May 19th) I had ordinations in the morning and a confirmation in the evening and my right leg was telling me at times it was far from pleased with me.

Deacon Timothy Corcoran and Deacon Victor Amorose at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Ordinations this morning were simply wonderful. Deacons Tim Corcoran and Victor Amorose were rousingly welcomed into the priesthood by an almost full Cathedral. I have always been proud of our diocesan ceremonies since arriving here sixteen plus years ago. The music has always been extraordinarily appropriate and beautiful, made so by a succession of very talented music directors. Our diocesan Office of Worship consistently plans and executes a smooth and beautiful ceremony. Add to that the Cathedral staff who knock themselves out for such occasions, and one has the recipe for a successful liturgical experience. For most major diocesan functions such as ordinations and dedications of Churches, I am ably assisted by Father John Tapp, pastor of Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg, himself a graduate with a master’s degree in liturgy from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. For Cathedral only functions, a faculty member from St. Petersburg Catholic, John Christian is at my side, anticipating my every move and relieving  me as does Father Tapp from worrying about what I should be doing. Behind every successful bishop on ceremonies, there is usually a very capable Master of Ceremonies and today was no exception. In fact, Father Tapp and John Christian make even those being ordained relaxed (well mostly so).

Fathers Amorose and Corcoran were welcomed into the presbyterate by about eighty of our priests (click here to see photos). Ask those present what were the most moving moments and they would likely reply that it is a toss-up between the silent “laying on of hands by the bishop and attending priests” and the singing of the Litany of the Saints while those to be ordained lie flat on the floor.

The Litany of Saints. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

For myself, there is a moment at the end of the ordination rite itself after all the priests have given the new ordained the “greeting of peace” when I and the President of the Presbyteral Council lead the new fathers to their seats among the presbyters or priests. When seated the congregation without any printed or spoken provocation bursts into long, sustained applause reflecting the joy of this Church that it indeed has now two new priests who have come like the Lord to serve and not to be served. It happens every ordination.

The new fathers at their seats among the presbyters or priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

There are other moments when the assembled signal their joy and approbation as when the bishop accepts the recommendation of those who formed the candidates and the people of God and announces that indeed he will ordain the men to the sacred priesthood.

After announcing that I will ordain the Deacon Victor Amorose and Deacon Timothy Corcoran to the sacred priesthood. Photo kindness of Theresa Mertens.

Again when the new priests receive the greeting of peace at the end of the ordination Rite from the bishop. One is scripted and the other two occasions are simply spontaneous.

Greeting Father Victor Amorose at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Greeting Father Timothy Corcoran at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

No one should think that homilies for these special occasions come easily. They do not. I began to think about what I wished to say during the trip to Rome. The newly ordained pick the readings they want read on their ordination day. I was working right up to midnight last night on the final draft. Whether successful or not, I leave to your judgment but you may read my homily by clicking here or watch a video of it by clicking here. Ordinations and the Chrism Mass have always been the preaching challenge for me during my episcopal ministry. The latter is much harder because the readings are always the same, never vary and one is preaching to about the same 80 deacons and 150 priests.

Fathers Corcoran and Amorose will be great priests. The former is himself a former federal judge in the Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Florida. He attended Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary (my alma mater) in Weston, Massachusetts for the last four years and has been assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin. Father Amorose started his post-secondary education by spending two years at the University of Central Florida and then finishing his college at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and studying theology as the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. He has been assigned to St. John Vianney parish on St. Petersburg Beach.

Father Victor Amorose, myself, and Father Timothy Corcoran after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Tonight they are gathering with family and friends and tomorrow they will celebrate their second Masses (their first as principal celebrant) at their home parishes, Sacred Heart, Tampa (Father Corcoran) and Light of Christ parish, Clearwater (Father Amorose). Our beloved Church has today given birth to two new priests with more on the way. God is good.

+RNL

I AM SIXTEEN GOING ON SEVENTEEN

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Yesterday marked my sixteenth anniversary of ordination as a bishop and the same for my service to this wonderful local church. I try to ignore these occasions and usually only a few friends with really good memories interrupt my private reverie. However, there is a little book published each year called an ORDO which while it mainly serves as a reminder of which Mass and Prayers of the Divine Office one should pray each day, also includes information like the anniversaries of the deaths of all priests in the province of Miami and other useless facts like which bishop was ordained and/or installed on which day. Were that information not there, then the day would pass a little more quietly.

There is also the challenge of a loving staff which though they know I wish such occasions to pass generally unnoticed still find some way of spreading the news. Yesterday the whole student body and most of the teachers of the adjacent St. Petersburg Catholic came secretly (500 strong, but traveling secretly into my office area), set up a sound system and had the Glee Club then sing my favorite song from the TV show GLEE entitled “Don’t Stop Believing.” In true GLEE style I could not restrain doing a typical “dance” which at my age and stamina lasted all of twenty-seconds. But to be truthful, I loved it.

There was a confirmation last night at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Seffner and prior to its start I had a chance to visit with its pastor emeritus, Father Chris Fitzgerald, a prince of a priest. The years are not all that kind to Father Fitz these days but we exchanged some thoughts of the challenges of getting older and quite simply told each other how much we loved one another. That affirmation from him, one of my heroes, was enough to make the day memorable and special. To all those who remembered and sent e-mails of good wishes thanks. To all those who were unaware or unable to acknowledge the day, even more heartfelt thanks.

Going to bed last night, tired but also exhilarated somewhat, preceded by Night Prayer in the chapel, gave me some moments to thank my God that if one had to be called to the ministry of bishop, this lovely church was and remains pure gift. There are other signs also that I have been blessed thus far with a “good ride” and for that my heartfelt thanks to my priests, deacons, religious women and men and the greatest accumulation of faithful and faith-filled laity one could ask for. In the words of that lovely lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE SOUND OF MUSIC, I am “sixteen, going on seventeen” and still in love with my Lord and those whom He has sent to “dance” with me. God Bless You All.

+RNL