Posts Tagged ‘Retired Priests’

THANKSGIVING WITH MY FRIENDS

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
With Sr. Gladys Sharkey, OSF, who celebrates her 60 years of consecrated life and service to the people of God! Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

With Sr. Gladys Sharkey, OSF, who celebrates 60 years of consecrated life and service to the people of God! Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

Within forty-nine hours of each other, I had the wonderful occasion to spend time with sixteen sisters (view photos by clicking here) who will or have celebrated major anniversaries of their life in religion and with the retired priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg as well as elsewhere in North America. Both are annual occasions but what made them very enjoyable this year is that both occasions occured within the penumbra of Thanksgiving.

Regular readers of this blog should already know of my love and fondness for our sisters and the few brothers who are either active or retired and living in the diocese. The sisters have a hard time with the Church at times when it seems that they only arouse interest when someone or some part of the ecclesial bureaucracy is angry or frustrated with them. They often do not hear or do not hear often enough words of thanksgiving and gratitude from the likes of myself and would have reason to wonder if anyone even cares any more.

Of the sixteen of twenty-four who are celebrating anniversaries this year, there were two Benedictine sisters (blood sisters as well as sisters in religious life) who are celebrating eighty years of professed life. Imagine, they left their homes in Texas in 1932 to travel to San Antonio, Florida, and begin eight decades of witness to their Lord according to the rule of Benedict and Scholastica. The great depression was just getting rolling when they committed themselves and Hitler and his evil empire had not yet begun to make its presence known in Germany or Europe. Both taught school for years and years.

There were no twenty-five year or silver anniversary jubilarians this year (they are getting less and less) but there were a good number of golden (50) and diamond (60). One can’t help but love them. Their stories which are briefly summarized as they get a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble (am I cheap, or what?) are always amazing. We would not be where we are were it not for the great work of these great women over the years. They know I both admire and love them and I suspect every reader of this post does as well. Health, happiness and holiness are my prayers for Brother Chris of Tampa Catholic and the sisters with whom we shared both the Eucharistic table on Saturday as well as a nice, simple meal. One requirement last Saturday, however, smacking of my memory of sisters of previous decades – we had to be through and back in place for the kick-off of Notre Dame’s amazing eleventh win against no losses. No losses in these jubilarians either – they are precious before the eyes of the Lord.

On Monday, I celebrated Mass (view photos by clicking here) at the Bethany Center for about sixty-two of the retired priests who reside within the five counties of the Diocese. We have about thirty-four retired priests of the diocese and another forty or fifty from other dioceses in the U.S. and Canada who spend either part of or the whole year here with us.

With our retired priests at the St. James Chapel at the Bethany Retreat Center. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With our retired priests at the St. James Chapel at the Bethany Retreat Center. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Many of them have no place to go for Thanksgiving and were it not for our annual Mass and outing, there might be no turkey and all the trimmings for them. They are always so appreciative and those from other dioceses are amazed that they are invited and welcomed to this event. Unable to be present this year but in 2013 to be celebrating their seventieth anniversaries of ordination are Monsignor George Cummings and Benedictine Father James Hoge. Both are approaching or have reached their ninety-fifth birthday and there is a Franciscan Father who is also at or soon to reach this threshold.

I often suggest to our priests that we do not reflect enough on the “shoulders of the giants” on which we walk and among our retired diocesan priests, there are to be found outstanding examples of priestly zeal, courage, fidelity and effective ministry.

With both groups I reflected on the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council which we are beginning to observe. More about that in forthcoming reflections here. For the meantime, even though my brother from Buffalo is arriving to spend Thanksgiving with his son and wife who live here and his grandaughter of two and his 8/9s of grandchild number two, a great part of my Thanksgiving has already been observed with my friends.

Finally, I would be a real ingrate if I did not thank God for all of you whom it is my privilege to serve, and I will tonight and tomorrow, at Mass and throughout the day. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL.

+RNL

GREAT WEEK-END TO BE A BISHOP

Monday, November 21st, 2011

With Sister Emeline Schneider, OSF, one of the three religious jubilarians celebrating 70 years professed. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

People often ask me what gives me the greatest joy in being a bishop and I respond unfailingly, ordaining priests, rite of election, and acknowledging the talents and gifts of many people serving the Church in the diocese humbly and joyfully. Well this week-end I was on overload starting with a Mass and luncheon for nineteen religious women and men whose combined service to the Church as professed religious amounted to 1000 years. We had three seventy-year professed/ordained jubilarians, all of whom are still quite active in their ministry. Organized annually by our Office of the Vicar for Religious, I look forward to Mass and lunch with these great women and men. There is to be found not one scintilla of regret or unhappiness in the life lived, but a joy which is contagious, infectious and life-giving. If you wish to know the names of those jubilarians honored this year, click here.

On Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, for the last twelve years we have honored women and men from almost all of the parishes and missions of the diocese for their service to their Church. When instituted there was some resistance to the idea of singling out people annually. First, there was a fear that to honor one person would upset others but that quickly went away when all came to realize the true servants of the Gospel in our parishes and missions do not seek or wish for any recognition and are embarrassed if given it. So from the outset, parish communities were proud of those whom either their parish council or pastor chose for the honor. A second concern was that it might be difficult to sustain an annual honoree since the pool was “limited.” I did not believe that for the moment as there is an endless pool of generosity in our parishes and many people who could in time be selected to receive the honor. We named it after the patron saint of the diocese, St. Jude the Apostle.

With the St. Jude the Apostle Medal recipient from St. Anthony the Abbot Parish in Brooksville, Dianne Swain, and Reverend Craig Morley. Photo courtesy of Ray Bassett from Maddock Photography.

The Cathedral of St. Jude was almost full to capacity yesterday afternoon as in addition to their pastors and spouses, the honorees often were accompanied by loving and admiring children and grandchildren. To a man and woman, they always approach me and say something like, “Bishop, I am embarrassed because I am not worthy of such an honor” and I know that is exactly the kind of person the award was designed to thank. They receive a beautiful medal bearing on one side the image of St. Jude the Apostle and on the other side the diocesan coat-of-arms with the inscription, “St. Jude the Apostle Award.” The list of those honored yesterday can be seen by clicking here.

Finally, today I celebrated Mass with and invited to lunch the retired priests of the diocese and others who served other local churches and religious communities but who are retired and living in the diocese. Our senior priest is Monsignor George Cummings who is well into his nineties and close behind is Father James Hoge, OSB of St. Leo Abbey. This too is an annual event in one of the three days that run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday. I had this idea the first year I was here, certain that some of these men had no where to go for Thanksgiving and we needed an annual opportunity to thank them and encourage them. Now that I am seventy and a half years old, you will probably find me putting into place a lot of things which will help guarantee that the local Church does not forget those who have served so well for so many years (there is a growing sense of self-interest I told my confessor).

With the retired clergy gathered for the pre-Thanksgiving Mass. Photo courtesy of Deacon Rick Wells.

We had sixty-one for Mass and lunch at the Bethany Center at midday today and any bishop who does not love the wisdom, wit and commitment of his retired priests is not living on planet earth. I love and respect these men so much. I know that one or more may not be here next year and that we are all preparing for the moment when we enter eternal life now more than perhaps when we were younger. I attach my homily this morning and you can read it, if you wish, by clicking here. By the way, the reference to my culinary nemesis “vegetables” is today’s first reading which is taken from the Book of Daniel, 1:8-20 in which Daniel and his brothers grew more healthy when sticking to a vegetarian diet. My how I am glad that such “penance” is not an article of faith!

+RNL

Chrism Mass

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

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

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

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

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

Deacons and Priests at the Chrism Mass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+RNL

AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Monday was a significant moment in the life of our local Church. Almost all (247 out of a possible 261) of the priests living, or working, or helping in the diocese gathered at the Bethany Center to begin the work of preparing ourselves and our people for the changes in translation of the Order of Mass which will begin next year at about this time (the First Sunday of Advent). I invited Bishop Blase Cupich, bishop of Spokane, to come and be present to us as we begin this journey from a translation which we have used for about forty years now to the new translation. The bishop holds a doctoral degree in Sacramental Theology from the Catholic University of America and was a member of the Committee on Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during the time of discussion and debate on the new translation. God’s people in this diocese can approach any and all of your priests this week-end and ask how the presentation went and you will hear nothing but high praise, at least for the presenter and ever more likely for the changes which both the bishop, priests and people will have to become accustomed to in the months to come.

Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Bishop of Spokane, presents on the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Bishop of Spokane, presents on the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Bishop Cupich’s presentation was divided into three parts: the history of the Roman Missal in Latin and English from the Council to the present moment; changes effecting both priest presiders and people; and navigating the orations or prayers at Mass (opening, over the gifts, after communion) which tend to be long and also use some interesting phraseology and word choice. As challenging and different at times as this new translation is going to be, by the time we all left the Bethany Center on Monday, I think we shared a sense that the new translation is probably theologically richer than the translation we currently use and offers we priests new opportunities for preaching the faith at a deeper level by focusing on and integrating not only the readings but perhaps the prayers and orations as well. If you have the time, the Bishop allowed us to record the sessions (three of them each about forty-five minutes to one hour in length) and they will be accessible through our diocesan web-site and this blog once they are available.

The new translation is a work of many “chefs” and not just from the United States but from the English-speaking churches throughout the world as well as the competent offices of the Holy See (The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for example). Therefore, it reflects a universality of English usage which is not always the American-idiom and we need to be prepared for this in the new translation. It is also a negotiated document, long in preparation and debated at length and some would say ad nauseum by our own bishops’ conference. I must say that many of the parts of translation which I found particularly troublesome were addressed in the final redaction, mostly to my personal satisfaction though that should count for little. So what we will be praying will be slightly different, more faithful to the Latin tradition and texts, and, I think, after some getting used to has the possibility of enhancing our celebration of the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist.

We priests will help you come to the same conclusions and understanding prior to the implementation date on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011. We will hold five diocesan-wide consultations in February for those who will be involved in either the catechesis or the implementation. In the Fall, in early October, I will travel throughout the diocese to personally make myself available to all who wish to come to hear the why and the how of the changes coming. I personally want this to go well and our diocese to stand out for its smooth and stellar transition from the present to the future in our Eucharistic worship.

Bishop Cupich got us started Monday in a fine manner and it was one of the first times when almost all the priests left saying such things as: “this was excellent,” or “I came opposed and angry and left thinking, OK this can be done and explained,” or “now I get it.” We have established a firm foundation among the priests now for the transitional work which lies ahead. Expect to read a lot more about these changes in this blog, on a radio series which I intend to launch on the topic, and using the electronic media, our web-site as well as printed materials. Only a stranger in Church on the First Sunday of Advent next year will come to Church unaware of what that day will bring and most of us will come saying, I embrace this change. From the bishop and priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, thanks to Bishop Cupich for a great start.

+RNL

THANK YOU, LORD

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

On the eve of  Thanksgiving Day 2010, I pause to reflect once again on the blessings which the Lord has bestowed on me. First, I am privileged to serve a wonderful Church. We have many if not all of the problems which confront Catholicism in the United States today, but we are also a Church full of hope, for the future to be sure but confident that in the present, however haltingly, we are doing God’s work. Thank you, Lord.

I have terrific priests all of whom are my friends. Yesterday, I finished the second of five in the new round of overnight “pajama parties”, a name given to my listening sessions with our priests which began in 2008 and are now being repeated at their request. We spend an evening, overnight, and morning together in prayer and communal reflection at the Bethany Center. They share their hopes and their fears and we talk about them, hopefully in follow-up to implement those which can indeed be implemented. I think they know that their people do indeed love them, alot more than most are willing to admit, and I told them I did as well. Thank you, Lord.

Mass with the Retired Priests on November 23.

Mass with the Retired Priests on November 23.

I am thankful for wonderful deacons and religious in the diocese. The deacons are becoming more and more helpful to the priests, probably for two reasons: better formation and the reduction in the number of priests which makes them all the more valuable. Thank you, Lord.

Nothing irritates or nearly angers me than speaking badly about religious sisters and brothers. One would have to be a troglodyte to fail to love these noble women who have given their lives to the Church and have endured a lot because of their fidelity to the Church and t0 their community. The sisters and brothers living and working in the Diocese of St. Petersburg are among the most ardent supporters of our programs for evangelization and religious education and this Church is truly lucky that they have chosen to live and work in our midst. Thank you, Lord.

God’s people in this diocese are like those most every where else but somehow I feel a better connection to them and they to me. They wish and pray for leadership from myself but the overwhelming number of them wish me to serve rather than to rule, to affirm rather than to scold, and to listen more than to be foreclosed to their hopes and aspirations. And, perhaps most importantly, they are patient with me. There are many times when I will fail one or another as they often expect me to manage an individual case of bullying in school, overrule a decision of a building principal who expels a student, etc. A micro-manager I can not and never will be, but a true shepherd I hope I am. Thank you Lord.

I have a wonderful team of colleagues here at the Bishop Larkin Pastoral Center and elsewhere throughout the diocese who help me do my daily work. They are the best. Thank you, Lord.

Now, I must bring this to an end because my whole family is coming this year from around the country for Thanksgiving. I must be off to the supermarket which I know about as well as I would getting around Kabul in Afghanistan. On those few occasions when I darken the passageways of the local PUBLIX, there are always people from the diocese to direct me to where the eggs and milk are. Thank you, Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

+RNL

ET ALIA #3

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

When my mind is unable to focus on a single thought, it is time to share many scattered and unrelated thoughts with you. So here we go.

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Pope Benedict named new cardinals yesterday including two Americans, Archbishops Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis and now in Rome and Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Cardinals came into being in the Church in 1056 when the Emperor of the Holy Roman Emperor was a six year old boy. Until that time, the emperor and other political figures had a significant say in who was to become Pope so the Church taking advantage of a moment when the sovereign was too young to do anything about it established a new rank of prelate, namely cardinals, who would meet as needed to elect a new pope upon the death of his predecessor. The end of the eleventh century was a particularly challenging time for the Church because it did not have good control over its priests and bishops who were too often subject to outside influence and interference. Thus the birth of a group of men whose main task was to elect popes. Over time, the college took on additional meaning and duties and can be and has been called on occasion to advise the Pope on matters of concern to him. Pope Paul VI limited the number of cardinals who could vote in a papal election to 120 members under the age of eighty. Pope John Paul II while never changing that “magic” number did give it some elasticity at times and often, as did Pope Benedict XVI yesterday took into consideration the number of soon-to-reach-the-eighty age limit. Yesterday’s choices marked somewhat a return to a heavier preponderance of archbishops working in the Vatican than in the trenches but little should be made of that in my opinion since there have been a number of changes in administrative offices whose head is usually a Cardinal. In the time of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, elevation to the cardinalate was not done that often and made significant news when done. Now it seems to happen about every three years and the secular media largely gave the moment a giant yawn except in the U.S. in Pittsburgh and Washington where Archbishop Wuerl once served and now serves. On a personal note, I was elated that Archbishop Wuerl was chosen as I regard him very highly as a churchman of great principal, good mind and a pastoral heart. I think he will serve the Church in the United States very well as a member of that special group of advisors to the Holy Father. Enough said.

If yesterday marked the coming of the “red tide”, today in this diocese we welcome Catholic women from around the state as they gather here for their once every two year statewide meeting of the Florida Council of Catholic Women. I will offer Mass for them tomorrow morning and officially welcome them and on Saturday afternoon, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami will make his first visit to our diocese as our Metropolitan Archbishop to say Mass for the FCCW. Welcome ladies and enjoy your time on Florida’s west and best coast.

Like most of you, I can not wait for November’s elections to end. The bitter acrimony and charges and counter-charges which mark the Florida landscape this year is deafening and downright depressing. Visitors to this state from other countries who make the mistake of turning on the television in their hotel rooms or apartments must wonder about the nature of our form of democracy. Scare tactics rule the discourse and untruths and partial truths are the order of the day. I am early voting again this year so I can shut myself off to all the last minute diatribes and for the first time will have voted purposely without listening to a single debate – what is there to hear other than charges and counter-charges between the candidates and no plan for real recovery and hope. God help us!

Earlier this week I joined thirteen other bishops from the South in a meeting to discuss financing of Catholic education. The meeting was held in a hotel adjacent to the Atlanta airport and was organized and paid for by the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. Our schools throughout the region, except perhaps for Atlanta where the population continues to explode with parents with good annual incomes, are in trouble and the number of students declines either due to demographic shifts, economic reality, better public school options like charter and fundamental schools, etc. The bishops listened to a number of presentations on how we might access more federal and state monies for our own children in our own schools. An outstanding advocate for parental choice in education from Tampa, John Kirtley, spoke of his experience spearheading the corporate income tax credit program (STEP UP, FLORIDA) through the legislative and administrative process and my brother bishops deeply admired his commitment, counsel and concern. Good stuff!

Finally, on Saturday I will celebrate the annual jubilee Mass for religious women and men who pass this year their 25th, 50th, 60, 70th anniversaries of religious profession. The number of jubilarians is in steep decline as the religious age and die. In my first years as bishop, fourteen years ago for example, we acknowledged annually about fifty religious passing significant anniversary dates. This year I think we are half that number and only about eighteen can be present for Mass and lunch. I would do it even if there were only one left because these women and men have given their life and love to the Church unconditionally, and sometimes that has not always been “easy street” for them. Happy Anniversary Sisters, Brother and priests. We still love you!

+RNL

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

First, I wish all the readers of this blog and many others a most happy, healthy and holy 2010. Every new year is full of some promise and most of us hope that it will somehow be better than the year concluding. That is certainly our prayer for the world, our nation, city and Church.

This, I hope, will be the last of my updates on my personal health. I did come home from the hospital the day after Christmas and once again find myself in the recuperative phase of recovering from major surgery. The osotomies have been reversed and my colon has been reconnected and all that seems to the doctors and to me to be going quite well.  Since parts of my system have had a five plus month holiday, it will take some time for them to get back into action but I should be resuming my duties in a few weeks. This final (I hope and pray) operation has been more challenging than I thought it would be but I definitely feel that I am improving. In the past I have given you some idea of my own estimation of my condition and I would say that I am 60% of the way to normal energy and function with each day bringing improvement. So absent some horrible setback, I hope not to have to write about my health but to be present once again to the diocese and demonstrate my health. Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes – I can see the finish line.

Finally, we lost to eternal life a good priest on December 30. Father Stephen Dambrauskas went home to the Lord after 61 years in the priesthood. The people of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land-o-Lakes  will remember him as their beloved pastor and people at Light of Christ in Clearwater will remember him as the kindly retired priest who would come to hear confessions and celebrate a week-end Mass. May Father Steve now rest in the peace promised by the Lord he served for so many years.

+RNL

OUR SENIORS (RETIRED PRIESTS)

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

It took me some time to figure out how to move pictures and with a little help from the always helpful Webmaster, here is the picture taken last Tuesday at the Bethany Center luncheon for retired priests.

Me tomó un poco de tiempo el descifrar como subir fotos pero con un poco de ayuda del webmaster, aquí esta la fotografía la cual fue sacada el último martes en el Centro de Bethany durante el almuerzo para los sacerdotes retirados.

Thanksgiving Eucharist and Luncheon, 2008

Thanksgiving Eucharist and Luncheon, 2008

NEVER TOO LATE

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Another nice thing which happens at this time every year is an annual celebration of the Eucharist and luncheon for retired priests in the Diocese. It is something started at least nine years ago and it takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We have long been blessed as a local Church by the presence of retired priests from many dioceses and religious communities throughout the US and Canada. The weather has a lot to do with enticing men who have sometimes already completed forty, fifty and sixty years of priestly ministry, usually up north, to come south for their retirement years. What is so edifying is that almost all wish to continue in priestly ministry (while few understandably want anything to do with administration). So they have been and are a wonderful help at many of our parishes and as the number of our own active priests declines, our own men depend on them.

(more…)

Nunca es Tarde

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Otro evento del cual participo y es muy lindo es la celebración anual de la Eucaristía y el almuerzo que le sigue para los sacerdotes retirados en nuestra diócesis. Comenzó hace nueve años y se celebra siempre el día martes antes del Día de Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving). Por mucho tiempo hemos sido bendecidos en esta iglesia local con la presencia de sacerdote retirados de muchas otras diócesis y ordenes religiosas de los Estados Unidos y Canadá.  Los sacerdotes que ya han cumplido, cuarenta, cincuenta y sesenta años de ministerio sacerdotal, generalmente originarios del norte, vienen hacia el sur para sus años de retiro, el clima tiene mucho que ver con esto. Lo que me inspira es que casi todos quieren continuar con su ministerio sacerdotal (aunque pocos de ellos quieren estar envuelton en administración, lo que se entiende perfectamente). Han sido y son una gran ayuda para muchas de nuestras iglesias y mientras que el número de sacerdotes activos declina, nuestros sacerdotes dependen de ellos.

(more…)