Posts Tagged ‘Reverend Carl Melchior’

NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM

Friday, January 11th, 2013

This common farewell saying among our Jewish sisters and brothers came true this past December 30th for our thirty seminarians, three priests and myself as we made a wonderful pilgrimage to the land of Jesus’ birth. With absolutely idyllic weather for five of our seven days in Israel (cloudless blue skies and daytime averages in the mid-70’s,) we visited all the holy places, prayed at them, took one day at the end for a silent day of recollection, recalling all that we had seen and experienced, and then set our eyes on home. For myself, I believe it was my seventh trip to the Holy Land and in all likelihood will be my last. Many of you will recall that I led a semi-pilgrimage using a cruise ship for our conveyance in the Fall of 2011. It was then that I thought, if at all possible, I would love to bring those who are preparing for the priesthood to experience for themselves the incredible sense of the presence of Christ in the midst of modern day Israel.

We stayed at only two places, the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem (nothing to do with the US university of the same name) and the Hospice of the Franciscan Sisters on the Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee in the northern part of the country. Both places had chapels where we prayed morning and evening prayer together, but daily Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, the Church of the Primacy of Peter along the Sea of Galilee and the Church of St. Peter in Capernaum. Additional time was made available for lengthy private prayer in the Church of the Dormition of Mary on Mt. Zion (Jerusalem), the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and the Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel above Haifa. Additionally, every evening during Vespers or “Evening Prayer” I gave the seminarians about a twenty minute reflection which I had worked hard on prior to departure.

As many people say when they have finished a visit to the land of Jesus’ birth, they can not listen to the Gospels, indeed the whole of Scripture, in the same way again. To understand spatially what it meant to walk from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemani, to appreciate the topography for the trip down from Nazareth to Cana or even better, the three trips from Galilee to Jerusalem for the major feasts adds so much more to one’s understanding of the Incarnation and Christ among us in history two thousand plus years ago. We had a superb guide in Hani, an Arab-Christian and former principal of the Christian Brothers High School in the Old City and he, better than I ever could, made the scriptures come alive and he often connected the dots of words and places. We also had, and perhaps even more importantly, a great bus driver who kept us alive along challenging roads.

The two priests whom I ordained last May, Fathers Tim Corcoran and Victor Amorose came along. It did not seem fair to announce while they were in the seminary that I was inviting all the seminarians to come to the Holy Land at Christmas/New Years 2012/13 and leave them at home because they were “unlucky” enough to be ordained just prior to the trip. Along with our Vocation Director, Father Carl Melchior, the four of us were able to lead the community in prayer and provide for them sacramentally. It would be hard to precisely define the major moment for my traveling band of seminarians as each would likely have their own favorite spot. But we left the region of Galilee on Epiphany, right after celebrating the Solemnity in the Chapel at the hospice on the Mount of the Beatitudes and I came across this line from the gifted Father Robert Barren, Rector of Mundeline Seminary in Chicago and author, who quoted Archbishop Fulton Sheen speaking about the part of the Epiphany Gospel where the Magi or wise men disobey Herod’s orders and return to their homes by a different route than that which they came. Archbishop Sheen said, “of course, they went home a different way. No one who comes to Jesus ever returns the same way that they came.” I hope that was true of all of us.

I am exhausted and sleep does not come easily yet. I lost ten pounds in walking and climbing (in the Catholic Church, nothing seems worth seeing without climbing steps) and longed for my McDonald’s sausage biscuit for eight days, but it will be a while before the memory of this final visit of mine dims and the looks on the faces of those who, God willing, will some day serve you as priests as they stood on the Mt. of Olives with their faces toward the West and the place where the Temple once stood and then walked down the steep hill into the Garden where Jesus prayed and met his accusers.

For me now, “next year in Jerusalem” will now mean that moment when someone comes, hopefully, to lead me into the new and heavenly Jerusalem. The men I travelled with have a lot longer journey ahead of them, but they learned much about the cost of discipleship and following Jesus.

+RNL

THANK GOD IT’S OVER

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I suspect that my regular readers are thinking that from the title of the blog, this must have something to do with the Spring meeting of all U.S. bishops being held as I write this in Atlanta. It does not, but the next blog entry will for sure. The title here refers to the fact that on Monday night of this week, I finished my last public event until August, that being the graduation ceremony for seventeen hardy lay people of the diocese who completed their four year study in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute (LPMI) program. More about that, including some photos, in a few moments.

Statistically, I had celebrated the sacrament of confirmation about thirty times this year, had six high school graduations and/or baccalaureate Masses, presided at about five anniversaries of priestly ordination, one priesthood ordination, five geese a laying and a partridge in a pear tree – or something like that. Anyway, it is always a work-out for me beginning right after Christmas and ending sometime each year in mid-June. When I was younger it was a sleigh ride, but as I get older, I must admit it gets tougher. For the future, we are working hard to attempt a confirmation schedule which will utilize Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturdays and Sundays and work very hard to control the number of Sunday requests to one each week. Arranging my schedule is always a challenge for my faithful assistant, Vivi Iglesias, and she tries hard to protect me from too many obligations only to have me approached by a priest and then I stroll up to her and tell her to violate my own admonitions. May is the toughest month for sure. Now, I make no pretense that I work harder than anyone else, especially my hard-working priests. I do suggest, however, that I must travel farther to do what I do and am often out later in the evening.

My illness of three years ago requires that I control food intake until I am almost home each night so there is that and my staff is terrified of me driving around at night, in the dark for heaven’s sake, so they push me to have someone drive me – like Miss Daisy, if you know what I mean. I feel very guilty about having someone drive me and see me back to my residence around 1030pm every evening and then have to drive another thirty or forty-five minutes to their own residence. I have never utilized a priest to assist me as either a full-time secretary,driver, and/or master of ceremonies. I will stick to that as long as I am the bishop. This year our four seminarians on pastoral year met me at the parishes where I was to do something (confirmation, installation, etc.) but they did not drive me. Next year, Father Carl Melchior, our full-time Assistant Vocation Director will help with the driving and MC’ing which he began in earnest a few weeks ago. All of this is a way of publicly admitting that I was thrilled to be done for a few months and can now spend some time thinking about a less demanding schedule and some time away for rest and relaxation. As hard as it can be and as physically demanding as it is, I still love what I do and I hope and pray that is reflected in my presence in the life of this Church.

Now, about the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and its graduates. Seventeen lay women and men completed the required course of study and it was an honor for me to acknowledge their accomplishment on Monday night. I’ve included a few photos from the Evening Prayer and Commissioning Ceremony below, but you can see more photos by clicking here.

The 2012 graduating class of the LPMI. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The 2012 graduating class of the LPMI. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Leading the family and friends who attended in a standing ovation to recognize the 2012 LPMI graduates.

 

With the 2012 LPMI graduating class. Top Row (from left to right): Dolores Hazard, Christine Grieco, Bob Christensen, Noel Negron, Denise Moyer, Edward C. LaRose, Julian B. Weglarz, John Ustick. Bottom row (from left to right): Gretchen Robens, Bonnie B. Ussery, Barbara Ferreris, Nellie Negron, Linda McCarroll, myself, Darlene Jones, DO, Janet Trinidad-Weglarz, Beverely Wiebeld, and Marla Ustick. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Among those graduating was one judge, one doctor, and three married couples. That they love their Church so much that they would give up all those evenings for four years to journey to the Bethany Center for class is humbling and makes all my ruminations above seem trivial. I get paid to do what I do. They did what they did and do for the love of Christ and His Church. Congratulations, graduates, and may your work on behalf of the Gospel be pleasing to the Lord.

+RNL