At noon today, the Lord came for Thomas A. Horkan, first director of the Florida Catholic Conference, husband, father and friend. Eternal Rest Grant onto Him, O Lord.
At noon today, the Lord came for Thomas A. Horkan, first director of the Florida Catholic Conference, husband, father and friend. Eternal Rest Grant onto Him, O Lord.
Thomas A. Horkan, the first director of the Florida Catholic Conference (now known as the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB)), is soon to enter eternal life. According to his children, no one could be more willing and ready than Tom and he knows his situation. Thus, before he leaves us, I wish to add my memories of this grand man. I first became involved with State Catholic Conference in 1969 when I was hired as a layman to staff the Ohio Catholic Conference’s new office of Government Programs in the Education Department. State Catholic Conferences were still relatively new at that time and only about twelve states had genuine state Catholic Conferences fully staffed. In 1970, all of the directors met for their summer meeting in Columbus, hosted by our state director, Ted Staudt. It was that August that I met Tom Horkan of Florida for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful, unfailingly kind and bright as could be, Tom made no effort to impress anyone but did so nonetheless.
State Conferences of bishops were an early outgrowth of the Second Vatican Council and its invitation to the Church to invite competent lay people to represent the case of moral values to the political arena. Prior to that, bishops were the only trusted spokespersons before governmental officials. Almost every nascent state Catholic Conference in existence in 1970 had a lay man as Executive Director (soon a religious sister and a religious brother would accede to that role in Michigan and Texas). It was an exciting time. Ohio and Pennsylvania had tuition tax credits for parents of private school children, it was before Roe v. Wade, and the era of abortion simply on request was unthinkable. I learned at that first summer meeting in Columbus that the true wisdom of church-state relations rested with a few of its directors, like Tom Horkan. He told me how he had been practicing law in Miami when its first Bishop/Archbishop, Coleman Francis Carroll asked him to move to Tallahassee and begin to represent the Church before the government of the state of Florida. He told me that he and his wife were full of misgivings, not about representing the Church but about picking up, leaving the practice of law in Miami and moving to faraway Tallahassee. I asked him how he got along with Archbishop Carroll who had something of a national reputation for being irascible and he told me that the Archbishop trusted him and they got along swimmingly, and indeed they did.
After Roe, the pro-life effort within the Church began to grow significantly and Florida, under Horkan’s leadership, began to expand staff to meet the growing needs and expectations of a growing Church. Soon the state Catholic Conferences began to do more than simply represent the Catholic Church before the three branches of government in state capitals. They started serving as coordinating offices for schools, religious education, health care, etc. Tom Horkan had an expert eye for choosing great staff, one of whom, Dr. Michael McCarron, remains as Horkan’s only successor to this day. But a great measure of the success of our state Catholic Conferences was not how they satisfied the Church they served, but the respect and esteem they gained from legislators and members of the Executive branch. To this day, we continue a practice begun by Tom Horkan of meeting with the governor once a year and we often are the recipients of gratitude for the integrity and assistance which our women and men in the FCCB in Tallahassee have and share. Tom Horkan got it all started well and he served with honor and distinction, a true Catholic layman as envisioned by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council and a cherished person in the history of the Church in Florida for over fifty years. With failing eyesight but unfailing mental acuity behind the scenes and never interfering since his retirement, he remains a fountain of wisdom to many. There are many priests, religious sisters and brothers who stand out as bright lights of the Church on the Florida peninsula, but Thomas Horkan in the modern era stands alone for his love of and service to the Church of his baptism.
Tom, I hope Mike McCarron or your daughter can read this to you today and I regret that I am unable to be at your bedside, but I will do everything I can to be present at your funeral as you have been present to me during my fifty years of service to the Church we love. May the angels lead you into paradise, dear friend. You have earned a place in eternal life with your wife so keep working for us that have not yet earned fully our entrance “ticket.”
The Florida bishops (minus Pensacola-Talllahassee which is still waiting for a new bishop to be announced and installed) met in Miami on Tuesday as guests of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. It took us four hours to dispose of the business of the Florida Catholic Conference. Conference Executive Director Dr. D. Michael McCarron presented us with a lengthy agenda of action items about which there were no real differences of opinion but a need to know more about the challenges which face the Church in Florida in 2012. This state is so lucky to have a superb Executive Director who is assisted by a very able, competent and committed staff. The results of the Conference over the years in the public square far exceeds the per cent of the state population which is Roman Catholic and stands as a testament to prudent, respectful and appreciative engagement with past Administrations (Chiles, Bush, Crist, and Scott in my time) and legislatures.
In the evening we reconvened at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami to celebrate retired Archbishop John C. Favalora’s golden anniversary of priestly ordination and silver anniversary of episcopal ordination. I hope and pray that you remember kindly the five years that Archbishop Favalora served as our third bishop here in St. Petersburg. About one hundred and forty priests, nine bishops, and a good representation of the laity came for this special Mass of Thanksgiving.The Archbishop was both the principal celebrant of the liturgy and the homilist. I must say that St. Mary’s Cathedral has a music program to “die for” and as good as I remember it, it has never been better than this evening. The celebration took about seventy-five minutes which is not bad when one gathers that many bishops and others.
Archbishop Favalora gave a beautiful homily on the occasion, focusing not on himself but on the Lord’s call to serve in the priesthood. In twelve minutes (I time myself and everyone else who preaches because I firmly believe that the mind can not absorb what the tush can’t take) he gave a ratio fundamentalis or foundation reasons for what the gift of priestly ministry means in our own time. Only at the end did he quickly express his thanks to those gathered for nourishing his ministry in the past twenty-five and fifty years. At the conclusion, he was greeted with prolonged applause and standing appreciation, I believe not just for his lucid homily but for his many years of service. The Diocese of St. Petersburg is about forty-four years old now and its first bishop, Charles McLaughlin served for the first ten years, then Bishop W. Thomas Larkin succeeded him for just shy of ten years. Archbishop Favalora’s tenure was about five years and my own is soon to enter its sixteenth year. I think each of us has attempted in our own way to nourish and fashion a community of faith at the service of Christ’s Church. I have always been grateful that the Lord in his kindness allowed me to follow Archbishop Favalora because things were in great shape when I came. I only hope I can with God’s help leave them that way for my successor. In words spoken and written yesterday I extended to the good Archbishop the gratitude of the Church of St. Petersburg for his presence in our midst. He seems incredibly happy to be free of the burden of administration and I am admittedly jealous.
Two events in the recent week remind me of how lucky I am as bishop and this local Church is as diocese. On Saturday night last, I celebrated the Eucharist for about 100 physicians and their spouses in what is called the annual “White Mass.” Added to this group of practicing physicians were seven medical students from the University of South Florida College of Medicine, invited guests of the physicians and their spouses. The beautiful Bethany Center was the site for the annual gathering. They always invite someone to give a talk during the dinner and this year we were pleased to hear from Doctor Peter Morrow, who in 2014 will be the President of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) of the United States. Dr. Morrow and his wife are from St. Cloud in the Orlando diocese and he is a convert to Catholicism. His presentation was on the identity of the Catholic Physician and the responsibilities in the practice of medicine which accompany the doctors’ Catholic faith. I was impressed with not only his insights into what it means to be a “Catholic physician” but also the medical-moral precepts which should guide that same practice. We had guest physicians from the diocese of Orlando and Venice and they were amazed at the size of the turnout of doctors who came to our White Mass. I suspect we lead the state in this regard and this is due in no small part to the founding physicians who started the event even before I arrived as bishop. Some of them were also present for the night.
On Tuesday night of this week I hosted at Bethany the members of LEGATUS, an association of Catholic professional persons who are deeply committed to their faith and who commit to bring it into their workplace in an appropriate manner. LEGATUS was begun by Thomas Monahan who though raised in a Catholic orphanage went on to found the Dominos Pizza chain, owned for a brief time the Detroit Tigers, and now has founded and funded Ave Maria College near Immacollee in Collier County with its attendant law school. This group of dedicated Catholic business people, physicians and lawyers meet for Mass and dinner once each month and hear impressive speakers raising faith values. There are some fairly stiff requirements to belong to LEGATUS but their membership is gaining and I embrace them because they are a strong core group working for Gospel values in the world of business.
My week finishes with a meeting of the Board of Directors of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami today (Thursday) followed by the same for St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach tomorrow and the Florida Catholic Conference on Saturday morning, also at St. Vincent Seminary. This will be my first opportunity to visit with thirty-three of our thirty-four seminarians (remember one is studying in Rome at the North American College and I will see him in November) since their school year started. At both the White Mass and LEGATUS Mass, the good news of God’s blessings on us in the persons of our young men preparing for priesthood was greeted with sustained applause and clear delight. God is truly good to us – now we must not squander that divine goodness.
The Florida bishops met with Governor Rick Scott this morning, obviously for the first time and I must say that I was impressed with him. Obviously somewhat nervous to be in front of seven men in black suits with crosses and chains, the Governor quickly warmed up to the audience and gave us about thirty-five minutes of time in his busy schedule. While I consider discussions such as this to be somewhat privileged, I would say that our first meeting went very well. Our talking points were these: sanctity of life concerns (nothing to worry about here with this Governor), the McKay and Florida Tax Credit scholarships for children in non-public schools (he is strongly in favor of choice in education), criminal justice reform (his administration has proposed some interesting concepts which just might lead to greater restorative justice in our jails and prisons), immigration concerns (here he tends to think somewhat in Arizona terms but acknowledges that until the border is sealed and the economy improves, there will be no shift in public perception and feelings about immigration reform), health reform and Medicaid changes (in this regard, he thinks health care can be improved and delivery of services more accessible than presently or even under the proposed federal health care reform act).
What impressed me most is that our session was a no-nonsense and straightforward discussion. This Governor does not equivocate if he holds a position on an issue. If it is something he can espouse but needs more information, he promises to see to it and I leave thinking that he will. There is a passion in the man that is not political but practical. I left our meeting today thinking that Governor Scott at this moment in his tenure doesn’t give a proverbial “hoot” about re-election but is dedicated to achieving the goals he laid down in his campaign to reform, streamline, and attempt to make every aspect of state government more effective while at the same time less costly. In other words, he seems intent on doing exactly those things he said he would do during the two campaigns.
On the matter of the death penalty, the Governor clearly does not like being the person who will sign the final warrants for death by lethal injection. He noted that out of the 392 persons on death row, 40 have exhausted all their appeals and decisions will have to be made case by case. We spoke to him with our own passion about the fact that Florida is now the only state in the union which allows juries to offer an advisory sentence with only seven of the twelve recommending death. It takes a unanimous jury to convict but fifty percent plus one to execute. I remain equally uncomfortable with the fact that Florida elects its judges, many of whom make capital punishment decisions while running for election or reelection.
We will surely disagree on issues of public policy in the years to come but he seemed to me to be respectful and a good listener. After the meeting I learned that he has removed all state aid to the homeless from his budget and that is troubling and I wonder if his approach to Medicaid reform will really improve or remove the access of the poor to medical care and service.
The Governor who is not a Catholic will be attending the Red Mass this evening, something his predecessor never did and promised that his Administration would be open to further dialogue with our Conference staff and the bishops. All in all, a good morning in Church-State relations and a good start to what I hope will be a useful and fruitful l relation with our new Governor.
Later in the morning we met up with the representatives from our respective dioceses who were here for the annual “Catholic Days at the Capitol.” These generous and dedicated volunteers come early in each legislative session to meet with the members of the Legislator and share our and their position on certain issues of public policy.
The afternoon was taken up with a meeting of the heads of the Catholic hospitals in the state to talk about the implementation of the Patient Protection Act (“Obama-care”) in Florida, its consequences for conscience protection and use of federal or state funds for abortion, etc. It was a ninety-minute walk through an alien land for most of us bishops as health care is almost a world unto its own. The CEO’s present from hospitals in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Pensacola were a very impressive group of women and men.
Now I am ready to fly back to Tampa after a long day and a packed twenty-four hours. On the way up last night, our flight was twenty minutes into the sixty minutes trip when our right propeller engine began to fail and we had to turn and limp back to Tampa, allow them to swap planes and arrive here an hour and thirty minutes late. I am hoping for better luck tonight.
Today is a sad day for me personally. Pope Benedict has formally accepted the request to resign from my good friend, Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Long time readers of this blog should recall that almost a year ago to the day I wrote here about a visit to Bishop Ricard who was then recovering from a series of strokes. I included a picture of the two of us taken that day and I was shaken then by how much my friend had changed as a result of his medical challenges. At that time also I was beginning to finally fully recover from my own series of operations and recuperations and I hoped that +John would make the same progress which I had made, although I was also skeptical at the time. To my and everyone’s amazement, he managed within days to celebrate the Chrism Mass in his diocese and preside at Holy Week Services, all the time working to recover as much of what he lost as he could. He still was not the old +John Ricard, however. The two of us often think alike on matters before the Florida Catholic Conference and especially at the meetings of the Board of Trustees of St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. He was my predecessor as Chairman of the Board and President of Catholic Relief Services and continued to serve CRS by countless trips into Darfur in the Sudan and other challenging parts of the African continent. Even in the last twelve months he continued to go to Africa for CRS but those travelling with him could see how tired he would become and the limitations on his stamina were obvious to everyone else but the bishop who just wished to soldier on.
An African-American bishop of the Society of St. Joseph (or Josephite Fathers), John Huston Ricard was born, raised and educated until the seminary in Louisiana. After joining his religious community and being ordained, while serving in parishes in the Washington, D.C. area he earned his Ph.D. in Psychology. Ordained again as an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, he served there for a number of years prior to coming to Pensacola-Tallahassee thirteen years ago. There we renewed our friendship and since then my admiration and affection for this man has steadily grown to the point that today I feel a great loss. So do the priests, deacons and people of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee who know well how much he loved and served them and they returned that love in great measure.
Now I am the longest serving bishop in the province of Miami at fifteen years and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach is the senior among us in episcopal ordination. I never thought it would come to this. A great deal of sophistication in dealing with the Governor and Florida legislature in Tallahassee leaves our state with the retirement of Bishop Ricard and while we have an extremely competent lay staff at the Florida Catholic Conference led by Dr. D. Michael McCarron, they would be the first to say that when they needed “a cross and chain” to make a case for the Church, they could count on the Bishop jumping in his car and driving three hours plus to represent us. They just don’t make us like that anymore.
I used to look forward to the seven or eight times each year when the Florida bishops would gather because there would be a reunion of sorts with the “panhandle bishop.” Now, he will no longer be there. This has been a very painful moment of transition for Bishop Ricard and for his diocese – he and they are hurting. But the genius of our Church is that none of us are irreplaceable and our service to the local churches which we love is finite. It is just the reality of separation and farewell which is so difficult. I have five more years to try and be half the bishop my brother +John has been so as someone else in Tallahassee is so fond of saying, “let’s get to work.” Thanks, Bishop Ricard, for your tireless and generous example, for your friendship and support. I will miss you terribly.
Last Saturday night I had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist with about 140 doctors and their spouses in what is called the “White Mass”, obviously taking its name from the color of the coat that many doctors used to and still wear when seeing patients. We have a somewhat embryonic attempt at organizing a local chapter of the Catholic Physicians Guild and Saturday’s gathering gives myself and the organizers great hope for the future. It is not easy to get physicians to take the time and come to an event of this nature given the challenges of their schedules.
A local physician, Dr. Averill from Clearwater and a member of St. Catherine of Siena parish who has combined his practice with his promises as a Third Order Franciscan was the principal speaker. He commented, and it was the first time I heard this, that many modern day graduates of medical schools either do not take the Hippocratic Oath or take a revised oath which meets the requirements more of political correctness than the traditional oath. Each year at the annual Red Mass for judges and lawyers, I hear these men and women repeat their oaths taken at the time of their admission to the bar and admire their promises to their profession and I have always until now assumed and admired the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. It is a sad commentary on our times that this very important foundation of medical practice is falling into disuse.
The Liturgy was followed by a dinner and brief program at our beautiful Bethany Center and it was wonderful being with these fine Catholic women and men. Also, ten students from USF’s Medical School with one resident and one of their mentors were in attendancee, two of them graduates of the University of Notre Dame, and they have asked for a follow-up retreat at Bethany prior to entering their respective practices and upon completion of their residency programs. That, good people, is a very, very positive sign and a benefit coming from the work of the Guild.
The encounter Saturday evening followed three days of meetings on our Southeast coast of the Board of Trustees of both St. John Vianney College Seminary and St. Vincent de Paul theologate and a third meeting on Saturday morning of the Florida bishops for the Florida Catholic Conference. I am of the mind that when and if I get to heaven’s gate, if there is a meeting board announcing a meeting for newcomers, I think I may wish to go the other direction.
This was a long day for several hundred of us in the state capital today. In addition to the six diocesan bishops (Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, our usual host, was unable to join us) and one auxiliary bishop, about three hundred women and men joined us for the annual “Catholic Days at the Capitol” events. These people received a briefing yesterday from the staff of the Florida Catholic Conference and then were asked to personally visit the offices and, hopefully, speak to their individual Senators and Representatives about forthcoming legislation of interest to the Church and to Catholics. It can be both exciting and frustrating. It is exciting because these volunteers often find strength in numbers and work up their courage to make their case with the elected representatives and it can be frustrating because early in the legislative session (we are in the second week) many members of the legislature are tied up in committee hearings and suddenly are unavailable.
The bishops were supposed to meet with Governor Crist this morning, something we have done for the past three years, but late word came that the governor had to fly to seven Florida cities/towns today and would not be available. Those meetings are valuable but predictable. We talk about education, farmworkers, migration and health care issues and he is engaged but when the subject switches to the death penalty, he, like his predecessors listens respectfully, but then says that he must uphold the laws of the state and continue to sign death warrants for prisoners on Florida’s death row. I am now in my third governor (Chiles, Bush and Crist) and the response of all three have been the same on this neuralgic issue. There was, in fact, to be an execution today but it was stayed last week by the Florida Supreme Court while they determined whether the felon had a sufficient IQ to warrant full knowledge of the consequences of his acts.
We had a giant, fast lunch today with all the volunteers in town for “Catholic Days at the Capit0l” and any legislator who can break away and make it (they pay for their own lunches) and I am happy to report that Representative Will Weatherford sat at my table and was awarded the Defensor Parentum (Latin for “Defender of Parents) award from the Conference this year for his abiding commitment to “choice in education.” Representative Weatherford, a Methodist, is from Wesley Chapel in our diocese and while not of our faith he has consistently voted pro-life and pro-educational choice. He is from a family of nine children and a younger brother would be well known to football fans in the state (Drew Weatherford, quarterback for Florida State University). The awardee is slated to become Speaker of the House in three years and I am proud to have him represent a large portion of our diocese. Congratulations to you, Representative Weatherford, for receiving this award and the Catholics of our diocese are proud to have you among our delegation in the Florida House of Representatives.
We bishops met for an hour in the morning with Heroic Media and an hour in the afternoon with the leadership of Catholic Volunteers in Florida. The former is an effort to utilize more fully the media in reaching young women and convincing them of the terrible consequences of abortion. Its founder, Brian Follett, claims significant success in reducing the number of abortions in those markets which Heroic Media has so far chosen. In the Tampa Bay area there are approximately 300 abortions for every 1000 live births (in Miami the number is a staggering 650 for every 1000 live births) and in Austin, Texas, where the media effort was first tried, the number of abortions per live births has been reduced by one-third. It is an interesting concept which each diocese will have to consider in the future. CVF (Catholic Volunteers in Florida) is a program for recent college graduates whereby they can if they choose to do so devote a few years to doing volunteer work for their Catholic Church. This year there are twenty volunteers working in the state.
The annual Red Mass took place at six o’clock at St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral with Archbishop Favalora as both celebrant and homilist. The Archbishop is planning to retire in November of this year and a lot of things we will do will be something of a victory lap or farewell tour for him. So while he is usually the celebrant for the Mass, this year, likely his final year, we also asked him to preach. He is quite cognizant of the length of time other Red Mass preachers have taken so this year I “clocked” him at exactly fifteen minutes hoping for conversation “fodder” in private.
I should note that we normally have a Florida Catholic Conference meeting of about three hours on this day and will again in the future but last week we did our business on a conference telephone call freeing up some time today (again the Archbishop’s idea leading the rest of us to acknowledge that he must be counting the days). Nonetheless, it is a long day for the bishops and those volunteers who come from around the state seeking to secure some political capital in the capitol.
The bishops of the state have arrived in the state capital and gathered early this evening with our fine and extremely competent staff of the Florida Catholic Conference for a “renewing our acquaintance and getting to know you” opportunity. Later the bishops had dinner together and we were happy to celebrate Bishop Frank Dewane’s birthday today. There was a cake with four candles and best wishes to the bishop for many more happy years.
I spent the day driving the panhandle. You may recall that last week in this space I mentioned that I wished to arrive a day early so that I might visit my friend and fellow-bishop, John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee who was in therapy at a rehabilitation facility in Panama City. So at 1015am, my driver for this jaunt and I departed our hotel in Tallahassee for the two hour drive to Panama City. The bishop had initially suffered an incident of blood being unable to return to the heart from his brain on December 22, 2009 and was hospitalized in Pensacola in intensive care for several weeks. Since then he has suffered several more incidents and found himself in rehab at the facility in Panama City.
Well, about twenty miles out of Panama City I received word via cell-phone that the bishop had left the rehab facility and was at that very moment enroute to his house in Pensacola (another 120 miles west) via medical transport. What to do? It was fairly easy for me as I had determined that I would see my friend on this trip so back to I-10 we went and on to Pensacola. Finally reunited, Bishop Ricard and I had a visit of about an hour and he was both surprised and happy to see me.
I have previously asked for prayers for Bishop John and I renew my request now. His recovery is far more challenging in a number of ways than my own was. The bishop, as you may know, is an African-American from Louisiana originally. He entered the Josephite Fathers and was ordained for priestly service with that wonderful and predominantly African-American religious community. I first saw him when he was pastor of a parish on New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. and then from there he was chosen by Pope John Paul II to be an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore and Vicar for the city of Baltimore. Priests and people loved and respected him. In 1997 he was sent to Pensacola-Tallahassee as its fourth bishop and his acceptance and affection quickly visited his service here. It was a bold move by the Pope to assign an African-American to an area of Florida which others call “The red-neck Riviera.” The bishop has shared with me some anguishing stories of what it was like to be black, to be a black Catholic, to be a black Catholic priest in the Church in the United States. The cruel hand of racism was as strong an image for this good man as the hands of the bishop on his head when he was ordained priest and ordained bishop.
With a doctorate in psychology and a deep personal commitment to Africa, he served as chairman and president of Catholic Relief Services (he preceded my term in the same capacities) and has also chaired the USCCB Committees on Domestic and International Social Justice. In the man’s blood there has always been a passion for the poor and a yearning for justice. He is a genuine article, a pastor par excellance, and for me a confidant, mentor and wonderful friend. On the three hour drive back to the capital city, I thought how tough it was to say good-by to him this afternoon though I know we shall see more of one another in the months and time ahead. The Church of Pensacola-Tallahassee is praying for their good shepherd and I hope you will join me in doing the same.
The title of this blog entry which will arise from time to time means “and other things” and signals that you should look for an entry that most likely lacks “unity, coherence and emphasis.” In other words, I will use occasions like this to raise a number of issues which are clearly unrelated to each other. So fasten your seat belt, here goes:
One thoughtful reader upon reading the entry on the level of charitable giving in the US to Haiti in the five weeks since the earthquake asked what the likelihood is that it is getting to the people who need it the most. It is a good question and all I can do is share my experience, now several years old of chairing the Board of Catholic Relief Services. Haiti is a challenging place for non-profits to work. There is a dreadful combination of corruption and violence present in that country which every private voluntary organization working there must be prepared to deal with. It is nothing to have a band of armed men break into a warehouse with food and steal it only for the purpose of selling it on the black market. The strongest of locks and the presence of armed guards secures nothing in that country for sure. Yet, most of what is donated for the needs of the general population does get to those in need. Giving it to the government to distribute is not a great idea because of the corruption factor and one thing which helps CRS is that they can use a vast network of parishes and churches as distribution points and that works more often than not. To the writer of the comment, the pictures of the army using force to drive away those storming the food distribution points was likely necessary to keep the method of distribution to those most in need going. I would have bet that had those storming the food center been successful, everything being shared, donated, sent for the poor and needy would have ended up on the black market. Haiti can be chaotic at times but I think that CRS and other PVO’s are succeeding in seeing that what they have to give gets to the right people. Will it be perfect? Not likely. Can it still be effective and fair distribution? Yes.
Health care is back on the burner and I am suspicious that the anti-abortion protection of the House language will not be present in what is parleyed through the legislature in the coming weeks. We need health care but we do not need a new “open sesame” which for all intents and purposes directs yours and my taxes to support abortion services. It looks like the action is slated for the Senate and I encourage all to “swamp” Senator Nelson with pleas that he change his position. The rest of this diocese’s elected representatives in the House remain pro-life but they need some pressure to work harder for an acceptable health care proposal in general. Remember, the official position of the Church is that access to safe, affordable health care is a right in itself.
On a much, much smaller scale of human interest, most of my doctors have declared me “cured” and my surgeon has politely and appropriately begged “never to see me again” – professionally. I am back to work, taking the major public liturgies which I used to celebrate without fail but will continue through Spring not “to overdo it.” My recovery is an answer to many prayers – my own and many of yours as well. It is wonderful to feel useful once again.
The Florida bishops meet in Tallahassee next week for what we call “Catholic Days at the Capitol.” Joined by several hundred volunteers we annually descend on the legislature as it opens its annual session, usually but likely not this time see the Governor for a discussion of issues of mutual concern, celebrate the annual Red Mass for the executive, legislative and judicial branches (usually only a sparse representation of the legislature shows up), and meet as a state conference of bishops. It can be one and a half long days so we will see what my staying power is this year.
On Tuesday I am going to drive right through Tallahassee and keep going to spend an hour with my dear friend and fellow bishop, John Ricard, of Tallahassee-Pensacola. He is in rehab at the moment and remains in need of many prayers. He is a great man and a good bishop and the priests, deacons, religious and people of his diocese are worried about and for him. I will report in this space how he seems to be doing after I see him on Tuesday.
Don’t forget, we are once again lighting our Churches next Thursday night, March 11th and hearing confessions from 5-8 pm. The Light is ON for You.
So now you know what the Latin phrase et alia means – assorted and unsorted thoughts while shaving. God bless.