Posts Tagged ‘Archdiocesan Catechetical Office’

“What is faith?”

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Now, there’s a question to ponder…deeply. And what better time is there to do it than during Advent, the season of prayerful watching, waiting, and pondering the mystery of the Incarnation, God becoming human for us. This Year of Faith is an especially appropriate time to think about faith — not faith in the abstract, but faith as it affects our daily lives and the lives of those with whom we interact. Our faith should inform everything we say and do.

Advent begins this Sunday, Dec. 2, and with it comes a special seasonal blog, created by my colleague and friend here at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, webmaster Jim Connell. You are invited to visit our website, www.nyfaithformation.org to read and post to “What is Faith?” Each day this blog will feature a short Scripture passage from the daily Mass readings and an answer to the question, “What is faith?” based on that Scripture. We hope you will post your reflections and comments. You have much wisdom to share.

Your friends in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office look forward to your participation.

 

 

Joy in the sight of tragedy

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This past weekend, I attended a wedding. Many of the guests were from Long Beach, the Rockaways, and Breezy Point. These beachfront communities were damaged beyond description by Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago. Yet, there were these people celebrating the joining for life of a marvelous young man and woman at an exquisite Nuptial Mass in the lovely Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Manhattan, presided over by the Rev. Jordan Kelly, O.P., pastor. This wonderful Dominican friar did not overlook a single detail. What a beautiful occasion of evangelization! The reception that followed…well, it certainly rocked west Manhattan.

To my knowledge, none of the guests had lost family members, but they lost belongings and their homes were damaged or destroyed. One lost the family business. However, one would have had no inkling that a hurricane had disrupted their lives.

Of course, this was a predominantly Irish American group and some of the mood can be attributed to an Irish way of responding to tragedy — to spit in its eye, as it were, by partying on. However, something deeper was happening here. There was an unspoken recognition that sadness makes one appreciate more deeply the joy of life.

I noticed this same attitude at the Adult Faith Formation and Evangelization Forum, which took place on Saturday at Cathedral High School in the Catholic Center. Representatives  from the Catechetical Office, the Office of Adult Faith Formation, the Office of Special and Pastoral Ministries, the Office of Communications, and the Adult Faith Formation Council had worked for months to create a day of enrichment for adult faith formation leaders and teams.

Then Hurricane Sandy struck. The lights and power went off for many people, including me. I wondered how many would turn up. To my absolute delight, more than 350 appeared. As I looked out into the congregation at the opening Mass in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, I spotted people from Staten Island. This borough saw waves so great that houses a mile from shore were damaged and SUVs were tossed about like Matchbox cars. Many people drowned. Children were blown from their parents’ arms. Yet, somehow, many parish representatives got to Manhattan for the forum.

On Sunday, the Catechetical Office held its annual Certification and Recognition Ceremony for those who had reached milestones in their formation as catechetical leaders and catechists for Catholics of all ages. The ceremony also honored special people who have rendered extraordinary service to the catechetical ministry. I couldn’t attend so I don’t know how many Staten Islanders made it to Maryknoll in Ossining for the ceremony, but my colleagues tell me the borough was well represented. Many others also expended precious gasoline to drive from the far reaches of this huge archdiocese to receive their certification, to be honored or simply to cheer on their colleagues. Special thanks to Bishop Gerald Walsh for presiding before rushing off the the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Baltimore, and to our director, Sr. Joan Curtin, C.N.D.

Maybe history will record that the Year of Faith in the Archdiocese of New York began with tragedy, but I will remember this as a time when faith, hope and love conquered all.

 

A Speech for the Ages

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Some speeches stay in our minds, whether we read them in history books, actually witnessed them or watched them on grainy U-Tube videos. Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg. Kennedy’s inaugural. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.” Winston Churchill on any day of World II. You probably can name speeches you cherish. We all have our favorites.

There’s one speech I take out and read every year on Oct. 11. It was delivered by a man who had recently learned he had cancer, who knew he had as many enemies as friends around him, who must have wondered why the Holy Spirit had put into his head the audacious idea to spring an ecumenical council on the world.

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Here is Blessed John XXIII’s address to the bishops of  the council but also to everyone in the world.  It begins, “Mother Church rejoices….”

Blessed John XXIII, pray for us, your church.

 

On Ignatius’ feast day, thanks to an early New York Jesuit

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Today, July 31, is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. This is an appropriate day to write about the contributions of one of his sons, whose name is known by so few, but to whom the Catholics of New York owe so much: Father Anthony Kohlmann, S.J., the first vicar general of the Diocese of New York.

In 1808, Pope Pius VII created four new dioceses in the United States. One of them was New York. The pope named a Dominican friar, Father Luke Concannon, as the first bishop. The new bishop made plans to sail here from Naples, but Napoleon got in his way by placing an embargo on American ships. Realizing that he wasn’t going to get to his new diocese anytime soon, Bishop Concannon wrote to the pope and asked for a vicar general to be appointed in the meantime. The pope named a German Jesuit, Anthony Kohlmann, to the position while the bishop tried unsuccessfully to set sail. Bishop Concannon died in Naples in 1810 and Father Kohlmann went on serving as vicar general until 1814.

At the time of Kohlmann’s arrival, there was just one church for New York’s 14,000 Catholics, St. Peter’s. The pastor there was ill and shorthanded; the Catholics were, shall we say, a tad lukewarm in their practice of the faith. The energetic Jesuit soon could report that Mass was being celebrated in three languages, religious education classes were thriving, and the Catholics were outgrowing St. Peter’s.  It was a time for a second church and what a church it would be: the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was built on the site of a cemetery, well north of the northern border of New York City, Canal Street. Many Catholics complained that the site was too far out of town, but Kohlmann apparently understand that the city was growing and had only one way to go: north. This was a lesson a future ordinary of New York, Archbishop John Hughes would learn, too.

So we owe what is now properly called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral to a Jesuit. But we owe him more. Good Jesuit that he was, Father Kohlmann and his companions established a college near the first cathedral. However, the need for additional space led to the purchase of a site four miles north of New York, near Columbia University’s Elgin Gardens. The Jesuit college moved up and into a mansion that already stood there. However, the Maryland Province of the Jesuits ordered this college to be closed so that the Jesuits could concentrate on another college they ran, the one in Georgetown. And what happened to the property? It became of the site of the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

Today, as we honor the founder of the Jesuits, we New Yorkers should give thanks especially for Father Anthony Kohlmann, who built the church of New York in mortar and practice.

Thanks to Thomas Young, author of a marvelous history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New World Rising (Something More Publications 2006), for the story of Anthony Kohlman, S.J.

Mary Magdalene. No she wasn’t…

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

…what some people, including some intelligent Catholics who should know better, say she was.

Is this ever going stop? Are people never going to get it through their heads that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, not the woman caught in adultery, not a lunatic, not the sister of Lazarus, and not the woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair?  I mention this because her feast day is July 22, which falls on a Sunday this year.

The mistake actually was an early conflation of Mary from the town of Magdala; Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha; and an unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel, who bathed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Also contributing to the confusion were the seven so-called demons Jesus drove from Mary Magdalene.  Demons often were used to explain symptoms of illness, physical or emotional, in Mary’s time.

Pope Gregory the Great is often blamed for officially turning Mary Magdalene into a notorious woman in a  sermon, but others made the mistake centuries earlier.

However, the fact is this: there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to suggest Mary of Magdalene was anything but a lady.  In spite of the fact that hundreds of artists have depicted her, we don’t know if she was young or old, good looking or homely, married or single or widowed.  And she wasn’t Jesus’ wife. If she had been, surely that news would have made it into one of the four gospels!

What scholars do know is that Mary must have been a woman of some high importance because both her name and her town were identified in the gospels. That was unusual. We also know that she, the Blessed Mother, and a few other women had the loyalty and courage to stay with Jesus through his crucifixion, after most of his male followers had run away. Interestingly, the Eastern churches never identified her as a fallen woman.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church began to rectify matters. The feasts of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were separated, making clear that they were two different people.  In both the Roman calendar and Roman Missal, there are now no references to Mary Magdalene as a public sinner.  And in his  apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the dignity and vocation of women”), Pope John Paul II restored her ancient title, apostola apostolorum or apostle to the apostles.

Yet the mistakes about Mary Magdalene persist and, sadly, are perpetuated by some. I wish that Pope Benedict, who is such a great scholar and who currently is writing the third volume of his masterwork on Jesus, would promulgate a really strong official statement, clearing her once and for all.

Happy Feast Day, St. Mary Magdalene. I am proud to share a name with you.

Catechist formation with sunscreen

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

I was going to title this post “Summer School for Catechists.” However, sanity returned and I came up with something else.

How many people have grim memories of summer school? You flunked a big course, one you needed to graduate. You were mad at yourself, mad at the teacher who gave you the failing grade, and mad at your family and friends, who were at the beach having fun while you had to be stuck in a classroom.

You didn’t want to be there. The teacher wasn’t too thrilled about it either. The air-conditioning didn’t work and the soda machine in the cafeteria hadn’t been restocked since mid-June. Summer school was the closest thing to Purgatory this side of the Great Beyond and it was always hot as…well, you know.

That’s not the way the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office does summer formation classes for our parish catechists. For one thing, if you have a tablet, you can take catechist formation to the beach. Or, you can sit at your p.c. in a blissfully cool room of your choice and have your favorite beverage on hand.  Many of our formation classes can go where you go because they are on line. You can work on taking some of the courses you need for certification at Level One or Level II…or you can just refresh your knowledge. There’s always a new insight to discover.

The courses are free. Check out the schedule and follow the sign-up directions that are provided along with the course descriptions. Maybe you and I will meet in the course I am moderating, starting this weekend.

Of course, if you prefer a traditional classroom format, we also are offering our Catechist Formation Summer Institute at different sites throughout the archdiocese. We work hard to pick the most convenient and comfortable venues.

Take advantage of the slower pace of summer and sign up for these courses. If you are one of our catechists, it’s likely you are a volunteer and are doing it out of love for the faith, the ministry and the children. You want to be the best catechist you can be. We, your colleagues in the Catechetical Office, applaud you and want to help you achieve that. We want you to have happy memories of the experience, too.

So charge up the tablet, slather on the sunscreen, and sign on to the course of  your choice. If you run out of ice, however, we don’t deliver.

It’s your Bible. Come celebrate it.

Friday, May 25th, 2012

For generations of Catholics, the least opened item on the bookshelf was the family Bible.  It would come out only when a name had to be inscribed as a birth, marriage or death.

Now, of course, many Catholics read the Bible, some daily. We owe this to the Second Vatican Council, which opened 50 years ago this coming autumn, and to a document from that council titled Dei Verbum, The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.  This constitution urged “all the Christian faithful… to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8).  It stated unequivocally, “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

The successors of Blessed John XXIII, the convener of Vatican II, have reinforced this message.  Just a few years ago, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called a Synod on the Word of God. Afterwards, he wrote an exhortation titled Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord). It would be great if you could read the whole document.  However, if you are pressed for time,  read this section.

Here’s why. The section is one of the reasons that since 2010, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office and our good friends at the American Bible Society have co-sponsored the annual New York Catholic Bible Summit. This summit looks at the Bible from many of the aspects that Pope described.

This year’s summit is on Saturday, June 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the New York Catholic Center, 350 East 56 Street in Manhattan. Our theme is “Joy and Hope in the Light of the Gospel.” It comes from another famous Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.   We hope you will register for the Bible Summit and join us for an informative and inspiring experience.

We have two wonderful keynoters, Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, and Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our topics include Scripture and the New Evangelization, the environment, spirituality, history, prayer, discipleship and much more.  Here are details on the topics and their presenters in English and Spanish. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass and our own archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will preside.

Hope you’ll join us on June 16.  We’ll be looking for you.

Pledging for those who nurtured our faith

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Every year, when the Stewardship Appeal comes around, in whatever name, I am reminded of my old friend, Msgr. Francis Costello, who was for many years a pastor here in the archdiocese.

Back in the 1980s, some smart person had the notion of combining the collection for retired religious men and women with the Cardinal’s Appeal, as it was called then, highlighting the work these people had done. Well, the appeal was a great success.

Msgr. Costello understood why. “You know,” he said to me, “I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the name of the priest who gave me my first Holy Communion. I am not sure which bishop confirmed me. However, I can tell you the names of the sisters who prepared me for those sacraments and, in fact, the name of every sister who ever taught me.” He then proceeded to demonstrate that he did indeed remember them all and the grade year they taught.

I was happy to hear on Sunday in the Cathedral that our gifts to this year’s appeal will help support  religious sisters and brothers who have worked long beyond the time when most people retire and now need care themselves.

By the way, when you give to  the Stewardship Appeal, you also support the mission of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, which trains the parish catechetical leaders and catechists who carry in the great tradition of those selfless religious sisters and brothers, who worked for little or no remuneration.

When you make your pledge this year, see if you can remember who prepared you for the sacraments and enriched your understanding of your God-given faith. I have a feeling that like my old friend, Msgr. Costello, you will be able to reel off all their names.

 

A special day for Catholics who teach in public schools

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Those of us involved with handing on the Faith in parishes or in the Catholic schools have many opportunities for the spiritual renewal that is so important to the success of our ministry.

However, there are other Catholic educators, teachers and administrators in public schools, who are equally deserving of a day to recharge their spiritual batteries and be recognized for the witness they bear day after day, week after week. They preach the Gospel, not by words, but by their example, by their diligence, and by their care for their students.

So on Saturday, Jan. 28, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office will sponsor a Liturgy and Breakfast especially for Catholics who teach in public schools. It will take place at the Riverview, which overlooks the Hudson River in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. The doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Dominick Lagonegro will celebrate Mass at 10 o’clock.  Our guest speaker this is Sr. Peggy Murphy, O.P. a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, N.Y.

Sr. Peggy, who holds a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral theology from Drew University School of Theology, currently is a professor of religious studies at Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., where she also has served as a division chair. An educator and counselor, she is additionally a gifted musician, and expert on Celtic spirituality. She has appeared on television with Regis Philbin and in the Broadway production of “Nunsense.” Sr. Peggy is the recipient of countless awards, including several as a woman of achievement, which she certainly is. At heart, however, she is an educator.

The suggested fee is $20 per person. Many of our guests at this annual event tell us we should charge more but we want to keep it within the reach of everyone.

If you are a Catholic teaching in the public schools, you are cordially invited to join us. Or perhaps you have a friend or relative who is. Why not come and invite that teacher to join you?  You’ll meet lots of other like-minded men and women with whom you can share experiences, dreams and even your professional frustrations.

Just contact Helen Doon at the Catechetical Office by Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the latest. You can reach her at 212-371-1011, Ext. 2822 or e-mail Helen.doon@archny.org. She’ll be happy to take your reservations and answer your questions.

See you there.