Posts Tagged ‘Archdiocesan Catechetical Office’

The Patron Saint of Plan B

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

One of the many reasons I love these days of the liturgical year is that we get to revisit the Acts of the Apostles, not just on Sundays, but throughout each week as well. Even if you are unable to go to Mass every day, look at the readings from the Acts. You can find them at the U.S. Bishops’ website.

Attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, this book is fascinating and should provide a measure of comfort to those who worry about today’s Church. Right from the beginning, the Church – the community of believers – faced and overcame many obstacles and challenges, both external and internal.

Today’s reading shows us how the disciples of Jesus found themselves making decisions after his ascension. This is the feast of the apostle Matthias who, according to Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, should be known as “the patron saint of Plan B.” If you read Acts 1-15-17, 20-26, you’ll see why.

Judas, who had been selected  by Jesus as one of the 12 apostles, betrayed the Lord and hanged himself.  Peter knew he had to find a replacement and brought this to the brothers and sisters.  Jesus wasn’t going to make this appointment directly, so they had to come up with an alternate plan. They nominated two candidates, all prayed, and then they cast lots. “The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” Plan B.

Certainly Msgr. Ritchie is dealing with Plan B himself these days during the Cathedral’s restoration. He’s probably on Plan K. We in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office certainly find ourselves having to change plans, too.  In fact, everybody has to go to Plan B or beyond at some point in his or her life.

The next time you find yourself in such a position, don’t forget to ask St. Matthias for help.

Evangelization begins with hospitality

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Evangelization has been the responsibility and joy of every Christian ever since Jesus himself gave us our direction in Matthew 28: 18-20. Making disciples of all peoples, baptizing them (even if we ourselves are not actually doing the baptizing) and teaching them are our responsibility.  Jesus also gave us powerful examples of how to make disciples. He was friendly; he approached people.  He listened to them.  He didn’t demand they come to him, although he could have. He personified hospitality. The only people who feared him were the hypocrites, the despots and the unkind.

Last night, I witnessed a wonderful event, the confirmation of eight young adults who, for one reason or another, had not had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This evening came about because several wonderful people evangelized and catechized them with hospitality. The Rev. Bartholomew Daly, MHM (Mill Hill Missionary), administrator of Our Lady of Peace parish in Manhattan, offered the homelike atmosphere of his rectory for their preparation and the beautiful church, with all its Easter flowers, for the Eucharistic Liturgy during which they were confirmed. Oscar Cruz, director of adult faith formation under the leadership of Catechetical Office director, Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, prepared them, meeting with them in the evening for several weeks, when most other people had left work and gone home. Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar general of the archdiocese, concelebrated with Father Daly and confirmed these young adults with great attention and care.   Nothing was careless or rushed. The atmosphere was deeply spiritual.

Afterwards, Fr. Daly invited the eight newly confirmed Catholics and their guests back to the rectory dining room for cookies and coffee. People lingered there, chatting and making plans to stay in touch. I kept thinking to myself, this is how ministry should be all the time, everywhere. And it could be, couldn’t it?

By the way, if you are a Catholic adult seeking Confirmation or you know someone who is, there will be another opportunity for preparation and reception of this sacrament. A Confirmation preparation class will begin on April 25 at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle.  Details are here.  Be sure to read the online brochure for what you need to provide, including permission from your pastor.

Mite boxes — not just for children

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Haven’t see mite boxes in a while?  I hadn’t myself, so I was pleased when Sr. Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM  Director of the  the New York Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, offered the boxes, along with coin cards and envelopes, to the directors and coordinators of our parish religious education programs.

During Lent, the children in the parish programs will have an opportunity to help other children around the world through the Missionary Childhood Associationformerly called  the Holy Childhood Association.  At the same time, they will be learning a lesson about sacrifice by giving up something for Lent and putting the money they would have spent into the mite box or one of the other holders. At the end of Lent, their monies will go to the Sr. Pauline’s office and from there to the Missionary Childhood Association for distribution.

There’s nothing to stop us grown-ups from doing something similar.  In the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, we decided that we could help Sr. Pauline and the Association ourselves simply by dumping our excess change into a Holy Childhood collection bucket, which Sr. Pauline was happy to supply.  We are not a large staff but we all seem to have a lot of change.  That bucket is filling up.

What about doing the same thing in your home? Yes, of course, many people already dump their change into a box or vase and then take it to the bank. You could do that. Then you might write a check for the amount to the Missionary Holy Childhood Association and mail to Sr. Pauline at this address:  The Office for the Propagation of the Faith, 1011 First Avenue, 17th floor, New York, NY 10022.

Or, you (and we in the Catechetical Office, too!) could emulate the children. Choose something to give up and add the price of that to the spare change in your container.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like much of sacrifice but it’s do-able. That’s important to keep in mind. Taking on a big sacrifice that you won’t be able to sustain or that will drive everyone around you crazy is not such a good idea. An uncle of mine used to give up alcohol for Lent each year. By the First Sunday after Ash Wednesday, his wife was ready to give him up.

The mite box idea is something any of us – from the youngest to the oldest – can do.

A blessed Lent.

“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, 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.