Posts Tagged ‘Archdiocese of New York’

Update from Rome: Preaching the Truth with Love

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

This comes from Rome, where the sun is shining brightly, the sky is deep blue, the breeze is warm, the wine flows, and the pasta is al dente… and you are jealous!

It has been a full week.  Last Thursday and Friday, the entire College of Cardinals met with Pope Francis to discuss marriage and family.  The cardinals spoke as pastors, very aware of the threats to marriage and family, attacks from culture, the state and entertainment, for instance; but also of the beauty, nobility, and poetry of God’s grand gifts of husband, wife, father, mother, and children.  How can we propose to the world anew the grandeur of family, and defend marriage, without wringing hands and manning the barricades?  How better can we preach the truth with love?

The cardinals also pushed the image of the Church as family: God, our Father; Mary, our mother; Jesus, our older brother; the saints, our elders; our fellow Catholics, our siblings.  Like any family, we have our dysfunction, but we come to our supernatural family for rebirth in baptism, nourishment at the Eucharist, reconciliation in penance, maturity in confirmation, solidarity in prayer and charity.  We are born into this family of the Church, and we long to die in her embrace.

The consistory itself, welcoming the nineteen new cardinals and their people from all over the world, took place on Saturday and Sunday. Pope-emeritus Benedict ”stole the show,” with his humble, unexpected presence, quietly joining the rest of us in prayer.  It had been a year since we had seen him, and he brought joy to our hearts.

Yesterday and today I’ve been at meetings to plan the Synod of Bishops slated for October, 2014, and October, 2015, both on the topic of — you guessed it — marriage and family. It’s very clear that Pope Francis wants to use these synods — meetings in Rome among the Pope and elected delegates from bishops around the world, along with clergy, sisters, and laity present as experts and observers — as a regular and respected form of his governance and teaching.  He is big into listening, as was clear to us as he sat with ears open in the two days of consistory, and our meetings for synod preparation.

With all this going on, I have not had much time to savor the sun, sky, breeze, wine, or pasta!

So, tomorrow, I’ll be home again after this week in the Eternal City, happy to be with you, yet relishing a return here the Sunday after Easter for the canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.

A February Consistory & Other Updates

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Just a few items to share with you.

For one, late tonight I leave for Rome, summoned there, along with my brother Cardinals from around the world, by Pope Francis.  Your intentions accompany me, and I already look forward to returning back here in a week.

What brings us over is the consistory for new cardinals, to occur this Saturday, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  We “upper-classmen” are always there to welcome “freshmen”!

People wonder about the significance of even having cardinals anymore, and, occasionally, I do myself.

But, shortly after this new group of cardinals was announced last month, I met two Haitians working in the parking garage.  These men are grateful immigrants from beleaguered Haiti.  They ran up to me, ecstatic, with tears in their eyes, sharing with me their joy and pride that Pope Francis had named a Haitian bishop to the College of Cardinals!  To see their happiness convinced me that this ancient title still has relevance.

The Holy Father is a wise shepherd.  He realizes that naming a cardinal can be an act of encouragement and affirmation to a struggling people, a sign of solidarity with the Church Universal.  It sure worked for those two Haitians I met.

Prior to Saturday’s ceremony and Sunday’s Mass, Pope Francis has asked all the world’s cardinals- – including the new ones- -to come together Thursday and Friday to discuss “Marriage and Family”, a topic close to his heart, already chosen as the theme for the upcoming Synod of Bishops to take place in Rome October 2014 and 2015.

Since I was elected to the Permanent Council for the Synod of Bishops, I must remain in Rome Monday and Tuesday for all day meetings of that council.

Two, you know how I always try to alert you to any potentially negative publicity about the Church, or about me.  Well, there could be some.  My home archdiocese of St. Louis just complied with a court order to release the documents regarding cases there of sexual abuse of minors.  (Cardinal Egan already did that here a decade ago, sharing all of the information we had on abusive priests with proper district attorneys, something we continue to do today.)

Anyway, since I was an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis for a year (2001-02), and vicar for priests for nine of those twelve months, I would anticipate that my name will again be highlighted in the press.  I sure have nothing to hide, and am very much at peace with law enforcements officials reviewing the files.  In fact, we already released all the documentation to them a dozen years ago!

This will be, I suspect, a repeat of last year’s attempt by the same tort lawyers to muddy my name.  A year ago, they contended- – remember?- -that while Archbishop of Milwaukee I had “hidden funds”, and they had even deposed me.  Nothing of course ever came of it, although the ever-compliant press here gave me headlines about being deposed.  (The headlines were much smaller when the Judge eventually ruled that I had acted properly.)  However, knowing how their attorneys operate, and some reporters here cooperate with them, I would anticipate some attempt at bad publicity again.  I’ll keep you posted…

Finally, there was good news recently in our pro-life movement: the city health department reported a drop in the city’s abortion rate.  That’s good news!  The somber news is that New York City still has twice the national average of abortions.

What I also find troubling is the conclusion of the health department that this is due to increased use of IUDs and other chemical and implanted contraceptives.  Really? No proof is offered.  I guess some of the welcome decline could be due to that.  But is it too much to conclude that another reason for the decline is that more and more mothers and fathers see abortion for the tragedy that it is, the unjust taking of an innocent, fragile, human life?  Perhaps, too, its became more and more people see that casual, promiscuous sex hardly leads to health or happiness, and are now acting virtuously?  I know it’s hard for some to accept- -unless you believe in human freedom, its beauty, genuine choice to wait for marriage, and that the human person is not a slave to passion and cultural pressure.

Thanks for listening!

Standing Up for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Recently I read this moving piece on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is our duty to stand up for them as is eloquently outlined by Johnnie Moore, author and Professor of Religion and Vice President at Liberty University, on FoxNews.com:

I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.

Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.

At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”

While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”

In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.

Read the rest here.

NY Post: “Catholic schools’ secret: love”

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Here is a wonderful piece on our Catholic schools–during Catholic Schools Week–in the New York Post by Bill McGurn:

We don’t speak much about love in education, not even during Catholic Schools Week. Instead, we focus on more tangible measures of success: how 99 percent of Catholic school students get their high-school diplomas; how a black or Latino child is 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if he or she has attended a Catholic high school; how Catholic schools manage to do all this at a fraction of the cost of public schools…

Back when he was playing for the New York Jets, Damien Woody sent his children to St. Vincent’s even though his family wasn’t Catholic. At a Christmas concert, a fellow parent asked him why. He answered, “My wife and I believe that a school where they love God will love my children.”

Read the rest here.

Grit, Pride, Love, and Determination: What Makes Our Catholic Schools Succeed

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

As we begin Catholic Schools Week, let me send an early Valentine to all our wonderful students, teachers, principals, staffs, volunteers, boards, benefactors, parents, parishioners, and clergy who, with God’s grace and the sound heritage we’ve inherited, keep them strong.

We’ve been through a lot of trial. Forty-five years ago, especially as it became obvious that we would soon no longer have the precious resource of a numberless supply of our beloved Sisters, Brothers, and Priests, many predicted the demise of Catholic schools.

My predecessors would not let this happen. Not only were Cardinals Cooke, O’Connor, and Egan personally fervent about the inestimable value of our schools, but they knew you were as well.

Our schools got their problems for sure. But, they’re still the best thing we got for passing on our faith and for providing a first-rate education. Everybody – - friend and foe alike – - acknowledges this.

I sometimes wonder if the trials and hardship that come with our Catholic Schools are actually what make them so good. When you’ve got boards, principals, and priests who have to scrape for every dime; when parents have to sacrifice luxuries and even some essentials to keep their kids in our schools; when grandparents and volunteers pitch in to paint classrooms and repair leaks; when you’ve got teachers who could make a lot more money elsewhere, but freely choose Catholic schools; well, then you’ve got grit, pride, love, and determination.

Hits keep coming. Two weeks ago, the renowned Sisters of the Sacred Heart made the deeply painful decision, in concert with their dedicated board, that their splendid Mother Cabrini High School would not be able to open next fall. And another high school that’s already fighting hard just to stay alive, Monsignor Scanlon, was damaged severely by fire.

Sometimes we feel like saying with St. Theresa of Jesus, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have very many!”

Yet, the signs of hope are radiantly there. Our regionalization, while still in first gear, is working. The boards that now govern our regional and archdiocesan high schools have brought energy, competence and a sense of ownership. Pathways to Excellence – - our strategic plan for Catholic education – - continues to be implemented, with special attention to renewed Catholic identity, strengthened academic performance, financial stability, and more effective marketing. And there seems a very good chance that Albany will finally come through and approve the Education Investment Tax Credit.

As Sister Diane told me a couple weeks ago when I spent the morning at Santa Maria school in the Bronx, “I love our kids. When I get, tired and discouraged, wondering if it’s worth the massive effort, all I do is look at them. It’s all worth it. We can’t let them down.”

Thanks, everybody, for not letting our kids down.

Serving Young Adult Catholics in New York

Friday, January 24th, 2014

You might remember how, about four-and-a-half years ago, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then our auxiliary bishop, now the chief shepherd in the diocese of Camden, began what I call the antipasto for our current process of pastoral planning, Making All Things New.

He, along with a couple dozen faithful collaborators, toured the archdiocese, holding “town hall meetings” for thousands of the folks. His question was simple: what are the needs of God’s People? What spiritual care and pastoral service do you most expect from the Church? What especially would you like to see this archdiocese start, or do better?

Five or six pressing pastoral needs surfaced, and we’ve spent the last four years trying to respond to them. Let me mention one of them to you: young adult ministry.

Our parents and grandparents reported that young adults — that means usually post-college to late thirties — were drifting from the Church. Used to be, they noted, that young adults got married in their early twenties, had babies quickly after that, and got settled into a parish. No more! The average age for marriage (for those that do marry at all, which is yet another big challenge) is now late twenties and early thirties.

So, guess what? Young adults drift , and are sometimes in a “no-man’s land” when it comes to the Church. Thank God, some remain active and committed, although they may “parish-hop”; others become lacklustre in their faith; others, sadly, leave the Church, for no religion at all, or for another, usually evangelical Church.

The priests told us this was indeed the case, and that the problem was beyond the remedy of any one single parish. What was needed, they all urged, was diocesan-wide action. We heard you!

Over the last six-weeks or so, I’ve been to three “humdinger” events for young adults.

In Advent, our recently expanded Young Adult Office sponsored a Mass on a weekday evening at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and asked me to be the celebrant. They do this monthly. The cathedral was jammed. Confessions were heard prior to Mass; the music was excellent; I tried my best to give a decent sermon; the crowd was attentive, reverent, happy.

Young Adults gathered for Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

After Mass, I mingled with them, and heard them observe how much they appreciated the company of other Catholics their age. A big chunk of the group then adjoined to a nearby locale for “milk and cookies.” (You know better!)

Right after New Year’s, I attended another event for our young adults, this one called Catholic Underground, at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish on East 90th Street.

Again, SRO, with even hundreds down in the basement. This crowd spent the hour in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, praying the evening divine office of the Church, with moving, live meditative chant and music as a backdrop. A half dozen priests heard confessions, and they coaxed me into saying a few words at the conclusion of our prayer. All adjourned to the hall afterwards for a concert, refreshments, and fellowship.

Finally, a couple of Sundays ago, I offered the 7:30 p.m. Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue. I had heard that this, too, was a popular mecca for young adults, and sure enough, it was. Great crowd, uplifting music, good participation, well-planned worship . . . and drinks and snacks afterwards.

I heard the same message: these young adults enjoy sleeping-in and loafing on Sunday morning, and look forward to the evening Eucharist and good company later in the day.

These young adults tell us they search for three things: nourishment in their faith through good prayer and worship; friendship with others who share their religion; and opportunities for Christian service.

Our Archdiocesan Young Adult Office is hyper to respond to these needs. From what I have seen, they’re doing it! And, they’ve even got workers in the other areas of our expansive archdiocese to meet young adults there. Here’s how you can access them: www.catholicnyc.com.

We’ll keep trying, because these young adults need the Church . . . and we sure need them!

Michael Garvey on What Being Catholic Is All About

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Recently I came across one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time on what it really means to be a Catholic by Michael Garvey of Notre Dame University.

He writes that the Church is,

“a conglomeration of Eucharist-addicts. To admit or, perhaps better, to “confess” that we remain in the Church is no more than to acknowledge our need. We are blessed because of that need, according to the Beatitudes, but we shouldn’t be under any illusions about who we are and what the Church is made of. Right at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the genealogy of Jesus Christ gives that long list of occasionally unpronounceable names to emphasize a truth put memorably by the Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe: “God’s plan is worked out not in pious people, people with religious experiences, but in a set of crude, passionate and thoroughly disreputable people. Jesus belonged to a family of murderers, cheats, cowards, adulterers and liars — he belonged to us and came to help us. No wonder he came to a bad end and gave us some hope.”

You can read the whole piece here.

Respecting Life in New York

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Sunday is always colorful, interesting, and inspirational at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as thousands from all over the world crowded in for prayer, to light a votive candle, or to worship at one of a dozen Masses.

Last Sunday seemed even more so.  I started the day meeting the leadership of our Knights of Columbus, the largest volunteer organization in the country.  We spoke about our common efforts to protect the innocent, fragile life of the baby in the womb, but also about their sterling work to assist poor, mostly immigrant children attend our first-rate inner city Catholic schools, and their touching initiatives on behalf of our “special kids” with physical and mental challenges.

It was frigid outside as I processed to the Cathedral for 10:15 Mass, and I noticed a larger than usual number of police officers.  When I asked why, I was told that a Fundamentalist sect had warned that they would protest in front of St. Patrick’s, to blast the Church for being “gay-friendly,” for welcoming people with same-sex attractions, and for the teaching of the catechism that gays were God’s children, with an inherent right to dignity and respect.  Nothing new – – these fringe folks had picketed us before.

Sunday’s was a special “Right-to-Life” Mass, penance for the tragedy of abortion on demand, and recommitment to the civil right to life for the baby in the womb.  The Knights were there, as mentioned earlier, and the Mass as SRO with others in the pro-life movement.  The Sisters of Life were there, for instance, with mothers and their babies who had gotten through a “problem pregnancy” with the sisters’ love.  A high school basketball team from California, on their way to a championship game, then to D.C. for the renowned March for Life on Wednesday were there, and there was the police officer, his wife, three other children, and their new baby, whom I would have the joy of christening after Mass.  That beautiful new baby had Down’s Syndrome, reason enough for an abortion, as 90% of such babies are aborted, in this culture Pope Francis calls “throwaway.”  Not for this loving family!

After the moving Mass, back out to the cold, in yet another “Pro Life” project, the Feeding Our Neighbor initiative, sponsored by Catholic Charities and the United Jewish Appeal.  Last year, 900,000 meals were provided the hungry by the food donated in parishes and synagogues last Sabbath and next.

A reporter asked if the scheduling of the event had anything to do with the Birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King.  I replied that the date was chosen since it’s the coldest time of the year; when a lot of the food donated at Christmas had already run out; because it was close to the January 22nd Respect Life observance, and to feed the hungry was sure pro-life; and, yes, because Reverend King preached the Bible, that all are God’s children, made in his image and likeness, and that wherever life was threatened – – violence, poverty, hunger, discrimination, abortion – – God’s People defend it.

On the way back into the Cathedral, I greeted many of the great folks from the Dominican Republic, now proud New Yorkers, jamming St. Patrick’s for their feast of “Our Lady of Altagracia.”  I know so many of them as Catholics active in immigration reform, pro-life, curbing of gun-violence in their neighborhood, and keeping our inner-city schools open for their kids.

A good Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral . . .does any of this seem “extremist” to you?

Ways to Love the Poor with Pope Francis

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Pope Francis is an excellent teacher.  He’s a classical Jesuit, and has himself taught in high school (chemistry and literature, I hear) in Argentina.

An effective pedagogue sets a few clear goals for his class.  “Professor” Francis sure has done so for the Church, for the world, for all God’s children.

Among his goals is a call to love and serve the poor.  No surprise, since this is a clear, clean goal of Jesus in the gospels.

This month of January presents us a chance to grow in our love and service of the poor.

January 20th is the birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, a man admired by Pope Francis, a man prophetic in his summons to racial justice and equal opportunity for the poor.

Then, January 22 is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn Baby.  Is anyone more vulnerable, more fragile, more in need of love, care, and protection than the unborn baby in her mother’s womb?

January 26 – February 2 finds us again in the Feeding Our Neighbor Campaign, as we come together in the cold to collect food to stock our shelters, soup kitchens, and parish pantries, responding to the Lord who said, “When I was hungry you gave me to eat.”

And, January 26 – February 1 is Catholic Schools Week.  The experts tell us that one of the tried-and-true ways of helping the poor escape a trapped-life is by educating the children in one of our excellent Catholic schools.  They’re really the best “War on Poverty” programs around.

Not bad messages — from Jesus and Pope Francis — this first week of the year.

ArchCare: An Innovative Approach to Catholic Healthcare

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Healthcare in our country is in a state of turmoil. While there are many areas of concern, what troubles me the most is the inaccurate perception that Catholic healthcare in our country and, especially here in New York, is in retreat.

True, we have seen the closings of numerous Catholic hospitals in our area, and, sadly, just a few weeks ago another Catholic facility, Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, filed for bankruptcy after a long financial struggle. While Saint Francis was not affiliated with the archdiocese, the potential loss of yet another Catholic institution is still troubling to us as Catholics. I am sure this is a very difficult time for the wonderful Sisters of St. Francis, who have so ably tended the sick there for nearly a century.

These negative headlines should not obscure all the great things that are happening in Catholic healthcare across the Archdiocese of New York. Our archdiocesan healthcare ministry, ArchCare, today is serving more people than ever, and has grown in ways we never could have imagined just a few years ago, when changing health policy and plummeting government reimbursements made the outlook far from certain.

The genius of the Church is that we have always been able to adapt our ministry to meet the needs of society. In the last two years alone, ArchCare has modernized and expanded its rehabilitation centers and opened two new community-based care centers that deliver all the services needed to keep seniors out of nursing homes. We introduced an array of healthcare plans that coordinate members’ every care need, created a new Assisted Living Program, and took steps to expand our palliative care and hospice services. Through its sponsorship of Empire State Home Care, one of the region’s oldest and most respected home care providers, ArchCare now provides top quality home care for infants through elders throughout the five boroughs and Westchester. As part of our efforts to bring still more of our Catholic services to the northern counties, we have already expressed interest in acquiring Saint Francis’ home care unit.

Our healthcare ministry continues to care for nearly 2,000 elders in five nursing homes. In addition, we care for the elderly in nine religious orders, significantly reducing their financial burden of caring for retired members and freeing funds to reinvest in their Catholic missions. And ArchCare’s renowned centers for people with HIV and Huntington’s disease, children with profound neurological impairments, and developmentally disabled children and adults all were established to fill critical gaps in care in our community. Where others said, “We can’t,” we as Catholics said, “We can, and we will!”

As our society continues to struggle with all the changes taking place in healthcare, I am pleased to tell you that the Catholic health ministry of the Archdiocese of New York is strong. While there have been changes in some of our programs, our creative care of the sick in the name of Jesus, the Divine Physician, will continue in fresh, innovative ways long into the future. I encourage you and your families to explore all that ArchCare has to offer.