Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Visiting With Immigrant Children

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Immigrant children coming into this country have been the subject of much attention, debate – and, fortunately, great compassion by many – especially our Catholic charitable agencies and parishes.  For the most part, they are young people, without their parents, who are arriving in this country seeking a refuge from poverty or gang violence.   I was privileged today to travel to Northern Westchester and celebrate Mass for a group of these young people, to meet with them, and learn a little more about their circumstances and see where they are temporarily staying until they can be reunited, most often with their family members.

Former Mayor Ed Koch once told me, “Two women welcomed the immigrants to New York: Lady Liberty and Mother Church.” And he was right.  I just returned from a brief trip to Ireland, and people there still talk gratefully of the welcome given to so many Irish refugees during the great famine of the 19th Century.  We are called upon again today to care for a new group of immigrants, only this time the immigrants are teenagers – or younger.

Caring for the downtrodden, the outcast, the stranger among us, is part of our call as Catholics, and we here in the Archdiocese of New York have been doing just that for more than 200 years.  Lincoln Hall, for instance, where I celebrated Mass this morning, began as a residential treatment center back in 1863 to care for orphans left destitute after the Civil War.  The Archdiocese of New York has a long and proud tradition of caring for newcomers to our country.

Now, together, we are facing another crisis, one of children fleeing violence and risking their lives with the hope of finding family and shelter here.  Pope Francis said it so well, late last month, when he reminded us that “this humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

And that is just what  Catholic Charities, parishes, professionals and volunteers throughout the country are doing.

At Lincoln Hall and in similar residences children  receive the temporary housing, education, health, and legal support they need to survive and begin to re-establish their lives.

Immigration is not a new “issue.”  I have been very much preoccupied with the vulnerability of our immigrants and refugees because I meet them everywhere I go throughout our archdiocese: men, women, and children so grateful to be in America, so searching to find a home here, so eager to work, settle down, and become part of a nation that has traditionally welcomed and embraced the immigrant.  I am grateful to those political leaders on both sides of the aisle, people like Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Peter King,   who have led the fight for comprehensive immigration reform.  I am more than frustrated that too much partisan and self-interest politics up to this point has trumped the common good of our country.  But. I am not giving up hope, nor the struggle.  I continue to work and pray for the type of immigration reform our country needs to remain strong.

But these young people can’t wait for immigration reform.  As Pope Francis rightly points out, this is a humanitarian emergency, and however they got here, these young people must be cared for now.  Politicians and pundits might argue about how best to handle this humanitarian crisis.  For us, the answer is simple thanks to guidance Jesus gave us more than 2,000 years ago:

“Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Anti-Catholic Bigotry in the United States

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In response to the ad on p. A13 in today’s New York Times, here’s my Catholic New York column:

I prayed, I hoped, that the notoriously anti-Catholic firebrands of the nebulous and anonymous “Freedom From Religion Foundation” (FFRF) in Madison, Wisconsin, would once again, as they predictably had in the past, print a full-page, drippingly bigoted blast in the hospitable pages of the New York Times.

So I smiled in relief as a friend called to ask me—ironically, on the day before Independence Day, celebrating what is most noble and freedom-loving in our beloved country—if I had seen the anticipated ad in the New York Times

Here I simply want to welcome the grey, full-page ad, and thank the anonymous militiamen at FFRF for giving me yet another handout for my students when I give my next talk on “Anti-Catholic Bigotry in the United States.”

…Would they take out such an ad (and would any respectable newspaper publish it?) claiming a Jewish congressman could not freely vote on aid to Israel?; or that a Mormon judge could not rule on marriage?; or that a Baptist legislator could not clearly vote on issues of liquor or gambling?; or that a Quaker president was unable to be Commander-in-Chief?; or that an African-American justice had no objectivity on a civil rights issue?

Read the rest of it here.

Making All Things New Update

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

+ Feast of Blessed Junipero Serra

I was actually dreading the meetings of yesterday and today…

Attending these all-day sessions were the priest council members, the vicars, and the working group for Making All Things New, our strategic pastoral planning process.  The only steps left after this would be, as required by Church law, the views of the College of Consultors, and then my decision.  So, these were very important gatherings.

Over a year of consultation, meetings, conversations, criticism, and intense process, involving all our parishes, had preceded these two days.

The agenda for the ten hours of meetings was a vote of approval, or disapproval, of the list of recommendations from the cluster groups and the advisory committee about the future of our 365 parishes.

Why was I dreading these sessions?  For one, this was the first time I ever saw “the list” of recommendations about which parishes should close, merge, or cooperate more closely.  Of course, the cynics claim I’ve had “the list” of parishes I wanted to close for over a year, and that all this exhaustive “process” was a sham.  All I can do is assure you again that the first time I ever saw “the list” of parishes proposed for closure or merging was yesterday morning.

The second and more ominous reason I had heartburn anticipating these meetings was fear of fierce controversy.  I could envision arguing, lobbying, and protests.

I should have listened to Jesus tell me, “Fear is useless…what is needed is trust!”  The gathering was uplifting, uniting, and enlightening.

I left with some clear observations:

For one, the process has worked!  The data gathered was most comprehensive, the pastoral needs of God’s People was convincingly presented, and the participants in the meeting were seen frequently to be nodding in assent as the recommendations were reviewed.

Two, the priests on the council, and the vicars, were wonderfully invested in the conversation, asking insightful questions about where the people would go if their parishwere closed, or if a merging were logical and do-able.  In a few cases, the recommendations of the clusters and the advisory committee about parish mergers were not accepted.  However, 90% of them made eminent sense, and got the council’s support.

Third, the reasons given for approving (or, on occasions, turning down) a recommendation were all pastoral: conserve and better-use our priests; utilize the churches and parish properties that are better maintained and in much better shape; sensitivity to our elders, and our poorer people who depend on walking or public transportation to get to Sunday Mass and parish activities; changing demographics of parishes, with either the flight or influx of Catholic people into the area; and, in many cases, special considerations for unique groups.  For instance, one parish suggested to close was also serving the deaf community, another welcoming people who desire the Latin Mass, another the Vietnamese Catholics, all of whom, while not living within the parish neighborhood, were still in need of pastoral care and a spiritual home.   The priests wanted to make sure they were not forgotten.

After the meeting; I did not even need the Alka Seltzer I had brought along!

Now, to decide, and I must do so by the end of September.

At that time, I’ll show you the entire list of recommendations, and, more importantly, will let you know of my decisions.

All I know is that I am very grateful to Bishop-elect John O’Hara, the clusters, advisory committee, and staff.

All I know is that the process is working.

All I know is that it’s going to be neuralgic to see some parishes close.  But, as we’ve often all observed, while the closing of a parish is always painful, it’s less painful if there has been extensive, patient, consultation.  And these last two days assured me that’s the case.

Stay tuned…please pray!

Marriage: A Mirror of the Love Found in the Most Blessed Trinity

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Over the weekend, I had the joy of welcoming hundreds of our married couples celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversaries, and the cathedral was packed for two Masses with the couples, their children, and grandkids.

After letting them know of our love, gratitude, and congratulations, I commented how appropriate it was that our archdiocesan celebration of their golden jubilee was taking place on Trinity Sunday.

I could see they were a bit bewildered at first.  What in the world does the Blessed Trinity have to do with our marriage, they rightfully wondered.

Well . . . everything!  I hope they now agree.

Think about it:

For one, the Most Blessed Trinity is the origin and the goal of all reality.  Creation, the world, and the human person did not come from chance, from a “black hole,” or a “big bang,”  No, it all began with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one God, three persons, an infinite, eternal Trinity of love and life.  As the ancient philosophers tell us, “good expands.”  The infinite, life, love and goodness of the Trinity, generated creation and us, creatures.  The Trinity is our start.

And, the Trinity is our destiny, as all creation and all creatures are making their way back to the Triune God.

Those married couples had their start in goodness and love – – in God – – and are on a journey, together, returning to the everlasting embrace of Father, Son, and Spirit.  The faithful love, half-a-century vintage, of those anniversary couples, began in the sparkle of the Trinity’s eye, and will conclude with the God who initiated it.

Two, the life of the Blessed Trinity is not “way out there,” but deep down in here, in our heart!  Yes, the good news is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live within us!  Jesus told us so!  We call this awesome gift grace.  The life of the Trinity dwells in the soul of the believer, to save us, help us, lead us, inspire us.

On their wedding day, these couples received a unique grace, a “booster shot” of the indwelling of the Trinity, as God promised to support them in the ups-and-downs of marriage.  These couples agree!  God kept His promise!  That grace, that life of the Blessed Trinity down deep in their heart, got them through!

Three, that Blessed Trinity is not some inert, dry doctrine.  It is a communion of life and love, a unity of three Divine Persons.  That’s what God intends for us all:  not to exist as isolated, self-centered individuals, but to thrive as members of a community!

This community intended by God can be found in friendships, human solidarity, the Church, our families.  It is radiantly evident in marriage, as a man and woman, two individuals, become one!  The “I” becomes “we,” the “mine” becomes “ours.”

And the love of this union of a man and woman brings new life, as all the children and grandchildren of our anniversary couples can attest!

There it is:  the love of a man and woman in marriage is a reflection, a metaphor, a mirror of the love found in the Most Blessed Trinity!

That’s why we believe a marriage is forever, faithful, and fruitful . . . because the love of Father, Son, and Spirit is that way!

Married couples:  thank you for reminding us of The Blessed Trinity!

Pastoral Planning Since Pentecost

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The readings from God’s Holy Word in the Bible during this bright Easter season are most enlightening and encouraging.

A facet I enjoy a lot, especially evident in our selections at Mass, and in the Divine Office we clergy and religious daily pray, is the narrative, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and John, about the growth and structuring of the infant Church.

So, the apostles, disciples, and faithful women and men had to pray for guidance, then debate, and finally make tough decisions about such things as preaching the Gospel outside of Jerusalem (Who would go? Where? What language?); taking care of the “widows and orphans” (thus the development of deacons); the flow of the liturgy and other sacraments; attracting new converts and preserving the faith of those already in the fold; how to relate to pressing cultural and social issues, bringing the light of the gospel to the public square; and, how best to spend the offerings of God’s People.

One legitimately asks: hasn’t the Church been into strategic pastoral planning since Jesus ascended to His heavenly Father?

It’s hardly novel.  Our current Making All Things New is only the 2014 chapter of an opus which began to be composed in 33 a.d.

That’s why we’ve stressed from the start of our present round of planning that it’s more than a question about buildings, addresses, closings or merging.  Yes, some of this will be called for, and the sound recommendations from our pastors, clergy, religious, and people are now “on the table,” to be further prayed over, refined, and finalized.

But, driving all of this is the same set of values we sense in our Easter readings: is the invitation of Jesus, and the truth of His message, being extended effectively in our preaching, religious education of the young, faith formation of adults, and our schools? Are the poor and rich being served?  Are the “fallen away” being welcomed back?  Do God’s people have available to them the spiritual sustenance of prayer and the sacraments? Are the offerings of God’s People being spent well, or squandered?

Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.

Baloney!  There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning.  It’s been going on since Pentecost.

Thanks to all of you leading and cooperating in this current phase!  It’s not easy, but it’s sure essential.  And you’re in good company with the apostles and first generation disciples.

Revive Our Catholic Schools

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Here is a great piece on Catholic education from the New York Daily News by Peter Meyer:

Church officials and educators have not given up, and there are numerous initiatives that have been launched in the last 20 years meant to staunch the hemorrhaging. The church’s extensive network of religious orders have picked up some of the educational slack, expanding their networks of schools, especially for the poor…

These are promising initiatives, but in this Holy Season, Catholics should consider their history, especially those times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they were not the dominant American religion, but an outcast group. And it was in 1884, at a Baltimore enclave of Bishops, that church leaders ordered every Catholic parish to create a Catholic school and all Catholic parents to send their children to them, creating one of the most successful grassroots church revivals in history.

Read the rest here.

Finding God Amid the Scaffolding and Noise

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Thought you would enjoy this wonderful piece on the Cathedral from Mary DeTurris Poust:

At first, as we walked along the outer edges of the cathedral, trying to avoid wires and boards and construction workers, I wondered aloud why they would even bother to keep the cathedral open under such conditions. But eventually we made our way to the Lady Chapel at the back of the cathedral, which remains untouched (at least as of now) by the restoration project. We knelt down in prayer, as other visitors did the same — the old lady with the scarf tied tightly around her head, a shopping bag on her arm; the young business man in the fashionably cut suit; the tourist with backpack and camera marking his outsider status. One by one, they drifted in and out, genuflecting, kneeling, praying, making the Sign of the Cross…

Read the rest here.

A Mission Church

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
This comes to you from Alaska! I joked at Mass last Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral that I was going to a place with a milder winter climate than New York City!

The Archbishop of Anchorage, Roger Schweitz, and the Bishop of Juneau, Ed Burns – – both good friends and exemplary apostles – – had invited me a couple years ago. They had told me that annually, the bishops and priests of the three dioceses in Alaska – – there is a diocese of Fairbanks, too, and they await Pope Francis’ appointment of a new bishop – – meet during Lent for a few days of prayer, camaraderie, and conferences. I’m providing the latter.

Long have I been in admiration of the Church in Alaska. The state is almost three times the size of Texas, with three expansive dioceses, and less than seventy priests. The Catholic population is only at 10%, and two thirds of Alaska’s population itself is “un-Churched.”. The distances are unbelievable, the lack of “resources” – – parishes, chapels, schools, religious education programs, charitable outreach, priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, trained lay pastoral leaders, money – – a real challenge.

Yet, Catholics are united, proud, and active; the priests happy, zealous, and committed; vocations on a slight increase; and the people love the Church! They cherish the company of fellow Catholics, they know they must evangelize their neighbors and their culture – – suspicious as the society is about religion, and especially Catholics – – and they show grit and determination about their faith that is radiant.

Yes, Alaska is the missions. But, as I’ve mentioned before, so are we in the Archdiocese of New York. No longer can we take our faith for granted; all the “props” we used to count upon for our faith are no longer there. A presumed, superficial, “inherited” faith just doesn’t cut it anymore. Our culture is suspicious of us, if not downright antagonistic. To be a sincere Catholic entails an active, free deliberate choice to accept the gracious invitation of Jesus to know, love, and serve Him in His Church.

That’s the message of Lent…

That’s the message of Pope Francis…

That’s the message of Alaska!

Rebuilding Our church So We Can Rebuild the Church

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Monday’s our feast day, everybody.

As a child, I grew up in a parish with a lot of Irish Americans, with a pastor whose folks came from Co. Tipperary, and wonderful Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda, Co. Louth, who taught us.

March 17 was a grand day, a holiday, with a “Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner” the Sunday before, the grade school girls trained by the sisters to dance the reels and sing the lyrics from Ireland.

But I noticed that the only ones actually from Ireland, the nuns, approached St. Patrick’s Day in a more reflective, somber, spiritual way.  It was clear to me that they looked at the feast as a holy day.

And, indeed, so should we!  For us in the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick’s Day is not just about beer, music, and marching in parades, but about celebrating the feast of a saint who is particularly close to us as patron of our diocese and cathedral.

For me, the heart of the day is our 8:30am Mass in the cathedral.  I have no say over the parade that follows, nor do I expect one.  (From the press, you’d think I was running it.  I don’t.) But, I have a lot to say about the Mass.  It’s SRO, spirited, reverent, prayerful.  It’s what March 17 is really all about.

That it takes place in the Cathedral that bears his name, built with the pennies of immigrants who survived with nothing but their religion, the genius of an archbishop from Co. Tyrone who wanted a “cathedral of suitable magnificence” as an icon thanking God for faith and freedom, and proclaiming to the city and the world that the Catholic Church was at home in America and here to stay in the nation’s major metropolis, makes this Mass all the more moving.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral belongs to us all – – Catholic or not, Irish or not – – and has been since 1878 the real “soul of the city.”

But, she now needs our help.  Her bricks are crumbling and falling; her roof is leaking; her stained-glass windows shaky; her walls tarnished with soot; her pews splintered; her heat and air no longer reliable; her organ cranky; her wiring frayed.  Get the picture?  We’re not talking luxury here, folks…we’re talking basic, raw repairSimply put, we have no choice: if we don’t do the repair, we’ll have to shut down, and it’s all costing us $180 million!

It’s costing me sleepless nights as I worry about raising money.  However, a lot of generous people, some of them not Catholics, have come forward, and we’re at about $65 million from philanthropic donations, not including what we have invested.

So, St. Patrick’s needs your help, and his feast day is a good time to ask.

We’re still consulting about the best way to approach our people for help.  As I’ve mentioned, our advance gifts are already close to$65 million, and the archdiocese itself has invested some of its funds in the project.  However, we do envision an eventual archdiocesan capital campaign to raise funds for our parishes, pastoral initiatives, and our beloved St. Patrick’s.

You’ve seen her: the Cathedral is under dramatic repair and renewal.  Then again, so are each of us; so is The Church!

Jesus spoke to St. Francis from the cross, “Rebuild my Church.”  Pope Francis is doing that, isn’t he?  Here in the archdiocese, we want to rebuild our church, (St. Patrick’s Cathedral), so we can rebuild The Church!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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.