Posts Tagged ‘Catholic New York’

Before we break for summer…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

As we approach the summer vacation season, I wanted to catch you up on several things that have been on my mind!

1.  Congratulations to John Woods and the entire staff of Catholic New York (CNY)!  At last week’s Catholic Press Association convention, CNY once again walked off with an armful of awards, including the coveted General Excellence Award for the second year in a row, plus first-place honors for stories that they did on last year’s papal transition, and the Year of Faith!  I am honored that my own column was given a first place award as well.  All of which reminds me of the importance of CNY as part of our communications ministry in this archdiocese.  Over the summer, we will be hard at work getting a new online version and App for CNY ready for distribution.  Using technology creatively as a way of staying in touch is vitally important these days, — as our kids tell us! — so we are also going to be rolling out a brand-new archdiocesan website, plus Flocknotes for our parishes, which we hope will enable pastors to be more in touch with their parishioners about parish activities, as well as allow me to communicate more directly and immediately with Catholics throughout the entire archdiocese. We are also implementing a new video conference system, with nine sites throughout the archdiocese (in Catholic high schools), each able to accommodate over 200 people, so that, among many other uses, we might have archdiocesan-wide “town hall” style meetings while people are able to stay in their own communities.  Much more to come on all of this, but I’m excited and enthusiastic about the changes that are coming!

2.  Our school year has come to an end.  A huge “Thank you!” to our parents, students, teachers, pastors, school administrators, and board members, for all of your efforts this past year; part of the genius of Catholic schools is that everyone has to be involved in order for our schools to succeed, and that was never more evident than it was this past school year. Dr. Timothy McNiff and his staff deserve a huge round of applause as well, as our regionalization plan, developed through the Pathways to Excellence planning process, is working!  Yes, there are still some unresolved questions and snags which we continue to tackle.  But, every parish in the archdiocese can now say that it has a parish school, even if that school is not situated on the parish grounds.  And, for the first time in recent memory, none of our archdiocesan schools are closing this June. (Mother Cabrini High School is sadly closing, but that decision was made by the religious order that ran the school, not by the archdiocese. We have worked with the parents and students of the school to try and help find them places in other Catholic high schools.)  Now, even some of the schools that opted-out of the regionalization plan are asking to be included as a regional school, proving how successful our new school plan has been.   Dr. McNiff tells me to expect an increase in students enrolled in our schools next fall, especially in the early childhood and elementary school level.  Hallelujah!

On a more somber note, we remain hugely disappointed in the failure of our elected leaders in Albany, including Governor Cuomo and Senator Skelos, to pass the Education Investment Tax Credit, which they all said they supported, and which would have been a great benefit to Catholic and other religious and private schools, as well as to the public schools as well.  I hate to bring this up, but I sense our politicians know that our Catholic people are not as organized or vocal as other groups, so they can overlook us, knowing that there is no political cost. Still, we’re not giving up.  Our schools, and the kids they serve, are too important.

3.  The pastoral planning process, Making All Things New, is nearing another milestone. I will soon receive the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Advisory Group, which has been studying the suggestions and feedback from the 368 parishes and 75 parish clusters that have been hard at work since last September, all so that archdiocese can better prepare for its future.  Up until now, I have deliberately kept a “hands-off” approach to the process, wanting the people of the archdiocese to be able to share their ideas, insights, and wisdom about the best way we can serve the people of God now and into the future.  I look forward to receiving their recommendations, and will spend the summer consulting with the Priest Council, archdiocesan staff, and other advisory groups, with an eye towards making an announcement this Fall.  Would you do me a favor, and please keep this very important pastoral planning process in your prayers this Summer, that the Holy Spirit might guide my decision-making?

4.  In my thirteen years as a bishop, I’ve been asked to give depositions on many different topics such as religious freedom, Catholic schools, Church finances, and, sadly, on the difficult issue of the sexual abuse of minors. This week I will be giving another deposition on this latter topic, this time in a lawsuit involving the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, about a priest who was laicized 14 years ago, in 2002, while I was a bishop there.

Saint Louis is my home archdiocese, and for eleven months in 2001-2002, I served there as an auxiliary bishop and Vicar for Clergy.  One of my responsibilities during that time period was to meet with victims of sexual abuse, work with law enforcement about allegations of abuse, and deal with those priests accused of wrong doing, seeing that those with credible allegations against them were immediately removed from ministry.  While it was an unusually intense, challenging and sad period for me personally, as it was for the victims of sexual abuse and the entire Church, I believe the Archdiocese of Saint Louis responded to these allegations with integrity, transparency, and sensitivity for all concerned.

I cooperate willingly in the deposition, and while I am not supposed to discuss any details about my deposition, I wanted to let you know it was occurring this week, because the last time I participated in such a deposition, and despite a judge’s order that the process remain confidential, a newspaper here called, tipped off by the other side,  asking about the “late breaking news” that I was being deposed, just as the deposition was beginning   So, I’d prefer you hear about this civil deposition first from me.

5.  I always relish my visits to Fordham University in the Bronx, and recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with two outstanding Fordham students, Michael Menconi and Ken Ochs, for a stimulating interview on ethics and society.  They’ve published the full interview here, if you’d like to give it a look!

You’ll continue to hear from me over the coming weeks, but I pray you have a restful, reinvigorating Summer!

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.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

In this week’s Catholic New York columnI wrote about the rosary, a wonderful prayer and an effective means of evangelization.  I thought you might want to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

Pope Francis has radiantly reminded us of this, hasn’t he? It’s not helpful to start with what the Church is against; it’s not productive to begin with what’s right or wrong. We’ll get to that eventually. No, we start with the Person, the invitation, the message of Jesus! Then, everything else flows from this saving proclamation!

My friend, Father Bob Barron, one of the nation’s premier evangelists today, puts it like this: if a foreign visitor asks you to explain the complicated game of baseball, you would hardly start with the “infield-fly rule”! No! You would first introduce him to the beauty, rhythm, and flow of the game! Father Barron suggests he would take him instead to Wrigley Field, gradually introduce him to the majesty of our national pastime, and then patiently explain the details of the game.

The same is true of the mystery of the faith. We begin with Jesus, with the story of salvation, with prayer, liturgy, community, and the beauty of the Church. Gradually we then get to faith, doctrine, morals, practice.

You can read my whole column here.

Making All Things New: Discipleship, Evangelization, Witness, and Ministry

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013


In this week’s Catholic New York column, I wrote a special letter on the pastoral planning process, Making All Things New I thought you might want to see it.

Here is an excerpt:

As I am confident you have heard, since we have been preparing for this the last five years, the Archdiocese of New York is now formally embarking on our pastoral planning process, Making All Things New, and we approach this process in a spirit of faithhope, and love. I have great faith in God, and in all God’s people throughout the 10 counties and 368 parishes of this archdiocese. I have deep hopein what we can accomplish together with God’s grace as we confidently plan our future as a Catholic family. And, I love Jesus, His Church, and you, the splendid people of this historic archdiocese.

As we begin this process, I am reminded that “without a vision the people will perish” (Proverbs 29:18). When I visit parishes and talk with priests, deacons, religious women and men, and our dedicated lay people, one challenging question keeps emerging—how can we strengthen our parish life, and help more Catholic people grow in their faith? I believe that Making All Things New will help us respond to this question in many important ways.

You can read my whole column by clicking here.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day, tomorrow, is also the conclusion of our Fortnight for Freedom, our two-weeks of prayer, penance, and advocacy on behalf of our “first and most cherished freedom,” that of religion.  We thank God for it, and ask for the fortitude – – like that characterizing John the Baptist, John Fisher, and Thomas More, saints whose feasts we celebrate during the Fortnight – – in defending it.

Couple of weeks ago, I visited the Albanian Islamic Center on Victory Boulevard in Staten Island.  (You may have seen the coverage in last week’s Catholic New York).  What a grand day it was!  I felt very much at home, and was welcomed as a family member.  As one of the Imams pointed out, of course I was a family member, since we were all children of the same one, true God, the God of Abraham, the God revealed to and by Israel, Jesus, and Mohammed.  With the same Father, the Imam concluded, we’re brothers and sisters!

One of the many fond memories of the visit was how glowingly the Imams and the people spoke of their love for America.  The Moslems were clear that what drew them to our country was, yes, the promise of economic prosperity, and the appeal of Democracy, but also, religious freedom.  Many of them were fleeing homelands where people of different creeds fought, often violently, and distrusted each other, and where governments opposed and oppressed religion.

Here, they boasted with obvious relief and gratitude, people of faith work together, trust each other, live next to each other, and welcome each other, as my visit displayed.

And here, the Imams and their people remarked, government protects religious liberty, and doesn’t impede or restrict it.  In America, my Islamic friends observed, the conviction is that freedom of religion is a given in human nature, self-evident and given by God, to use the vocabulary of the Founding Fathers, not a concession or favor from big government.  Here, they sighed in relief, the government leaves us alone, allowing us the free exercise of our religion.  Here, they concluded, religion was looked upon as a plus, a blessing, to society.

Those radiant comments seemed even more compelling since, as we spoke, one could see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor; that the day I visited was right before our opening of the Fortnight for Freedom; and that Independence Day was near.

Part of my prayer this Fourth of July will be that my Islamic neighbors will never regret their decision to come here, and that the promise of religious liberty they found so magnetic will never become a sham in this “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our Parishes, Our Home

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

My greatest joy as your archbishop is visiting our parishes! In my recent Catholic New York column, I wrote about my visits to some of the parishes in the last few weeks. Let me share an excerpt with you:

The colorful priest-sociologist, Father Andrew Greeley, used to comment that the Catholic Church was the most “grassroots organization in the history of the world.” He went on to explain that the heart of Catholic infrastructure was the parish, which was about as close to the people as you can get.

He’s right. When I arrived here as your archbishop a little over three years ago, the first thing Cardinal Edward Egan told me was, “The strength of this archdiocese is our 400 parishes and mission churches. That’s where the life is.”

To those observations I say, to use a Catholic word, bingo!

This, of course, flies in the face of the caricature of the Church as oppressively controlled by Rome. While our Catholic people love the Holy Father and cherish his mission as successor of St. Peter, they are hardly concerned about the intricacies of Vatican gossip, personalities of the curia, or the latest Roman controversy.

You can read the whole column here.

Freedom is Worth Defending

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

In my recent Catholic New York column, I wrote about why religious freedom is worth protecting. Let me share an excerpt with you:

Maybe some folks are a little tired of hearing or talking about it, but our priests who are there “on the ground” tell me I should not flag in presenting and explaining the Church’s high profile posture in our defense of religious freedom.

We’ve prayed about it—and will intensify our prayers during the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom—written about it, spoken of it, given endless interviews on it, and brought our case to the White House, Congress and, now, to the courts.

It’s not a struggle we asked for. I wish it would end. And it could so very easily.

All the government has to do is acknowledge that it has no business defining what a Church considers to be its essential ministry. That means creating an exemption based on federal laws dating back at least 40 years. These broader exemptions keep the government from deciding who is “religious enough” to enjoy religious freedom protection, instead covering all stakeholders who object in conscience.

You can read the whole column here.

To Whom Shall We Go?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Written 17 years ago by one of my predecessors, John Cardinal O’Connor, this column reminded us then what we must remember now — Haiti needs our help and prayers.  As the Cardinal said, Pierre Toussaint (now declared “Venerable” — another step on the road to possible beatification and canonization) is the “perfect mediator” for “those looking for peace in Haiti.”

In the Cathedral Crypt, A Prayer for Haiti

John Cardinal O’Connor, Catholic New York

October 21, 1993

It’s time to take Pierre Toussaint seriously. The situation in Haiti is a mess. The relationship between Haiti and the United States is a mess. The potential for massive violence is horrifying.

Meanwhile, the skeleton of a man of peace lies beneath the high altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I pass his crypt each morning as I enter the sanctuary to offer the 7:30 Mass. These days I pray for his intercession for the land where he was born into slavery, the land that has known little but oppression, starvation, occupation, terrorism, war, for generation after generation. The dominant, often the only hope, for the poor has been by way of their parish churches, their Masses, the efforts of their priests and bishops and, religious sisters and brothers and others who care enough about them to teach them to read and write, to know and to love God, to try to be happy in a way the world knows little about…

…Becoming wealthy by the standards of the day, even when technically in bondage, he tramped the streets constantly to feed the hungry, spent himself night after night to visit the sick. Every day for 60 years he trudged to Mass in Old St. Patrick’s Church, passed by wealthy Catholics in their carriages who refused to pick him up because he was black, however bitter the weather. Time after time he was insulted, was refused a seat in the church he had rebuilt after a fire. Yet he went on, doing good, doing endless good.

Yellow fever was common to New Yorkers of the day. Whenever it struck, those who could leave left in panic. Not Pierre. He would search fearlessly through the quarantined areas, seeking in house after house for the abandoned, taking the sick into his own home to nurse them.

Legions of slaves purchased their freedom from this man who felt so free interiorly that he seemed indifferent to his own state of technical bondage. Children black and white received an education they could not have dreamed of except for the generosity of Toussaint. Those orphaned by successive plagues found a home built for them by Pierre.

Was this an Uncle Tom, to be scorned by those who believe he should have been a militant against slavery? What nonsense. If ever a man was truly free, it was Pierre Toussaint. He respected activists. He did not believe their way should be his way, and if ever a man did things his way, it was Pierre Toussaint. If ever a man was a saint, in my judgment, it was Pierre Toussaint.

It is not Pierre Toussaint the slave or the freedman whose help I ask for Haiti as I pass his remains each morning, but the Pierre Toussaint who seems to me to have been as saintly a saint as the Church has ever canonized, albeit he still awaits the formal title that I cannot convey on him. Validation of a miracle is still being sought, and conditions in Haiti have not made the search easy. But no one can read this man’s life—and the records are thoroughly authentic—without being awed by his holiness.

What has really worked in Haiti? Who really knows what will work now? With hundreds of thousands of lives at stake the great powers of the world seem paralyzed. I watch the debates on television. I listen to equally sincere members of the Congress share mutually exclusive ideas about what action should be taken. I respect both their intentions and the complexity of their task. But meanwhile, the remains of a man of peace lie serenely in a crypt beneath the altar of sacrifice in the Cathedral of St. Patrick. If his soul is where I believe it must be, he’s a “natural” for those sincerely looking for peace in Haiti, the perfect mediator.

Fasting & Penance

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

We are just about half-way through Lent, making this the perfect time to recommit ourselves to a real spirit of prayer, fasting, and charity.  My column this week in Catholic New York, the Archdiocesan newspaper, is all about Lenten Penance.  Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus doesn’t really tell us what we should exactly do for penance—although He does extol fasting, cutting down seriously on food—but He sure insists that we undergo some   self-sacrifice.

Yes, it may be eating less, giving up certain foods, or doing laudable acts we find tough.

All you need to do is look at me to conclude that I’m hardly an expert in fasting. But, believe me, I highly appreciate its value, take it seriously in Lent, and realize that it is a   big boost to my spiritual (and physical) health.

On my weekly program, A Conversation with the Archbishop, heard on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, I speak with Monsignor Charles Murphy, author of the The Spirituality of Fasting.  (The program airs today at 1:00 p.m. eastern time, and is repeated several times over the weekend.)  Monsignor Murphy is a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and one of my predecessors as Rector of the North American College.  I highly recommend his fine book.

Preserving Advent

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Several people have sent me their reactions to my Catholic New York column of two weeks ago, “Advent Must Be Preserved.”  One that I found particularly interesting was from Sister Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J., a member of the Congregation of Saint Joseph who lives in the Bronx.  Sister Joan’s reflection was published by Catholic News Service, and appeared in many Catholic newspapers around the country.  As we approach the Fourth Sunday of Advent, her wise and practical advice for the conversion of  hearts is still relevant and timely.  You can read Sister Joan’s column here.

A blessed Advent to all!