Posts Tagged ‘New Evangelization’

Sacrament of Penance

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Today I delivered my remarks to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland. I would like to share a copy of my text with you.

My brother bishops,

Yes, we have “a lot on our plate” as we commence our meeting, urgent issues very worthy of our solicitude as pastors — the suffering in vast areas not far from here caused by the Hurricane of two weeks ago, the imperative to the New Evangelization, the invitation offered by the Year of Faith, and our continued dialogue, engagement, and prophetic challenge to our culture over urgent issues such as the protection of human life, the defense of marriage, the promotion of human dignity in the lives of the poor, the immigrant, those in danger from war and persecution throughout the world, and our continued efforts to defend our first and most cherished freedom — all issues calling for our renewed and enthusiastic commitment.

But I stand before you this morning to say simply: first things first. We gather as disciples of, as friends of, as believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” who exhorted us to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” We cannot engage culture unless we let Him first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us. The Venerable Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen, once commented, “The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was ‘come’; the last word of Jesus was ‘go’.”

Fifty years ago, on October 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII courageously convened the Second Vatican Council “the greatest concern of which,” he insisted, “is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” (Allocution on the occasion of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudet mater ecclesia). We gather for our plenary assembly in our nation’s premiere see, at the close of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, still near the beginning of the Year of Faith. Both occasions have the same origin, the same goal expressed by Blessed John XXIII: the effective transmission of the faith for the transformation of the world.

A year ago we began our visits ad limina Petri et Pauli. I know you join me in expressing deep gratitude for the extraordinary affection, warmth and fraternal care with which our Holy Father welcomed us.But Pope Benedict did not stop with his gracious hospitality. No. He also gave us plenty of fatherly advice — for our ministry as pastors of the Church and our personal role in the New Evangelization.Here’s an especially striking example from his first ad limina address:

“Evangelization,” the Successor of St. Peter noted, “. . . appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth.”

As we bishops at the just concluded Synod of Bishops confessed in our closing message: “We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us as Bishops personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.”

“We Bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we bishops first of all – that we can never really be equal to the Lord’s calling and mandate to proclaim His Gospel to the nations. We. do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord’s Spirit is capable of renewing His Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let Him mold us.” (Final Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God, October 28, 2012)

The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me — will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, “If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”

I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.

II. “To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance,” declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9) ​To be sure, the sacraments of initiation – - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.

​But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without. ​What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

​We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? “The Kingdom of God is within,” as Jesus taught.

​The premier answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” “what’s wrong with the church?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is just two words:’I am,’”

​I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the marrow of the Gospel-invitation. I remember the insightful words of a holy priest well known to many of us from his long apostolate to priests and seminarians in Rome, Monsignor Charles Elmer, wondering aloud from time to time if, following the close of the Council, we had sadly become a Church that forgot how to kneel. If we want the New Evangelization to work, it starts on our knees.

Remember a few years back, when Cardinal Cahal Daly led us in our June retreat? Speaking somberly of the Church in his home country, he observed, “The Church in Ireland is in the dirt on her knees.” Then he paused, and concluded, “Maybe that’s where the Church is at her best.”

We kneel in the Sacrament of Penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults and our sins, serious obstacles to the New Evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us – as evangelizers of the Gospel of Mercy.

I recall a conversation about a year ago with one of our brother bishops, newly ordained, attending his first plenary assembly. I asked his impressions of the meeting. “Well organized, informative, enjoyable,” he replied, but he went on to observe that it was one moment in particular that had the greatest impact on him. It was during our closing Holy Hour, as he entered the large room next to the chapel, to see dozens and dozens of bishops lined up to approach the Sacrament of Penance. This new Bishop told me that he felt that moment had more of an influence upon him than anything else at the meeting.

Who can forget the prophetic words of repentance from Blessed John Paul II, during the Great Jubilee, as he expressed contrition – publically and repeatedly – for the sins of the past? He mentioned the shame of the slave trade, the horrors of the holocaust, the death and destruction wrought by the crusades, the injustices of the conquest of the new world, and the violence of religious wars, to name only a few.

I remember during the celebration of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland last June, when Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Papal Legate, expressed this so forcefully as he spoke on behalf of the Holy Father at the penitential shrine of St. Patrick’s Purgatory: “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. . . In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of which I have met here in Lough Derg.”

And so it turns to us, my brothers. How will we make the Year of Faith a time to renew the Sacrament of Penance, in our own loves and in the lives of our beloved people whom we serve? Once again, we will later this week approach the Sacrament of Penance.

And we’ll have the opportunity during this meeting to approve a simple pastoral invitation to all our faithful to join us in renewing our appreciation for and use of the Sacrament. We will “Keep the Light On” during the upcoming Advent Season!

The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession. Next June we will gather in a special assembly as brother bishops to pray and reflect on the mission entrusted to us by the Church, including our witness to personal conversion in Jesus Christ, and so to the New Evangelization.

We work at giving our people good examples of humble, repentant pastors, aware of our own personal and corporate sins, constantly responding to the call of Jesus to interior conversion. Remember the Curé of Ars? When a concerned group of his worried supporters came to him with a stinging protest letter from a number of parishioners, demanding the bishop to remove John Vianney as their curé, claiming he was a sinner, ignorant, and awkward, St. John Vianney took the letter, read it carefully … and signed the petition!
III. As I began my talk this morning, my brothers, so I would like to end it, with Blessed John XXIII.

It was the Sunday angelus of October 28, 1962.The message the Holy Father delivered on that bright Roman afternoon never even mentions the phrase New Evangelization.But it strikes right at the heart of the mission entrusted to each of us as shepherds.

“I feel something touching my spirit that leads to serenity,” Good Pope John remarked. “The word of the Gospel is not silent.It resonates from one end of the world to the other, and finds the way of the heart. Dangers and sorrows, human prudence and wisdom, everything needs to dissolve into a song of love, into a renewed invitation, pleading all to desire and wish for the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. A kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

How could we not see it alive in those holy men and women of every time and place, the heroic evangelizers of our faith, including most recently St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope?

We have beheld it in the Church’s unrelenting corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the heroic witness of persecuted Christians, in the Church’s defense of unborn human life, the care of our elders and the terminally ill, advocacy for the unemployed, those in poverty, our immigrant brothers and sisters, victims of terror and violence throughout our world, of all faiths and creeds, and in our defense of religious freedom, marriage and family.

And, I have suggested today, that as we “come and go” in response to the invitation of Jesus, we begin with the Sacrament of Penance.This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, “We cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire to conversion.” (Homily for the Opening of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops).

With this as my presidential address, I know I risk the criticism. I can hear it now: “With all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Penance. Can you believe it?”

To which I reply, “You better believe it!” First things first!

New York Catholic Spiritual Family

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I’ve pretty much been praying the same morning offering since my first Holy Communion.

Every once in a while, I’ll make a change or addition to my memorized prayer … and that happened this very day at 6:00 a.m.

When my niece Shannon was diagnosed with cancer a dozen years ago at age nine, I added Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to the litany of my favorite friends in heaven whom I beseech at the opening of each day, figuring that she, who herself battled a life threatening illness when she, too, was a little girl, would have a special solicitude for Shannon.

Well, today, for the first time in 12 years, I invoked Saint Kateri Tekakwitha!

And, when I was appointed Archbishop of New York over three-and-a-half years ago, I added to that litany each dawn those beatified and canonized who are part of our New York Catholic spiritual family, including Blessed Marianne Cope.  Well, since she, too, got a promotion yesterday, I had the joy of invoking her early this a.m. as Saint Marianne Cope.

It was a thrill to concelebrate the Mass of Canonization Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square, united with 85,000 believers from all five continents, as Pope Benedict XVI solemnly declared seven new Saints, among them our beloved Kateri and Marianne.

Especially uplifting was to be here with thousands of pilgrims from home, including Native Americans of New York State, celebrating their own Kateri, and parishioners from now St. Kateri Parish in Lagrangeville, led by Monsignor Desmond O’Connor, their pastor, and a big crowd from the Diocese of Syracuse, home of St. Marianne Cope’s Sisters of St. Francis.

Congratulations as well for the beloved Filipino community at home, as their second countryman, Pedro Calungsod, was also canonized yesterday.

It’ll take me a while to get used to these two little changes in my morning prayers … but it is ever worth the effort!

Because part of my daily conversation with Jesus is that even more of the great state I proudly call my earthly home will one day be saints!

So, it’s back to work here in Rome at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.  I miss you!  See you next Monday!

Parish Missions

Monday, October 15th, 2012

October 15, 2012
Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus
Year of Faith

One of the points made over-and-over again here at the Synod in Rome is that the parish is on the front lines of the New Evangelization!

We bishops can talk “until we’re blue in the face” — and, believe me, some do over here! — about a re-energized and renewed sense of bringing Jesus to the world, but, if this does not become the mission of our parishes, forget it!

I remember speaking once to an ambassador accredited to the Holy See.  She, herself not a Catholic, observed that “The Catholic Church is the most ‘grassroots’ organization I’ve ever seen, because the real life of the Church occurs at the local level, in the parish.  Every believer, wherever he or she is, lives in a parish.”

It is the parish where we are baptized, confirmed, and fed with the Eucharist each Sunday.  It is in the parish where we meet our “pastor,” where we approach confession, where our children learn the faith and walk up the aisle for marriage.  It is in the parish where we find spiritual friendship and community, and where we can serve those in need.  It is in the parish where we’ll be commended to the Lord at the end of our earthly journey.

Thus I find the old custom of appointing a cardinal an “honorary pastor” of a parish in Rome, to a church that becomes his titular, to be rich in meaning.  In the 2000 year old life of the Church, the pastors of the parishes in Rome elect their bishop.  Thus, the cardinals, honorary pastors of their “titular churches,” gather in conclave to choose a new successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome: our Holy Father, the Pope.

When I became a cardinal last February, I was appointed “honorary pastor” of my titular Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on Monte Mario, in Rome.

And yesterday, I “took possession” of that parish.

What a great day it was!  Many cardinals have, as their titular churches, an historic one that might be more of a museum than a living parish.

Not Our Lady of Guadalupe!  This was as large, as welcoming, as dynamic, as youthful, as a parish in the Bronx!  They welcomed me like a returning father of the family — which I guess I am.  The church and the square outside were packed; the Mass was reverent yet lively; the folks were courteously attentive to my awkward Italian; the families young; the kids beaming; the choir great; and … the pranzo afterwards — with toasts in abundance, and even a Dixieland band! … superb.

In my conversations with the “real” pastor, Don Franco Mammoli, I learned that the parish was filled with young families and loyal elders; that it was the spiritual home of immigrants from the Philippines, Africa, and Asia; and that the poor in the neighborhood come to the parish for help.  Sound familiar?  I felt at home.  I was at home, as God’s children always are in the parish, even one not their own.

My big mistake was not knowing whether I should be a fan of the Lazio or the Roman soccer team!  Sounds like their version of the “Yankees/Mets,” or “Giants/Jets” question!

Of course, I commented to my “new parishioners” how appropriate it was that we both looked to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a patroness.  I wondered out loud if my appointment as titular pastor of this parish was recognition by Pope Benedict XVI of the great gift of our Mexican and other Latino brothers and sisters to the Archdiocese of New York.

As I left Monte Mario, I thanked God that my new parish was, in so many ways, already vigorous in the New Evangelization, and reminded anew that we bishops in the Synod are “whistlin’ Dixie” if our words do not penetrate to the soil, the grassroots, of the Church: the parish!

Synod Intervention

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

This morning I delivered my remarks at the Synod for the New Evangelization. I would like to share a copy of my text with you.

AMDG                                                                                                  JMJ

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Synod Intervention
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The great American evangelist, The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, commented, “The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was ‘come’; the last word of Jesus was ‘go’.”

The New Evangelization  reminds us that the very agents of evangelization must first be evangelized themselves.  We must first come to Jesus ourselves before we can go out to others in His Holy Name.

Saint Bernard said, “if you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”

Thus I believe that the primary sacrament of the New Evangelization is the sacrament of penance, and thank Pope Benedict for reminding us of this.

Yes, to be sure, the sacraments of initiation – - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization.

But, the sacrament of reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and inspires us to answer His invitation to repentance.  As we learned in philosophy, nemo dat qoud non habet (“no one gives what he does not have”).

The Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of the sacrament of penance, but what we got instead, sadly, in many places, was the disappearance of the sacrament.

So we have busied ourselves calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.  Yes, this is good.

But the answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” is not, in the first place, politics, the economy, secularism, pollution, global warming, or other people . . . no.  As Chesterton, the eloquent British apologist, wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is two words:  I am.”

I am!  Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the core of the Gospel-invitation.

That happens in the Sacrament of Penance.  This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization.

Renewing Our Faith by Old Habits

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Here I am in Rome all month for the Synod on the New Evangelization.  I miss all of you already – - but my next bowl of Spaghetti alla Carbonara will snap me out of it.

How do we renew, restore, repair, re-energize our faith in the Person, message, and invitation of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

That’s the challenge posed by the New Evangelization.

To renew, restore, repair, and re-energize our faith, individually, and communally, as the Church . . .

. . . and then to be agents of the New Evangelization to others.

One of the most prominent and influential converts to Catholicism in the history of the Catholic community in the United States was Dorothy Day.

I’m reading her excellent biography by Jim Forest, All is Grace.

Dorothy herself relates a number of features that drew her to Jesus and His Church.

One especially powerful one was when she shared a meager room with two other young women, struggling, like her, to make it, down in Greenwich Village.

These two roommates were Catholic. Simple Catholics, but sincere.  And Dorothy at the time was a socialist, probably an agnostic, living a rather hedonistic life.

And Dorothy watched the two other girls.  She admired them.  What moved her?  What inspired her?

One, they went to Mass every Sunday morning (their only morning to sleep-in, by the way);

Two, they prayed silently every night before bed;

Three, they were deeply in love with two men, and had set their wedding date, but they wanted “to wait” until marriage something they admitted was tough to do.  That virtue impressed Dorothy;

Four, they were from poor, struggling families, and thus had a heart for others in need.

Not bad: Sunday Mass; daily prayer; virtue, even when it’s tough; and a humble charity.

Their example evangelized a future saint, Dorothy Day.

Maybe the “New Evangelization” requires the recovery of some old stuff!

Mission Territories

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

As you are probably aware, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is going through a very rough time.  Those good people, our family members in the “Household of the Faith,” and their brave archbishop, Charles Chaput, deserve our love and prayers.

In his courageous and inspired efforts to bring hope and renewal to that Church in crisis, Archbishop Chaput recently made a statement that stopped me cold:  “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia . . . is now really a mission territory.’’

Yes, I had to read it twice, too.

Uganda a mission territory?  Sure . . .

Peru a mission territory?  Yes . . .

Alaska a mission territory?  Okay . . .

But Philadelphia?  Come on now!  That archdiocese in a way was the model of a robust, intact, cohesive Catholic infrastructure!  Parishes, schools, apostolates, ministries galore!  A huge Catholic population, with cardinals as past archbishops, vocations abounding, close to a million–and–a–half Catholics proud of and fervent in their faith, right?

What do you mean a mission territory?  Is Archbishop Chaput bluffing?

No!  I’m afraid he’s right on target.

And, guess what?  Our beloved Archdiocese of New York is also mission territory! 

True, thank God, we sure do not face the tsunami of current problems Philadelphia does.  Our financial picture is tight but solvent, our Catholic population actually growing, and extensive layoffs, shut-down of parishes, schools, and services, hardly anticipated.

But, we are a mission territory, too.  Every diocese is.  And every committed Catholic is a missionary.

This is at the heart of what Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI call the New Evangelization.

I was raised – - as were most of you – - to think of the missions as “way far away” – - and, to be sure, we can never forget our sacred duty to the foreign missions.

In fact, when wonderful Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda, Ireland, came to my home parish, Holy Infant, in Ballwin, Missouri, fifty-five years ago, we smiled when they humbly called themselves “missionaries.”

Couldn’t be, we chuckled:  we’ve been Catholic for generations; we’ve got a parish church and school; the Catholic Church is strong, proud, growing, standing tall!  We’re not Africa!  We’re not mission territory! 

Yes we were!  Yes we are!  The sisters were right!  Archbishop Chaput is correct!  Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are on target!

Maybe, we have gotten way too smug.  We have taken our Catholic faith for granted.  As Archbishop Chaput observed, the big problem is a dullness that has “seeped into church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it . . .These problems kill a Christian love . . . they choke off a real life of faith.”

As my friend Greg Erlandson commented in Our Sunday Visitor, the archbishop’s sobering point was echoed by the President of the Catholic University of America, John Garvey, in his recent splendid address to us bishops.  What we’ve got, according to Mr. Garvey and paraphrased by Mr. Erlandson, is a societal crisis of faith.  “More and more residents of the Western World [you and me!]  are simply wandering away from their faith, which means that what is happening in Philadelphia is but a microcosm of a much more disturbing erosion.”

Have I depressed you yet?  I sure hope not!

Have I awakened you and challenged you!  I sure hope so.

Because, guess where we’re at:  We’re with the apostles on Pentecost Sunday as we embrace the New Evangelization. 

No more taking our Catholic faith for granted!

No more relaxing in the great things the church has accomplished in the past!

Cynicism is replaced by confidence . . .

Hand-wringing by hand-folding . . .

Dullness by dare . . .

Waiting for people to come back replaced by going out to get them . . .

Presuming that people know the richness of their Catholic faith replaced by a realistic admission that they do not . . .

From taking the Church for granted as a “big corporation,” to a tender care for a Church as small and fragile as a tiny mustard seed Jesus spoke about. . .

Keeping our faith to ourselves to letting it shine to others!

This is the New Evangelization!

The Archdiocese of New York is a mission territory!

The whole Church is!  Our parishes are!  Culture is!  The world is!

You and I are missionaries!

No longer can we coast on the former fame, clout, buildings, numbers, size, money, and accomplishments of the past.  As a matter of fact, all of this may have dulled us into taking our faith for granted.

No more!  We are missionaries.  And, it starts inside.  As Greg Erlandson concludes, “Without a conversion of heart, starting with ourselves, we may never truly address the heart of the current crisis.”

I don’t know about you, but I need the Year of Faith starting in October.

And I need the synod on the New Evangelization  in Rome this fall.

Reflections on a Radiant Apostolate

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Couple of weeks ago I was at a gala for Incarnation Children’s Center, an acclaimed residence,  under Catholic Charities, in Washington Heights, which offers tender care, healing, and holistic treatment for children in need.  It started almost a quarter-century ago as a short-term sanctuary for new born babies dying with AIDS, and developed into a longer term home for older children.  A splendid facility!

I could — and perhaps will, in the future, — write a whole entry on this radiant apostolate, including a few words on how respectful partnerships between the government and Catholic Charities serve the most vulnerable and abandoned in our midst, but right now I have another point to make.

The story is that a renowned pediatrician, Dr. Margaret Heagarty, and a celebrated woman religious, Sister Una McCormack, O.P., a Sparkhill Dominican, saw the critical need for such a care facility back then but could not find a place.   Enter one of our priests, Monsignor Thomas Leonard, then the pastor of Incarnation Parish.  When these two loving women told Tom of their need, he let them know that the convent of the parish was empty, and eagerly offered it for the babies and moms.  With the help of the illustrious philanthropist, Jack Rudin . . . well, the rest is history.

What Monsignor Leonard did was harness an unused building in service of the Gospel.  I suppose he could have sold it, had it torn down, or rented it as a hair salon.  No . . . he kept it allied to the mission of the Church.  And there’s the lesson.

We in the archdiocese and in our parishes may be tight on cash — who isn’t? — but we do have buildings.  What to do with them is today a burning question.

Some argue that we’re now suffering the results of “over-building” from the past.  In the boom years of explosive growth after the war, and a bumper crop of vocations, our ancestors understandably built galore.  Now, so goes the narrative, we’re “stuck” with huge rectories, schools, convents, and halls, many of them half-empty or closed, and costing us a bundle to heat, protect, maintain, and insure.

So, what do we do with them?  I know one pastor in another diocese who rents his old school out for storage; another in a distant state who sold the convent to a veterinarian.  I guess sometimes there’s such a critical need for funds that such uses are understandable.

But, isn’t it for the better when we can make the decision Tom Leonard did?  The building remains part of the mission of Jesus and His Church!  The people who originally donated to build that convent, and the sisters who once lived there, would be ecstatic to behold its use today.

A bishop was telling me of a pastor who asked permission to have his empty, closed school rented to a non-religious day-care center.  Seems as if the good people who ran the successful nursery a few blocks away needed a much bigger facility, as the need was so great.  Seemed a logical use for the old school, don’t you think?

But the bishop asked the parish priest, “Why don’t you open a day care center?  If the need is there — and apparently it is — shouldn’t the Church respond?  When there was a need for a Catholic school in the parish 100 years ago, your people built the school for their kids.  Now the children need a day care center.  Wouldn’t it be a magnificent apostolate to welcome those little ones as Jesus did?”

Not a bad question.

Actually, I wonder if this is part of the new evangelization?  We are not into maintenance but mission; we are not landlords but servants of the Lord; our buildings are not investments to be rented out but means to serve, teach, and sanctify.  Why not creatively use our properties to continue the mission of the Church?

That’s why, for instance, in Pathways to Excellence, our new school plan, parishes where schools have closed or merged, and where the old school structures now bring income from sale or rental, contribute half that revenue to the nearby Catholic school now serving the parish.

It’s sound stewardship, because the intent of the original donors is respected, and its evangelization, as mission goes on.

I suppose Monsignor Leonard took some flack.  “We could sell or rent that old convent to a business for more money,” I can hear the critics chide.

There were sure no critics at all at the gala for Incarnation Home when he — along with Dr. Heagarty, Sister Una, and Jack Rudin — were honored the other night.

Promoting New Evangelization

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I’m spending this week at the Vatican for the first-ever meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.  I’m honored that the Holy Father has appointed me to this new and vital Council, responsible for helping to promote the faith.  The Holy Father met with us on Monday, and our meetings with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the President of the Council, and cardinals and bishops from around the world have been enlightening and inspiring.  This is an area of tremendous emphasis for the Church, and it is reflected in the enthusiasm and commitment of everyone in these meetings.

Since I was in Rome, I took the opportunity to record my weekly radio program, “A Conversation with the Archbishop” for The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio from the studios of Vatican Radio.  When I was Rector of the North American College in Rome, I used to record brief reflections for Vatican Radio, so it was great to be back.  We recorded this week’s show in the Karol Wojtyla Studios, named for Pope John Paul II, since it was the studio that he used to record 21 Polish-language programs for Vatican Radio while he was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow, Poland.  I was a little let-down when I found out that I wasn’t the first Catholic Channel host to broadcast from the Karol Wojtyla Studio.  Apparently Lino Rulli, The Catholic Guy, beat me to it! Archbishop Fisichella, Sean Patrick Lovett who heads the English desk at Vatican Radio, and Monsignor Paul Tighe, a priest from Dublin who now works at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, were my guests.   I hope you will listen on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time to hear the show on Sirius XM 129.

With Archbishop Fisichella at the taping of the show

Sean Patrick Lovett and me

With Monsignor Paul Tighe

Photos by Joseph Zwilling

You’ll notice a television camera in the picture with Archbishop Fisichella.  The Today Show is broadcasting from the Vatican this Thursday morning, and they’ve asked me to be a part of it.  I’ll be with Matt Lauer and Al Roker from Saint Peter’s Square.  Should be a fun morning, so tune in if you can.

Have a blessed Ascension Thursday.