December 2, 2009 // Uncategorized

At the heart of the ecumenical movement is prayer together

Catholic-Lutheran prayer together: Holy and beautiful, but painful, too
We gathered in the beloved old St. Peter Parish, Fort Wayne, for the annual vesper service between Catholics and Lutherans. It all started many years ago, when we had ecumenical conversations with the two Lutheran communities (Missouri Synod and also the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). The dialogues were on marriage, prayer, the joint declaration of Catholics and Lutherans on justification, and the Eucharist. I remember them with appreciation. We usually had a Lutheran pastor and a Catholic priest who gave a talk, and there would be some discussion.

It has developed into a prayer service each Advent, and we alternate between a Catholic and a Lutheran church.

This year, my partner in ecumenism, Bishop James Stuck, had emergency surgery and could not be with us. He is a stalwart Lutheran pastor, and we dearly missed him.

Spiritual ecumenism, prayer together, is at the heart of the ecumenical movement.

But a tinge of sadness. Bishop Stuck was replaced by Pastor Rudy Mueller, one of his associates; and beforehand, we spoke about the recent decision in the Lutheran community. He explained to me that it was a nationwide decision, a decision of ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. It seems they have given approval that those involved in lifelong homosexual unions, whether male or female, may be ordained to the Lutheran pastorate.

He also said it has caused division among the Lutheran communities.

As graciously as I could, I indicated in my remarks that this was a setback to our efforts towards full communion. Pastor Mueller told me it might not have passed in every congregation in every synod, but it did pass nationwide. All relationships must be based on faith.

I spoke about it with sadness and promised my prayers for the Lutheran community.

The faith we share is rooted in the Scriptures, and the biblical teaching on homosexuality is clear (cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9). The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been clear on this matter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of homosexual unions: “Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (ccc 2358).

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran community in this painful moment for them.

Two important parishes
I continue with liturgical installations of pastors, and this past weekend it was first to Blessed Sacrament, Albion, on Saturday evening, and Sunday to Immaculate Conception, Kendallville.

Blessed Sacrament, Albion, was one of the first parishes I visited when I came. Traditionally, they were cared for by Oblates of Mary Immaculate from Lowell, Mass. Two parishes were linked together, St. Patrick’s, Ligonier, and Blessed Sacrament, Albion. Sadly, in recent years, Albion has had a very difficult time with priests from overseas, one after another, and none of them staying too long.

Also, the situation, which must go back 40 to 50 years with the two parishes under one pastor, is no longer as good a fit as it once was. St. Patrick’s, Ligonier, is almost entirely Spanish speaking. Recently, the pastor, Father Wilson Corzo, a native of Colombia, has given excellent leadership in St. Patrick’s, but that has become in itself a very demanding parish.

Albion, finally, is separated and has a full-time pastor, Father Lourdino Fernandes, a native of India. The people were delighted now to have daily Mass and a full-time residential pastor. I have been there many times over the years. I especially appreciate the efforts of Mike and Sue Curtis, and so many other devoted lay people to keep the parish together and strong. What a joy to be with them on a lovely Saturday evening and follow it up with some cherry pie. Father Dino, as he is affectionately called, will serve well as he has wherever he has been stationed.

Immaculate Conception, Kendallville
It is not often that you find a small town parish with signs all around the property welcoming the new pastor and with his picture, but that was the way it was as I arrived on Sunday morning at Immaculate Conception, Kendallville. There is great joy and delight with Father Jim Stoyle — delight on his part and on the part of the people. I got to know Father Jim much better because of the five years he served with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Already, he has begun evening presentations on Scripture and church teaching; and it was a joy to be there with him in this lovely small town church.

One young man, currently a junior in high school and a parishioner in Albion, told me he hopes to enter the seminary after graduation. I was able to spend a few minutes with him, and he said that when he saw how very difficult it was for that parish without a full-time pastor, he began in his prayer to seek help from God about becoming a priest.

About Thanksgiving Day
For the 25th time, after celebrating the 9 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I attended the Thanksgiving dinner at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. Crowds larger than ever. They expect to serve 350, and then another 1,000 or more, by bringing the dinners to their homes.
How wonderful to see Hal and Andrea Thomas cooking in the kitchen, as they have done for many years, beginning with the beloved Father Tom O’Connor.

About our new bishop
He plays tennis, and I am told plays it very well. While here, he spoke with Msgr. Bob Schulte about buying a bicycle. Msgr. Bob rides a bike regularly and was heard telling the bishop about the bicycle path. Of course, this is not like a certain pastor who hangs around in the Granger area, who has been known to do 60-80 miles a day up through Michigan over steep hills, and ride ancient and holy trails in Spain. But the new bishop is both a tennis player and a cyclist. He is very devoted to Our Lady and to prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He has experience in ecumenism.

He believes strongly in youth ministry as a source of vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life, but also to the vocation of Christian marriage. He understands seminaries very well, and he does his own cooking and I think his own shopping as well. Ah, but he is a New York Yankee fan. He says it goes back to his appreciation of the great Mickey Mantle. A likely excuse. Well, no one is perfect. We have begun to prepare an office for him in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center and a place to live as well. He will be a gift for our diocese.

Center for the Homeless
When I was an auxiliary bishop in Lowell, Mass., I was involved with the beginning of a center for the homeless under the title of St. Vincent House. Early on, I read about the need for such a center here. Sam Talarico, a teacher at St. Jude Parish and at that time on the city council, spoke about this need. I sent Sam, Father Tom O’Connor and two women from Saint Mary Parish, to Lowell. When they returned, we started Vincent House. It is a center for homeless families and has grown into Vincent Village where over 500 families have been sent. Through the generous help of John Tippmann and many others, including Otto and Jane Bonahoom, and Rev. Richard Frazier — a now retired Lutheran pastor, this wonderful program has been a blessing for the city of Fort Wayne; and I am scheduled to participate this week in its 20th anniversary. It now includes over 30 homes where people live after leaving Vincent House. These homes have been transformed, often by volunteers, and the whole area has been improved.

I am also preparing to dedicate the new Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka.

How about the Luers Knights
The day after Thanksgiving, I was off to Bishop Luers High School to celebrate Mass for the football team and their families. Father Dave Ruppert who was doing excellent work at Luers as chaplain, teacher and member of the board, and also a wonderful pastor at St. Therese Parish, Waynedale, concelebrated with me.

This is a young Luers team. They lost five games in the regular season. It was thought that they would have no chance at a state title this year. To the surprise of everyone, they fought through the playoffs. I watched on television, and I think it was one of the best high school football games I have ever seen. Trailing 17 to 7, they came back, held the Monrovia Bulldogs with their powerful running game scoreless in the second half, and pulled it out to 24 to 20.

They have been to the state final 12 times in football, and have won eight. Congratulations to Mary Keefer, Matt Lindsay and his excellent staff. The staff consists almost entirely of former players at Luers.

Even as my days here as bishop dwindle down to a precious few, they are filled with joy. I look forward this week for the 25th time to celebrating our patronal feast, the feast of the Immaculate Conception at our Cathedral dedicated in her honor. I am also looking forward to a Day of Recollection with our priests on Dec. 10, and later an evening prayer service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in honor of our new monsignors and Knight of St. Gregory. All are welcome.

See you all next week.

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