A triple header: Tiring but beautiful
It began late on Saturday afternoon, when I traveled to the University of Saint Francis. It was the 20th anniversary of The Franciscan Center. Started by several of the famous Tippmann family, including Sally Ley, the center, working out of the former Sacred Heart School, feeds hundreds every day with sack lunches, and their work has increased greatly in these difficult economic times. To commemorate the day, a legendary preacher, Father Benedict Groeschel, a Capuchin Franciscan and founder of the Franciscans of the Renewal, presented a day of prayer. As always with Father Groeschel, there was a large crowd. He sat in the middle of the people due to his serious accident, and presented Catholic spirituality with joy and good humor before a large crowd. Father Groeschel is especially well known through his conversations on EWTN, and he can be heard regularly praying the rosary on Redeemer Radio, 1450 AM on your dial in the Fort Wayne area.
He reminded me before Mass that it was 40 years ago when we first met, and he gave a retreat to the seminarians at St. John’s in Brighton. He has been a warrior for Christ, and it was a pleasure to see him.
I celebrated Mass along with Father Groeschel and Father Ron Rieder, OFM Cap, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Huntington, a beloved priest in our diocese, also concelebrated. I preached on the mystery of Advent.
St. Patrick’s and Our Lady of Guadalupe
What followed next, I must say was a beautiful experience. Many will remember the painful closing of St. Paul Church and the procession with the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of Our Lady to St. Patrick’s. I recall a painful hearing at both churches with heightened anger and resistance. It was not easy for the Hispanic Catholics to make this short journey of about one mile from the place that had become their spiritual home, nor was it easy for the many older parishioners of St. Patrick’s. I think of Agnes and Jim McCardle, and also Jim and Mary Feltz. Transitions take time, but Our Lady of Guadalupe had her plans.
The Society of the Divine Word
Two exemplary priests are now at St. Patrick’s. That would be Father Chau Pham, SVD, and Father Tom Ascheman, SVD. St. Patrick’s, this beloved old church that has always welcomed the immigrant was packed, standing room only. Flags from all the Latin countries. Father Tom pointed out that the Irish flag was also there. Roses everywhere. The beautiful portrayal of the events that took place at Tepeyac with the apparition to Juan Diego.
Father Tom is the perfect priest to oversee this extraordinary annual event. He received a doctorate in theology from Catholic University, and his doctoral dissertation was on the apparition; indeed, not only on the apparition, but everything surrounding it. He has told me in the past about the conversion of the bishop, from a good bishop to a bishop touched by Our Lady, and by the needs of the native people of Mexico. He preached a beautiful homily in Spanish.
Next year, Bishop Rhoades will be able to honor this feast with homilies in Spanish, and maybe the retiring bishop will have learned enough Spanish then to preach at one of our many churches where the worship takes place in Spanish. I thought of St. Patrick’s currently baptizing about 250 children a year. The parish has gone through many changes, but now seems settled with Mass every weekend in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
This Mass will forever remain in my memory. The prayerfulness of the people. The increasing number who went to holy Communion. The devotion to Our Lady, and the reverence of all.
More to come
After some nourishing Mexican tacos I went up to the top floor, to the old gymnasium, to watch a series of dances.
Dancing. So much a part of culture. I thought of my kitchen in Brighton when I was a child, and how members of my parents’ families, brothers and sisters and cousins, would come into the kitchen and do Irish step-dancing. They called it kitchen rackets, but I could see how similar it was to these beautiful Latin-American dances.
We had Mexican dancers, and Columbian, and dancers from Ecuador. All different and all beautiful. Father Tom pointed something out to me. The large number of people, including children, who were sitting around the edge of the gymnasium and up in the balcony and watching intently, the children focusing on every step by the dancers all in their native garb. It made us wonder what television has done to us. People used to provide their own entertainment and conversation was part of it. So it was in my home as a boy. Now we sit and look at a box, and people play fantasy football, as if that is humanly nourishing. I urged the people afterwards not to lose their native culture, but to explain it to their children.
Off to Manchester
Off then the next morning to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Manchester for the installation of Father Thomas Kodakassery, OSB. I have always felt close to this small parish, and Father Thomas is doing very well. Once a month, he offers Mass at Manchester College. I was delighted that there were a significant number of students there from that college. Thanks to Mary Glowaski and Mike Gibson for their good work at that college.
A day for priests in the Year for Priests
On a cold, wintry and windy morning, 62 priests gathered at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Syracuse for a Day of Prayer, which was presented by Bishop Carl Mengeling, bishop emeritus of Lansing. He is a native of the Diocese of Gary and studied at St. Meinrad’s with many of our priests.
He gave us a beautiful talk on the five promises, which a priest makes on the day of his ordination. How beautiful to see the attention and prayerfulness of our priests as they listened to this excellent presentation; and what a source of joy to me, in this last Day of Recollection that I will make with our priests as their bishop, to see the large number going to confession as four different priests, including Bishop Mengling, hearing confessions.
This was followed by a meeting of consultors. According to canon law, the Council of Priests ceases to exist with the appointment of a new bishop. The College of Consultors, however, remains in existence and we met at length over a number of important issues; and it is one of the things I cherish most, and will surely miss; namely, serious consultations with brother priests on important pastoral issues.
Off then, to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for lovely evening prayer and the official installation of our seven new monsignors and the awarding of the Cross of St. Gregory to Professor John Cavadini, chair of the theology department at Notre Dame.
These are splendid days
At St. Patrick’s (Parrochia San Patricio) I received a magnificent picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and at Manchester — a Red Sox jacket. Tokens of affection and deeply appreciated.
I am in regular touch with Bishop Rhoades, and I grow in admiration every time we talk. The good Lord has given us, through the Successor of Peter, an exemplary bishop who will enrich our diocese.
I will share my plans more with you in the future. I have planned an opportunity in each end of the diocese to meet with as many as possible to thank God for his blessings on these 24 years. On Jan. 3, 2010, I will celebrate the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral Parish. A reception will follow in the parish school.
On Jan. 10, I will celebrate the 11:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne. A reception will follow across the street at the Grand Wayne Center. No personal gifts. Those so inclined may make a gift to the Catholic Education Fund, which gives tuition grants to those needing help to attend Catholic schools.
I also plan to have a prayerful meeting with my priests in a couple of weeks — priests and bishop only. I hope to reflect a bit more on these special days in our diocese and in the weeks ahead.
See you next week.
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