We have begun our Lenten journey. On Ash Wednesday, I was happy to see the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception filled with people, a sign of the vitality of the faith of this local Church. I am sure that churches throughout our diocese were filled as people attended Mass and received the blessed ashes on their foreheads, a sign not only of our mortality, but a sign that also points to the resurrection of the body. I pray that all of us, through our practice of prayer and penance during these 40 days, will arrive at Easter with our hearts purified and renewed by God’s grace.
Msgr. J. William Lester
This past Saturday morning, one of the great and much loved priests of our diocese, Msgr. J. William Lester, was called home to the house of our Father. That evening, while speaking with one of our priests, he called Msgr. Lester “a giant” in our diocese. Monsignor’s many accomplishments are well-known. I have only had the privilege of getting to know Msgr. Lester in the course of a few weeks, but I feel blessed to have met such a holy, humble and joyful priest. What struck me most about Msgr. was his joy in the priesthood, his joy in serving the Lord and His people. Of course, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and a sign that Msgr. Lester lived his life according to the Spirit. We will certainly miss him. Please join me in praying this prayer for this wonderful servant of God:
O God, listen favorably to our prayers offered on behalf of your servant and priest, and grant that Msgr. J. William Lester, who committed himself zealously to the service of your name, may rejoice forever in the company of your saints. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Catechetical Formation Day
This past Friday, our Catholic School teachers from throughout the Fort Wayne area met for Catechetical Formation Day (the teachers from the South Bend area will meet next Friday). It was wonderful to celebrate Mass with these devoted teachers who play such an important role in the Church. I thank them, on behalf of us all, for their commitment to the noble and holy mission of Catholic education. I spoke to the teachers about fostering the formation of the hearts of their students in the love of God. Of course, this is a primary task of parents. Indeed, all of us are called to help our children and young people to encounter Christ. We do this not only by our teaching them about Jesus, but also by our example of the imitation of Jesus, by living the Christian virtues, the greatest of which is love.
Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Fort Wayne
As many of you know, I live in the former rectory of St. Mary’s Parish in Fort Wayne. This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, I celebrated Holy Mass at Saint Mary’s Church. It was wonderful to meet so many good people and to learn about the wonderful works of mercy that go on at St. Mary’s, including the famous soup kitchen. I thank Father Phillip Widmann, the pastor of St. Mary’s, and all the parishioners for their warm welcome. I joked with the parishioners about my being their “tenant.” I live next door to the parish’s Ave Maria House, which provides a place for the poor to visit during the day for various needs. St. Mary’s is a beacon of hope for many needy people in that area of Fort Wayne.
Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion
On the first Sunday of Lent, after the Mass at St. Mary’s, I was back to our beautiful Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the Rite of Election of Catechumens and of the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates who are preparing for Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church this Easter. It is exciting to see so many people, touched by God’s grace, who will soon receive the sacraments of initiation and join us at the table of the Lord. Allow me to share with you one paragraph from my homily at that beautiful ceremony:
My advice to you today is very simple: “Love Christ and love His Church.” When St. Andrew encountered Christ, the first thing he did was seek out his brother, Simon Peter, to tell him ‘We have found Christ.’ My brothers and sisters, you have found Christ! Finding Christ, following Him, and living in His love is the goal not only of the RCIA, it is the goal and quest of our life’s journey. It gives us a joy that is ever ancient and ever new, a joy nothing else in this world can give us. Loving Christ also means loving His Bride, the Church. To do so, we must always see the Church with the eyes of Jesus who “loved the Church” St. Paul tells us, “and gave Himself up for her.”
I look forward to celebrating this same liturgy next Sunday in St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, where there will be another large group of catechumens and candidates making this step towards initiation or full communion in the Catholic Church.
Welcome back, Bishop D’Arcy
I was so happy to see Bishop D’Arcy again after his well-deserved few weeks back home in Boston. As I get to know the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, I marvel at the many accomplishments of my esteemed and beloved predecessor. I am very glad that Bishop D’Arcy continues to be very active in priestly and episcopal ministry, a great help to me and a real blessing to all the faithful of our diocese.
I’d like to end this column as I began, with the theme of Lent. The Lord is calling us to penance and spiritual renewal. Let us hear and heed that call! I encourage all to participate in the various Lenten observances in your parishes. Attending Mass on weekdays, praying the Stations of the Cross, participating in Operation Rice Bowl, attending a Day of Recollection, etc., are all ways to enter more deeply into the spirit of Lent. And, of course, we together do our communal penance of abstinence from meat on Lenten Fridays. May the grace of this special season be with you all!
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