Msgr. J. William Lester
Last week, in this column, I wrote about the death of an exemplary and beloved priest of our diocese, Msgr. J. William Lester. This past Wednesday and Thursday, we celebrated the Church’s funeral rites for Monsignor. The outpouring of love for this good and humble priest of Jesus Christ was tremendous. Bishop D’Arcy delivered a beautiful homily at the funeral Mass, recalling Msgr. Lester’s devoted priestly ministry and comforting all present with his reflections on the Word of God. We prayed that our Lord would bring Monsignor into His Kingdom and give him a place in the liturgy of heaven. In this Year of the Priest, Msgr. Lester’s life of faithful service reminds us of the gift and mystery of the priesthood. Let us continue to pray for all of our priests during this special year.
Priests’ Lenten Day of Reflection
This past Wednesday, Bishop D’Arcy and I joined with the priests of our diocese in a day of prayer at St. Martin de Porres Church in Syracuse. Archbishop Alfred Hughes, the retired archbishop of New Orleans, a close friend of Bishop D’Arcy, offered two beautiful reflections on the priesthood, presenting as two models for us St. Paul and St. John Vianney. It was a very good day that included the opportunity for confessions and also time together in adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The turnout of our priests was excellent. Amid the busy days of Lent, it was a blessing to take a day apart to experience the goodness of the Lord in prayer. I thank all of our priests for their devotion and generous service of God’s people.
Our Sunday Visitor
This past Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting the facilities of Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington. I received an excellent tour from Mr. Greg Erlandson, the president of the publishing division, and Mr. Kyle Hamilton, the president of the offering envelopes division. I had the opportunity to meet many of the devoted employees of OSV. As you know, Our Sunday Visitor began with the vision of a young priest, then-Father John Francis Noll, back in 1912. The future fifth bishop of our diocese was concerned about the anti-Catholic literature that was circulating at that time. He fought against this prejudice and defended the faith through his writings and particularly through the publication of the OSV newspaper. Through the years, Our Sunday Visitor grew and its mission expanded. Today, the OSV publishing division produces six periodicals and hundreds of books, tapes, software and education materials. It is also the nation’s largest supplier of offering envelopes. Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic not-for-profit organization, returns its net earnings to the Catholic community through its institute. Our diocese has received many generous grants for important projects from the OSV Institute for which I am deeply grateful.
The highlight of my visit to Our Sunday Visitor was celebrating Mass with the staff. I was joined at the altar by two brother priests who concelebrated the Mass, Msgr. Owen Campion, the associate publisher of OSV, and Father John Pfister, the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Huntington. It was the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. We prayed for the present occupant of that Chair, Pope Benedict XVI, our Holy Father. Of course, the Chair of Peter is symbolic of the pastoral and teaching authority given to St. Peter and his successors by Our Lord.
Catholic school teachers
This past Friday, I was happy to celebrate Mass at Saint Joseph’s High School for all our Catholic School teachers of the South Bend area. It was part of the Catechetical Formation Day, organized by our diocesan Office of Catechesis, under the fine leadership of Mr. James Tighe.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, I met with the Council of Teachers in Warsaw. This body represents the Catholic School teachers of our diocese. It was a pleasure to discuss with these devoted teachers not only the challenges we face but also our hopes for the future. I am grateful to all our Catholic school teachers throughout the diocese who have such an important role in the education and formation of our students in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Notre Dame Campus Ministry
On Friday, after the Mass at Saint Joseph’s High School, I joined Father Richard Warner, CSC, the director of the Office of Campus Ministry, and his devoted staff at the University of Notre Dame for an enjoyable luncheon meeting. They arranged this luncheon to welcome me and to share with me the many programs and activities of campus ministry at Notre Dame. I enjoyed learning about the liturgical life of the university, the music ministry, the many retreats and spiritual programs available to students, as well as the religious education provided for students, including a strong RCIA program and Confirmation program. I learned about the ministries for students of various cultural backgrounds as well. I was especially interested in learning about the faith life in the residence halls, which they described as “the heart of the faith life of Notre Dame.” I pray that the students at Notre Dame and at all of our Catholic universities and colleges in the diocese will truly grow to a deeper knowledge and love of God during their college years.
On Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Saints Alive dinner and auction at Bishop Dwenger High School. From the moment I arrived and was greeted by dozens of friendly Dwenger students, I was impressed. There was a great spirit as hundreds gathered in a beautifully staged “Age of Bruges” setting to support this wonderful high school. Mr. Fred Tone, the principal, welcomed me warmly and introduced me to the people gathered. The amazing generosity of the participants was a testament to the commitment of the community to the holy mission of Catholic education. As Bishop D’Arcy did in past years, I led the auction for gifts for financial aid for needy students. I told the audience that I did not know that this was part of the job description of bishops! I am very grateful to those who pledged nearly $200,000 in gifts for tuition assistance. I thank all who participated in Saints Alive and all who share of their time, talents and treasure to support Bishop Dwenger High School and, indeed, all of our Catholic schools.
Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion
On Sunday, I celebrated the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. It was a beautiful liturgy, as it was last week at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. It is edifying to see so many adults who have responded to God’s grace and are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil this year. During this Lenten season, let us continue to pray for these brothers and sisters who will soon join us at the Lord’s altar. May their spiritual preparation during Lent be fruitful!
Congratulations Lady Knights
Congratulations to the Bishop Luers Girls Basketball team on winning the semi state basketball championship on Feb. 27. I am very proud of you and wish you the best of luck as you go on to the state finals! And may the Lord bless you and your athletic pursuits.
Pilgrimage to Holy Land
Over a year ago, I made a commitment to be the spiritual director for the Knights and Ladies of the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and Malta on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this Lent. Though I would not have made this commitment during this time if I had known that I would be transferred to a new diocese, I felt it was important that I be faithful to this commitment. I will be leaving on March 4 and returning on March 16. We will be visiting the holy sites of our faith in Israel and Jordan. Please pray for me and all the other pilgrims during these days. I will be praying for all of you and offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the faithful of our diocese at the Church of the Beatitudes (where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount) and at the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant, the site where the Ark of the Covenant was kept until King David took it to Jerusalem. May the Lord continue to bless you on your Lenten journey of prayer and penance!
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