Monday, August 31, 2009

Loome Theological Booksellers, Stillwater, Minnesota

I wanted to put in a kind word for the wondrous Loome Theological Booksellers in the remarkable little riverside town of Stillwater, Minnesota, otherwise known to me as the Happiest Place on Earth The nineteenth-century town of Stillwater clings to the steep bluffs along a wide stretch of the St. Croix River, the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is known as one of the world's premier "booktowns," and the first officially established outside of Europe. The "booktown" concept was dreamed up many years ago by an eccentric Welshman, "King" Richard Booth, whose hometown, Hay-on-Wye in Wales, became the first--its entire economy effectively revolves around bookselling. Hay-on-Wye has over 20 bookstores with reportedly 2 million books for sale, and only 1,300 inhabitants. Booth helped establish other booktowns across Europe. Stillwater is a bit larger, but with 35 bookstores of its own, it certainly qualified, and officially received its status by a proclamation of Hay-on-Wye's self-proclaimed king in 1994. There are now booktowns all over the world, including Malaysia and Japan, and at least two others in the United States.

One of the crown jewels of this remarkable little place is, as I have said, Loome Theological Booksellers, the world's largest second-hand dealer of religious books, and undoubtedly at least in the top ten of the world's largest used and antiquarian book dealers. It sits halfway up the slope, overlooking the river. As someone who spent a good deal of his free time haunting the eclectic but oddly-organized architecture section at the Strand in New York, I can say that Loome's is a very special place. It's the sort of setting you'd expect to find a trap-door or revolving panel that leads into the secret branch headquarters of an underground group of Templars, or perhaps a cover for a safehouse for Vatican demon-hunters. I'd only spent about an hour there (and about $125) before a few weeks ago, when I dropped into town for an overnight visit. A friend who first I'd met years ago in Rome is now half-owner of the place, after Dr. Loome's retirement. For someone like me, this is like discovering a pal from high school been elected President. Or at least Grand-Master of the Knights of Malta.

In any case, he and his business partner have kept the place running smoothly, and it has all the same magic it did under Dr. Loome, the same perilously warped floors and looming bookshelves, the same extravagant and fascinating holy clutter. It is housed in an old church building, too, which once belonged to a denomination called the Swedish Covenant Church, which adds to the charming sense of through-the-looking-glass disorientation. I walked into one of the bathrooms and found myself confronted with a gigantic claw-foot bathtub below a brightly-colored landscape print showing shrine churches and a lot of incomprehensible Polish. Whole shelves are bent under ranks of old missals, breviaries, and hymnals. It's the happiest place on earth for a Catholic nerd like me. When I visited, Mr. P-- asked me if I wanted to stay in his family's guest-room, or in the bookstore. He said people have actually asked that before. I decided to opt to stay with the family, though I did wonder what that might be like. (This is also just about the first time I have been introduced to someone, in this case his three kids, as "Mr. Alderman." It's nice to be an adult.)

What is especially pleasing about Loome's is it is not a chain. The place has a personality all its own. But it also has an unparalleled selection, and is quite well-organized and well-staffed, unlike some more idiosyncratic mom-and-pop establishments. Mr. P-- is a member of the rising generation of young, tradition-minded Catholics now starting to make their mark on the world and has a lovely wife and, as I said just now, three kids--two rambunctious boys and a tall, solemn, quiet young girl--and is by no means a mogul. He runs his business sensibly and intelligently, but he also loves his work, and the Faith, and is active in his home parish, the lively St. Charles, down the river, which has an extremely active and friendly little congregation and a great liturgical program for its size. In an age where the choice is often between smooth, institutional mediocrity and awkward, home-grown mediocrity, Loome's is a treasure and a rarity, an example of a well-run family business with a real family behind it. You will find everything from honest-to-goodness illuminated manuscripts from the depths of the Middle Ages to 1950s church-design manuals. There is plenty to interest not only the Catholic, but the Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian or Orthodox Christian, provided he is an antiquarian and bibliomane like me. Stop in the next time you're in the area--it's well worth at least a detour, or possibly even a whole trip. Make sure there's space in the trunk for your purchases. You'll need it. Matt Alderman, New Liturgical Movement

Tediously, I am required to report that I once considered purchasing Loome's building, the vacant Bethany Covenant Church in Stillwater, when I moved there in the early 70s. The asking price was only $10,000. There were neither, front, side or back yards. I didn't buy it; it seemed like it would be too difficult to convert into a home. I guess I had neither imagination nor creative spark. I suppose I can't claim any role in the success of Loome's, but I occasionally do. Forgive me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cincinnati's Archbishop Dennis Schnurr says he’s ready for challenge

Dennis Schnurr managed 350 people as an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. Later, as the bishop of Duluth in northern Minnesota, he had a staff of 12.

The man who hails from an Iowa town of 600 soon will be archbishop of a diocese of 500,000 Catholics.

Schnurr said he’s comfortable in both big cities and small towns, and that will serve him well when he becomes archbishop of Cincinnati, whose province swings from the Queen and Gem cities to the farming towns of Auglaize and Mercer counties.

“I’m excited about getting to know the people,” said Schnurr, 61, who has been Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk’s heir apparent since he was named Cincinnati’s coadjutor archbishop in October. “How you get to know 500,000 people? I don’t know. But we’re working on it.”

In his hometown of Hospers, Iowa, Schnurr didn’t have to work hard to know the people in his church. He was one of only four Catholic boys in the parish. The others were his two brothers and a cousin.

By his junior year in high school, he knew he wanted to be a priest. After his seminary training, he was ordained in 1974 in the Sioux City diocese and that is where Schnurr expected to serve for the rest of his life. “Growing up in a town of 600, you don’t envision becoming a bishop or archbishop,” he said.

But he quickly moved up the hierarchy locally, then joined the staff of the national church offices in 1985. It was there, in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, that he worked closely with Pilarczyk, who years later advocated for Schnurr to replace him in Cincinnati.

“Archbishop Pilarczyk had no little say in this,” Schnurr said. “I think he even stated in a press conference that I was first on his list (of prospective replacements).”

Pilarczyk said Schnurr is “a very bright man, very dedicated. He’ll do well. He’s going to be a good archbishop.”

Schnurr has already signaled some of his interests. In March he appeared at a pro-life event outside a Kettering abortion clinic. On Aug. 20, he announced he’ll host a series of meetings called “We Miss You,” to explore reconciliation between divorced Catholics who remarry and the church through annulment of failed marriages. One of the meetings is set for Sept. 16 at Centerville’s Incarnation Church.

Schnurr said his priorities as archbishop will include working to strengthen marriages, improving religious education, encouraging youth to enter religious life and working with the archdiocese’s growing Hispanic population.

He said there were no new local cases of child sex abuse by priests during his 2001-2008 tenure as bishop of Duluth, but he met with victims and "went to some parishes that were particularly devastated” by the scandal. “The deep wounds take a long time to heal.”

Abusive priests “betrayed the church,” he said, and he wants people to know, “This is not what the church is about. The circumstances will not be there to allow the abuse to take place again.”

Schnurr acknowledged that he will be taking over the Cincinnati archdiocese at a time of upheaval for the church.

But, he said, “If you look at the history of the Catholic church — 2,000 years — there was never a time when there weren’t challenges.” Dayton Daily News

Church dining halls at fair now small but mighty force

. . .Of all the on-the-fly eating options, the fair's four remaining volunteer-run, church dining halls are the antithesis of today's harried lifestyle. Although their numbers are down from 17 a few generations ago, the dining halls are flexing their resiliency and appear as popular as ever through the first days of the 2009 State Fair.

The St. Bernard's Bulldog Lodge just inside the main gate hauled in $7,400 on Thursday, up from $6,000 on last year's opening day and on pace to top $90,000 in gross revenue for the 12-day run. The money goes to offset tuition at the church's school on St. Paul's North End. The Epiphany Dining Hall was up $3,500 from last year's first day. . . .

Longtime State Fair Manager Jerry Hammer said the dining halls are a reminder of a time when more than half of Minnesotans lived on farms, compared with 2 percent today. "Those dining halls that popped up on the fairgrounds way back were a reflection of what most people were used to doing," Hammer said. "And that was sitting down and eating a big noontime meal of meat and potatoes everyday."

In their book "The Minnesota State Fair, An Illustrated History" (Coffeehouse Press), Linda and Kathyrn Koutsky published a handful of photos showing now long-gone church dining halls. "There were certainly dozens, and some were just little stands with stools," Kathryn said. "But they were all staffed by volunteers and offered mashed potatoes, hot roast beef and pie. . . ."

Two years ago, the parish council met at the Church of the Epiphany, a 5,000-member Catholic house of worship in Coon Rapids. Despite the work of dozens of volunteers, fair proceeds were down. "We knew we had to either keep up with the times or say goodbye to the fair, and we didn't want to do that," said Rhonda Dillon, a Epiphany member and dining manager. So the church invested $30,000 to remodel its dining hall, opening up the place with big garage doors. They put in smaller, cozier tables and ditched the long benches. They retired the old meatloaf and this year, for the first time, are selling onion rings along with burger baskets, fried chicken and breakfasts.

It's working. Lines have been long. And Father Dennis Zehren, wearing his Roman collar, has been busy taking orders from those waiting out on the sidewalk. "God calls on us to rest, and it's a good sign to see people lining up to sit down and relax," Zehren said. "We welcome the weary fairgoers with open arms. . . ." Star Tribune

These parishes might look at some of the more successful parish festivals around here. Some of them, even in not very prosperous neighborhoods, NET over $100,000 in a weelend or two. Of course, it takes a tremendous amount of management and planning and virtually every member of the parish, and some non-members, too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Moving In Day" at SJV

I don't get invited out to social events too often. But the other day I received an offer that I couldn't refuse. How can you say "no" to a guy who says he reads my blog, Stella Borealis, as soon as he gets up in the morning to find the important news? Father Bill Baer, Rector of the St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, invited me to attend the festivities for "Moving In Day" at the seminary. This is before classes really start when new seminary students, whether Freshmen or Seniors, move into the seminary and begin processing and registering for classes and have a three day retreat as a group. Tomorrow starts with a three mile rosary procession to the Cathedral/Shrine of St. Paul.

SJV, as it is called (although there are other SJV seminaries, named after St. John Vianney, the Cure' of Ars, patron saint of priests), is the largest Catholic college seminary in the U.S. and attracts seminarians from 28 dioceses throughout the country. They come from far places like Savannah, Georgia, Biloxi, Miss., Denver, Lexington, Ken. and Tulsa, Okla., to closer places like Wichita, Omaha, Bismarck, Green Bay, Joliet, Ill., and Duluth, LaCrosse, New Ulm, St. Cloud and of course, the Twin Cities.

New dioceses sending seminarians this year include Lafayette, Ind., with seven, and Savannah with one. Other large contingents include Bismarck with nine, Denver with six, Duluth with seven, Green Bay with six, Joliet with seven, Lansing, Mich. with 20, New Ulm with six, Omaha with nine, Owensboro, KY, with six, St. Cloud with six , St. Paul-Minneapolis with 31, and Wichita with 15.

Fr. Baer, estimated that there would be 166 seminarians, 70 of whom would be new seminarians. He told me "I really can't get a final count until the last mom has left on Moving In Day."

The day starts with the 70 new men trickling in, as often as not accompanied by parents, brothers and sisters, godmothers and the usual baggage that young men need to survive. At five, a Mass was celebrated in the St. Paul Seminary chapel (the SJV chapel being way too small) with 350 in attendance. This was followed by a barbecued chicken picnic on the back lawn of SJV catered by Famous Dave's. Then came the main event of the evening when these seventy men introduced themselves to each other and to their families.

You know, some days when you read the newspaper or watch the news, some things on the worldly side of the Church are troublesome. The funeral in Boston this morning was one of them. But if you want to find inspiration, to find hope for the future, for confidence that the Holy Spirit is indeed guiding the Church, sit down at a picnic table and listen to seventy men embarking on their discernment voyage introduce themselves. The maturity and presence they possessed was stunning. Look forward to some great preachers and priests in eight years. And also some pretty good SJV football teams. Watch out, SPS! Father Baer and his staff will find a fertile field with these men.

Many were right out of high school, as would be expected. Some had a year or two of college and were transferring to SJV. Three of them came from the Vatican's own seminary, the Josephinum, in Columbus, Ohio. Some were majoring in engineering, one in "soccer" amd another in "cheerleading." One confessed to a dissolute life in recent years. Several had spent a year or more as national evangelization missionaries with Net Ministries in West St. Paul, part of the St. Paul's Outreach extended family. One had studied architecture for a couple years. Father Baer, a Georgia Tech Architecture grad before he entered the seminary, approvingly noted that "it was the proper way for someone to get ordained."

It was wonderful to have them introduce their families and express their gratitude and love for them. Listen up! It is true that the larger the family, the more likely there will be vocations. A dozen or more of them came from families with from five to 12 children.

Sometimes I have hidden being Catholic, perhaps out of shame, or maybe ambition. But I don't think that I was ever prouder than I was today when I witnessed this next class of God's holy priests embark upon their vocations.

When they graduate from SJV, these men will have completed all their philosophy requirements for entry into a major seminary, most with a major in philosophy. In the major seminary here, the St. Paul Seminary, also at St. Thomas, the concentration is on theology. Learning the rubrics and the words of the Mass, probably doesn't come until the last semester in their last year.

In this, the Year of Our Priests, declared by Pope Benedict, please pray for our priests, our seminarians, our deacons and our sisters. They are praying for us.

"Theology on a Stick" at the State Fair - Highlights


Click on image to increase size

Located in the St. Bernard's Dining Hall on the Fairgrounds

Travelers Visit Priest's Grave For Prayer, Healing


Darin Didier decided to become a priest while he was learning to be a physical therapist. He was a priest for only three months before he died. Now, rumor has it that miracles are performed for those who pray at his gravesite.

For the past few years people from across the country have made the trip to a small western Minnesota cemetery. Most have never met the man they are there to talk to.

Darin Didier was priest for just three months. He died three weeks before his 33rd birthday.

His parents, Len and Bonnie Didier, said growing up their son was a little shy. He was every bit the athlete in Alexandria and was a track and cross-country star through college. He went to the University of North Dakota to be a physical therapist.

Before he started his last year at UND, he changed his mind about being a physical therapist. He wanted to be a Catholic priest.

Darin started seminary and a few years later he was at home for a visit.

"He was just walking around here and I noticed a spot on the back of his neck. I just thought it looked a little different," Bonnie explained.

In 2003, Darin was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He went through chemotherapy, radiation and a stem-cell transplant.

"Everything that they did for him his cancer rebelled and came back worse," said Len.

"He was very accepting. I think that made it easier because if I was down he would actually lift me up. I have to remember that," said Bonnie.

His parents had him buried in the back of St. Mary's Cemetery. It's a small area on the west side of Alexandria. They were not prepared for what happened next.

Darin's parents started to see cars pulled over and people mulling around the grave. They would leave little trinkets by his gravesite. People were coming to ask for Darin to intercede on their behalf for healing.

In three years, hundreds of people have stopped by, including a whole bus full of kids just a few weeks ago.

"We've had people from every coast. We've had people from Maryland. We've had people from California. We've had people from down South," Len explained.

Now, they have a little black book where people can write out their prayers. They also have a place for people to put small tokens they may want to leave behind like coins and rosaries.

"I think it's been by word of mouth that people have had different experiences and they want to share it with others," said Bonnie.

The first thing Darin's father noticed on the grave was a picture of a sonogram taped to the side of it.

That picture belonged to John and Maggie Mauch.

They were expecting their third child and they found out quickly that something was wrong. Doctors told them their little girl had a hole in her back and would be born with spina bifida. They said there was still time to end the pregnancy.

John's parents had heard about the grave a few hours away.

"We just kind of looked at each other and went, 'He says we should go,'" said Maggie.

In the summer of 2006 the entire Mauch family made the trip.

"I asked for peace to be with us and the complications she had to be just less than what they thought it was going to be," Maggie recalled.

Their daughter, Macy, went home from the hospital just a week after she was born. Her doctors were amazed at all she can do considering how high on her back her injury is.

The Mauch's don't think too much about that day at the grave. But they do think about how much of a miracle little Macy is.

"The reason why we did it is, 'What's it going to hurt?'" said Maggie.

"I feel very humble that our son is still touching a lot of people's lives," Bonnie said.

Touching more lives in his death than his parents believe he ever possibly could in his life.

"I guess what I learned from my son if I were to sum it up, is life is a matter of surrender. Surrender doesn't mean to give up, it means to do the best you can and leave the results to a higher power," Len said.

Every year there is a memorial Mass held in Father Darin's honor. This year, it's on Labor Day, Sept. 7 at The Church of St. Mary in Alexandria. WCCO-TV HatTip to Abbey Roads

Mt. St. Mary's Seminary Remembers Fr. Darin Didier 'S05


When God chooses a man to be priest, he also marks out an allotted time of earthly ministry. For Fr. Darin Didier, ’S05, this span was less than 100 days. Ordained on June 22, 2005, Fr. Didier passed away in Fargo, North Dakota, on September 6, after a long struggle with cancer, at the age of 32.

“His passing came as a shock because the end really happened so quickly. For his cancer to progress so rapidly was a surprise,” said Fr. Terry Dodge, a classmate and fellow Fargo ordinand. “What was inspiring was that even though he was sick he still threw himself fully into his work. The Saturday before his death he was celebrating Mass in his parish and he had to stop midway through his homily and go sit down because he was so weak. That’s how much he wanted to give himself to do the Lord’s work.”

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Fr. Didier studied at the University of North Dakota and received a master’s degree in physical therapy in 1997. He was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, and came to Mount St. Mary’s in 2000. His studies were interrupted by the onset of non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer, which forced him to miss the spring 2004 semester. With strong faith and perseverance, Fr. Didier underwent treatment, fulfilled the necessary academic requirements and ultimately was called to Holy Orders.

At the Mount, he was president of the Legion of Mary and served as a chaplain for the university track and field team.

“He was a great example of priestly humility,” said Christopher Vaccaro, third theology, Diocese of Arlington. “He was inspiring to me in his zeal for spreading the Gospel.” Deacon Jamie Workman, fourth theology, Diocese of Arlington, reaffirmed this: “He had no reservation about speaking to complete strangers anywhere about Christ and Mary.”

The seminary community celebrated a Memorial Mass for Fr. Didier in Immaculate Conception Chapel on September 12.

Fr. Peter Ryan S.J., seminary professor of moral theology, was one of the Mount’s representatives to attend the Requiem Mass in Fargo. “It was the most beautiful funeral I had ever been to,” he recounted. “Fr. Didier’s parents have a really strong faith. His father walked out of the church giving the victory sign.”

Indeed. Requiescat in pace.
Mount Saint Mary's Seminary News, Fall, 2005

In Memoriam-Fr Darin Didier Sept 27, 1972-September 6 2005-


Father John J. Lombardi

"The Glory of God is man fully alive."-St Ireneaus

In Memoriam-Fr Darin Didier Sept 27, 1972-September 6 2005-

"He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He lived his priesthood only three months on Earth-but he's now living it in Heaven for eternity." Thus said Fr Michael Roache (Mt St Mary's Seminary history professor). He always wanted to be a priest. From grade school on thru, that was his calling, Fr Roache added.

His Dad just said :"He taught me to surrender--by his sickness. It doesn't mean giving up, it means surrendering. It makes life easier."

Another pilgrim of Mary's Mountain said upon hearing of Father's death: "He got to be a priest. That's all he really wanted. Now we got a really good priest and friend in Heaven." Amen! Fr Ryan, my traveling companion to Fr. Didier's funeral said on the way there: "I'm praying for him and I'm also praying to him." Ditto the amen.

Holy man-we're all looking for one. Someone to enlighten us. To help us--to guide us. Someone true, noble, Christ-like.

You may study philosophy to find a holy person, or go to India and elsewhere--the quest seems endless. Holy men may be rare, but I've often found, they're disguised. I found a holy man here on Mary's Mountain.

This weekend when we remember 9/11, we also remember a really fine man, a priest of God and Soldier of Christ. Some memories and meditations…

Fr Darin Didier died this past week after a couple-year struggle with leukemia. Known variously around these mountains as "Darin," "Deacon Darin, "Fr Didier," "Fr Darin," and "Deacon Darin Didier of Dakota," which was a favorite of this priest-"QD-Quadruple D"-this was a man-of-God who studied here at Mt St Mary's Seminary for five years and was ordained in Fargo N. Dakota in May. He was beloved by many people of the Grotto, Mt St Mary's Seminary and University, St Mary's Church in Fairfield, Pa, where he served as deacon, and many other nearby places of Spirit. The Mystical Body's outpouring of love, prayer and affection at his passing more fully into Eternal Life is like a lot of life: bittersweet. Bitter because we all miss a dear friend, a holy priest, a beautiful, exemplary example of Christly discipleship; and because we think of Father's loving and ever-faithful parents, Len and Bonnie, and sister Darcy, and their loss: what more difficult thing in life is there for a parent to bury their child? But also the experience may be somewhat sweet-because we think of, and thank the Gift Giver-God Who gave Fr Darin to us; we think of a life well lived; of a priesthood persevered in, and the Light of Jesus and love of Mary which shone thru Fr Darin.

The last time I talked to him on earth (three weeks ago on the phone) he said had to cancel his celebrating of a wedding Mass, that he struggled thru a Sunday Mass (almost fainting), and more often was praying in a reclining chair before the Blessed Sacrament. His voice sounded faint, without his usual steam and vigor, but his words, the content of his soul were, well, Darin-like-filled with love of God and conformability of being a priest: prayer, Mass, sacrifice, being a vessel. C.S. Lewis wrote: -God whispers through pleasurable experiences. He speaks through the conscience of man and shouts thru pain. Suffering is God's trumpet….God was "instant messaging" to us thru Fr Darin-and others-do you hear Him?

After Deacon Darin became Father Darin I was searching for a new "nick-name" to replace the "QD" I had become accustomed to; and, after our heartfelt conversation, it manifested: Daring Darrin Didier of Dakota. He was that--daring. And so should we be with our faith and Crosses. He dared to run the good race-physically and metaphysically. Deacon-Fr Darin once ran a marathon (26 miles plus) and when he trained, he did just that. He entered a crowd of some 4,000and took 80th place. He was determined and daring.

He was focused: some medical professionals thought he couldn't make it this far, or at least to last Spring, to priestly ordination. I recall sitting in my car at the Grotto just after having breakfast with him, and talking about his illness, his pursuit of healing thru some natural medicines, about his hopes and his Path. He never looked so good: radiant and strong! With the onset of his sickness, as some perhaps would, he could have left the seminary, and spent his last year and days traveling, "living a high life" of pleasures and self-fulfillment--giving up on God and His Pursuit. He could have become depressed. But, no, he chose to stay on the Path to the Priesthood, to sacrifice, to become more One with Christ thru the Gift of Priestly Orders. If he would have chosen more chemotherapy this would have put him out of the seminary. Instead he chose to allow God's mysterious and sovereign Will to carve his path for him-like the Virgin Mary whom he preciously loved, he made his own life his "Fiat"-"be it done" (Lk. 1:38)-a surrender. He stayed put, studied, prayed, fulfilled his academic, pastoral and seminary requirements-and he did make it to the priesthood. All boys and young men considering priesthood should emulate him-one way or another. One soul said it so well, so simply: "He's an example."

"Real Men Love Jesus": I just saw that bumper sticker on a pickup truck. Fr Darin was a man of God-tough and tender at the same time, just like St Joseph, like every man should be. Fr Darin was an athletic runner-lean and thin and strong in earlier days: he ran the good race. He was an excellent basketball player too: I played with him many times, and not only could he leap and run well, but also shoot and score. He was a human and, as St Irenaeus said-he became a Glory of God.

Real Men Love Mary and Prayer: Fr Didier was, above all, a man of spirituality and frequent conversation with God and the Virgin. I often saw him carrying a Rosary and walking briskly around Mary's Grotto-praying! He would run and pray, and sit in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. He made his life a prayer, an offering and continual communion with God and Mary…How can you pray more like this man?

Spiritual Beauty: One person said about his Mass of Thanksgiving at the Grotto: "He looked beautiful." That's a simple and elegant description of a beautiful man-he emitted a spiritual radiance. When he came for that Mass he arrived and just about immediately began giving blessings-for about an hour before the Mass: he was rugged, determined. Then he heard confessions after Mass!…He was already living his priestly life in service for God's people: do you-even with your sufferings, like the Lord and Fr Darin?

Fr Peter Ryan, my traveling buddy to Dakota described how vigilant and tireless Deacon Darin was in his seminary studies-no one else has been like him, Fr, Peter said. Obviously, Deacon/Father Darin wanted to know his Faith to love and spread it more!...Do you?

Victim Soul: This is one spiritual description I think of regarding Fr Darin. He was young (barely thirty-three, the Lord's age when He died), kinda' like a lamb, without blemish-did he ever sin? I sometimes thought-he was idealistic, innocent and un-intoxicated with much of life like others: and God allowed him suffering and an "early death" Why? I believe God allowed him to take on other's sufferings-into and upon his earthly, athletic and innocent-like body and soul-to heroically absorb and become a co-vicar of Christ in atoning the world. The saints were like and that and so was this saintly man. So: offer up and help Jesus!

At the Quinn's house in Thurmont (Steve Quinn and Fr Darin were "running buddies") we enjoyed dinners, energetic kids, prayer together, and even a beer! Ditto for times at the Shubring's. There we watched the Green Bay Packers go to defeat in a playoff game last Fall. I was a little upset (I'm a Lombardi-get it?!). But Deacon Darin took it in stride-with detachment. Other things were more important. Afterwards he invited me to the Seminary chapel to pray a Rosary with some other seminarians. Stay focused-God first!

"NaturalPreaching": We all loved to hear him preach. He frequently came to the Grotto weekday Masses. He loved explaining the Faith, and he never used a text! He knew what he was talking about. His faith was synonymous with his life and his life was identical to his Faith. He was a transparent Image of Christ-by his preaching and sanctifying…We need do the same-and, like St Francis of Assisi says: 'Use words when necessary."

Be Brave: "He was not afraid to preach the Gospel." That's what one man said of him. Whether it was about the unique-singularity of Christ's Bride, the Holy Catholic Church, or about moral, family or spiritual issues many find difficult to accept in these relativistic times, Deacon/Fr Darin would preach them-with compassion:. He was on a mission-are you?

Words to Live by: I may never forget our luxurious lunch in our shed. A year ago Deacon Darin and I were eating a Grotto meal off a card table-some soup and sandwiches amidst oil cans and work tools. I got up the bravery to ask him about his disease and prognosis and he was equally brave in responding--and realistically idealistic. He then said: "I pray that God allow me to make it to priesthood, if it be His Will, but if not, then to help people in Heaven. Whatever His Will is, it's a win-win situation." …Gain that same attitude and courage!

The Cross: Upon hearing of Father Darin's death a pilgrim reflected-- "I was scared at first by him. Most people who get seriously sick become resigned to it. But Darin desired to carry his cross"…Do you? Let us thank God for such a holy example and, ourselves, become the same!

The Funeral: There were a hundred and fifty people at the Wake service Friday night and various people reminisced about this holy man: one said he was an excellent student, another an beautiful friend and another a sincere priest-how holistically-holy can you get? Perhaps that's why "QD" was so loved, respected-he became a priest for all people Fr. Ryan said he was without guile-and wasn't satisfied with a "b-grade" on a test-so he said: "What can we do to fix this?" (!) While I was in the Cathedral chapel praying, just before Mass, someone came in. I didn't look (this time). After finishing my prayers I then looked over: it was Bishop Samuel Aquila (fellow Italian), kneeling before Jesus in the Bl. Sacrament, his head buried in his wrenching hands, eyes closed, in a kinda' like "Agony in the Garden" scene as he was preparing for Fr Darin's funeral Mass. As I left and made noise he never winced or looked over: he kept praying. He lost a priest, a brother-and was mourning--or was it, he gained in intercessor in Heaven and was communing mystically?

The next day 750 people gathered at the beautiful Mass on Sat. Morning. There were young men in cassocks and lace-surplices; lots of candles, incense and bells; a choir loft with beautiful ethereal music wafting thru the Light-filled Cathedra; rivers of tears--even from priests and grown men-people of all ages, professions and backgrounds met at Jesus' Altar for Fr Darin. Just before the Mass Fr Darin's beautiful father, Len, said: When Darin became a priest he became part of your family (a priest's), and we did too. So, don't forget we're all part of one family, come back and visit us." He then gave me a big bear hug-after all he is a Minnesotan-a Viking-Catholic! Fr Darin's friend, Fr Peter, preached a most stunning homily-the funeral Mass was the most beautiful one I've ever been to. Fr Peter said the cross on Fr Darin's coffin was an image-crucifix of Christ. He said Fr Darin, thru all his joys and sorrows, himself became an image, an icon-window of Christ. Jesus visited us thru Fr Didier. I hope you saw Him pass by…thru this beautiful holy man, this Son of Mary's Mountain. Fr Peter choked up while describing Fr. Darin's actual death: it was 3.33 pm (The Divine Mercy Hour), it was the third month of Fr Darin's priesthood, and he was basically the same age as when Jesus died. In a Church crammed with hundreds of humans, silence and awe reigned.

At the end the traditional funeral hymn "In Paradisum" was sung in Latin-English, and the song for priests' funerals was also sung, "Salve Regina" (Hail Holy Queen)-as Fr Darrin's earthly body was carried form the church to the hearse. In Dakota it was a sunny and sad day at the same time.

Upon leaving the funeral and rushing to catch our flight back East, I met Fr. Mouwen, a classmate of Fr. Darin. This bright young soul and padre emitted a joy amidst the sadness, and said that Fr Darin "visited" him a dream: Fr. Mouwen said "Darin" appeared as in Heaven, and there was total joy on the Eve of the Blessed Virgin's Birthday, and, further, that "Darin' was on a chariot, riding around in ecstasy, saying something like: This is fun! However reticent I am to believe individual's spiritual experiences, this one seemed believable! A moment later I met permanent Deacon. I was rushing but he wasn't. He said, with our hands gentlemanly clasped: "When I bowed to kiss Fr Darin's coffin tos ay goodbye, I smelled an odor. It was the odor of sanctity…This is part of God's Plan…I've seen a lot of this over my 25 yrs as a deacon, but this was different." He hugged me and I teared up-again.

In Response:

Use your sickness-I never heard Fr Darin complain. Rather: he offered up all sorrows-accepting his illness for God's glory, for other souls, and his own path of Salvation. Will you do the same? Become Holy-right where you are God is calling you to sanctify your life, work, home and environment in a way similar to, and different, than Fr Darin: don't fail! Pray for and support priests: Fr. Peter said in the funeral homily that Fr Darin inspired priests, esp. amidst the loss of the dignity of, and esteem for the priesthood in these tough times, and Fr Darin's witness was for priests to be proud and become holy …Focus-on your vocation- like Fr Darin concentrated on his-even despite--no--amidst, obstacles, cling to the calling God has for you…Remember, as Fr Peter said, perhaps the best way to remember and love Fr Darin: become holy yourself, "training for Heaven" and become an icon-window of Jesus so all can see Him thru you, just as we saw Jesus the High Priest thru Fr Darin! From the Desk of Father Jack

Friday, August 28, 2009

Details on the Kennedy Funeral

From the Boston Globe:


Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston will preside at the funeral of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy tomorrow at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (the Mission Church).

The Rev. J. Donald Monan, a Jesuit priest who was the longtime president of Boston College and is now the chancellor, will be the principal celebrant.

And the Rev. Mark R. Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville, will deliver the homily.


First Reading: Curran Raclin, stepson
Responsorial: Kara Kennedy Allen, daughter
Second Reading: Caroline Raclin, stepdaughter
Homily: Rev. Mark Hession
Intercessory Prayers: Kennedy's four grandchildren, and the youngest grandchild of each of his siblings, will read quotes from his speeches. (The family chose to honor the youngest children because Kennedy was the youngest in his family.)
Offertory: Grandchildren
Music by Yo-Yo Ma
Music by Placido Domingo accompanied by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
"Ave Maria" by Susan Graham of the Metropolitan Opera
Tribute: Edward M. Kennedy Jr. and US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (sons)
Eulogy: President Obama
Song: America the Beautiful

Statement of Bishop R.Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, on Healthcare

The current national debate about health care reform should concern all of us. There is much at stake in this political struggle, and also much confusion and inaccurate information being thrown around. My brother bishops have described some clear “goal-posts” to mark out what is acceptable reform, and what must be rejected. First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research.

We refuse to allow our own parish, school, and diocesan health insurance plans to be forced to include these evils. As a corollary of this, we insist equally on adequate protection of individual rights of conscience for patients and health care providers not to be made complicit in these evils. A so-called reform that imposes these evils on us would be far worse than keeping the health care system we now have.

Second, the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right. The “natural right” of health care is the divine bounty of food, water, and air without which all of us quickly die. This bounty comes from God directly. None of us own it, and none of us can morally withhold it from others. The remainder of health care is a political, not a natural, right, because it comes from our human efforts, creativity, and compassion. As a political right, health care should be apportioned according to need, not ability to pay or to benefit from the care. We reject the rationing of care. Those who are sickest should get the most care, regardless of age, status, or wealth. But how to do this is not self-evident. The decisions that we must collectively make about how to administer health care therefore fall under “prudential judgment.”

Third, in that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good – it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible – health care should not be subject to federal monopolization. Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past. While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined “best procedures,” which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens. The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector, in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected, because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.

The best way in practice to approach this balance of public and private roles is to spread the risks and costs of health care over the largest number of people. This is the principle underlying Medicaid and Medicare taxes, for example. But this principle assumes that the pool of taxable workers is sufficiently large, compared to those who draw the benefits, to be reasonably inexpensive and just. This assumption is at root a pro-life assumption! Indeed, we were a culture of life when such programs began. Only if we again foster a culture of life can we perpetuate the economic justice of taxing workers to pay health care for the poor. Without a growing population of youth, our growing population of retirees is outstripping our distribution systems. In a culture of death such as we have now, taxation to redistribute costs of medical care becomes both unjust and unsustainable.

Fourth, preventative care is a moral obligation of the individual to God and to his or her family and loved ones, not a right to be demanded from society. The gift of life comes only from God; to spurn that gift by seriously mistreating our own health is morally wrong. The most effective preventative care for most people is essentially free – good diet, moderate exercise, and sufficient sleep. But pre-natal and neo-natal care are examples of preventative care requiring medical expertise, and therefore cost; and this sort of care should be made available to all as far as possible.

Within these limits, the Church has been advocating for decades that health care be made more accessible to all, especially to the poor. Will the current health care reform proposals achieve these goals?

The current House reform bill, HR 3200, does not meet the first or the fourth standard. As Cardinal Justin Rigali has written for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-life Activities, this bill circumvents the Hyde amendment (which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions) by drawing funding from new sources not covered by the Hyde amendment, and by creatively manipulating how federal funds covered by the Hyde amendment are accounted. It also provides a “public insurance option” without adequate limits, so that smaller employers especially will have a financial incentive to push all their employees into this public insurance. This will effectively prevent those employees from choosing any private insurance plans. This will saddle the working classes with additional taxes for inefficient and immoral entitlements. The Senate bill, HELP, is better than the House bill, as I understand it. It subsidizes care for the poor, rather than tending to monopolize care. But, it designates the limit of four times federal poverty level for the public insurance option, which still includes more than half of all workers. This would impinge on the vitality of the private sector. It also does not meet the first standard of explicitly excluding mandatory abortion coverage.

I encourage all of you to make you voice heard to our representatives in Congress. Tell them what they need to hear from us: no health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform. Insist that they not permit themselves to be railroaded into the current too-costly and pro-abortion health care proposals. Insist on their support for proposals that respect the life and dignity of every human person, especially the unborn. And above all, pray for them, and for our country. (Please see the website for the Iowa Catholic Conference at and for more information) Diocese of Sioux City

U.S. Church gets Pope's approval of change that clarifies Catholic teaching on God’s covenant with the Jews.

[This makes sense of the Jerusalem Post article that was posted on Stella on August 25th]

The Vatican has given its “recognitio” to a change in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which is set to go into a second printing.

The change clarifies Catholic teaching on God’s covenant with the Jews. The first version, in explaining relations with the Jews, stated, “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” The revised text states, “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.’ (Romans 9: 4-5; cf. CCC, no 839)

The change was approved by the U.S. bishops following the bishops’ 2008 June meeting in Orlando, Florida.

The clarification is not a change in the Church’s teaching.

The clarification reflects the teaching of the Church that all previous covenants that God made with the Jewish people are fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the new covenant established through his sacrificial death on the cross. Catholics believe that the Jewish people continue to live within the truth of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that God continues to be faithful to them. As the Second Vatican Council taught and the Adult Catechism affirms, the Jewish people “remain most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts he makes nor of the calls he issues.” (Lumen Gentium, no.16).

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults was approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2004 as a basic and concise introduction to the Catholic faith. It is a catechetical text rather than a theological textbook.

A “recognitio” is a statement from the Vatican that a document is in keeping with Catholic teaching. USCCB

It's a Mad, Mad, Secular, Antagonistic World

I just got back from the Planned Parenthood abortion factory in St. Paul where I have recently been joining a small group led by Fr. Randy Kasel (of St. Charles parish in Bayport, 30 miles distant) that meets at 3:00 each Friday, the Hour of Divine Mercy, to say the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and other prayers for the the employees, customers and patients of that for-profit, government subsidized company, and their victims.

It is located on Ford Parkway, a very busy street, and a fair number of drivers signal their opinion of us , favorable or unfavorable, hard to say, with their horns. Some shout F-bombs out the windows of their cars. One lady today pulled over, stopped and yelled out: "I no longer bring my son to the library on Fridays so my son won't have to see you people!" A large St. Paul branch library is right across the street.

That reminded me of a Catholic patient that I visited at a hospital last week. As I normally do when I enter a room, knock, introduce myself, maybe find out where the patient is from, and then ask, "May I say an Our Father for you while you are in the hospital?" He responded "Why?" I responded, "Well, you ARE in the hospital."

How often do we make mistakes based upon incorrect information?

In case you hadn't noticed, the world is getting more complex. Why even youthful me can remember when the only ethnic restaurants in Minneapolis were Cafe de Napoli, La Casa Coronado and the Nanking. There might have been a couple in the Saintly City. But even they have changed, why just yesterday I read that the venerable Cherokee Sirloin Room on the west side has transformed itself into a tavern!!

The influx of immigrants from other than Germany, Scandinavia and Ireland has dramatically changed the color and language of the community.

Last week I received an anonymous email on an older post of mine on "Stella" (lecture coming: fake a name, if you don't want to use your real name because you are a wanted felon or something) from someone who posed a possibly very serious situation:

  • Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Mexican Tradition Runs on Pageantry and Faith --...":

    I received my First Holy Communion at St. Stephen's in May, 1947. I went back this morning to go to Confession and Mass. Tell me why the Mexican people go into the Confessional in groups. They took such a long time, I couldn't go to Confession. I doubt I will go back.

    Posted by Anonymous to Stella Borealis Catholic Roundtable at 8:30 PM
Unfortunately, there is no way for me to contact this person with the correct information so I am posting this in the hopes that "anon." will occasionally come back (hopefully, every day) to seek the answer to their question.

I believe that it is possible for an interpreter to enter the confessional if the priest and the penitent don't speak the same language, but I knew that communal confessions, whether in the confession room or the church proper are illicit and invalid with respect to gravely serious sins.

So I emailed Father Joseph Williams, the pastor of St. Stephen's near downtown Minneapolis, which is also my parish now, and asked him to clarify the situation for my anonymous poster. Father Joseph is if not fluent, very conversant in Spanish. The majority of the parishioners there are now Hispanic. And of course he did:

  • No, Latino Catholics do not go to confession in groups. This past Sunday, after I had heard the post-9:00a.m. Mass confessions, a family approached me regarding their children entering our Family Faith Formation program. Since our confessional is a large, confidential space, that is where we met. It was a beautiful instance of a family coming back to God and the Sacraments. Alleluia!

Had my "anon." possessed the facts in this situation, rather than one of sorrow and perhaps anger, surely it would have been an occasion of joy to witness the return of an entire family to the Faith.

The poster must be nearing 70 years of age. It might have been nice to spend the final years in a parish where they attended as a child. Even with the drastic remodelling (Vosko-ization?) of the inside, it would still bring back the pleasant memories.

Think back for yourselves on all the decisions you have made in your lives. Certainly many turned out to be wrong about people, places, things, incidents, etc., because you didn't have the correct information. Unfortunately, none of us possess the complete information.

That's why prayer and asking Almighty God for help is an excellent way to start any decision making process.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Second-generation 'Netters' follow in parents' footsteps

Service on NET retreat teams will help young adults grow in their faith and gain valuable life skills

Seventeen-year-old Ruth Wagner is leaving home this fall, and on her road to independence, she’ll travel through many states in a van full of young people for nine months — just like her father, Scott, did 26 years ago. Not really thinking about following in her father’s footsteps, Ruth, a member of St. Michael in Stillwater, decided to serve this year with National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries, a West St. Paul-based youth ministry.

She is one of a growing number of “second-generation Netters” who are finding in NET a way to grow in their faith, share it with other young people and gain valuable life skills.

“I think one of the things about the second generation team members is that it has to be their own experience,” said Mark Berchem, NET founder and executive director.

“They may be doing it because their parents have been encouraging them, because they’ve hosted Netters in their homes or they’ve been to some of the other NET programs, but fundamentally I think each of them comes to some decision that God is inviting them to be part of the church’s mission to evangelize,” he said.

Broad reach

This month, 105 young adults ages 18 to 30 from 24 states are training to be on teams that will travel to 65 U.S. dioceses, where they will lead confirmation and other retreats for 70,000 junior high and senior high students.

Since NET was founded in 1981, NET teams have led more than 24,000 retreats and ministered to more than 1.6 million young people. In addition, NET offers youth minister training, local teen Masses and events, and other programs.

Ruth first became involved with NET when she attended Lifeline Masses held monthly during the school year in West St. Paul for junior and senior high students. She met Netters and became more involved in the church, eventually deciding on her own to join St. Michael in part because of its youth program.

She felt God calling her to go on NET before college, where she plans to study veterinary science. “I guess I’ve really known that at some point this is what God is calling me to do,” she said.

Scott Wagner and his wife, Holly, of St. Francis in Lakeland, Wis., said they’ve tried to encourage Ruth in her decisions about her faith and future.

“It gets to be pretty tough when they get to be teenagers because they really want to make their own decisions,” Scott said. “Our experience was you could gently encourage them. You could try to make it easy for them to go, but it really does end up to be their decision.”

Many influences

Besides telling stories about being “on the road” with NET in 1981-82, Nick Hall said he didn’t actively encourage his kids to go on NET. They had influences around them including Netters staying at their home, relatives who had served and Lifeline.

Members of St. Joseph in West St. Paul, Nick and his wife Natalie’s son, Joe, went on NET two years ago, and their daughter Sharon just completed a year on NET this spring. Their daughter Loretta is a high school senior interested in going next year. Both Joe and Sharon now attend the University of St. Thomas.

Through home schooling and family prayer, the Halls have developed close relationships with their kids that have enabled them to communicate about faith and post-high school plans, Nick said.

“I don’t know if we’ve given any strong guidance with that other than trying to help them figure out what things they like and what they might want to do, talk with them about stuff, give counsel.”

For Sharon, going on NET wasn’t foremost in her mind until later in high school when she got to know Netters close to her own age. “It was really clearly the Lord [acting] in just the whole process of how it came about because even going into last year, I wasn’t excited.”

She notes that NET has changed a lot since her dad served. For one thing, many of the rules she and her teammates followed came as a result of mistakes during the early years.

Developing lifelong skills

One thing that’s different now is that evangelization is more in Catholics’ consciousness, thanks to Pope John Paul II and recent church teaching, Berchem said.

However, the core of NET’s work, sharing the Gospel through retreats, hasn’t changed, he said.

In addition to offering the chance to grow as a disciple of Christ while serving, NET has always helped young people gain relationship skills useful for any job, he said.

“Just knowing how to relate to people, how to start relationships, how to start a conversation, how to work together as a team for a common purpose, those are great life skills that are going to serve them really, really well regardless of what particular career they go into,” Berchem said.

Ruth Wagner’s year on NET won’t be the same as her dad’s, but she may discover they’ve had similar experiences.

“What’s interesting,” Berchem said, “is if you put some NET alumni in a room together, even though they served 10, 15 or 20 years apart, they experience a certain camaraderie and they pretty quickly end up sharing stories about their time on the road. NET has always been about community.”

Find out more about NET Ministries at

Catholic Spirit

International Crosier leader, born in Minn., discusses history, future of order

Crosier Father Glen Lewandowski, a native of Foley, Minn., who attended the Crosier Seminary in Onamia and St. John’s University in Collegeville, was reelected to a second term as master general of the order Aug. 8.

He is the first American to serve as leader of the international order, which will mark its 800th anniversary in 2010. The Crosiers have had a presence in Minnesota for nearly 100 years.

The order was founded in 1210 in modern-day Belgium. Today, Crosier communities are located in Indonesia, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. More than 400 Crosiers serve the church on five continents.

Currently, about 75 Crosiers are members of the U.S. province, which is headquartered in Phoenix. There is also a community in Onamia.

Father Lewandowski recently answered some questions from The Catholic Spirit by e-mail from Indonesia, where he was attending a meeting. The following are excerpts from the interview.

What drew you to the Crosier order?

The Crosier order is one of the oldest orders in the church. It comes from a time when religious orders were founded not so much for any specific apostolic activity — as are the modern apostolic congregations.

The Crosier order grew in the 13th century, when there was a rediscovery of the importance of the fraternal life. Other similar orders were the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Carmelites and the Augustinians. These “old” orders concentrated on living a strong commitment to fraternity and simplicity.

Although I had no deep historical knowledge of the Crosier order when I first knew it in the 1960s, I could clearly see and feel the strong emphasis on fraternity. These men were conscientiously human. What attracted me to join the Crosier order initially was a wonderful sense of belonging, family and fraternity.

What does your job of master general entail?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of my life as a job! I admit that there are days when being master general does feel like a job. But even more fundamentally, it is a vocation. There are “job” qualities to what I do, but the first identity is that of a call.

As the superior general in the Crosier order, a master general needs to keep alive the charism and unity of the order.

In our constitutions, it is stated that a superior has the task of holding his brothers faithful to their vocation. For a local prior, that role of “holding his brothers faithful to their vocation” has a much more personal and interpersonal dimension. A superior general has the task, by contrast, to hold the entire order faithful to our vocation.

What does it mean to be a Crosier Father or Brother today? How are members of the order living out their mission in the modern world?

The vocation to be a Crosier today is still fundamentally the vocation to live.

I have always been impressed with the perennial value of the old religious orders. Religious life is always about life. It is about development of the human person. And the human person develops fundamentally in relationships. The central relationship is brotherhood.

Isn’t that still a crying need, a wonderful vocation, in the modern world? I insist it is. In fact, in the post-modern world, where there is great doubt about the reliability of relationships, the stability of personal life choices, where human personality is often submerged in technical know-how and measured by which skills one can market, I would assert that the fundamental importance of the human person and the priority of respecting and honoring skills in human relationships stands even more to the fore in our modern world.

After the French Revolution, with its insistence that every religious group must be “useful” for society, there was a great growth in “modern” religious life. Every congregation was founded for some distinct modern purpose: running hospitals, educating youth, social services to the poor, foreign missions, etc. Each modern apostolic congregation was defined by a work, a job, a service. Especially with the Second Vatican Council’s insistence that ministry is not a priestly or religious prerogative, but extends to all the baptized, there has been something of an identity crisis about what is the specific vocation of religious.

Over the last several years, we Crosiers have worked hard to rethink and redefine our calling, specifically concentrating on the religious experience. Pope John Paul, in his exhortation following the synod on religious life, was a great help in rethinking and refocusing attention on what consecration to God, community witness, and ministry as compassion mean for us.

We tend more and more to seek and express our mission in terms of life and witness rather than according to the “modern” accent of job and work.

What are the biggest challenges the Crosier order faces today? How are you addressing those challenges?

I already touched on the challenge of rethinking religious life. Our order worked deliberately in the last 10 years on a “Decade of Transformation” to seek, define and express our religious charism in the church. I think we have accomplished significant, even fundamental, steps in reclaiming our religious identity.

A wonderful example of that sort of work is the document we issued in 2006 titled “A Crosier Religious at the Time of Solemn Profession.” In that profile we detailed the kind of formation into religious life needed to consolidate a religious identity.

But perhaps a related big challenge is the crisis of vocations, especially in Europe and in the United States. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit has decided to move from these old cultures and take up residence now in the newer (Christian) cultures of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania. Although we are receiving more vocations from these younger churches, I remain convinced that the Spirit works in hearts and minds the world around. It is a firm theological conviction about universality, that the religious world is a world of hearts and minds rather than location, location, location.

In the General Chapter just completed, one of the decisions we took was that we need to be more bold and constructive in calling young people to hear the voice of God and to respond with their life, from the heart, as religious.

How have incidents of sex abuse that surfaced a few years ago impacted the Crosier community?

Over the past several years, the order has confronted the very difficult issues raised as a result of past incidents of sexual abuse of minors, particularly here in the United States. We apologize for the pain and suffering which these scandalous acts have brought upon sexual misconduct survivors and their families. We are committed to work with those who have been victims of abuse by Crosiers in the past.

We recognize that full and frank disclosure about sexual misconduct is important to speed the healing process and empower unknown victims to come forward for help.

We strongly encourage individuals to report any information regarding incidents of sexual misconduct to the Provincial at (602) 443-7100 or a member of the Crosier First Contact Team. This information is on our Web site,

In our priory communities in Onamia and Phoenix, we have also taken up very deliberate work in addressing issues of sexual health. We also work to better understand all appropriate and inappropriate boundaries in our relationships with everyone.

Particularly in this time when the Crosier order marks 800 years, we want to atone for our infidelities, especially any pain and suffering that any Crosier has caused in any way. In the spirit of redemption and reconciliation given us by Christ, we want to seek atonement for our failures in order to be one with Christ and our brothers and sisters.

What festivities do you have planned for the 800th anniversary of the order?

Worldwide we initiated our jubilee anniversary in Pratista, Bandung, Indonesia, on the feast of St. Helena, the one who found the true cross in Jerusalem and founded for its safekeeping the first “brethren of the Holy Cross.” The festivities marked the close of the three-and-a-half-week-long General Chapter, also held in Bandung. The gathering included special guests of the Crosiers in Indonesia.

The climax of the general level festivities will be a week-long gathering in St. Agatha Priory in the Netherlands. This Crosier monastery was founded in 1371 and has enjoyed the presence of Crosiers for the full lifetime of its existence.

Our original “motherhouse” in Huy, Belgium, was suppressed by the French Revolution and the building completely destroyed in the aftermath. So the St. Agatha site is historically special because it clearly survived the targeting for dissolution intended by the secularizing policy of the Revolution.

The Crosiers will celebrate the Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in 2010 at this European monastery as the high point of our year-long festivities.

In addition to the worldwide celebrations and festivities, each province will organize its own activities. Many events around the world will include retreats on the cross, renewal days for the brethren, vocation awareness days, book publishing and public launching of local Crosier histories, various liturgical events, vow profession ceremonies, meetings with bishops, pastors and other religious.

The Crosiers in the U.S. will begin the jubilee year with a solemn celebration of the Eucharist on Sept. 13, the vigil of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. They will conclude the year-long festivities with a similar celebration in Phoenix in November 2010.

In a special Extraordinary General Chapter, to be held in 2010 at St. Agatha Priory in Cuijk, Netherlands, in conjunction with the jubilee there, the Crosiers hope to give final approval to the constitutions of the order and to inaugurate an international ongoing formation program for members, also to be centered at St. Agatha Priory.

As you reflect on this anniversary and the accomplishments of the order, what do you foresee in the Crosiers’ next 100 years?

I foresee that the Crosier order will still struggle for another 20 years. Thereafter, the climate of indifference to religious life will have changed. New hope will be in evidence.

Religious life goes through cycles of birth, growth and expansion, stagnation, decline, radical crisis, and then either dissolution or rebirth. These cycles often last about 200 years.

Our founding community in 1210, in Huy, Belgium, was called “Clairlieu,” which is French for “A Place of Light.” That house is dissolved — by history. But we began again and again. We started afresh more than once in our history.

In 1814, our order was reduced to four very elderly confreres living in the two surviving houses, left after the others had been decimated by the Revolution. Almost 60 houses had been suppressed in the wake of the French Revolution and planned secularization. Talk about radical crisis and decay!

These four old men remained committed to their religious life and strove to be deeply faithful. They refused to give up hope — the original refusniks.

The story of our near demise is an important religious historical lesson and a Crosier symbol of faith under pressure.

In the next 100 years, there will be a continued growth of the order in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is my firm conviction that there will be a resurgence of growth also in Europe and in the United States. Catholic Spirit

100,000 Catholics Come Home

The successful Roswell, Ga.-based apostolate Catholics Come Home has utilized its award-winning television ads and web site with several dioceses around the country since 2008. According to the organization, the campaign has been responsible for bringing nearly 100,000 inactive Catholics and converts home to the Church during Lent 2008.

Parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix reported a 12 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance during and after the campaign. The Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas witnessed a 17.7 percent increase.

Following the lead of so many other dioceses, the Diocese of Sacramento has announced that it will be launching a Catholics Come Home advertising campaign this coming December and January.

“There’s a large number of people who have left the church and are waiting for an invitation to come back,” Msgr. James Murphy, vicar general of the diocese, told the Sacramento Bee. “This is their invitation.”

The diocese has an estimated population of 950,000 Catholics, but only about 136,500 attend weekly Mass.

Msgr. Murphy said he was bothered to see so many Catholics filling fundamentalist churches.

“I’m glad they’re going to church … but we want them back,” he said.

Mike Halloran, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, told the Sacramento Bee that nearly 60 percent of the money for the $380,000 campaign had been raised. The money will go to the commercials only.

The ads will run in the Sacramento market 1,200 times over the six weeks from December 18 to January 31. Officials hope they will encourage 100,000 Catholics to return to church.

Eight other dioceses are running “Catholics Come Home” ads. They feature Catholics talking about why they returned to the Church and what it means to them.

Though Catholics make up an estimated 23 percent of the U.S. population, only 33 percent of them attend Mass on a weekly basis Tim Drake, Nat'l Catholic Register

A Catholic Funeral for Ted Kennedy?

Canon Lawyer Dr. Ed Peters of Detroit comments on the issue of having a Mass in a Catholic Church for Senator Ted Kennedy:

Most of Teddy Kennedy's politics, and most of whatever parts of his personal life I knew through the media, angered and sometimes even disgusted me. But my opinions about Teddy's legacy are not at issue in assessing his right to a Catholic funeral under canon law. I trust that my writings on the proper understanding and correct application of 1983 CIC 1184 (the canon regulating the funeral rites to be accorded - - or not, as the case may be - - to Catholics) are reasonably well-known to readers of this blog.* So let's move directly to the canonical question of Kennedy's funeral.

Now, any man with a 100% rating from NARAL (to highlight just the tip of the iceberg of Teddy's decades-long campaign against natural rights) has, to put it mildly, the burden of proof in seeking a Catholic funeral (okay, technically, his executors have the burden of proof, but you see the point) in that notorious pro-aborts seem to be "manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful."

Unless, that is, "they gave some sign of repentance before death." And there is at least some evidence that Ted Kennedy did just that.

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times notes that, among things, "The Rev. Mark Hession, the priest at the Kennedys' parish on the Cape, made regular visits to the Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in the living room every Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family in prayer after the death of his sister Eunice . . . [and when] the senator's condition took a turn Tuesday night a priest, the Rev. Patrick Tarrant of Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, was called to his bedside."

Folks, my reading of the canonical tradition behind Canon 1184** says that those actions suffice as "some signs of repentance", making Ted Kennedy eligible for a Catholic funeral. Of course I wish that Teddy's repentance, if that is what it was, had been more explicit, for the scandal the man left in life was enormous and demanded great atonement in this life (or more dreadfully in the next).

But on the narrow question as to whethere Edward Kennedy is eligible for a Catholic funeral, the information before me suggests that he is, and that a bishop who permits such rites can find support in the Code of Canon Law.

Now, about President Obama giving a eulogy thereat, don't even get me started.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Archbishop Nienstedt Details Church and Archdiocese's Position on Pending Health Care Reform Legislation





Saint Paul, MN, August 27, 2009 -- Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, head of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, today clearly spells out the Archdiocese’s and the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ requisites for health care reform in a front-page column that appears in today’s issue of the Catholic Spirit, the Archdiocese’s official newspaper.

In today’s column, he points out that under the Weldon amendment, approved by Congress each year since 2004, federal funding of abortion is forbidden, but that current health care program proposals would remove that restriction. “That is why an explicit statement in the bill is needed which asserts that government insurance would not cover abortion services,” the Archbishop writes. He then goes on to contend that any legislation should also state explicitly that euthanasia should “not be permitted.”

“This legislation has far-reaching moral implications for us as a people and a nation,” Nienstedt concludes. “What it permits and what it disallows speaks volumes about the values we hold dear and are willing to fight to defend.” He urges Catholics to inform themselves about this legislation and then to contact their legislators.

The Archbishop’s complete column on health care reform is below:


By the Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt,

Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

This summer has been marked by persistent and at times, even contradictory, reports on the work being done by both Houses of Congress regarding the sweeping “health care reform” legislation that President Obama wants to sign into law as early as September. No one doubts the wisdom of addressing this complex issue. Reform is needed. But the underlying question remains: what kind of health care reform do we want? Given the vast range of ethical and moral issues involved, this legislation will manifest in a clear and even remarkable way, what values we will hold or fail to uphold as a nation. In a very real way, this legislation will define our national character.

Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent a letter in July to the members of Congress offering as a guide four ethical principles that any health care reform should reflect:

1) A truly universal health care policy imbued with respect for human life and dignity;

2) Access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants;

3) Pursuing the common good while preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and

4) Restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.

Under the first point, Bishop Murphy went on to explain that the Church is strongly opposed to the inclusion of abortion as part of a national health care plan. He stated,

“No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”

The actual situation, however, has become far more complex since it now appears that the pro-abortion advocates hope to achieve their aims without mentioning the word “abortion.” Thus, a bill proposed by Senator Ted Kennedy grants authority to a “Medical Advisory Council,” appointed by the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, to decide what procedures are funded. This Council would specify what services will or will not be included in the government’s insurance plans. At present, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is Kathleen Sebelius, allegedly a practicing Catholic, but an aggressively pro-choice politician. It is hard to imagine that her selection of candidates for membership on that Council would be willing to restrict access to abortion services.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Speaking to the Planned Parenthood organization during the presidential campaign, then Senator Obama made clear his thinking on this matter which was backed up by his voting record in the Senate. He stated, -more-

“In my mind, reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose.” [In this context, “reproductive care” is a euphemism for “abortion.”]

Until now, federal agencies or programs (as well as state or local governments receiving federal funds) are forbidden under the Weldon amendment, approved by Congress each year since 2004, to discriminate against individual or institutional health care providers or insurers who decline to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion. The new health care program, as now proposed, would change all that. That is why an explicit statement in the bill is needed which asserts that government insurance would not cover abortion services.

In addition to Bishop Murphy’s four points, I would add a fifth. I believe that it should also be explicitly stated that euthanasia, either actively prescribed or passively encouraged, should not be permitted. This is a serious matter for senior citizens. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions recently defeated an amendment that would have prevented the denial of health care benefits to patients on the basis of age, expected length of life, or of the patient’s present or predicted disability or quality of life. Without such assurances, the same “Medical Advisory Council” could determine that those who are over a certain age limit are not worthy of further medical treatment and thus none would be provided.

As you can see, this legislation has far-reaching moral implications for us as a people and as a nation. What it permits and what it disallows speaks volumes about the values that we hold dear and are willing to fight to defend.

I urge you to inform yourself about this critical piece of legislation. (Go online to the USCCB website: Then, call your senators and representatives to express your opinion. For the Senate, call 202-224-3121 and ask to speak with your senator; call 202-225-3121 to speak with your representative. If you do not know the name of either, give the operator your zip code and you will be connected to the correct office. This is, in my mind, one of the most important issues of our lifetime. Please let your thoughts be known.