Friday, August 5, 2016

Faithful Witness to Marriage



By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski

Questions revolving around marriage and human sexuality are deeply felt in our homes and communities. We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in affirming the inviolable dignity of all people and the Church’s important role in accompanying all those in need. In doing so, we also stand with Pope Francis in preserving the dignity and meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The two strands of the dignity of the person and the dignity of marriage and the family are interwoven. To pull apart one is to unravel the whole fabric.

When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics. What we see is a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.

Pope Francis has been very clear in affirming the truth and constant teaching of the Church that same-sex relationships cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”1 Laws that redefine marriage to deny its essential meaning are among those that Catholics must oppose, including in their application after they are passed.2 Such witness is always for the sake of the common good.

During our Holy Father’s remarkable visit to us last year, he reminded us that all politicians “are called to defend and preserve the dignity of [their] fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”3 Catholic politicians in particular are called to “a heroic commitment” on behalf of the common good and to “recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values and oppose laws and policies that violate [them].”4

Faithful witness can be challenging—and it will only grow more challenging in the years to come—but it is also the joy and responsibility of all Catholics, especially those who have embraced positions of leadership and public service.

Let us pray for our Catholic leaders in public life, that they may fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage and offer a faithful witness that will bring much needed light to the world. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses wherever we are called.
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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

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1 Amoris Laetitia (2016), no. 251.
2 USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2015), no. 23; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003), no. 5 
3 Address to Congress, September 24, 2015. 
4 Faithful Citizenship, no. 39.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Count Down to World Youth Day: Lay Ecclesial Ministers Nurturing our Lives


By Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota

As preparations are underway for attending World Youth Day, I am wondering –how many vocations will be inspired during this year’s event? How many who attend will be ready to follow the Lord’s call.  For Bishops the time is an inspiration as we realize the many youth and young adults who truly care for their faith and for the Church who brought it them.

In my own role as chair of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I wonder, how many participants will realize the role that lay ecclesial ministers, religious and priests have had in their faith formation and participation in this event?

How many will be inspired to follow their own call of the Lord through this event? Perhaps some will also meet and discover their vocation to marriage. Others will be inspired to consider leadership roles the Church – as priests, permanent deacons, religious and yes – lay ecclesial ministers.

What is a lay ecclesial minister?  The average person in the pew may honestly not know how to answer this question. However, many experience your parish lay ecclesial ministers every day. For example, have you been a participant in religious education? Then you have encountered your parish director of religious education – a lay ecclesial minister. Are you coming to World Youth day with your parish youth minister? If you so you are coming with a lay ecclesial minister?  Are you in college and coming with a group through campus ministry?  If so, you are likely coming with your Campus Minister – who may also be a lay ecclesial minister.

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is used to include many possible roles in Church leadership. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles.  

Did you know that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference – the USCCB - has a document about lay ecclesial ministers?  It’s called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and offers a good description of what a lay ecclesial minister is:

The term lay ecclesial minister is a general term to describe those men and women, many whose roles, I mentioned above, whose ecclesial service is characterized by:
·         Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
·         Leadership in a particular area of ministry
·         Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
·         Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them

I am sure that Pope Francis will remind us all to be enthusiastic be missionary disciples while we are gathered in Kraków.   I’m hoping that many of you who are gathered with us will consider what is God calling you to do. Perhaps you will talk with the trained leaders who came with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to follow them and consider offering your gifts and talents and become a priest, permanent deacon,  consecrated religious or yes – even a lay ecclesial minister!

If so I am grateful to know that, as chair of the conference, Subcommittee on certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I have the opportunity to help see that you will be well prepared.

After World Youth Day, I hope to encourage members of our subcommittee and lay ecclesial ministers to share the stories of their call. Until our next update, if you would like to learn more – about the subcommittee, you might go to: www.usccb/certification   If you would like to learn more about lay ecclesial ministry in general, and current questions as we discern this development in the Church, see the USCCB web page on the Summit held last year.  www.usccb.org/lay-ecclesial-ministry-summit.cfm


Until then please let’s together join in prayer that many may be inspired to follow God’s call during their experience at Kraków. I look forward to seeing you there! May the Holy Spirit move you to discover what God is calling you to do, whatever your vocation may be. We all have one. The harvest is great!

Count Down to World Youth Day: Lay Ecclesial Ministers Nurturing our Lives


By Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota

As preparations are underway for attending World Youth Day, I am wondering –how many vocations will be inspired during this year’s event? How many who attend will be ready to follow the Lord’s call.  For Bishops the time is an inspiration as we realize the many youth and young adults who truly care for their faith and for the Church who brought it them.

In my own role as chair of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I wonder, how many participants will realize the role that lay ecclesial ministers, religious and priests have had in their faith formation and participation in this event?

How many will be inspired to follow their own call of the Lord through this event? Perhaps some will also meet and discover their vocation to marriage. Others will be inspired to consider leadership roles the Church – as priests, permanent deacons, religious and yes – lay ecclesial ministers.

What is a lay ecclesial minister?  The average person in the pew may honestly not know how to answer this question. However, many experience your parish lay ecclesial ministers every day. For example, have you been a participant in religious education? Then you have encountered your parish director of religious education – a lay ecclesial minister. Are you coming to World Youth day with your parish youth minister? If you so you are coming with a lay ecclesial minister?  Are you in college and coming with a group through campus ministry?  If so, you are likely coming with your Campus Minister – who may also be a lay ecclesial minister.

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is used to include many possible roles in Church leadership. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles.  

Did you know that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference – the USCCB - has a document about lay ecclesial ministers?  It’s called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and offers a good description of what a lay ecclesial minister is:

The term lay ecclesial minister is a general term to describe those men and women, many whose roles, I mentioned above, whose ecclesial service is characterized by:
·         Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
·         Leadership in a particular area of ministry
·         Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
·         Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them

I am sure that Pope Francis will remind us all to be enthusiastic be missionary disciples while we are gathered in Kraków.   I’m hoping that many of you who are gathered with us will consider what is God calling you to do. Perhaps you will talk with the trained leaders who came with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to follow them and consider offering your gifts and talents and become a priest, permanent deacon,  consecrated religious or yes – even a lay ecclesial minister!

If so I am grateful to know that, as chair of the conference, Subcommittee on certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I have the opportunity to help see that you will be well prepared.

After World Youth Day, I hope to encourage members of our subcommittee and lay ecclesial ministers to share the stories of their call. Until our next update, if you would like to learn more – about the subcommittee, you might go to: www.usccb/certification   If you would like to learn more about lay ecclesial ministry in general, and current questions as we discern this development in the Church, see the USCCB web page on the Summit held last year.  www.usccb.org/lay-ecclesial-ministry-summit.cfm


Until then please let’s together join in prayer that many may be inspired to follow God’s call during their experience at Kraków. I look forward to seeing you there! May the Holy Spirit move you to discover what God is calling you to do, whatever your vocation may be. We all have one. The harvest is great!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: Moved By The Holy Spirit


By Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln

The sun rose over Copacabana beach in Brazil, on a warm Sunday morning in July 2013. Three million young people assembled along the water’s edge. I was on the beach with them that day. We were preparing for the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2013, celebrated by Pope Francis, less than six months into his pontificate.

The previous night we’d shared in Eucharistic adoration and Benediction with Pope Francis. The vigil lasted well into the night. I’ll never forget that night. I’ll never forget the presence of God in those moments.

Every World Youth Day has left a lasting impression for me. And they all hold a unique place in my memory – Denver, Paris, Rio. I’ll never forget the heat in Rome in 1999, and the heroic figure of Pope Saint John Paul II. I’ll never forget the beauty of Sydney in 2008, and Pope Benedict’s serene witness. I’ll never forget the rugged splendor Madrid in 2011. And I will never forget, as young priest, my first World Youth Day in 1993, in Denver.

I’ve been to World Youth Day many times, but Denver will always stand out. John Paul stood among millions of young people here in the United States, and told us not to be afraid. He told us to go out into the streets and proclaim the Gospel. He told us to defend life. He told us to become saints. He called us to the New Evangelization.

World Youth in Denver was a transformative moment in my priesthood, and my spiritual life. And every single time I go to World Youth Day, the Lord moves in my life. I am moved by the teaching of the Holy Father. I am moved by the joy of young Catholics from around the world. I am moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, alive in the hearts of young people.

I look forward to traveling to Krakow in 2016. With young people from the Diocese of Lincoln, I’ll travel as a pilgrim to the homeland of Pope St. John Paul II. We pilgrims will rely on the Providence of God as we travel, and we’ll look forward to gathering with the Holy Father, and with young people from countries around the world. We’ll pray together for St. John Paul’s intercession. We’ll celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We will journey to Krakow to experience the universality of the Church’s life.

The theme of World Youth Day 2016, is “blessed are the merciful.” Each one of us is called to be merciful. We’re called to imitate the mercy of Jesus Christ. And we travel to Krakow to visit the country where the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ was revealed in a special way to St. Faustina Kowalska.

I’ll never forget the experiences I’ve had at World Youth Day. I’m sure that Poland will be an unforgettable experience as well. I’ll travel there as a pilgrim, seeking a deeper union with Christ and His Church. I pray that you will be a World Youth Day pilgrim, too.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: It All Comes Alive In Krakow


By Robert Brennan of Rockville Center

Long before the official World Youth Day gatherings, on his first visit to the United States in October 1979, Pope John Paul II met with the young people of the area at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Meetings with the youth would become a key part of his Apostolic Journeys. I had the good fortune to be there as part of a delegation from my parish. I can’t say I really knew what to expect but it probably would have been something very solemn and serious. It was quite the opposite. The new Pope lit a spiritual fire and had us all caught up enthusiastically in the celebration of our faith in Christ working though His Church. He spoke to us words such as “The Church needs you. The world needs you because it needs Christ and you belong to Christ.” For a teen, it was exciting to be Catholic – to belong to Christ and His Church. The idea of a vocation toward priesthood was pretty clear in my mind but this was a real turning point in my own vocational journey.

Many years later, in 2002, I attended World Youth Day in Toronto, for the first time travelling as Secretary to Bishop William Murphy, with a very large delegation from Long Island. Because it was relatively close to New York, many young people were able to go and we were able to make it a true pilgrimage with caravans of buses traveling across New York and through Canada to Toronto stopping along the way to pray (for example, at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York) and to connect with other diocesan groups. You see, something good seems to happen during the pilgrimage. Overcoming the challenges of long travel and big crowds, the groups seem to bond very deeply. I’ve seen that time and time again. In the City of Toronto we were able to gather not only our Diocesan Group for Mass and Dinner but all the Long Islanders travelling with schools and other groups. Again, exchanging stories about the adventures, something truly good takes place.

As good as it is to bond with our own group, in every WYD experience, the Long Island groups met the world. Young Catholic’s today sometimes feel isolated trying to live their faith. In every pilgrimage group with whom I have travelled, I hear how it is so important to meet thousands – even millions – of young people sharing the same faith and values. It happens in the large, joyful group settings such as the celebrations on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. It happens walking through the neighborhoods where pilgrims exchange greetings, pins, bracelets, and other tokens. It happens in the catechetical sessions where in small groups pilgrims share faith with fellow pilgrims from around the world and exchange cultural traditions and expressions. And it happens in the individual pilgrimage groups themselves sharing the impact of the events of the day or the week.

I had the chance to participate in Cologne and Madrid. I did not go to Sydney but we had a retreat for those who could not make that long journey and connected via a video link (even before the popularity of Skype) with those who did represent us in Sydney.

Most recently, in 2013, I made my first World Youth Day pilgrimage as a Bishop in Rio. One of the things that impressed me so much in Rio was watching the crowds grow along Copacabana Beach from the hotel rooftop. As in the World Youth Days before, the enthusiasm – the joy of being Catholic – is overwhelming.

Of course, the highlight each and every time is the encounter with the Holy Father. It seems that just about everyone – young person, chaperone, religious, deacon, priest, and bishop – seems to be wide eyed and joyful as the Pope passes close by and as he speaks. I’ve had the chance to welcome John Paul II in my youth and, without realizing it, to bid a fond farewell at what would be his last World Youth Day. I’ve had the chance welcome Benedict XVI and Francis. There is something about these experiences that makes you feel close to the Popes, simply by sharing the WYD experience with them. And I hear it years later from other pilgrims – they have a personal connection with the Pope because they were there with him.

By chance, I happened to be in Krakow as word spread of the city having been chosen as the site for the 2016 World Youth Day. I couldn’t think of a better choice. Our new Saint, John Paul II, gave us the gift of World Youth Day. In Toronto, he spoke of having lived through very dark days under oppressive regimes and yet being convinced that nothing could extinguish the hope that springs from the hearts of the young. It all comes alive in his city – Krakow. I can’t wait to go to Krakow, once again to walk in his steps and to enjoy the gift he bequeathed through World Youth Day.