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When the Levee Breaks

ARCHBISHOP HANNAN PICTURED TOURING NEW ORLEANS AREA AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA IN 2005

Retired New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan is pictured during a helicopter tour of areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Archbishop Hannan was a World War II paratroop chaplain who befriended and secretly counseled John F. Kennedy during and after his historic run for the White House as the first U.S. Catholic president. CNS photo/Sean Harrison, Archdiocese of New Orleans.

One of the recurring themes during my time in New Orleans has been the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which can still be felt nearly 10 years later (August 29, 2015 marks the 10th year anniversary of the disaster). Although the city has rebounded and is getting its groove back, there are still signs of recuperation.

In the following, Dr. Barbara Fleischer explains the extent of the flooding.

In the second clip, Barbara shows me one of the 50 levees which broke and explains some of its impact.

Many religious communities, including the Sisters of the Holy Family, The Sisters of Mount Carmel and Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chi-Hoa were seriously affected by the flooding. Their motherhouses and most of their facilities; schools and nursing homes all had to be rebuilt. But as is so often the case when disaster strikes, there were also many instances of heroic virtue as the Sisters chose not to abandon the people they served.

To learn more about the Sisters’ response to Hurricane Katrina, I recommend watching We Shall Not Be Moved. But have some tissues ready because the Sisters will make you proud.

New Canal Lighthouse, New Orleans

Side note: most people will know of the Zed Leppelin version of the song “When the Levee Breaks”, but the rock song is actually take off an old blues song written by husband and wife couple, Kansas Joe McCoy and guitar legend Memphis Minnie who wrote it in 1929 about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries – Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing a new S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

 

Mom Made Me Do It

Rosemary-Azu

Rosemary Azu is hard to miss in a crowd. She has a natural presence that draws people to her. The fact that she is usually dressed in brightly coloured traditional Nigerian dresses also makes her stand out. That natural confidence in her own identity has helped her build her own successful mortgage and real estate business, and raise three sons. But Azu’s face really lights up when she talks about the women at her parish and her Catholic Women’s Leauge council. “Catholic women are different…Catholic women are gifted, and we have to be proud of that!” she says.

It is hard to believe that she almost did not join the CWL and had to be convinced by other women every time she was asked to take on greater responsibility within her council.

Azu moved to Coquitlam, British Columbia in 1993 and looked for a parish to join. At that first parish she heard an announcement that the CWL council was holding a meeting. “In Nigeria the Catholic women’s organization is open to all married women, you don’t need to join or sign up,” she explained. Adding that in her native country when a Catholic woman marries the other married women of the parish present her with the uniform of the Catholic women’s organization.

Her first experience with the CWL in Canada was definitely a very different experience. “I showed up at the announced time and had to knock on the door [of the meeting room]. They opened the door, let me in, and continued with the meeting,” Azu recalls. She sat at the back of the meeting room for two hours listening to the members “all of whom were over 80 years old” discuss council business. At the end of the meeting Azu said the group prayed. “No one asked me why I was there. No one talked to me. I left that meeting and never went back,” she said.

Time passed. Azu discovered that based on where she lived she actually should have been attending All Saints parish in Coquitlam. She began attending that parish and things changed. Azu made friends there and became an active member of the parish community. One of those friends was the woman who served as Organization Chair for the parish’s CWL council. Azu recalls “she kept telling me I should join but after that first experience at my previous parish I said ‘no way, not for me.’”

Azu might have gotten away with saying “no” had her father not been visiting. As fathers do, he encouraged his daughter to put aside her idea of the CWL and try again. He also relayed the story to Azu’s mother who was back in Nigeria. That was the decisive factor. Her mother urged her to get involved. Azu joined the parish CWL and quietly participated in the council’s various activities as much as she could. At the time she had three young sons, was working full time, and planning to start her own business.

In 2006, while her mother was visiting from Nigeria, a friend from Azu’s CWL council asked if she would let her name stand in the upcoming elections for council executives. Azu hesitated but her mother urged her to “be more involved with the women.” A week later the same friend called back to say Azu had been elected council treasurer. She went on to serve two consecutive two year terms as treasurer, followed by a two year term as as Christian Life Chair. “Then I decided I was going to sit on the backbench for awhile,” she said..    

That was not to be. A trusted friend and mentor in the parish, who was also a CWL member, asked Azu to stand for Organizational Chair. Out of sheer respect for this fellow CWL member Azu agreed to let her name to stand. She was elected and served a two year term. Again, at the end of the two year term Azu intended to step aside and let someone else get involved. Again the same friend approached and asked her to let her name stand for election once more. Thinking she would end up serving another two years as Organizational Chair Azu agreed. Instead she was elected Council President. Azu’s mother was overjoyed. Azu says all she could think was “I have two full time jobs, I have no time!”

Azu’s mother convinced her to accept this new responsibility. “My mom told me ‘there is something these women see in you that you don’t see yourself.’” She took the leap and accepted her election as president. “I thought I was not ready, and it is true I was not. But you can’t be ready because God makes you ready,” Azu said recalling her experiences as council executive.

Her mother’s advice seems to have been accurate. During Azu’s time on the council’s executive committee, membership has grown. In the the last three years the council has gone from 163 members, to 165 to 175 members. In part it may be due to the fact that “I love to talk to people,” says Azu. She makes a special point of talking to the women of the parish. “We are all members of the Catholic Women’s League by virtue of the fact that we are all Catholic Women. I tell them the only thing they need to do is make it official by filling in the [membership] form.”

Of course one woman can not lead alone, nor can she lead a group that only has meetings but does not take action. “There are three past-presidents in our council, and I rely on them for support and advice. When I need help it is always there. That shows me that God is in this.” Azu said. Together Azu and the women of All Saint’s CWL council work to meet the needs of their parish community and the country.

Azu’s council collects clothing, food and money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society which provides support to people in need. To support education, the council gives out two bursaries each year: one to a student entering High School and one to a university student. Of course, to help foster a sense of community within the parish and provide parishioners a chance to get to know each other the council provides hospitality after Sunday Masses.

Although she says there are still days when she doesn’t know how she will balance the demands of her business, her family, and the CWL council, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I tell women don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. You can’t make a difference watching from the corner” she said..

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Remembering a Prophet of the New Evangelization: John Paul I 37 years after his election to the See of Peter


Thirty-seven years ago August 26, Cardinal Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice was elected Pope after the death of the Servant of God Blessed Paul VI. The conclave of 101 cardinals lasted 2 days and he was elected on the fourth ballot. Luciani took the name of John Paul I – the first pope to have two names. He wanted to continue the work of Pope Paul VI and Pope John XXIII.

Luciani was born in Canale d’Agordo near Belluno, Italy, on October 17, 1912. He entered the seminary at 11 years old, was ordained a priest at 23 years old, and was the Patriarch of Venice from 1969 until he became pope on September 3, 1978. Luciani held a theology degree from Gregorian University in Rome.

Because of his rural background and his ability to explain the catechism with such clarity and simplicity, Pope John Paul I was called “The Peasant Pope.” But he was known most for being “The Smiling Pope.” [Read more…]

Caught Up in the Externals

Christ and the Pharisees cropped

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – August 30, 2015

How many times have we heard, or perhaps even said ourselves: “So-and-so is a Pharisee.” “That person is so Pharisaical.” “They are caught up in Pharisaism.”

Today’s Gospel (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) offers us a good opportunity to understand the role of the Pharisees in Judaism, and why Jesus and others had such strong feelings against their behavior. Who were the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, and who are their modern-day contemporaries?

Let me try to simplify a very complex topic to help us understand today’s Gospel. The Pharisees sought to make the Law come alive in every Jew, by interpreting its commandments in such a way as to adapt them to the various spheres of life.

The doctrine of the Pharisees is not opposed to that of Christianity. At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were the “conservative party” within Judaism. They adhered strictly to the Torah and the Talmud and were outwardly very moral people. They were the leaders of the majority of the Jews and were revered by their followers for their religious zeal and dedication. Their main opposition was the party of the Sadducees, who were the “liberal party” within Judaism. The Sadducees were popular among the high-class minority.

Pharisees are mentioned when John the Baptist condemns them and the Sadducees in Matthew 3:7-10: “But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Why would John the Baptizer say that the Pharisees, who were outwardly moral, zealous, and religious, were the offspring of vipers?

Jesus reserved his harshest words for the Pharisees as well. In Matthew 16:6, Jesus warned the disciples, “Watch and take heed from the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” What were the disciples to beware of? Were they to beware of the immorality of the Pharisees and Sadducees?

Adherence to the law

The Pharisees in Jesus’ time promoted adherence to the law with a genuine interior response and advocated ordinary day-to-day spirituality. There were some Pharisees who were caught up only in external prescriptions, but they would have been criticized by other Pharisees even as the prophet Isaiah criticized hypocrisy in the past. Similarly, Jesus reprimanded aberrant Pharisees occasionally and had some clashes with them over his reinterpretation of the law. Jesus did not condemn Pharisaism as such or all Pharisees.

The Pharisees “relied on themselves, that they are righteous.” They believed that their own works — their doing what God commands and their abstaining from what God forbids — were what gained and maintained God’s favor and recommended them to God. The Pharisees self-righteously and hypocritically despised all others who did not meet the same standard of law keeping that they met.

They would not eat with the tax collectors and other sinners, because they were self-righteously aloof. They spent their time murmuring about who was eating and drinking with Jesus. Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

No etiquette lesson!

In today’s Gospel passage, (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), the Pharisees and scribes come from Jerusalem to investigate Jesus. Jesus abolishes the practice of ritual purity and the distinction between clean and unclean foods. The watchdogs of religious tradition cite Jesus for running a rather lax operation! Some of his disciples were eating with unwashed hands (Mark 7:2). Pharisees and scribes seize this infraction of the law and challenge Jesus, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (v. 5).

Jesus doesn’t respond with an etiquette lesson or an explanation of personal hygiene. Instead, he calls the Pharisees and scribes what they are: “you hypocrites” (v. 6). Quoting Isaiah, Jesus exposes the condition of the legalists’ hearts. They cling to human precepts and put their trust in the traditions of their elders over the commandment of God (v. 8).

Against the Pharisees’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of purification (Mark 7:2-5), external worship (7:6-7), and observance of commandments, Jesus sets in opposition the true moral intent of the divine law (7:8-13).

But he goes beyond contrasting the law and Pharisaic interpretation of it. Mark 7:14-15 in effect sets aside the law itself in respect to clean and unclean food. Jesus’ point is well taken — and most Pharisees would have agreed — that internal attitude is more important than the externals of the law.

Pharisaical notion of sin

Jesus rejects the Pharisees’ and the scribes’ notion of sin. For Jesus, sin is the human spirit gone wrong, not a failure to distinguish between types of food. Jesus’ attitude toward sin is consistent with his views regarding the Sabbath. The letter of the law without compassion is dehumanizing.

We can see how Jesus wants his message to be made known to the Pharisees and scribes (vv. 1-8), the crowd (“Listen to me, all of you, and understand” vv. 14-15) and his disciples (vv. 21-23). It is good news to all that God doesn’t desire legalism. Instead, because of what God has done in Jesus Christ, the Father offers a new kind of life. One doesn’t have to worry about how well one is obeying the rules and keeping oneself clean.

Having been made clean, we are now free to use our hands to serve others. We might even get them dirty in the process. God gives freedom from the law. God offers his grace. That is the same good news we get to share as we serve the legal-minded, the crowds, and even the disciples of Jesus who are around us.

Contemporary Pharisees

Who are the modern-day Pharisees and their followers? The blind modern-day Pharisees and their blind followers are very religious, moral, zealous people. They strive to keep God’s law, and they are zealous in their religious duties. They diligently attend Church every Sunday. They are hardworking, outwardly upright citizens. They keep themselves from and preach against moral evil.

In addition to being moral and religious and zealous, modern-day Pharisees and their followers do not believe that salvation is conditioned on the work of Christ alone; instead, they believe that salvation is ultimately up to human efforts and what the sinner adds to Christ’s work!

In contrast to the modern-day Pharisees and their followers, true Christians are those who boast in Christ crucified and no other, meaning that they believe that Christ’s work ensured the salvation of all whom He represented and is the only thing that makes the difference between salvation and condemnation. They know that their own efforts form absolutely no part of their acceptance before God. They rest in Christ alone as their only hope, knowing that it is the work of Christ by the grace of God that guarantees salvation.

Jesus showed that only those who were sinners in need of a healer, who do not have righteousness in themselves, who are devoid of divine entitlement, who do not deserve to be in fellowship with God, are the ones He came to call to repentance.

The medicine of mercy

Whenever I hear Jesus’ words about legalism in today’s Gospel, I cannot help but recall with gratitude and emotion Pope John XXIII. In his historic, opening address on Oct. 11, 1962, at the beginning of the momentous Second Vatican Council, John XXIII made it clear that he did not call Vatican II to refute errors or to clarify points of doctrine. The Church today, he insisted, must employ the “medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”

The “Good Pope” as he was called, rejected the opinions of those around him who were “always forecasting disaster.” He referred to them as “prophets of gloom” who lacked a sense of history, which is “the teacher of life.” Divine Providence, he declared, was leading the world into a new and better order of human relations. “And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

“Papa Roncalli” was a human being, more concerned with his faithfulness than his image, more concerned with those around him than with his own desires. With an infectious warmth and vision, he stressed the relevance of the church in a rapidly changing society and made the church’s deepest truths stand out in the modern world. He knew that the letter of the law without compassion is dehumanizing.

“Papa Giovanni” was beatified by his successor, John Paul II in 2000. In 2014 he was canonized together with John Paul by Pope Francis. May he soften the hearts of the modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees who are alive and well in the Church and world today!

[The readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23]

(Image: “Christ and the Pharisees” by Ernst Zimmerman)

Who was Junípero Serra and why is he becoming a Saint?

Junipero Serra in US Capitol Statuary Hall

During his Apostolic Visit to the United States of America next month, Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass of Canonization of Blessed Junípero Miguel José Serra Ferrer  (Fray Junipero Serra) at 4:15 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday afternoon,September 23, 2015. Earlier that same day, he will be formally welcomed at the White House by US President Barack Obama and also meet with the Bishops of the United States at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

Blessed Junipero Serra (1713 – 1784), a Franciscan Missionary, died at the aged of 70 at the St Charles Borromeo Mission in Carmel, Monterey (California) in 1784, where he is now buried under the sanctuary floor. Pope Francis has recently said that Serra’s work of evangelization “reminds us of the first “12 Franciscan apostles” who were pioneers of the Christian faith in Mexico… . He ushered in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California, which, in the previous two hundred years, had been reached by missionaries from Spain.”

Some experts are writing these days about Serra’s negative effects and impact on indigenous persons, Serra defended the indigenous peoples against abuses by the colonizers. The canonization of Blessed Serra, like those of other American saints, speaks to the deep spiritual roots and holiness of America. Among the many questions I have received about Blessed Junipero Serra’s life, ministry in California in the 18th century, and appropriateness and timing of his canonization, are those regarding the very meaning of canonization and holiness as well as the potentially negative impact that this canonization could have upon Native (indigineous) peoples throughout the world.

When social justice struggles become the ideological test for the veneration of martyrs, blessed and saints, we must ask some deeper questions. That persons are declared “Blessed” or “Saint” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Nor is it a 360-degree evaluation of the pastoral agenda of the Petrine Ministry of the current Pope or of the Vatican.

Martyrdom, beatification and canonization mean that persons lived their lives with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. Though they may have experienced moral solitude, they manifested incredible hope and peace and brought many people to God. The proclamation of new saints and blesseds invites us to look beyond the labels and stereotypes that we often place on the martyrs, blessed, saints and all holy men and women, and consider the ultimate witness and gifts of their lives to God. We must learn from their examples of how they transformed hatred and violence into love, and only love. Having willed the one thing in their lives, the martyrs, saints and blesseds allowed themselves to be touched by God at the core of their beings that was beyond words, conceptualization, imagination and feeling. Such persons let those around them know that there is a force or spirit animating their lives that is not of this world, but the next.  They let us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and show us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.

It is hoped that this background information would address the matters of the meaning of canonization and holiness as well as provide for you numerous texts of both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis that provide important elements of Blessed Junipero Serra’s life and ministry. The frequent references to Blessed Serra by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis answer some of the questions people are asking on the eve of Serra’s canonization in Washington.

Who Was Junipero Serra?

Junípero Serra was born in 1713 in Majorca, Spain, a son of Antonio Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer who spent their lives as farmers. In Petra, Spain, Serra attended the primary school of the Franciscans conducted at the friary of San Bernardino. At the age of fifteen he was taken by his parents to Palma to be placed in the charge of a cathedral canon, and he began to assist at classes in philosophy held in the Franciscan monastery of San Francisco.

He took the name Junípero when he joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He taught for more than a decade before going to Mexico in 1749. After working as a missionary in Sierra Gorda and Mexico City, Serra was sent to California. He made the trip by foot despite having terrible sores on his legs. Once he reached California, Serra established his first mission, San Diego de Alcalá, in 1769. He built eight more missions over the next thirteen years: San Antonio de Padua; San Gabriel, Arcángel; San Luis, Obispo de Tolosa; San Juan Capistrano; San Francisco de Asis; and San Buenaventura. Serra worked tirelessly tirelessly to maintain the missions and is credited with helping the Spanish establish a presence in California.

Serra died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo located in present-day Carmel, California. The site is now home to the National Shrine to Blessed Junípero Serra, and many visitors go there each year to honor the famous missionary.

Full Text of Biography of Serra from Franciscan Website.

Serra Stamp

Excerpt of HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION AT THE PONTIFICAL NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE

Janiculum Hill, Rome
Saturday May 2, 2015

“What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea, he was filled with joy and the Holy Spirit in spreading the word of the Lord. Such zeal excites us, it challenges us! These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings. But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junípero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium.

Full text found here.

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ON THEIR «AD LIMINA» VISIT

Wednesday June 8, 1988

“One event of those days has a very special relevance now. It is the visit that I made to the Basilica of Carmel and to the tomb of Fray Junipero Serra. In less than three months from now, some of us will gather again here as the Church beatifies him, officially proclaiming him worthy of honour and imitation by all. In venerating “the Apostle of California” at his tomb I spoke of his contribution, which was “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the dawn of a new age.” I also endeavoured to present his essential message, which is the constant need to evangelize. In that context I stated: “Like Father Serra and his Franciscan brethren, we too are called to be evangelizers, to share actively in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all people”.

Full text found at here.

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Basilica of the Mission of San Carlos in Carmel
Thursday, September 17, 1987

Junipero SerraI come today as a pilgrim to this Mission of San Carlos, which so powerfully evokes the heroic spirit and heroic deeds of Fray Junípero Serra and which enshrines his mortal remains. This serene and beautiful place is truly the historical and spiritual heart of California. All the missions of El Camino Real bear witness to the challenges and heroism of an earlier time, but not a time forgotten or without significance for the California of today and the Church of today.

These buildings and the men who gave them life, especially their spiritual father, Junípero Serra, are reminders of an age of discovery and exploration. The missions are the result of a conscious moral decision made by people of faith in a situation that presented many human possibilities, both good and bad, with respect to the future of this land and its native peoples. It was a decision rooted in a love of God and neighbour. It was a decision to proclaim the Gospelof Jesus Christ at the dawn of a new age, which was extremely important for both the European settlers and the Native Americans.

Very often, at crucial moments in human affairs, God raises up men and women whom he thrusts into roles of decisive importance for the future development of both society and the Church. Although their story unfolds within the ordinary circumstances of daily life, they become larger than life within the perspective of history. We rejoice all the more when their achievement is coupled with a holiness of life that can truly be called heroic. So it is withJunípero Serra, who in the providence of God was destined to be the Apostle of California, and to have a permanent influence over the spiritual patrimony of this land and its people, whatever their religion might be. This apostolic awareness is captured in the words ascribed to him: “In California is my life and there, God willing, I hope to die”. Through Christ’s Paschal Mystery, that death has become a seed in the soil of this state that continues to bear fruit “thirty – or sixty – or a hundred-fold” (Matth. 13, 9).

Father Serra was a man convinced of the Church’s mission, conferred upon her by Christ himself, to evangelize the world, to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Ibid. 28, 19). The way in which he fulfilled that mission corresponds faithfully to the Church’s vision today of what evangelization means: “… the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieux which are theirs” Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18).

He not only brought the Gospel to the Native Americans, but as one who lived the Gospel he also became their defender and champion. At the age of sixty he journeyed from Carmel to Mexico City to intervene with the Viceroy on their behalf – a journey which twice brought him close to death – and presented his now famous Representación with its “bill of rights”, which had as their aim the betterment of every phase of missionary activity in California, particularly the spiritual and physical well-being of its Native Americans.

Father Serra and his fellow missionaries shared the conviction found everywhere in the New Testament that the Gospel is a matter of life and salvation. They believed that in offering to people Jesus Christ, they were doingsomething of immense value, importance and dignity. What other explanation can there be for the hardships that they freely and gladly endured, like Saint Paul and all the other great missionaries before them: difficult and dangerous travel, illness and isolation, an ascetical life-style, arduous labour, and also, like Saint Paul, that “concern for all the churches” (2Cor. 11, 28) which Junípero Serra, in particular, experienced as Presidente of the California missions in the face of every vicissitude, disappointment and opposition.

Dear brothers and sisters: like Father Serra and his Franciscan brethren, we too are called to be evangelizers, to share actively in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all people. The way in which we fulfil that mission will be different from theirs. But their lives speak to us still because of their sure faith that the Gospel is true, and because of their passionate belief in the value of bringing that saving truth to others at great personal cost. Much to be envied are those who can give their lives for something greater than themselves in loving service to others. This, more than words or deeds alone, is what draws people to Christ.

This single-mindedness is not reserved for great missionaries in exotic places. It must be at the heart of each priest’s ministry and the evangelical witness of every religious. It is the key to their personal sense of well-being, happiness and fulfilment in what they are and what they do. This single-mindedness is also essential to the Christian witness of the Catholic laity. The covenant of love between two people in marriage and the successful sharing of faith with children require the effort of a lifetime. If couples cease believing in their marriage as a sacrament before God, or treat religion as anything less than a matter of salvation, then the Christian witness they might have given to the world is lost. Those who are unmarried must also be steadfast in fulfilling their duties in life if they are to bring Christ to the world in which they live.

“In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything” (Phil. 4, 13). These words of the great missionary, Saint Paul, remind us that our strength is not our own. Even in the martyrs and saints, as the liturgy reminds us, it is “(God’s) power shining through our human weakness” (Praefatio Martyrum). It is the strength that inspired Father Serra’s motto: “always forward, never back”. It is the strength that one senses in this place of prayer so filled with his presence. It is the strength that can make each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, missionaries of Jesus Christ, witnesses of his message, doers of his word.

Full text found at here.

MEETING WITH THE NATIVE PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix
Monday September 14, 1987

Serra in US Capitol Statuary Hall 2“One priest who deserves special mention among the missionaries is the beloved Fray Junipero Serra, who travelled throughout Lower and Upper California. He had frequent clashes with the civil authorities over the treatment of Indians. In 1773 he presented to the Viceroy in Mexico City aRepresentación, which is sometimes termed a “Bill of Rights” for Indians. The Church had long been convinced of the need to protect them from exploitation. Already in 1537, my predecessor Pope Paul III proclaimed the dignity and rights of the native peoples of the Americas by insisting that they not be deprived of their freedom or the possession of their property. In Spain the Dominican priest, Francisco de Vitoria, became the staunch advocate of the rights of the Indians and formulated the basis for international law regarding the rights of peoples.

Unfortunately not all the members of the Church lived up to their Christian responsibilities. But let us not dwell excessively on mistakes and wrongs, even as we commit ourselves to overcoming their present effects. Let us also be grateful to those who came to this land, faithful to the teachings of Jesus, witnesses of his new commandment of love. These men and women, with good hearts and good minds, shared knowledge and skills from their own cultures and shared their most precious heritage, the faith, as well. Now, we are called to learn from the mistakes of the past and we must work together for reconciliation and healing, as brothers and sisters in Christ. “

Full text found at here.

A League of their Own

They don’t call it “Beautiful British Columbia” for nothing. And as much as the words stick in my throat as a Toronto native, I have to admit, BC truly is beautiful.

This past week, cameraman David Leross and I were in Vancouver for the CWL’s National Convention filming interviews for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus, which will feature the League.

Here’s a little of what went on behind-the-scenes.

One of the highlights of the Convention was Dr. Josephine Lombardi’s keynotes. As many of you already know, Dr. Josephine Lombardi is the Assistant Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary here in Toronto. Her very well-received keynote addresses reflected on the theme of the Convention, “One Heart, One Voice, One Mission”.

In the following, we asked Dr. Lombardi to share with us a little of what inspired her talks.

Stay tuned for more on this story featuring the Catholic Women’s League in an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus.

To read more about the Convention, here are some posts by S+L producer, Alicia Ambrosio:

Women’s Business
http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/faith-education/womens-business

Getting things done as only women can
http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/faith-education/getting-things-done-as-only-women-can

Practical prophets of wisdom
http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/faith-education/cwl-opening-mass-practical-prophets-of-wisdom

 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

Deacon-structing Marriage part 7: The Eucharist

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I recently heard a radio program where they were exploring the idea that the Summer of 2015 was the Summer that love died. They argued this because of the number of celebrity break-ups: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner; Britney Spears and Charlie Ebersol; Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas and Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Not to mention Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog! So sad.

One of the commentators asked the question that I was asking myself, “Who cares?” The answer however, rings true: Love and Marriage are in such disgrace, in such decay that we need to hold on to those ideals, the fairy tale marriages, longing with hope that love is not dead. It’s true. People are dissatisfied with marriage. Marriage has run out of wine. Perhaps, instead of looking at celebrities as marriage role models, we need to look to the Eucharist. (And read this whole deacon-structing marriage series!)

Last time, we spoke about Marriage being a foretaste of Heaven and throughout the series we’ve looked at what it means to love totally. It was just a matter of time until we ended up speaking about the Eucharist.

If you’ve been going to Mass for the last 5 weeks and paying attention, you’ve noticed that we’ve been reading the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, also known as the “Bread of Life Discourse”. In the Gospel of John, the section when Jesus makes the claim that he is “the bread come down from Heaven” and that “the bread that I will give is my flesh” begins with the feeding of the multitudes. We hear the last installment of this “mini-series on the Eucharist” today (21st Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year B) at Mass. We have spent the last seven weeks looking a Marriage and all the while I kept thinking that I should be writing about the Eucharist; well, here we go. It is no coincidence that today, as we begin wrapping up our deacon-structing series on Marriage, the themes of Marriage and the Eucharist converge at Mass.

If you ever have to explain the Eucharist to someone, the best image you can use is that of Marriage. Marriage is a total self-giving. It is a pouring out of one-self for the other. Marriage is a free, faithful, fruitful and total giving. This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the kind of “one-flesh-union” that God wants to have with us. This union, this “Communion” is what happens in the Eucharist.

  • Christ gives himself freely: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)
  • Christ gives himself faithfully: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
  • Also Christ’s self giving is fruitful: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  •  And finally, Christ gives himself totally: “Take, eat; this is my body….” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22).

That is why today’s second reading is the one where St. Paul says to the Ephesians that husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25).

This passage from Ephesians 5:22-32 is always a cause for discontent and therefore deserves its own blog entry. Why don’t you write to me (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and share your thoughts on it and then come back next week and let’s go through it together?

Photo  – CNS/Joey Kelly, EPA


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Women’s Business

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When one thinks of Prince Edward Island one tends to think of glowing sunsets over green fields, farms where animals roam free, small towns where everyone knows everyone else, and quaint green-gabled homes. One would not immediately think of the province as a place where 37 percent of people use the services of food banks to make ends meet. That’s more than twice the national average.

Low wages, a lack of full time jobs and high rates of seasonal work contribute to the disproportionately high rate of food bank use in P.E.I. Among those looking for help making ends meet are women. One of the things women using food banks often can not afford, but urgently need, are feminine hygiene products. This past spring the Catholic Women’s League in P.E.I. got in on a campaign to stock food bank shelves with those necessary, but often forgotten, products.

The “Taking Care of Women’s Business. Period.” Campaign was launched by a Tracey Comeau, a P.E.I woman who read about low income women feeling like their last shred of dignity was robbed when they could no longer afford feminine hygiene products. Comeau launched a 28 day campaign to collect women’s sanitary products and drop them off at local food banks.

The CWL Provincial Executive heard about the campaign and decided to get on board. Louise Doiron, the CWL Provincial President, sent an email to every CWL council on the island with details about the campaign.

“We told our members to buy whatever product they would normally buy, even soap and other items we know women need, and drop it off at their local food bank,” Doiron explained.

While Doiron does not know how many items were delivered by CWL members, the 28 day campaign launched by Comeau collected 1, 439 boxes of feminine hygiene products.

Inspired by the success of the campaign and the way CWL members, responded, Doiron says she is thinking of ways the league could get feminine hygiene products to even more women in need.

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Getting things done as only women can

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In Abu Dabi in 1993, there was one Catholic Church. The work week in the Arab Emirate was Sunday to Thursday. For Jacqueline Nogier and her husband – both Catholic teachers who were working in Abu Dabi- that meant going to church after work on Sundays. This was Nogier’s life for two years. It taught her that it is possible to live one’s faith quietly and have it play a central role in one’s life. Still, when she returned to her home to Canada she couldn’t stop herself from jumping in feet first and getting involved in something that would allow to her live her faith openly, on a daily basis.

Home was Snow Lake, Manitoba, a town of just over 900 people located 684 kilometres north of Winnipeg, with an even smaller Catholic population.

Nogier says on the one Sunday a month when Mass is available, an average of 15 people attend. That means when something needs to be done “If everybody doesn’t help, nothing happens” she says. This sense of responsibility towards her community, and the need to live her faith in way she had not been able to while abroad resulted in Nogier taking some decisive action.

In 1997, shortly after returning to Canada, “I turned to my Mom and said let’s join the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) together” Nogier recalls.

“Mom” is Ella Nogier, a retired grade two teacher with a sharp wit, contagious smile, and abundant energy that she channels into whatever needs to be done.

Recalling how she joined the CWL Ella Nogier states, “there was a council in our parish, but many members didn’t go to meetings and the president ended up having meetings by herself. So my daughter and I decided we had to help her out.”

That might have been the catalyst, but joining the league gave Ella Nogier “something to do with my daughter” and fellowship with other Catholic women. “It is amazing to be with people that pray the same prayers as you. They know the Hail Mary. Not everyone [in Snow Lake] does.”

The female fellowship Ella and Jacqueline experienced in their council ignited a flame that kept growing. Jacqueline says “I didn’t want my growth and my learning to stop.” So Jacqueline accepted position on the provincial executive council, “and I pulled my mom along.”

Jacqueline also “pulled” her sister Melissa along into the league. “I found something cool and I wanted to share it with my Mom and my sister,” she recalls. And so it was that Melissa Nogier joined the CWL 15 years ago.

Her contact with the league went back to her teenage years when her mother signed her up to serve at the annual tea. Melissa says at a certain point “I realized I can’t expect women my mom’s age to continue [their work] forever.”

Her increasing exposure to the work of the CWL through her mother and sister’s involvement opened Melissa’s eyes to the needs that the league tries to respond to at the parish level. She joined the league, signing up in the same council as her mother and sister, and started taking on more and more responsibility.

Six years ago Melissa moved to Vita, Manitoba and discovered that her parish did not have a CWL council. She kept her membership active in her home parish in Snow Lake, and still helps out the council’s activities from afar. “I went home to visit and was handed four books of tickets of sell, so I did” she recalls.

Though all three Nogier women joined the CWL for different reasons, all three say they have found the league a source of spiritual and human fellowship. Melissa says “connecting with women of different ages who share one common belief” gives her a safe place to express her values, something “that doesn’t happen very often” outside the league.

Ella Nogier similarly speaks of the beauty of having the fellowship of other women, but with the added bonus that it gives her an extra connection to her two adult daughters. Meanwhile Jacqueline, who now serves as Resolutions Chair on the CWL National Executive, says her desire to keep growing and serving the work of the league has given her leadership skills and confidence she did not feel she had before. On a person note, it gave her “an extra layer of sisterhood” with her sister Melissa, and a vehicle to connect with her mother as an adult.  

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

CWL Opening Mass – Practical Prophets of Wisdom

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What happens when you gather together some of the most committed, passionate, dedicated Catholic women from across the country in one church? Vancouver’s St. Francis Xavier church in Vancouver learned the answer: the congregation outsings the choir and the decibel level threatens to take the roof off the building.

The Catholic Women’s League opened their 95th annual national convention August 16 in Vancouver. More than 800 members took part in the opening mass. Their enthusiasm was palpable.

Addressing the women during his homily Vancouver’s Archbishop Michael Miller thanked the women for their “prophetic mission of wisdom”.

Appearing to beaming as he spoke, the archbishop explained that to be wise means to have insight into how things really are. For Christians that means being able to see when something is “of God” and when it is not. Women, he said, have a particular sensitivity for discerning God’s presence and have a duty to be “practical prophets of wisdom”.  

Why are women called to be practical prophets? According to the archbishop – who cited the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis – because women’s gift for focusing on the person in a given situation is opens the door for God’s mercy. He said “now is the hour when women are called to use their feminine genius to protect and promote the dignity of every person.”

On hand for the opening Mass and opening ceremony was the Honorable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. She reminded the women that Canada “is a nation born of conversation, not conversation” and the CWL has been an integral part of that conversation, providing a strong foundation for communities. She called on the league’s 85,000 members to continue working to uphold the Christian values that provide a solid foundation for the communities that make up the nation.

The CWL convention continues until August 19 in Vancouver.

Photos courtesy of Olaf Photo.