Category: Feature Stories

What is the value of growing up in an African-American parish?

What is the value of growing up in an African-American parish?

By: Cathy McClain

I am a convert. The sign of the cross – this wonderful, visible recognition of my faith – is what brought me to the church.

Geography is what brought me to my particular parish. I have been to many Catholic churches but always find the need to return to my home parish. I can receive the Eucharist and fulfill my Mass obligation at any of the six parishes I pass every Sunday morning but it is only at my home parish that I feel like an included member of the Body of Christ. I need the worship experience every Sunday to give me the ammunition to get through the week.

I grew up in an economically depressed community that was created in response to political pressure about the way returning veterans of color were being treated by the City of Baltimore. My community of Cherry Hill was the home to the largest concentration of public housing east of Chicago and received very few human services even though the majority of the community lived below the federal poverty income guideline.

The Josephites had the foresight to create a parish, called St. Veronica’s, in this impoverished community of 17,000 African Americans and the church quickly became the anchor of the community. The parish became the change agent for many residents in the community.

Receiving services and assistance when I was growing up meant spending countless hours at a bus stop and traveling for hours to the center of the city and often being sent back multiple times. When there was a demonstrated need for energy assistance, the pastor connected with Baltimore Gas and Electric Company and government services and invited them to set up satellite locations in the community. The pastor even housed them at the church at no cost.

When there were not enough recreational opportunities for young people, the parish again opened its doors to Operation Champ so the community children had a safe place to play and learn crafts.

Other services quickly followed: a food pantry, a thrift store, a drug treatment program, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and even a Headstart program. Later there were homeownership workshops and job fairs hosted by the parish … all in an effort to make the community self-sufficient.

The community grew and because of the influence of St. Veronica, a major community anchor, Cherry Hill became self-sustaining. But something else happened. The residents were filled with pride as they were empowered to take control of their own lives. They became fishers of men.

The parish itself grew because of its outreach and the volunteer rate at the parish is still about 45 percent. All of the services are done by volunteers, with the exception of the Headstart program. Though there are still plenty of handouts – food, clothing and so on, the parish is providing education and training to allow community residents and parishioners to help themselves. Services have never been limited to parishioners.

St. Veronica is a family church where I was not related to anyone outside of my immediate small family when I joined. The parish adopted me and groomed me and nourished my gifts to help me become a part of the fabric of the community.

We come for Mass on Sunday morning and stay for the fellowship as we catch up on each other’s lives. We take the time to know one another rather than the hit or miss I have experienced in other churches. That same sense of welcome is extended to whomever comes through the door for Mass.

After 70 years, St. Veronica’s Church is still an anchor in the Cherry Hill community – providing food and clothing to residents regardless of their religious background or income. Worship is spirit filled and fulfilling on so many levels. I don’t lose my sense of self in the worship, rather it is embraced. The parish community wraps you in its embrace and covers you during any storm. As someone who doesn’t have a lot of family, that has been life sustaining for me.

Today when I consider the fiscal decisions that many of our parishes are facing I am concerned that a valuable piece of our history may be lost. Cherry Hill would not be the community it is without the influence of the Josephites and the creation of the parish of St. Veronica.

The Josephites taught those who were too poor to give to instead give of their time and talent. They helped us move from members of the parish to owners of the parish. My guess is that it is still one of the few parishes in the country that is run very efficiently and completely by volunteers assisting the pastor. St. Veronica’s, in a very real way, represents what the Josephites had in mind when they honored their mission to work in the impoverished African-American community to help them realize their worth.

As we move on to the next big thing, it is my sincere hope that we don’t overlook this major contribution to the African-American community and the important work of the Josephites.

While I only wrote about my experience at St. Veronica’s, I am certain that members of other Josephite parishes can say with some certainty that it represents your parish as well. The work of the Josephites, after all, is transferable and we are blessed to have them.

Cathy McClain, a mother and grandmother, is a member of St. Veronica, pastored by Rev. Steven Ositimehin, and volunteers as the parish secretary. She also is a program manager for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Bishop Reflection: Cardinal Donald Wuerl

‘Because of the Josephites, the faith of the
African-American Catholic community continues to
flourish, grow and meet the challenges of the day’

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of interviews with bishops who lead dioceses where Josephites serve. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, reflects on his experience with Josephite parishes and African-American Catholics.

(CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Who are the Josephites to you?

As the spiritual shepherd of a large archdiocese, I am most grateful for the dedication and service of so many who help this Church in her mission to manifest the kingdom of God in our midst. The Josephite priests and brothers, in their own way in that respect, continue to offer significant service as they live their charism within the archdiocese. The gifts they bring to the Church are undeniable as they are evidenced in the vibrant faith of the African-American Catholics throughout the archdiocese and the nation, and it is a joy for me to call the Josephites brothers and co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord.

The Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites) plays an important and invaluable role in the life and mission of the Archdiocese of Washington. For example, we are privileged to be host to the order’s Saint Joseph Seminary, and their Pastoral Center, which brings many good men from around the country and the world here to study, pray and bear witness to the loving care and freeing truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Also, multiple parishes in the archdiocese are currently, or have in the past, been entrusted to the care of the Josephites, including the Church of the Incarnation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Saint Luke’s, and Saint Benedict the Moor churches. Each of these longstanding parishes offers substantial social outreach and each in turn often works together with other churches historically serving the African-American community, such as for events like the annual East of the River Revival.

Thanks to the sacramental, educational and pastoral ministry of the Josephites, that portion of the flock entrusted to them has grown and been strengthened in the Spirit, and they have also helped to build up the kingdom of God in a way that others simply might not be able to. Because of their work, the faith of the African-American Catholic community continues to flourish, grow and meet the challenges of the day. This has included making use of their particular gifts in the service of our common calling to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be a bridge to the greater community, recognizing that we are all sisters and brothers, one human family before God.

In what ways do you interact with the Josephites?

As archbishop, it is my privilege to regularly visit our parishes, including those with Josephite leadership. It was my pleasure just a short while ago to celebrate a major anniversary of one that had been given to the care of the Josephites when it was originally established. Looking back at their history, I noted that the parish was a living tribute to the great faith of the African-American members of the Church who in both good times and bad, when enduring injustice and struggling for justice, always remained strong in the faith and in recognizing our identity as God’s family. The archdiocese also recently held its special liturgy and reception to celebrate Black Catholic History Month at one of these parish communities under the Josephites’ care.

Last April the Josephite Pastoral Center and the Archdiocese of Washington, along with the National Black Catholic Congress and Pax Christi USA, hosted a Black Catholic Convocation for parishioners. What do you see as the benefit to gathering Black Catholics within the archdiocese?

The Convocation offered a fruitful opportunity for area African-American Catholics to gather for fellowship and prayer, and to discuss topics relevant not only to them, but all peoples, and not only within this archdiocese but across several dioceses.

Saint Paul, in referring to the Church Universal as the Body of Christ, reminds us that within this one body, this one family of God, there are many parts, each existing not as separate units, but with their own special gifts in communion and harmony with the whole. These gatherings are unique opportunities that showcase the enriching cultural diversity in worship, community and leadership that exists within the Catholic Church, which together is also like a beautiful symphony. Each time these gatherings take place, the Church expresses its universality and gives testimony to our basic belief that we are all created and loved by our God.

How are religious communities included into the mission of the Archdiocese of Washington?

When we speak of the contributions made by religious communities, we must first give thanks to God and acknowledge that the reason our Catholic education and healthcare systems exist at all is precisely because of our women and men religious. Beyond their legacy of first establishing and operating our schools and hospitals, even with lay people now taking over many of these functions, the spirit of these religious continue to inspire. Our archdiocesan Office of Consecrated Life works to promote and support vocations to the religious life and our Office of Missions works closely with religious communities as well.

Since our nation’s capital is located here, together with institutions of higher learning like The Catholic University of America, nearly 70 communities of women religious and more than 40 men’s communities have a presence in the archdiocese in addition to many societies for apostolic life and institutes of religious life. They have all given their life to daily serve the Lord and others and we depend on their charism quite a bit, from the great importance of their prayers to their diverse ministries of teaching, healing, caring, and evangelizing. As with the Saint Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart, these religious orders have an invaluable function here in working for the renewal of society through their support and participation in the New Evangelization.

In 2016, you celebrated the 50th anniversary of your priestly ordination. In your 50 years of priestly ministry, how have you seen the diversity of the Church change?

Here in the archdiocese, because Washington is such a cosmopolitan city, we are privileged to be able to experience the richness of multi-cultural heritages and perspectives. We celebrate Mass in more than 20 languages and minister to people from all around the globe in our parishes and through our archdiocesan Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach. When Pope Francis came to visit Washington in 2015 and we had that grand celebration of Mass for the canonization of Saint Junípero Serra on the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, as you looked around at the assembled crowd, what you saw was a slice of the whole world, reflecting the universality of the Church and the whole human family. People of every nationality, ethnicity, race and socio-economic background were there.

This diversity has always been present in the Church Universal from the very start, as we read in the account of the first Pentecost. This diversity of peoples and cultures, which includes the whole human family, has always been there, but a bit disjointed and not always so visible and apparent, and in this respect, we have seen great change in the past 50 years. Back in the 1960s, a person’s experience of the world was often limited to his or her own community; now we have a global awareness and this strengthens our bonds of communion and solidarity.

During my priestly ministry, the world saw the popes – Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis – becoming international apostles, traveling to practically every point on the globe. Developments in the news media, television and then the Internet progressively exposed us to a greater international experience. Now, today, we have a much greater awareness and appreciation for the universality of the Church and for the fact that we are one human family, whether we can trace our family lineage back to Europe, Asia, Africa or our Native American ancestors have been in the Americas for centuries.

As at Pentecost, rather than everyone speaking a different language, we are increasingly speaking and understanding with one voice. This greater realization and experience of cultural, ethnic and racial diversity has been not only a blessing for our Church, but for our nation and for our world. There is still more work to be done though.

St. Joseph Manor welcomes retired Josephites

Living in retirement but still serving in prayer

By Ariana Cassard

Since Josephite priests and brothers devote their lives to the mission of the Josephite Society, where do they go when they retire?

On a hilltop of land in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Baltimore, St. Joseph’s Manor is home to 17 retired Josephite priests and one brother. Both custodial and ambulatory care is provided for the men, but beyond the physical help they receive, these Josephites find joy in living in community and prayer.

“Josephites are aging, just like any other religious community,” said Father Paul Oberg, SSJ, rector of St. Joseph’s Manor. He considers the Manor to be not a place of surrender at the end of the retired priests’ lives, but as a home in which they can continue their ministry.

Each day at the Manor begins with prayer at 7:30 a.m., followed by Mass and breakfast. After breakfast, some men are taken to doctors appointments, while others spend time reading one of the numerous books in the library.

Once lunch is served, it is followed by free time in the afternoon. At this point, many residents choose to venture out of the building and even off the property. Some spend time indulging in hobbies, such as gardening and painting.

Evenings are spent having dinner as a community and either joining in on special events or logging in more prayer time.

“I try to spend roughly four hours in prayer each day,” said Father Francis Butler, SSJ.

For the retired priests at the Manor, prayer is their main involvement in the furthering of the ministry. They pray for successful ministries, adaptation of the men coming from Nigeria, more vocations and the African-American communities the Josephites serve.

The great benefit of this life is the freedom from responsibility, according to Father Butler. He recalls the days as an active priest and all of its joys, but also the expectation of being available all hours of the day.

The men are given the gift of optional activities, such as “Spiritual Exercise” with Sister Anne Marie, a Daughter of Charity who comes Tuesdays and Thursdays to spend time with the residents. Volunteer Mike Duggan, called the “activity man,” will pick up residents and take them wherever they’d like to go, whether that’s the drugstore or a nearby horse farm.

Visitors and volunteers are vital to the operation of the Manor. Groups from surrounding parishes and organizations devote time to visiting with the men, organizing celebrations, helping with daily tasks.

“Volunteers bring outside joy to the men,” said Father Oberg. “We try to keep them busy as much as we can, but we could use more support.”

Volunteer Jeannie MacDonald has found her time at St. Joseph’s Manor to be mutually beneficial. In 2011, she moved into a house on West Lake Avenue in Baltimore. A neighbor told her about the beautiful Manor down the street and encouraged her to venture onto the property. There she came across a man walking his dogs and struck up a conversation, eventually revealing himself to be the rector. He invited her to come for Holy Hour once a month.

At the time, Ms. MacDonald brought with her many questions. She had married a Catholic man, but it was not something she practiced. She slowly became more involved at the Manor, attending Mass, and then staying for breakfast to talk with the men. It was through their faithfulness that she came to her own faith.

“The first thing that happened was I met these people, and they showed me a side of the Catholic faith I never knew,” said MacDonald. “You can’t be here and go to Mass with these men and not gain faith.”

She was Confirmed in the church at age 63. She now volunteers her time at the Manor four days a week, helping the men with their belongings, communicating with loved ones, taking them offsite to run errands and attend appointments.

“They really are all individuals,” she said, noting her joy in speaking with each resident and hearing about his priestly ministry. Her perception of the church has been completely altered by volunteering her time to these men.

Because no one ages at the same pace, the Manor must be suited for both the retired priests who are still very active and those who are facing tough medical battles. The two registered nurses and one doctor, along with the rest of the staff, ensure that each resident is provided with the best care.

“It’s like a family. When one gets sick, it hurts us all,” said Father Daniel Paul Bastianelli, who moved into the Manor six years ago.

As this population ages, financial obstacles also increase. “It’s a struggle, because the medical costs have skyrocketed,” said Father Oberg. In order to maintain the facility and quality of care for these men, the Society solicits the help of organizations and individuals who can donate resources.

“Because of the generosity of donors, we are able to keep going,” Father Oberg said.

Northwest Philadelphia parishes prepare for National Black Catholic Congress

WEST OAK LANE >> Deacon William Bradley, of Mt. Airy, the director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Office for Black Catholics, recently led a group from Catholic parishes from around the city to prepare for the National Black Catholic Congress XII.

The session — “A Day of Reflection & Preparation” — took place at the St. Athanasius School Hall, 7105 Limekiln Pike in West Oak Lane, Saturday, March 11.

Also presenting at the meeting was the Rev. Stephen D. Thorne, pastor of the St. Martin de Porres Church in North Philadelphia, the Neumann University chaplain and former director of the Office for Black Catholics. Thorne previously served as pastor of the old St. Therese of the Child Jesus Church in Mt. Airy.

“We should be grateful that we have a St. Martin de Porres Foundation in Philadelphia,” said Bradley, who serves as deacon at the St. Raymond of Penafort parish in Mt. Airy. “We are the only archdiocese that has this type of foundation that will sponsor many to attend this event. They will cover the $350 conference cost. You will have to take care of the airfare and hotel for the conference this July in Orlando.”

The Rev. Sylvester Peterka, pastor of St. Vincent’s Church in Germantown, asked questions about the rooming arrangements.

“Can parish members who attend split the cost by having more in a room?” she asked.

Bradley said single, double, triple and quadruple rooms are available.

Thorne explained what will be new about this year’s Congress XII will be that the parish representatives are being encouraged to create the platform, rather than the bishops and NBCC officials sharing the platform. To this end, there will be a delegate representing each diocese or archdiocese in the country.

In the coming weeks, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who will be attending the NBCC, will be making the selection, according to Thorne.

“The delegate will be a working position,” Thorne said. “This means this person will have to be present at all the sessions. It involves a lot of reading, reflecting, attending sessions and then bringing back the information to the parishes.”

Thorne added the person must be vocal enough to share ideas even amid cardinals and bishops from around the country and world. All expenses will be paid for delegates.

Bradley addressed many questions about how the local delegate would be selected. He said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McIntyre likely would join with him in making recommendations to the archbishop. Bradley urged anyone who was interested in becoming a delegate to get in touch with him by email.

This year’s Philadelphia Pastoral Plan Priorities were developed at the first NBCC preparation session at the St. Cyprian Church in West Philadelphia last November, according to Bradley. They include addressing race and prejudice, the economy, living the gospel and evangelization and outreach. They also stressed the need to address the needs of youth and young adults, the overall NBCC vision, loving one’s neighbor and prayer.

The meeting concluded with the registration information for the Congress XII to be held in Orlando, Fla. Those in attendance were encouraged to pray for the success of the national event and to ask their fellow parishioners what they felt should be the priorities.

The next meeting will be held at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 222 N. 17th St., Saturday, May 13.

By Arlene Edmonds For Digital First Media (courtesy of “The Leader”)

NBCC Interviews Father Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J.

An interview of Father Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J. of St. Raymond & St. Leo the Great Parish. Interview takes place at Notre Dame University at the National Black Catholic Congress Vocations Symposium on May 4-5th, 2010.

2017 March for Life – Washington DC January 27

St Joseph’s in Alexandria, VA hosted 150 High School pilgrims from Fargo, ND for masses during their time here for the March for Life.

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St. Joseph Catholic Church holds Mass and reception for Fargo North Dakota Pilgrims

Photos from the Fargo North Dakota Pilgrims Mass and reception at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA – January 26, 2017.

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Pilgrims from Fargo North Dakota at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA - January 26, 2017 (Photo taken by Phyllis L. Johnson) 27

Pilgrims from Fargo North Dakota at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA - January 26, 2017 (Photo taken by Phyllis L. Johnson) 28

US Bishops Release Road Map to Improve Race Relations

A new report, released this month, comes in response to racial tensions that the country faced throughout 2016.

Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a Wednesday morning in September, more than 500 people packed the pews of Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church to grieve the death of Justin Carr, a young black man they would bury at 26 years old.

Just a week before his Sept. 28 funeral, Justin “Jroc” Carr, a Catholic and expectant new father, while standing between two ministers at a protest over police brutality in front of Charlotte’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, was shot by a young black man whose motives are still not clear. He died after receiving last rites from his pastor, Father Carl Del Giudice.

His mother, Vivian, told the Register that her son came downtown to protest peacefully with one goal in mind: He wanted to draw attention to society’s treatment of African-Americans in Charlotte and the rest of the United States — just as his grandmother had done during the 1960s’ civil-rights movement.

“He was fighting for a cause and for what he believed in,” Vivian told the Register.

The aftermath of Carr’s death and others like it showed many Catholics, particularly minorities, looking toward the institutional Church for leadership on issues of race. The Diocese of Charlotte became one of many dioceses in 2016 that came face-to-face with the realization that the Church needed to do more to actively help society heal its racial wounds and address the root causes of violence in communities.

Thanks to the work of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, U.S. bishops and the faithful in parishes have a blueprint, with the January release of a 29-page report.

The 20-member task force was led by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, who presented the task force’s findings to the bishops at last November’s general assembly in Baltimore. Archbishop Gregory is one of eight black prelates in the Church in the United States.

In his presentation, Archbishop Gregory explained that while the USCCB’s past statements on race were an important foundation, the special task force found they were “not sufficient” for the Church, which was being called upon to actively involve itself in communities with its “bold prophetic voice.”

Special Task Force Report

The task force report made general recommendations for both dioceses and the USCCB that outlined how they could make a long-term commitment to addressing the root problems of race relations, systemic racism and violence in communities. Archbishop Gregory stressed to bishops in November that the task force’s recommendations were “ongoing” and not intended to provide “one-time solutions.”

The report outlined how dioceses and the bishops’ conference could take effective action. Among its recommendations were prayer throughout the year, including Masses, Rosaries, ecumenical and interfaith services, and having bishops convene and host local dialogues that could bring together disparate community members, religious representatives, youth and members of law enforcement. It recommended parish-based and diocesan-based initiatives to educate the faithful, clergy and church staff on race relations and related issues, and foster opportunities for them to see firsthand the challenges in their own and others’ communities and understand how the Church can act.

The task force also encouraged both the USCCB and diocesan bishops to identify ways the Catholic Campaign for Human Development could be used to support their efforts.

It also recommended the USCCB expedite a statement on racism in society from the full body of bishops; develop closer collaboration on civil rights between various USCCB offices and key groups, such as the National Black Catholic Congress; and make the National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities an annual event.

As well, the report conveyed the views of law enforcement representatives, who said the Church could provide a forum for police and community members to talk, encourage police departments to become more transparent, use its voice to hold public servants accountable, and work with law enforcement to care for the neighborhoods surrounding their churches.

The task force report also noted the Church must examine its own actions, including its hiring practices and the impact on the communities of the closing of parishes and schools.

Bishops Empowered

The report was greeted by bishops at the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore, particularly by bishops who have been already engaged in healing race relations and violence in communities.

“I welcome it. It’s exactly what we should be doing as bishops,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told the Register. Baltimore was struck by civil unrest after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man killed while in police custody. Archbishop Lori explained that “deep and systemic problems” were afflicting the city, and the protests following Gray’s death heightened his awareness that the Church needs to re-engage, listen and work closely with the community to solve these issues. The “pool of resources and wisdom” in the task force report, he said, would aid their own ongoing efforts in Baltimore and help them evaluate where they are going.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, also told the Register that the report’s “objectives are on target.”

In March 2016, Bishop Baker’s diocese co-hosted a major ecumenical and interfaith discussion on racial reconciliation with Samford University. Bishop Baker said that conference helped him understand “the divide is deeper than we thought,” but also showed they could begin to bridge the divide by praying together, developing the art of listening, and having discussion, not debate. He praised Bishop Edward K. Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, who “vocalized major flaws in our culture and in our Catholic response,” as well as Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri, Nigeria, who presented how to reconcile black and white Americans as sons and daughters of the same God, with a theology he called “reconfiliation.”

Bishop Baker explained his own listening sessions between black Catholics and white Catholics showed him how the “white flight” from the city centers harmed racial integration to the point that “we’re really still segregated in many ways by where we live.” Changes in the law, he said, did not mean hearts had changed. He has been encouraging parish partnerships to host events together in order to build relationships that can bridge the divide between black and white.

“My only concern is how slow we are to move on things,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago told the Register the task force helped convince bishops that the Church “is a respected convener … in the midst of trauma, tragedy, even violence, to sponsor a sense of calm and bring people to their senses again.”

The bishop said the Church has to strengthen its efforts to catechize and raise up the family, while recognizing that it may not get “much cooperation from the larger society.”

However, Bishop Perry, who is the postulator for the cause of Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, the first black Catholic priest in the U.S., also added that those efforts could have a powerful boost if the Church canonized its first African-American saint from the six men and women already under consideration.

“If we had an African-American saint, it would message to African-Americans that we have finally arrived in the Church, that we finally have something to offer, that holiness is possible from amongst those of our ethnic stripe, that the contribution we have been making to the Church for several hundred years is finally recognized,” he said.

Parishes: A Powerful Force

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, a consultant on the task force, told the Register that the local Church should not be afraid to get involved in these issues. Parishes in particular, he said, can be a “powerful force” to transform people’s lives and heal communities.

“The Church and pastors are trusted in neighborhoods to bring together different constituencies,” he said. Bishop O’Connell, who has worked with gang members and sheriffs in the Los Angeles area to build relationships, said the parish can likewise provide similar opportunities to build bridges. Above all, he said, it was vital to bring people in the community together to pray.

“We did the work of evangelization by bringing people closer to Jesus,” he said, “bringing them together as sons and daughters of God.”

The bishop said Pope Francis has been calling parishioners to get more involved in their neighborhoods and become more present in the lives of their neighbors, many of whom are experiencing brokenness and a lack of love in their own families. This lack of love, he said, can put an 11-year-old down a path of drugs, gangs and “looking for love in the wrong places to heal pain.”

But the local Church, he said, through its parishes and schools, can really transform a community by helping people to become good husbands and fathers and wives and mothers, heal family ties, and teach them to pray — particularly as a family. A Catholic community that is engaged with a pregnant single mother from the beginning of her “wonderful pregnancy” — because the life inside her is precious in the eyes of God — can create a completely different narrative for a child’s life, as well.

People in their communities, Bishop O’Connell said, need the local Church to take up that challenge.

“They need the love of Jesus and the love of Mary.”

Bishop Burbidge’s MLK Day Visit

Photos from Bishop Burbidge’s visit to St. Joseph’s for MLK Day.

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Racial Harmony

The quest continues

By Father Joseph Doyle, SSJ

A protester is detained by Louisiana law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge July 9. (CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)

A protester is detained by Louisiana law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge July 9. (CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)

In light of the atrocious acts of violence over the past few months, new fears have arisen in both the African-American and white communities. People wonder when it will end and some ask themselves what they can do about it. One answer to the problem lies in the word: harmony.

Almost ten years ago, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, of the archdiocese of New Orleans, wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony. The document demanded that all people recognize that we are brothers and sisters made in the image and likeness of God and that we treat one another accordingly. The archbishop called for an end to discrimination in schools, workplace and housing.

At the end of his letter, he offered many practical suggestions as to how individuals and parishes might work to bring about racial harmony. Now, ten years later, we can look back and see that some progress has been made.

At least there is more diversity. But diversity is not harmony. It might be a good starting point to have people who are different rub shoulders with one another, but that is not harmony. Many places of employment, institutions of learning, public service, etc. are diverse in terms of age, sex, race and religion, but often harmony is lacking.

When we think of harmony we think of music – how different notes, played on different (diverse) musical instruments, produce beautiful music. Unfortunately, some modern music lacks harmony and thus does violence not only to the ears, but to the soul. Likewise, some modern art lacks harmony in color, shape, texture, and so on, thus producing violence not only to the eye, but to the soul as well.

Harmony begins with oneself. It is called inner harmony when a right-ordered, virtuous life is the result of a right-ordered relationship with God. In the Catholic Church, the sacramental system, tradition, teachings and the witness of holy people are great advantages to living a harmonious life. From the harmonious individual, the ripple effect spreads to the family, from the family to the neighborhood and workplace and from there to the rest of society. Acts of violence find no place in such an environment, but because of original sin, they will always exist to one degree or another.

Ultimately, God is the one who brings about harmony, just as he did in the beginning with the creation of the universe as we read in the Book of Genesis. Through the original sin, Adam and Eve lost the inner harmony they once had. The Good News is that Jesus Christ restored the inner harmony to humankind by his life, death and resurrection – not only for individuals, but for communities as well.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how there was harmony among the first Christians, not perfect but enough to have observers remark, “see how the Christians love one another.” Love is at the center of a harmonious life. It is God’s solution to the problem of violence in our society.

Father Joseph Doyle is novice master for the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.