Renewing our Commitment

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

In an effort to raise awareness of the suffering caused by child abuse and neglect, Congress and the President designated April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983. Since that time religious, public service, philanthropic and other organizations that care deeply for the welfare of children have marked April as a special time for highlighting and renewing their commitments to the care and protection of children and young people.

As your Bishop nothing is more integral the Diocesan Bishop’s mission of teaching, governing, and sanctifying in the name of Christ than to provide the utmost care for those who need it most. From counseling the needy to extending financial aid to caregivers, our Church and Diocese are committed to the physical, spiritual and social well-being of everyone we encounter. This is particularly true for the children we seek to support, guide and care for, and in fact who are entrusted to us by the Lord Himself, who in St. Mark’s Gospel  (Mark 10:13-16) says “let the children come unto me and do not hinder them.”

It is important to me and our diocese that we mark this national observance again this year  by recalling and reinforcing our steadfast commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments for children in our schools, parishes and other facilities. The Diocese of Orange takes this task very seriously, as does the wider  Church.  We employ a comprehensive background screening for all adults likely to be in contact with children – already over 60,000 have been vetted. This process allows for the collection of a wide variety of past screening data, including extensive backgrounds checks and fingerprinting, and is designed to enhance already in-place diocesan policies. We recently had another session on safe environment training  on our Christ Cathedral campus for our parish staff and volunteers.  Later on this summer we will undergo our annual audit by the Stonebridge firm. [Ryan, Check this wording out with Shirl].

Our diocese additionally requires all clergy, employees, and volunteers to undergo Safe Environment Training. In 2011 alone, the Diocese trained 288 priests, 101 deacons, 1,630 teachers, 2,311 school employees and more than 19,000 volunteers. Our schools and Religious Education classes at parishes and diocesan centers also provide Safe Environment education for children. This procedure is suited to their age and level of understanding. In 2011, nearly 64,000 children participated in this critically important awareness program.

Please join me in recognizing the tireless efforts put forth by those involved in the development and implementation of all initiatives for the protection of children and young people.  This vital aspect of life and ministry is often in addition to other ministerial and apostolic duties.  Keep them in your prayers and remember that care for others is a duty and a gift. By sharing our concern and becoming responsible for the safety and well-being of those who come into our care is a spiritual act we can be proud of, every day.  And, above all, if you know that they are engaged in this work, please thank them personally, and pray for them and support them.

The Church has committed herself to protect children and remains vigilant in protecting and caring for our most cherished resource as an integral and necessary part of our mission of proclaiming the Gospel.  Much has been done, but more needs to be done. Until abuse is no longer a part of society, I and our Church will continue these efforts to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults.

Catholics and Evangelicals

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I was recently reading several reflections from both Pope Benedict XVI and Francis.  These particular reflections had to do with the esteem and regard that Evangelical Churches had for Pope Benedict XVI and his teaching, and the esteem that Pope Francis has for the Evangelicals.  These  can be found on the internet, and in fact are mirror images I believe of the same reality, of working and ministering together for the common good in the world in which we live:  bringing the Gospel to areas in our lives and ministry which we have, and are able, to share in common.

We recently had this same experience (just this past Friday in fact) in our Diocese when the Diocese of Orange, Saddleback Church, and the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) planned for and held a day entitled “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church.”

One can easily access the reflections and times of prayer that were held at Saddleback Church that day.  Evangelical and Catholic speakers (clinicians, social workers, medical doctors)  alike were able to teach and share how we as people of Faith can bring the message of the Gospel to those who struggle with mental and emotional difficulties.  One of Pastor Rick Warren’s  and my hopes were how to make the resources of the Faith community available to those who are often on the “front lines” , when presented with the suffering and at times seemingly hopeless situations of those and their families who come to us in our daily lives and ministries.

There were over 3000 people present that day from many parts of California and beyond.  It was a providential and blessed day when Catholics and evangelicals were able to meet, reflect, pray and study together for the benefit of those who struggle with such pain and isolation, day in and day out.  It was a time for when the reality of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection could help to bring light and hope to those who struggle in the darkness. There already has been , for  years, much good work and ministry “behind the scenes” in this area, but this event helped to bring a sense of solidarity to all who were gathered together, and to let it be known, as well, the good that was already being done and for that to be shared!

As we reflect on this event in the days ahead, we need to thank all who were involved in the hours of planning for this day:  the staff of Saddleback and the Diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance for Mental Health.  Thank you to all of the prayer leaders, especially the Norbertines from St. Michael’s Abbey who chanted Evening prayer for us, and led us in singing later on in the evening.

Knowing that as St. Paul said “one plants and another sows”, let us pray for the Warren family in the days ahead, and pray as well that the work and prayer of that day will continue to bring good fruit to all in the days and years ahead.

Bishop Kevin Vann and Pastor Rick Warren

Bishop Kevin Vann and Pastor Rick Warren

Co-Hosts of Gathering on Mental Health and the Church(L to R) Steve Pitman, President of NAMI OC; The Honorable Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange; Kay and Rick Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church.

Co-Hosts of Gathering on Mental Health and the Church(L to R) Steve Pitman, President of NAMI OC; The Honorable Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange; Kay and Rick Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church.

 

The Vincentian family and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

It seems to me that often the terms “care for the poor” and “social justice” are found in many documents, which certainly make one reflect and think.  However, they do not seem to go much further than that.  Just this past week, however, I was reminded of a family who has lived care for the poor which is anchored in a Eucharistic spirituality.  This is the Vincentian family.  I had the blessing to visit with some of the Daughters of Charity , who are part of the Vincentian family, this past weekend at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim.  The Sisters and I spoke about some of my professors in the seminary in St. Louis who were Daughters of Charity who had a great and lasting impact on me to this day.

Within the same time period, I had the blessing to visit with Peter Andres, who is the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council in Orange County.  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded by Frederic Ozanam ni the 1830s when he was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris.  He was being taunted by atheist students who said that Catholics had no care for the poor.  Frederic thought of St. Vincent de Paul, who in the 1600s had founded the Congregation of the Mission to train priests and care for the poor.  With St. Louise de Marillac he founded the Daughters of Charity.

And so he founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to do just that, minister to the sick and the poor, as the mission of all Catholics, especially the laity.  When he wrote his rule he said “We must do what is agreeable to God.  Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel.  Let us to the poor.”  And so he did!  I should note that when he began the Society he was only 20 years old and he did this with six other students!

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has done great work here in Orange County, and I would encourage membership in this, to learn about this great family in the Body of Christ, and to be able to live and practice love and justice with others!  This is nothing new , and has been a part of the life of the Church in many ways, but especially since the foundation of the Society.  Mr. Andres and I are working to strengthen the local councils of the Society and to increase their outreach.  If you are interested, please contact Peter L. Andres at pandres@svdpoc.org.

As the Rule of the Society says “The vocation of the Society’s members, who are called Vincentians, is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love.  Members show their commitment through person to person contact.  Vincentians serve in hope.”

          The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is also a way to ensure that the Lenten practices of “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving” have a permanent place in our lives and spirituality !

Blessed Lenten days to all!

THE STATIONAL MASSES

The Lenten framework for our lives revolves around prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as a way to lead holier lives which  more in tune with the call of discipleship following after the Lord.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving can take various forms of sacrifice and penance.  Some of these we are more faithful than others.

May I offer another point of reflection for Lent on what is entitled “The Stational Churches”, all of which can  certainly lead us to greater prayer with the entire Church in this season.  In the early centuries of the life of the Church we know that public worship was not always possible due to persecution.  After Christianity was tolerated or recognized as a religion by the Roman Emperor, Christians were able to worship publicly.  They often then, gathered in homes or Roman basilicas that had been turned into sites of Christian worship.  These become known as “Stational” or stopping places for worship, especially during the season of Lent as it grew and developed.  These especially became important when the Bishop of Rome gathered with the early Christians in these sacred places, eventually for the entire season of Lent.

The stational Masses were arrived at by walking.  One can find the list of the stational Churches in the Missal prior to the Second Vatican Council.  The place of the stational Mass is listed each day of Lent.  Lent, then, in Rome BECAME a place of daily walking in pilgrimage to early morning Mass, which of itself then involved prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Like many customs which unfortunately fell into disuse in the late l960’s and early l970’s, the Stational Churches became forgotten to many, except for Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday.  That is the Dominican Church on the Aventine Hill.

​In the early l980’s a revival of the Stational Churches occurred, due in large part to seminarians from the North American College.  The priests and seminarians would gather at around 5:30 AM or so outside of the Seminary on the Gianiculum or the Casa Santa Maria and would walk (or take the bus) to these historical places of worship for Mass.  I tried to do this each of the four years I was in Rome, and the stational Church where I was the main celebrant was San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso, which is the Servite Church!  One got the sense that one was indeed worshipping with the Christians of every time and place! The stational Masses have continued to grow in popularity.  As an example of some of the stational Churches are, for example, San Giorgio in Velabro (near the Palatine Hill) on Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Saints John and Paul on the Coelian Hill on Friday, Saint Augustine (where Saint Monica is buried) on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, and the First Sunday of Lent, St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome (and indeed of the whole world).

If you are ever in Rome during Lent, I would recommend that you inquire as to the place of the stational Mass on the day that you visit.  The Visitors Office of the North American College would be most helpful in this.  You can always use one of the search engines on the internet to find out more.

The history and concept of these stational Masses is even now mentioned in the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, where it says “It is strongly recommended that the tradition of gathering the local Church after the fashion of the Roman ‘stations’ be kept and promoted, especially during Lent and at least in larger towns and cities, in a way best suited to individual places.  Such gatherings on of the faithful can take place, especially with the chief Pastor of the Diocese presiding….”

Either from a distance or in person, the Stational Masses represent a living, historical and even “transcendent” way of living the call of Lent to penance and holiness, and being “stationary” in the midst our own walk of life to embrace or strengthen the call to holiness in our lives, and to leave sin and darkness behind!

Next Lent, God willing, perhaps we can have, as the Roman Missal suggests, our own Stational masses here in the Diocese of Orange.

 

San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso

San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso

 

San Giorgio in Velabro

                  San Giorgio in Velabro

 

 

From a distance!

To all of you in Pueblo present for Msgr. Stephen Berg’s ordination and installation as Bishop of Pueblo I am writing this post from Santa Ana to be with all of you now through prayer and social media!   Tomorrow afternoon and evening is our annual Catholic Charities Mardi Gras Gala which supports the ministry of Catholic Charities Orange in its outreach to so many: mothers, children, health care refugees and pro-life work and much more.  The importance of the work of Catholic Charities was highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI early in his Pontificate.

The presence of the Diocesan Bishop, auxiliary and Emeritus is an essential witness of unity and ecclesial in mission.  Until yesterday I was going to be able to be present at Msgr. Berg’s ordination and return early afternoon tomorrow in time for the Gala.

However the weather forecast for here late tonight and tomorrow , and into the weekend  for heavy rain, storms , flooding , possible water spouts and tornadoes could severely impact the flights into Orange County and delay or prevent my return in time for this event, which I was not able to be present for last year.  So, I regretfully conveyed this to Msgr. Berg early yesterday afternoon it would be better for me to stay here than to risk not being present.
Congratulations and blessings and prayers to you Steve, and ad multos annos!

I thank you for your friendship and counsel and great and steady ministry in Fort Worth in our years of ministry together.  Msgr. Berg’s father, like mine worked for the US Postal Service, and our mothers are retired nurses.  We are both the oldest of large Catholic families.  We both own grand pianos and play the piano (although he classical and me ragtime)!

Your love of rural ministry, your history in Colorado and Montana, your love of music and nature (reflected in your priestly ministry) will be great gifts to the people of the Diocese of Pueblo! I know they will welcome you with great love, and I know that what you said at your press conference – that you will give them your all- will indeed be the case. Your call to serve the Diocese of Pueblo certainly reflects the words of Pope Francis this morning!

From Southern California, the whole Diocese of Orange and I are praying for you and rooting for you! I will make an effort to visit you soon.

Your brother in Christ,

+Kevin

Pope Francis Names Rev. Msgr. Stephen J. Berg as Fifth Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Pueblo

Pope Francis Names Rev. Msgr. Stephen J. Berg as Fifth Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Pueblo

Les and Mary

Recently, following on the article about my mother and father’s marriage, I have been asked to write a little more about my family.  I think that this is very appropriate because of the upcoming Synod on the family this year and the next.  In one of his writings, Pope Francis spoke of his grandmother in this way, reflecting on a note of hers that he keeps to this day in his Breviary.  It reads: “May my grandchildren, to whom I have given the best of my heart, have a long and happy life.  But if there are days of pain or illness, or if the loss of a loved one fills them with despair, may they remember that a whisper of a prayer and a look to Mary at the feet of the cross, can be like a drop of balsam on even the deepest and most painful wounds.”

These words of Pope Francis helped me to reflect on my maternal grandparents, Les and Mary Jones.  They were married on June 2, 1915 at St. Patrick’s Church in Springfield, Illinois.  Both came from rural farming families.  My grandfather had lost both of his parents at an early age, his father being struck by lightning while guiding a plow with horses! My grandmother came from a rural Irish farming family east of Springfield.  In my growing up years, they lived on Whittier Avenue on the west side of Springfield, and were parishioners of Blessed Sacrament parish where I later became pastor.   Anyone on that side of town knew who “Les and Mary Jones” were! Before my grandmother died in l979, they had been married 64 years!

They were an integral part of our lives in every way, and in fact had seen nearly everything as a married couple: two world wars, depression, and the loss of their first child in l916, a boy who would have been my uncle, James Howard Jones.  Yet, providentially, when my grandmother was in the hospital then (and she nearly died), my great grandmother , Mary Waters and one of the Hospital Sisters at St. John’s Hospital, persuaded the family to take a picture of the infant on a hospital bed laid out in his baptismal gown, so my grandmother would at least see him.  Later on, this picture became famous in the national magazine for SHARE, an organization founded by Sr. Jane Marie Lamb OSF, to help couples who had lost children before and right after birth! My uncle, then, became known all over the States, years after his death.  A year later my aunt was born, who eventually became a Dominican Sister, and then my mother 11 years later.

My grandparents were involved in every aspect of our lives, from Sunday dinners, to taking care of us, to my grandfather teaching us how to shift gears in his l958 Chevrolet Bel-Aire!  They taught us of extended family, of reaching out to all and each other and sharing.  My grandfather, very much a “people-person” was a salesman for General Mills and later Bunn Capital in Springfield, where he taught us of courtesy and how to be polite.   My grandmother, much like the Pope’s grandmother, would pray all the time.  I would often see her in her rocking chair with her worn prayer-book, before she began the day by staying in contact with her sisters and brothers!  She loved Bishop Sheen on “Life is Worth Living” in the evening and “As the World Turns” during the day!  She would not miss either! I would help my grandfather with outdoor Christmas decorations (those big lights!).  It was they who paid for my first year of piano lessons, and encouraged me in my interest in player pianos! And my grandfather liked to write letters and notes and was proud of his handwriting. Most of all, they loved each other deeply, and my grandfather cared for my grandmother until her death in l979.  He passed away a year later in l980.

When I return to Springfield, I always visit the cemetery to first visit my mother’s grave, and then their grave.  We always called them “Mammo and Grandpa” to this day!  They remind me of some other words of Pope Francis when he recently said on St. Valentine’s day to engaged couples that  “Just as God’s love is stable and lasts forever, we want the love on which a family is based to be stable and last forever.”

Thank you Les and Mary, Mammo and Grandpa, for all you witnessed to us about  the origins and purpose of “Holy Matrimony”, and for all you taught us about life and faith!

 

Les and Mary

Les and Mary

Pooches as prison pals

I am writing this column on something different than I had planned in my “sequence” of topics; I’d like to address a lesser-known aspect of ministry to the incarcerated. Our concern for this often forgotten population certainly finds its foundation in the words of Christ himself in Matthew 25:31-46: “For I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Each and every time I would celebrate Mass in one of the detention facilities in the Diocese of Fort Worth I would hear the words “Thank you for not forgetting us.” That is why in all my 33 years of priesthood, prison ministry has been very important to me, and I look forward to regular engagement with this here in California, just as I did in Illinois and Texas.

There is a particular aspect to this ministry that I recently have found here in California. Not long ago my sister, Mary Therese, encouraged me to get a dog. We always had all kinds of pets growing up in Illinois, including dogs, but I never did have one as an adult for various reasons. However, Mary Therese (who has a great care for animals, particularly rescue dogs) got the ball rolling on this for me. She worked with my administrative assistant, Marianne Bungcag, and I was able to find a dog from the Orange County Animal Shelter. I named him Griffin, after the Catholic boys’ high school in Springfield, Ill. from where I graduated.

At the Orange County Animal Shelter, providentially, I met Janette Thomas, a parishioner at La Purisima Church in Orange who is a volunteer at the shelter. She helped me to adopt Griffin, and more than that, arranged that he be trained in a program called lives. This coming week, there will be a broadcast on KOCE titled “The PAW Program,” sponsored by Pathways to Hope. The program will air on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m., on Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. and on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. You can also check your local PBS station listings for dates and times as well.

Griffin is not only well trained, but he also has made a positive difference in the lives of people whom we cannot see, but who need to know that they are not forgotten. This is true for all of the dogs in this program. I believe that “Pathways to Hope” combines respect for God’s creation and our living out in a unique way the words, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Bishop's Blog 2-7-14

“Witness is what counts!”

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I want to take a brief break from the sequence of themes that I have been writing on

Msgr. Paul Sheridan

                 Msgr. Paul Sheridan

to share some recollections of a priest of the Diocese who passed away recently, Msgr. Paul Sheridan. He passed away on Sunday, January 12 at St. Clair Villa in Alton, and I just found out about it on the following Friday, just after we had finished our priest study days, part of which was spent on reflecting about priests who had influences on our lives and our vocations!

In a recent reflection, Pope Francis said, regarding witnesses and following on the words of both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI that “It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives: living consistently, the very consistency of our lives.”

Msgr. Paul Sheridan (or “Pete” as most of us called him), spoke with his whole life and priestly ministry with great consistency.  As a young person in Springfield, Illinois, I knew that the mention of his name always drew great respect.  I found out why later on when I applied to the Diocesan seminary in l976, and he was one of the priests who interviewed me before acceptance.  Later that year, I got to know him better because I played the organ on Sunday at St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged where he was chaplain while he worked in the Chancery office at the Cathedral in Springfield.  The practice was at that time for any priest who had a chancery position to have a pastoral ministry at the same time.

I remember well right before I was ordained and found out that I was going to be sent to Rome for Canon Law studies that he truly rejoiced with me.  I came down to see him right after I saw Bishop McNicholas and got the news! He was joking and singing a song in Italian for me (He was both a seminary and student priest graduate at the North American College in Rome).  Over the years I got to know him as a friend and confidant and saw with what great ability he served three Bishops of Springfield in the Chancery and always was a man of great discretion! He also showed me how Canon Law was lived in practice and helped me to put what I learned in Rome into practice in ministry.

He lived his priestly ministry consistently in his prayer and dedication, especially to the residents and Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in Springfield.  He told me at one point that yes, his administration duties were important, but that they always had to be situated in the context of the pastoral care for God’s people.  I remember his prayerfulness in many ways – from his time in prayer at the Cathedral in Springfield when he was on break, and from saying the rosary in his car while driving.  His care for priests was really evident, especially to one retired priest at St. Joseph’s Home for whom life had been a challenge.  He showed me how prayer, priestly ministry and even administration could be lived in the life of a priest.  He was very loved and respected throughout the Diocese of Springfield in the various episcopal administrations in which he lived.  Each Bishop was very different in style, but there was a constant in those years for all of us:  Msgr. Sheridan – (“Pete”).  Even in later years, after I had been sent to Fort Worth, we kept in contact because one of his Roman classmates – Msgr. Charles King – would keep in contact with him.  I would often call “Pete” and let him speak with “Charlie” when the occasion would present itself.  Msgr. King was another great priest of the same class (The North American College, l957) from whom I learned a lot in my years in Texas.

Pope Francis said, in conclusion of the above remarks that “Witness is what counts!”  Thank you, Pete, for being a witness for me in my life’s journey and vocation, and for being the gentleman that you were. Ad multos annos, gloriosque annos vivas!  This is a saying that those who studied at the North American College and other seminaries once learned:  May you live for many and glorious years.  Thank you,  Pete, during those years of your life as a priest that you lived to show others the glory of God.  As the ordination rite proclaims “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now in the joy of your Lord.”

+Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Orange

CAMINO DE GUADALUPE HASTA CAMMINATA ALL’ITALIA!

Prior to the days of the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was able to travel to Italy for some days.  The first reason I went was to solemnize the contract for the St. Peter's at duskrestoration of the Hazel Wright organ in the now Christ Cathedral.  It is one of the largest pipe organs in the United States and indeed the world, and is well known.  This magnificent instrument is certainly now a part of the musical patrimony and heritage of the Christ Cathedral campus.  The music which has come from this instrument is “a fair and glorious gift of God” as St. Augustine would say, and will lift the hearts of all who come to the campus – rich and poor alike – to the presence of God.

After a flight from Paris over the Italian Alps to Venice I was met by Piero RuffattiOver the alps  who drove me to Padua.  Piero, his daughter Michaela, and his brother Francesco were wonderful hosts.  We solemnized the contract in a chapel of the Basilica of St. AnthonyThe basilica of Padua, after which I had the chance to meet the Rector of the Basilica, Fr. Enzo OFM. Conv.  We had a wonderful pilgrimage in the Basilica and were able to spend some time at the tomb of St. Anthony of Padua.  Even on a week day, there were crowds of people praying at his tomb, asking for his guidance and intercession!  Our Diocese is not only grateful to the Ruffatti family for their artistic care and commitment to the restoration of this historic instrument, but as well for their kindness and professionalism and wonderful family spirit!

Following that visit, I took the train to Rome and stayed at the North American College where I was able to visit our seminarians and priests who are studying in Rome and working at the Holy See.  The Eternal City was already becoming decorated with the lights of the season. Nativity setsPiazza Navona were being set up all over, including Piazza San Pietro.  The City itself, and the country of Italy, was also preparing for the celebration of the Immaculate Conception which is a national holiday.  The Holy Father traditionally visits the Piazza di Spagna on that day to lay a wreath at the base of the column with the Immaculate Conception.  This day helps us to reflect on God’s providential plans for all of us from all eternity, as for the Mother of God, and leads us to reflect on her openness to the will of God in her life.   The time in Rome concluded with a Mass and dinner with all of the priests Presepio in Restaurantand seminarians from California and Nevada who are studying, teaching, or working in The Chapel of the NACRome.  We celebrated Mass in the Dominican Friars chapel at the Angelicum and went to dinner afterward!

Vergine Immaculata, Aiutatici!  E Buon Natale a tutti quanti!

Next – on to the celebration of Simbang Gabi and the Posadas!!

Video: Bishop Kevin Vann visits Fratteli Ruffati factory and signs contract

 

CAMINO DE GUADALUPE 2013

These days in the month of December, for personal and pastoral reasons, are days that are very important to me and to the thousands and thousands of people I meet every year around the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Years ago, around the time I was in the seminary, I remember rather “dire” projections and prophecies about the shrinking and a supposed  “future” of the Church.  Many of the writings had an air of “infallibility” about them.  In my years now of celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe (in Illinois, Texas, and now California), I cannot help but reflect on the sentiments of those times.  We are ministering in a future that is upon us, and is certainly not the one which was projected! I reflect on the new life and vigor that the Hispanic presence with its devotion to the Mother of God, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe,  has brought to the sometimes ‘anemic’  life of the Church in the United States (as mentioned by Fr. Willard Jabusch of the Archdiocese of Chicago in an article in Commonweal some years ago).

Not long ago, Carl Anderson in his book Our Lady of Guadalupe wrote that “historically in our continent, Mexico was not the only country to be changed by this Marian evangelization.  As later missionaries left Mexico for the neighboring countries in the hemisphere, including the lands of the future Untied States, their evangelization was defined by their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe;

         To venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the Americas and Star of the first and new evangelization is to venerate her precisely as a Eucharistic woman, a woman through whom Christ came to humanity, a woman who experienced a unique closeness with the Holy Trinity. By leading millions more to her Son, and especially to her Son’s real presence in the Eucharist, she will guide the people of the Western Hemisphere to a greater unity whose source is the Trinitarian communion. For her love surpasses herself, and leads us to love our neighbor without reservation, without hesitation, without borders.”
This year, I experienced this first hand once again at the parish of Immaculate Heart Part of those present at IHM on the 11thof Mary in Santa Ana, a parish with over 6000 families under the leadership of Fr. Ed Poettgen.  The evening Mass on December 11 was overflowing, and that was just the beginning.  The same was true at 4:00 AM the next morning at the little Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Delhi (Santa Ana).  Although the Mass at DelhiChurch is small, it was overflowing to the outside to greet the sunrise and to sing “Mananitas” to the Blessed Mother.  Even the “no-show” of the Mariachis did not stop the celebration. The music wasThe singing of Cielito Lindo with Fr. Alonso quickly provided by two young women who had gone to World Youth Day!  The celebration afterward was led by a band, and then Fr. Alonso, the retired pastor, and I sang “Cielito Lindo” with the crowd.

The evening brought a fullOLG at Brea house to the Spanish Mass at St. Angela Merici in Brea,    and I celebrated one more Mass on Saturday morning at St. Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda.

In one of the courtyards of the Franciscan Retreat Center in Paradise Valley, Arizona (affectionately known as the “Casa”), there is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that “glows” at sunset, as the setting sun seemingly sets the rays around Our Lady on fire.  The words around the image (in Latin) are “God has not done anything like this for anyThe Image of OLG in Arizona other nation.” According to tradition, these are the words of Psalm 147 which Pope Benedict XIV said when he approved the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe over New Spain in 1754.  Carl Anderson says further “We may never understand the full uniqueness of this apparition.  But through the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, we can expect to see the beauty and power of this event in the transformation of our lives and blossoming of our communities and ultimately our continent.”

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, RUEGA POR NOSOTROS!