Tuesday, August 20, 2019



Do you remember not having enough money for needed school supplies?
 I certainly do! 
It was a problem for me both in grade school and minor seminary! 
That has made me sensitive to the needs of the kids down in the island missions. 

My friend, Sister Carmen, presenting a delighted fellow teacher in Saint Mary's School with some of the school supplies we sent down last year. We try to help three of the schools. 

are just a few places with great deals this month! 

I plan to ship a few boxes down before the end of the month. 
I have quite a few things, but time is running out and the need is great! 
Let me know if you have a few things to add to the boxes! 
We will even take used ball point pens! 

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us persevere
in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-4

Many of you might remember the thriller film, The Sixth Sense, which tells the story of Cole Sear, a troubled, isolated boy, who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist (played by Bruce Willis), who tries to help him. The most famous lines from the film belong to the young boy. “I see dead people!”

In a way, that is exactly what the writer of our second reading is telling us when he says, “we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.”  In fact, he is saying four things.

(  First, our second reading is telling us that living the Christian life is like running a race. It is not a stroll for the lazy and indifferent. It takes the serious discipline of an athlete. We need to train every day of our lives. We need to know where we are going, remain focused, and keep our eyes fixed on the finish line. G.K. Chesterton said it best when he wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting: it has been found difficult and left untried.” The biggest threat to Christianity are not those who persecute it, but those who claim the name and think it ought to be easy, but who are unwilling to walk the talk!

Second, our second reading is telling us that there are people “in the stands,” people who have run the race before us and who have already crossed the finish line, who are cheering us on! It challenges us to remember that we are surrounded by a large group of supportive onlookers as we live out our lives as Christians. This is precisely what we mean when we say in our Creed that we believe in the “communion of the saints.” By that, we mean that we believe that there is an ongoing and real connection between those who have practiced the faith before us and those of us who are trying to practice the same faith today – an unbroken connection between those living here and those living in eternity. I, for one, do not actually see dead people, but I do feel their presence, helping me along the way. I believe that I am not alone on my journey of faith, but I am part of a larger story, a great procession of people marching through history. I have you and I have that “great cloud of witnesses,” all those holy men and women from every time and place,” who have finished their race and have crossed the finished line, but now are watching us race toward that same finish line - and they are cheering us on! 
The writer of this Letter to the Hebrews mentions some great Old Testament saints, lining the race track, people like Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the parents of Moses, Gideon, Samson, Job, Rahab, Samson, David and Samuel.

Just think of the holy men and women who have been baptized in this Cathedral, who have prayed in this Cathedral, who were married in this Cathedral, who were buried buried from this Cathedral. Think of Bishop Flaget, whose bones are buried downstairs! He rode horseback from here as far north as Wisconsin and Michigan, all over Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. Think of Mother Catherine Spalding, whose bronze statue graces our front sidewalk. She started and orphanage, a school and a hospital directly under where I am standing. This place reeks of their holiness! 

I can feel their presence, and not only theirs, but the little old ladies who had been keeping the lights on when I arrived here in 1983, before we were able to revitalize this congregation and restore these buildings. Yes, I still remember many of them and I can still feel their presence watching over us!
    I can feel the presence of my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, my sister, the nuns and priests who taught me and the hundreds of parishioners I have buried in all the parishes I have served.  I feel them cheering me on as I race toward the finish line!

(  Third, our second reading tells us to “persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Dropping out of the race is always an option, especially when one leaves home and enters college. One of the big questions I used to ask college students when I worked at Bellarmine University, is this one: “Will you abandon the religious upbringing of your childhood or will you choose it for myself of your own free will? Will you persevere in living your Catholic Christian  faith or will you simply drop out of the race because it is too hard, because it is too much trouble, because it demands too much, because it is too inconvenient or because others around you are dropping out as well. The writer of our second reading is right! Perseverance in running the race requires the personal discipline and self-control of an athlete! Sometimes it means running against the wind, swimming against the tide and taking the road less traveled. Let us, however, listen to the encouragement of those who have finished the race before us and are cheering us on from the sidelines, rather than those who have dropped out of the race for whatever reason!   

(  Fourth, our second reading tells us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” Distractions are a problem for all of us no matter how many laps we have completed. There are those who seek to draw our attention away from the race we are running. “Look here! Look over there! Look at me! Look at this! Pay attention to this! Pay attention to that! See this! See that!” If we are to persevere in running this race, we must keep our eyes fixed on the finish line, we must “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” We must remain focused on what we are doing and why we are doing it, until we hear Jesus say to us at the finish line, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master!”

Saturday, August 17, 2019







Thursday, August 15, 2019


A Cathedral Like No Other

Diocese of Kingstown
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Assumption Cathedral, Saint Mary's School, Parish Offices and Rectory.

It's history dates back to a first structure erected in stages from 1823 although the present building was completed in the 1930s decade. It was declared Co-cathedral of the Diocese of Bridgetown-Kingstown in 1971 and since 1989 is Kingstown's Cathedral. It stands out for its striking architecture which is a combination of styles (Moorish, Romanesque, Byzantine, Venetian and Flemish) that strongly contrasts with the rest of the city.  Ir seems to be made of local volcanic stone and concrete. 

I have been told that most of the unusual architectural design and stone work is the work of a monk from Belgium when Benedictine monks were working in Saint Vincent as missionaries in the 1930s. 

As unique as it is, it has to be a maintenance nightmare. I think it is too fragile to clean without destroying the fragile stone and the mortar between the stones. 

Strangely enough, the Episcopal Cathedral (the largest denomination on the island as a former English colony) is directly across the narrow street. They seem to be looking at each other - door to door! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


AUGUST 1-13, 2019 


Birgit Schroth and Inge Heck 

Inge and Birgit are sisters. They, their parents and I go back about 45 years. Inge and I first met backpacking in Taize, France, in 1975. 
Inge and parts of her family have visited me in Monticello, Lebanon and here in Louisville several times. Their parents, before they died, loved Kentucky and talked about about their visits all the time. 
After a several year lapse,  Inge and Birgit visited last summer and have returned again this summer. 


Lucky me! Birgit (left) loves to cook! We had a nice German dinner in my dining room. 

After dinner, we had drinks on the deck of my condo. 

Inge, myself and Phyllis Drury at Heine Brothers Coffee Shop

Birgit, myself and Inge at Churchill Downs. 


Germans are known for their organizational skills!
Here's proof and it's just an early draft!

Another German dinner with Phyllis Drury and Janice Brown

Drinks on the deck for all - again!

Sunday Mass with the Little Sisters of the Poor,  Father Emmanuel C.P., Inge and Birgit. Several visiting Sisters were in town for a meeting. 

A "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Volunteer Reunion" at the home of Dr. Paul and Mrs. Susan Sherman. Karen brought her two children and Beth brought her husband. I brought my German friends, Inge and Birgit. 
We all said how we wished our Irish friend, Fergal, could have been there! He is back in Ireland for a visit. Many of us look forward to seeing him again in Saint Vincent or the next time he visits Kentucky. 

Susan cooked a fabulous dinner for all of us. It was delicious! 

Lunch at Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky 

This community of Shakers lasted from 1805 - 1910. 

"Shakers" got their name from their church services with their spirited religious dancing  in the "Meeting House." 


In downtown Louisville on the riverfront with the 
General George Rogers Clark Memorial. 
Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark.
Louisville is named after King Louis XVI of France.

The Muhammad Ali Museum is in the back ground (right). 

What would a visit to Kentucky be without a bourbon tasting trip to the Woodford Reserve Distillery? Oddly enough, the tour guide spoke fluent German. He had been a student in Heidelberg at one time. 

Inge has been to Howard and Leona Lee's farm in Calvary with her parents on former trips. Sadly, Howard has passed on, as well as Inge's parents, Helmut and Anny. We were able to show Inge's sister, Birgit, that famous Calvary her parents talked about so much before they died. 
 We had called Leona up to take her to lunch and had suggested she ask a couple of people who knew me and maybe had met Inge on one of her former trips to the U. S.
Look below at how many showed up! It was nice to see so many old friends from Calvary! 

Sharing the restaurant's corn bread recipe.

We enjoyed a nice German dinner and some beer at the Eiderdown Restaurant. It's down the street from my house in Germantown. 

We had some doughnuts from Nord's Bakery. Helmut, the father of Inge and Birgit, absolutely loved American doughnuts. He was introduced to them on his first visit to Louisville. In his memory, we enjoyed a few of his favorites last week! 

We drove down to my hometown of Rhodelia to check out the Saint Theresa Parish picnic. We got to meet many of my relatives and friends. 

On the way down, we stopped to visit my sister, Brenda, in Brandenburg. 

Breakfast with Michelle, Bob, Seth Owings and Dr. Agnes Bacala at the Hyatt Regency before Mass at the Cathedral. 

Inge, Birgit and Mother Catherine Spalding, SCN. a Louisville hero, in front of the Cathedral

Birgit fixed a delicious German dinner for Tim Schoenbachler, Inge and myself on their last night. Tim and his parents had visited Birgit's and Inge's parents in German several years ago. Tim shared old photos and we all shared stories of our visits. 

Auf Wiedersehen

Inge and Birgit are leaving for home this morning. They will fly to Philadelphia to London (England) to Stuttgart (Germany).  It was a great visit and I am sure it won't be the last! 

Sunday, August 11, 2019



By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called; 
he went out, not knowing where he was to go. 
Hebrews 11

Being a Catholic takes guts these days, but being a Catholic priest takes even more guts. Sometimes, it can be like walking around with a target on your chest! I have a long history of trying to defend myself from attacks. That’s why texts like the one I just quoted, one about the unshakable faith of Abraham and Sarah even in the darkest of times, are so special to me!

The first attack came the week-end I became a newly-ordained young priest. I was at a party, with drink in hand, wearing my new Roman collar and black suit. A young woman came up to me out of nowhere and started yelling, “Why are you wasting your time in that stupid Catholic Church? I got out of all that silliness a long time ago! I can’t believe anybody with any sense would still be a Catholic, much less a priest!” Then she started in on her well-rehearsed list of gripes about the Church for all to hear!

I stood there shocked and paralyzed! I did not respond with anger or start yelling back. I knew she was hurting about something, so I just smiled and walked away, saying something like, “Yes, you’re right I am certainly a little nuts sometime!”

Because I responded to her attach with gentleness and patience, her attack obviously ate at her for many years, because a few years back she showed up where I was having Mass, apologizing and telling me that she had found her way back to the Church and that she now loved it!

When I was a young priest serving in Wayne County in the southern Kentucky mission of our diocese as the first Catholic priest to live there, I was attacked often. I was thrown out of my first ministerial association meeting simply because I was a Catholic. I was verbally attacked, by name, by radio preachers! I was verbally assaulted in the Post Office, whispered about in restaurants and tolerated at meetings - simply because I was a Catholic. Even my radio program was abruptly canceled after the station had received bitter complaints from some local preachers.

Because, I responded to their attacks with gentleness and patience, I was able to melt some of that prejudice and turn it into esteem.  When I left there, the local paper ran a very affirming front-page story about me and my ministry during my time down there!   
When the sexual abuse situation was uncovered, I found myself ashamed to be a Catholic, much less a priest. Most people who knew me were very supportive, but I cringed more than once at cartoons in the Courier-Journal and jokes on late night TV. But in the end, some great things came out of that mess. After I overcame a serious temptation to quit, I realized that it made me dig deep into my reasons for hope – why I still choose to be a Catholic, why I still love being a priest and why I would choose it again if necessary!
These challenges to my faith have been a theme running through my almost 50 years of priesthood. These days the negative responses are much more subtle and a lot less personal. Personal attacks are rare. The attacks are more on the institutional church. However, you hear it in jokes about priests and Catholics on sitcoms and late night comedy. You hear it in the news, both by what is said and what is not said. You see it in the looks people give you and hear it in people’s conversations. It sometimes comes in bitter comments, dismissive snickers and outright ridicule.

So what are my reasons for choosing to believe? Why do I choose to be Catholic instead of some easy denomination? I basically have five reasons.

1.     The Church is an earthenware jar that holds a great treasure. I believe in the treasure, not the crock! Some people never get the message because they never see beyond the crock!  I stay in the Church, not because of the earthenware jar, but because of the treasure that it holds! This earthenware jar, the institutional part of the Church, has transported the treasure of Jesus Christ through the ages! Just as you cannot transport oxygen or even plain water without a container, our faith traditions cannot be passed from one generation to another intact without a container. We need the structure of the church to protect and transport that treasure!  Other churches may offer slicker packaging, but I love having the treasure “in the box that it came in,” even if it appears to be a little ratty and worn sometimes.  
2.     I stay with the Roman Catholic Church because I believe that it is apostolic, founded on the apostles, and passed down to me, unbroken, the one that Christ said he would “be with” until the end of time. I could no more walk away from her, even with her long history of sins and failings, than a good mother could abandon her handicapped child or a caring child could abandon her parents in their old age.  In that sense, I am not only “stuck on her,” but also “stuck with her!” 
3.     I stay with the Roman Catholic Church because it is “catholic,” meaning “universal and inclusive – worldwide, if you will! I try to be “catholic” myself. I believe in being inclusive in my thoughts, words, deeds and friends! I like to belong to something bigger than the United States. I like to be with people of all races and cultures. Why settle for one color of crayon, when you can have the "super, dupper, deluxe" box? Life isn’t as messy when you have only one color of crayon - when everyone looks alike, acts alike, and thinks alike - but it is a whole lot less interesting. I would rather have the slowness and messiness of a global Church than the coziness of a full-service religious community of like-minded suburbanites!  
4.     Yes, I often get discouraged by the container that holds this great treasure, but then I consider the alternatives. I think about a “new church,” a non-denominational Church, a “meet my needs” Church, a Burger King Church, one that would let me have things “my way” and I say “no!” I think about trying a lateral move into one of the established Protestant Churches, one that allows its members to believe basically whatever they want. After all, I have worked for the United Christ of Christ and studied at a Presbyterian Seminary. Even though I benefited greatly from both of those experiences, I have to say “no!” I think about my friends who are agnostic and even atheist. They all have a point to make and something to say, they all have a less stressful and demanding path than mine, but I must say “no!”  I would rather have the mess of trying to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic!
5.     In a world of the latest best guru and new age spirituality fad, I prefer to put my trust in something that is older than I am, something broader than my perspective, something deeper than a TV news bite, something more diverse than my opinion and personal experience. Rather than looking for a Church that will agree with me, I like a Church like ours that will challenge me and my assumptions and prejudices.

I have some good reasons for the faith that I have, the Catholic faith that was handed on to me, the Catholic faith that I have embraced and made my own! ! I love being Catholic – in spite of its obvious sins and shortcomings! I can take some heat over it! And, yes, I can respect those who disagree with my reasons for hope and choose something else! 

To those Catholics who cannot see the great treasure inside the sometimes aggravating and tattered container that holds it, I say this! Look deeper! Look beyond the obvious! Do not be taken in by the glitzy packaging of others! Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater! Do not be like that child at Christmas who throws away the expensive toy and obsesses on the box that it came in!  Keep your faith! Ask God for a personal revival of faith if it is sputtering and struggling for life!  Let nothing come between you and that faith! Heaven and earth will pass away, but God will not fail to keep his promises to you! Now, do whatever it takes to keep your promises to him!

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called; 
he went out, not knowing where he was to go. 
Hebrews 11