Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bishop Gordon Dinner

Bishop Jason Gordon
Bishop of Bridgetown, Barbados
Bishop of Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

On Friday evening, August 8, 2015, I gathered a few of my friends and supporters to meet Bishop Jason Gordon from the island countries where I have been volunteering since I officially retired. He was going to be in town to lead a prayer day at St. Meinrad Seminary for the opening of the school year. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner experience at Volare's Restaurant on Frankfort Avenue. I wanted Bishop Gordon to meet a few of my friends and explain some of the needs in his two dioceses.  For more pictures of him and some of the people and sights on the island of St. Vincent, see the previous post from August 27, 2015. To view his brochure about the needs of his diocese, click here.

Bishop Jason Gordon on the right

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Friends in the West Indies

My first volunteer trip was for Holy Week last year. I was there from March 29 - May 6, 2015
My next trips are in December 2015 and February 2016.

 Some photos of my friends in 
St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Bishop Jason Gordon
born in Trinidad
Bishop of Bridgetown, Barbados
Bishop of Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

A view from the balcony of the Chancery/Bishop's House/Retreat House, 
Diocese of Kingstown SVG

Father Alando Williams (left) is the pastor of St.Michael Church on the island of Bequia

Father Rex Ramos, from the Philippines, is pastor of the parishes
on the islands of Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island

Family members of St. Therese Parish on the island of St. Vincent SVG
I celebrated Mass there on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fergal Redmond, myself and Martin Folan
Fergal and Martin are volunteers from Galway in Ireland

Father Richard Paynter (former Anglican priest) and his wife Daphne. Daphne is the Bishop Gordon's secretary and my driver taking me around to Holy Week Services April 2,3,4,5, 2015. Driving on the left, dodging huge potholes and maneuvering through hairpin turns while meeting buses coming the other way, I would never have made it on my own. I owe her my life!

On one of those trips, Daphne (on the right) stopped along the way each trip to pick up her friend Ella (on the left) who serves as the sacristan at the parish in Mesopotamia where I celebrated Holy Week Services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday 2015. The church could not do without either of them. They are both dedicated and competent. Here we stopped to get a good view of the island at a pull-off. 

Cathedral of the Assumption, Diocese of Kingstown SVG

Msgr. Michael Stewart, Rector of the Cathedral, and the June 2015 First Communion Class 

This strange cathedral complex was the master mind of a Benedictine monk from years ago. I believe it was a monastery at one time. Built in stages beginning in 1823, the strangely appealing design is a blend of Moorish, Georgian and Romanesque styles applied to black brick.

One of the back porches

Downtown Kingstown
The Diocesan Center is at the top of the hill, left.

There are only six priests in the whole diocese. There are four priests on the main island of St.Vincent. Father Alando takes care of Bequia. Father Rex takes care of Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island. Bishop Jason Gordon flies back and forth (about a half hour small jet flight) between his two dioceses: the Diocese of Bridgeport, BARBADOS, and the Diocese of Kingstown, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES. He is the only bishop in the world with two dioceses in two different countries. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Homily – 8-23-15

NOTE: This is my 700th homily at Bellarmine University

"Do You Want to Leave Too?"
Many of his disciples no longer accompanied him, so Jesus asked, "Do you want to leave too?" Simon Peter answered him, saying, "Master, to whom would we go?" 
John 6:60-69 

Many people tell me that I'm nuts for being a Catholic priest. I hadn't been ordained but a day when the first person came out of nowhere to challenge me on this. I have told this story many times before, but it immediately comes to mind when I read this gospel. It happened at one of the receptions, following my first Mass.

I was standing there in my new black suit and Roman collar - a little proud of myself - when all of a sudden a stranger approached me and stuck a pin in my balloon. "I can't imagine anyone as intelligent as you seem to be would still be a Catholic, must less become a priest! I got out of all that craziness a long time ago!"

I stood there, shocked, like I had been shot at close range as she went down her well-rehearsed list of things wrong with the Church. When she finished, she disappeared into the crowd, never to be heard from again - at least that is what I thought.

Like me, St. Peter must have been challenged many times about his decision to stay that day, when so many others walked away because of Jesus teaching on the "bread of life" because he writes many years later, in the first of his two letters, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence." (I Peter 3:15,16) When I am challenged, I try to follow his advice.

That first happened when I was 26. I am now 71. At 71, I agree wholeheartedly with Peter. "To whom would I go?" I have been offered a lot of so-called alternatives, I recognize more problems in our Church than most of you, but I can say this much in all honesty. I haven't seen anything yet that I would trade all this for! In the language of gospel music, I wouldn't take nothin' for my Jesus, his Church, and the work he has called me to do!

Students! One of the most important questions facing you in your young adulthood is, "Why do you stay in the Church?" Why do you choose to remain Catholic, when so many others your age are walking away? I am sure many of you have been challenged seriously, maybe even in an angry way. Maybe you have considered it. Maybe you have even tried it for a while. Maybe you remain because you are scared not to. Maybe you hang in there just to please your parents.

Well, let me tell you something. I was not "assigned" here by the bishop. I don't have to do this. I have plenty of other jobs - too many jobs, in fact. But I want to be here and I choose to do this because I want to help you be able to give yourselves, and those who question you, reasons to stay in the Church so that you do not "walk away,"  or worse, just "drift away." 

Yes, you heard me - "help give you reasons to stay in the Church." There are many people today who claim they want to be "spiritual, but not religious." Archbishop Dolan of New York described them this way, "They want to believe without belonging. They want to be sheep without a shepherd. They want to be part of a family, but they want to be an only child." The fact of the matter is, Jesus founded a church on Peter, one of those who did not walk away, and Jesus promised that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" and that he would "be with it always, until the end of time." The truth of the matter is, we are not individually children of God, we are each part of God's family with many children and, as a family, we are called to be our brothers and sisters keepers - to be responsible to, and for, each other. We are in this together! 

Melanie, Karen and I want to help you move from an inherited faith, to a personal faith. We find many of you you deeply spiritual, sometimes ravenously so, and we want to help you in your process of knowing God, loving God and serving God. We also want you to feel valued and appreciated by the Church - so hang in there with the rest of us who are on a serious spiritual journey. Each week, as I preach, I will try to help you find answers when "someone asks you for a reason for your hope," and, yes, I will try to do it "with gentleness and reverence."

By the way, the woman who challenged me forty-five years ago contacted me a couple of years back to apologize and to tell me that she had returned to the Church and was absolutely loving it for the first time in her life. As that great "theologian," Yogi Berra put it, "It ain't over till it's over."

If you do go away, for whatever reason, we want you to know that we will always leave a light on for you so you can find your way back. Like the father of the prodigal son, we will be waiting on the porch.