Saturday, May 14, 2016


September 1, 1999 - July 31, 2016


Ms. Melanie Prejean Sullivan and I will have been working together in Campus Ministry at Bellarmine University for almost seventeen years. While Melanie will continue, yesterday I presided and preached at my last Baccalaureate Mass. Today, I said a prayer at my last Graduation. I will be there for an Alumni Mass in June and the Convocation in August, but I celebrated my last regular Sunday Mass last Sunday night.
It is the end of a marvelous era in my ministry as a priest. It would not have been the marvelous experience that it was without her support and encouragement.
To that, I would add my deepest gratitude to Dr. Joseph McGowan, president, Dr. Fred Rhodes, former Dean of Students, and the whole Bellarmine community.
It has been a blessing in my life in so many ways. I am most grateful for that unique opportunity. When I started, I had no idea it would have lasted so long. It was the longest lasting ministry I have ever been involved in and I am the longest serving campus ministry priest in Bellarmine's history.
Truly, it is the end of an era. 


Franciscan Father Antony, Dr. Melanie Prejean Sullivan, Franciscan Fr. John and myself. 

Bellarmine Board of Overseers

Acting President, Dr. Doris Tegart

Rev. Dr.  Clyde Crews, longtime faculty member and priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville

Archbishop Kurtz, who received an honorary doctorate, and some dignitaries.

Field of graduates and friends, left

Field of friends and faculty, right

Friday, May 13, 2016



  God looked at everything he made and found it very good
Genesis 1:31.
You will show me the path to life.
Psalm 16
I have come so that you may have life and have it
in all its fullness.
John 10:10

On Monday, I will have been a priest for 46 years. I can say with a bit of confidence that God has, and continues to get, a bum rap.  He has gotten a bum rap most often from the very ones who act as his ambassadors – ambassadors sent to present him to a world who needs desperately to feel the love of God.

Not only is God getting a bum rap, but religion itself is getting a bum rap. Some of the very ones who are anointed to announce God’s unconditional love are spewing hate and calling it religion. As Blaise Pascal said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” The April 18 issue of the New Yorker Magazine has a cartoon of God looking down at the earth with an angel standing at his side. The caption reads, “I’m beginning to prefer those who don’t believe in me!”

I for one, refuse to quit, drop out and turn it over to the religious hate-mongers. I will go to my grave presenting a God of unconditional love and I challenge all of you who have chosen to include this religious service as part of your graduation to do the same. Religion today is in trouble, not so much because of the power of its enemies, but because so many of its adherents have surrendered. Edmund Burke was right, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Those who surrender the battle, I believe, also surrender their right to criticize. When it comes to religion it has always been easier to take cheap shots from the sidelines than to get in the ring and do battle. I believe that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Instead of presenting a God who has created us in his own image and likeness, many of us in the preaching business have created a God in our own image and likeness –stingy, vindictive, grudge-holding and judgmental. Because I have tended not to join them, I too have been their victim on several occasions. I have been raked over the coals more than once for presenting a too lenient notion of God. I suspect that Pope Francis, as popular as he is, is getting more than his share of raking by some of the same religious types.

God looked at everything he made and found it very good.
You will show me the path to life.
I have come so that you may have life and have it
in all its fullness.

I am convinced that God created each and every one of us, not to be his cringing slaves, but to be all that we can be simply out of pure love. I believe he still looks at us and finds us, underneath it all, very good. Because of that. I believe he wants us all to have a full, happy, healthy and successful life.

God looked at everything he made and found it very good.
You will show me the path to life.
I have come so that you may have life and have it
in all its fullness.

Yes, I believe with all my heart that God wants us to have a full life, but it’s neither forced on us nor is it magic. It’s really a partnership to which we need to say “yes.” We have to do our part. I not only believe it in the abstract, I have experienced it in spades personally. W.H. Murray summarizes my experience in this regard best when he said, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” In other words, find out what you want, really commit to it and if it is truly good for you, God will shower you with more help than you can imagine.

God looked at everything he made and found it very good.
You will show me the path to life.
I have come so that you may have life and have it
in all its fullness.

Yes, I believe that God wants us to have a full satisfying life. However, I believe it is really a partnership to which we have to assent. It is not magic.  In my forty-six years of priesthood, I have met so many people who want a God who works magic. They want God to “make it all better” for them, but they are not willing to get up off their butts and do something for themselves. They want it done for them: God, the government, the church, their parents, their spouse or their neighbors! 

They reminded of an old story I once heard. You may have heard it before, but it fits!  A religious man was caught in a flood.  As the water rose around his house, he ended up on the roof.  A boat came by and offered to take him to safety.  “No, thank you, God will save me!”  Another boat came by and offered to take him.  “No, thank you, God will save me!”  Finally, a helicopter came and saw only his head sticking out of the water and offered to take him.  “No, thank you, God will save me!”  Well, he drowned and went to heaven.  When he got there, he was very upset with God.  “God, you promised to save me.  Where were you?”  God answered, “I can’t imagine what happened, I sent two boats and a helicopter!” 

It has been a little over 50 years ago now, but I still remember it clearly, the day I decided to take charge of my own life!  I have told it so many times that a few of you might be able to tell it back to me, but many of you probably have not heard it so I will risk telling it again. I was 21 years old, extremely bashful and chronically unhappy.  I was scared to death of meeting new people, of getting up in front of crowds, or allowing myself to try anything new.  I worked like a dog trying to avoid these situations.  I was always hoping that things would change, hoping that somebody would do something, hoping that I could somehow avoid all of the “minefields” that I thought life offered.  It took almost all my energy just to survive emotionally.  I worked very, very hard avoiding as many new people and situations as I could.  I even worked hard to hide my unhappiness. For years I prayed continuously that things would get better for me, but they didn’t!  I wanted God to do something, but he wouldn’t!

Then one day, out of the blue, I decided to accept God’s help and come to my own rescue by accepting a lift on some of those boats and helicopters!  I was standing on a fire escape at St. Meinrad with Pat Murphy, a good friend of mine.  I was whining about how miserable I was, as all unhappy people are so good at doing, when all of a sudden I blurted out, “I am so damned tired of being miserable, bashful and scared that I am going to do something about it myself, even if it kills me!  I’m going to take the bull by the horns and get over this!”

Beginning that day, I decided to stand up to my own lazy streak. I decided to give up blaming others. I decided to do hard things, on purpose, for my own good. Little by little, step by step, inch by inch, I have gotten over about 95% of my bashfulness.  I still work at it, deliberately placing myself in hundreds of new circumstances, placing myself before thousands of new people and embracing hundreds of scary new opportunities. God did not wave a wand over me and do all of this for me, but once I “showed up for work,” God has continuously given me the courage and strength to do what would have seemed "impossible" in the past.  Once I decided to do my share, God was there to help. Looking back, I am amazed at the marvelous experiences and unimagined opportunities I have had. One example - I have gone from being too bashful to read in front of my class in college to speaking in front of hundreds of people at a time, over one hundred times, in seven countries – all because I stood up to my own cowardice starting on a fire-escape fifty years ago.

Students, no matter how many opportunities some people have, they want somebody to do it for them!  They are what John Sanford calls “amniotic people,” people who go through life with their umbilical cords still connected.  Amniotic people want to be taken care of.  They want to find strong people to lean on and make responsible for their happiness.  They are convinced of their own helplessness and powerlessness.  The world and the church are full of these kinds of people!

God looked at everything he made and found it very good.
You will show me the path to life.
I have come so that you may have life and have it
in its fullness.

Students, today we hear a lot about suicide – the taking of one’s own life.  It is such a tragedy and affects more and more families – maybe some of you here today have been affected by it.  Each year at our Blue Christmas Mass here at Bellarmine, I am stunned by the growing number of people who have experienced it in their families. My heart goes out to them.

 However, there is another kind of suicide that is growing even faster. I call it “spiritual suicide.”   “Spiritual suicide” is the result of constantly saying “no” to the many God-given opportunities to grow and change so that we can claim that full and happy life that God wants for us!  “Spiritual suicide” is a type of terminal laziness, the result of a whole series of bad choices, the result of sitting on our hands and then blaming God and those nebulous “circumstances” for our unhappy lives, even after he has sent us fifty boats and twenty helicopters!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016



I often get called by my friend, Sister Bernard of the Little Sisters of the Poor, to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph Home here in Louisville. I am called most often for special occasions.  On April 24,  I was called to celebrate a special Mass within which they received several new members of the Associates of  St. Jeanne Jugan (their foundress).

Shown above are several Little Sisters who lead the singing at Mass. 

 Here I am celebrating the Mass of Reception.

Here is a nice photo of the newest members of the Associates of St. Jean Jugan with Sister Bernard on the left. 


Sunday, May 8, 2016

HOMILY 5-8-16


You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.
You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Acts of the Apostles 

What we celebrate today is the "handing over" of his ministry to his disciples by Jesus so that it can be carried out by them once he is gone. It is handed over with a promise – a promise to "be with them always, even to the end of the world." Before he leaves them, he tells them to "take my message out to the whole world” and “to never forget that you will forever have my help in doing it.” It is also "handed over" to us. 

That small band of disciples did go out and as we look at the world today, 2,000 years later, we can see the results of their efforts. Even they would be shocked by their own success. Christianity today is the largest religious group on the planet - about 2.1 billion believers in every country in the world. Half of all the Christians in the world are Roman Catholics who make up one-sixth of the world population.

In this country, the Christian faith was brought by the Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. After it was established here, Americans sent missionaries to places like China, Korea, Japan, India, African and all over central and south America in the 20th century. Guess what? Those missionaries were successful. Many of those places where we sent missionaries are now sending missionaries back to us.

Almost one third of all priests now working in this country were born outside this country and a majority of the US ordinations taking places this spring are the ordinations of young men born overseas. In the Diocese of Newark last week, for example, they ordained 13 young men. Three were born here and the other ten were born in Nigeria, Italy, Ecuador, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Hungary.  This is typical all over the country. In the future, your parish priest could come from about anywhere in the world. We are indeed becoming more "catholic" as a church, meaning "universal."

You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Even within the parish, the Church says, in Canon 528, that it is the job of the pastor "to see that the word of God is announced to all those living in the parish....and with the help of the Christian faithful to bring the gospel message to those who have ceased practicing the faith or those who do not profess the true faith." 

The first thing to note here is that the responsibility of announcing the word of God to all falls not just on priests, but all the Christian faithful. We were all baptized to be missionaries!

The second thing to note here is that the we have a responsibility to announce the word of God to everyone living within the parish boundaries: faithful Catholics, inactive Catholics, other believers and those who profess no religion!

Most priests and parishioners spend a majority of their time ministering to faithful Catholics - those who show up on Sunday and volunteer within parish programs.  In fact, one of the saddest things about the priest shortage is that there is less and less time to reach out to the other groups that are part of our responsibility. In fact, it is impossible for the priests we have to reach out to these other groups without the help of the Christian faithful.

Personally, I have specialized with one group or another depending on my assignment. When I arrived in Monticello and Whitley City in 1975, as a home missionary, I had less than twenty Catholics in those two missions combined. I spent most of my time reaching out to those with no church and to people of other faiths.

While stationed in Calvary, outside Lebanon, which was almost 100% Catholic, I spent my time strengthening the faith of life-time Catholics.

During my time as pastor of the Cathedral in downtown Louisville, I spent most of my time reaching out to "fallen away" and "disaffected" Catholics.  Some left because they had been hurt, some left because of church teaching, some left because they felt ignored and some left because they were simply flat out bored by what was being offered. Hundreds returned to the Church because of our outreach. Through our major interfaith program, thousands more became more familiar with what we as Catholics believe and thousands of Catholics became more familiar with what their neighbor believe.

On this feast of the ascension of our Lord into heaven, we are reminded once again that "just as Jesus was sent by his Father to preach the gospel, so now are we went to do the same," not just some of us, but all of us!  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that through our baptisms all of us are missionaries.

It goes on to say that those who are ordained and those who are married have a added obligation in this matter.  Marriage partners have a special obligation to lead each other and their children to holiness. In fact, parents are the primary evangelizers of their children. Priests have a special obligation to empower all the baptized to be evangelizers to the world!