Sunday, June 2, 2019


You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes
upon you, and you will be my witnesses to the ends 
of the earth.
Acts 1:1-11

The feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven has been transferred from last Thursday to today in most US dioceses so that more people can celebrate it as a community of faith.

What we celebrate today is Jesus "handing over" his ministry to be carried out by his disciples, with 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."

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 about one-sixth of the world population.

In this country, the Christian faith was brought by Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. After it was established here, Americans sent missionaries to places like China, Korea, Japan, India, Africa 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. This year, for example, the Archdiocese of Newark ordained six priests from five countries: United States, Canada, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Last year, two out of the five ordained for Louisville were born in Vietnam. We presently have several priests from various countries serving our parishes. In the future, your pastor could come from about anywhere in the world. We are indeed becoming more "catholic" as a church, meaning more "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 with the priests we have to reach out to these other groups without the help of the Christian faithful – without your help!

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 ten 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 this Cathedral from 1983-1997, initially I spent most of my time reaching out to "fallen away" and "disaffected" Catholics.  I am still doing that in my Parish Missions. I offered two of those Parish Missions just this year. I have even been invited by the bishop of Lexington to do one there this October. 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. When I was here between 1983 and 1997, hundreds returned to the Church because of our outreach. I am reminded every week that many of you are still here! 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 neighbors believe.

I guess, “once a missionary, always a missionary!” In my retirement I decided to again “go to the ends of the earth” with the gospel message. As I have mentioned several times, I volunteer in the poor country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a small country of 32 islands off the coast of South America. I am beginning my fifth year. With only 7 active priests in a country of 32 islands and lots of poverty, the needs of the church down there are many.  

I just returned from my 12th trip a few weeks ago. A fellow volunteer from Ireland, Fergal, was here visiting me again last week. We started at the same time. Volunteering full-time since his wife died, he needed a break. I have 5 lay missionary volunteers going down from here in Louisville in July. While at home, besides helping out here, I do priest retreat and parish missions all over the US and Canada to raise funds for my ministry down there. With the US recruiting so many international priests to work here, many from countries with less priests than we do, I thought it would be good for me to give some ministry back to the struggling Caribbean church in Saint Vincent. I was happy to hear just last week that three American Redemptorist missionaries will be joining us in December. 

Now that I have a foothold and now that I have renovated a place for volunteers to stay, I hope to recruit more retired priests and lay professionals in the years to come to do a bit of volunteer mission work with me.  Not everyone can go, but you can help those of us who do go. We can go in your name as well as ours! Some of you may not know it, but 160 of your old red chairs and kneelers are on their way down there as I speak! They will be divided between three small churches. They are part of a shipping container with 7 tons of surplus medical supplies out of our regional hospitals and donated church furnishings that convents and churches gave me. Thank you!

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 an 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 of the parish to be evangelizers to the world!  


Beth Kolodey, Childrens' Computer Teacher
Bill Kolodey, Master Bargain Hunter
Beth will be going down for a second time in July.

Susan Sherman, RN, Dr. Paul Sherman MD, myself, Karen Crook SOS, Tim Tomes, Master Organizer
Susan, Paul, Karen and Tim will be going down in July with Beth (above). 
I have made 12 trips.

Bob Owings, Master of Special Packaging for Shipping
Michelle Owings, Master Bargain Hunter of School Supplies

Dr. Paul Kelty, Multi-Front Helper


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