Tuesday, May 10, 2022


One of my classmates at Saint Thomas Seminary here in Louisville between 1958 - 1964 is doing great missionary work with the deaf on the other side of the world. I am proud of him and keep up with him a bit by way of modern technology. I get his parish bulletin every week by e-mail. 

Fr. Charles R. Dittmeier
Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme
English Catholic Community
Phnom Penh

Father Charlie lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and serves as the Director of the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme. The program offers sign language, education, vocational training, and basic life skills to deaf individuals. Besides efforts to promote a national sign language, the program fosters leadership skills and the establishment of deaf organizations in various areas. It has three community centers for students and members of the deaf community to participate in social activities, sports, and adult education.

Father Charlie is also the pastor of the English speaking Catholic community in Phnom Penh.

He is Secretary of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners Board of Directors.

Father Charles (Charlie) Dittmeier, is a diocesan priest from Louisville, Kentucky, and a Maryknoll Associate Priest. He began working with deaf people in the seminary in Baltimore and has continued that ministry in assignments in Louisville and in deaf schools and deaf communities in India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and now in Cambodia where he has lived since 2000. He was also a parish priest in Louisville and a teacher, chaplain, and counselor in a high school here for thirteen years. His hometown is Peewee Valley, Kentucky, (outside Louisville). 

This little notice in his weekly church bulletin grabbed my attention. It summarizes my own approach to ministry especially when I was pastor of our Cathedral of the Assumption here in Louisville between 1983 - 1997. We specialized in welcoming home "marginal, disaffected and rejected" Catholics, They came from 67 zip codes. This approach has been central to my own ministry, as well as his, over the last 52 years. Since Father Charlie and I were ordained on the same day in the same place, it is not surprising that we share this same perspective! Below is his quote below in yellow. I have also added a Lenten article from AMERICA Magazine that supports his and my thinking. 

No matter what your personal history, age, background, race, sexual
          orientation, nationality, etc.,
     No matter what your present status in the Catholic Church,
        No matter what your own self image,
   You are invited, welcomed, accepted, loved, and respected here.

A Reflection for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday
 Sebastian Gomes

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30).

In Lent, we often ask ourselves, “What will I give up?” We default to denying ourselves something enjoyable or even important in our lives. I once abstained from the Eucharist during Lent in order to intentionally reflect on the mystery of the sacrament and hopefully reignite my spiritual hunger for God.

One of the biggest stories we covered over the past year was the infamous Communion war—a raucous debate over whether or not priests should deny the Eucharist to President Joe Biden. The second Catholic president in U.S. history is a regular Massgoer. According to the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, some of Mr. Biden’s political positions advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, namely in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender. That’s very serious.

So, it is understandable that some Catholics would adopt an attitude of protectionism and argue for denying him the Eucharist. It was a noble compulsion: to protect the integrity of the sacrament that is so central to the life of the Catholic community and a corporeal connection to Christ. And yet, this drive to arbitrate the altar conflicts, ironically enough, with another cornerstone of the Catholic faith, namely Jesus’ own ministerial practices around meals as described in the Gospels.

Jesus did many things to unsettle the religious authorities of his day. But the one that got him killed was eating with tax collectors and sinners. We hear about one of these encounters in today’s Gospel.

Tax collectors and sinners were not individuals who periodically slipped up by skipping synagogue, lying to a spouse or wishing harm on their neighbor. These were individuals who deliberately made life decisions and pursued occupations that set them outside the established moral norms of the community. They were deemed outcasts and totally unacceptable in sacred spaces like the temple.

In today’s Gospel, we see the impulse of the Pharisees and scribes to protect the sanctity of sacred spaces and the entire community on full display. Yet this story, and so many others like it in the Gospels, is about how Jesus challenged that prevailing attitude and system by leaving the confines of sacred space to eat and drink with the unclean, the unworthy, the broken—people like Levi.

Jesus’ pastoral strategy was so creative: Instead of hosting an exclusive meal and guarding the door against sinners, he went to where sinners were. We can only conclude from stories like this one in Luke 5 that Jesus would have eaten with anybody! But why? It seems that he believed that grace operates in such encounters. Our faith is built on the witness that grace did operate in those encounters. If Catholics want to protect the integrity of the Eucharist, then studying Jesus’ habits around the dinner table, written plainly on the pages of the Gospels, is a good place to start.

I mentioned that the impulse to protect the integrity of the Eucharist—Jesus really present to us—is a noble one. Maybe President Biden should be denied Communion, or maybe he shouldn’t. But if Catholics want to protect the integrity of the Eucharist, then studying Jesus’ habits around the dinner table, written plainly on the pages of the Gospels, is a good place to start.

I don’t intend to abstain from the Eucharist this Lent. Instead, I will be praying for the grace to be more like Jesus and expanding my dinner table.

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