It's been several weeks since I last posted and I would like to bring everyone up to date on what's been happening in my busy life. In addition to being ill during the first part of the Easter season (see most recent post - The Year I Missed Easter), a number of things have been happening in my life as well as in our country and around the world.
For several months I have been serving as the interim administrator of a parish in Troy, New York while awaiting the return of the pastor who had been on medical leave. That part of my life has now come to an end with a return of the pastor and my being able to move on to do a number of other things that I do for the Diocese of Albany, New York.
Toward the end of my sojourn at Sacred Heart Church in Troy the parish was able to complete a long-awaited dream of constructing a new playground for the children of the parish school and the neighborhood. It was my privilege, together with the priests from the parish, to bless and dedicate this new playground a few weeks ago. The children are now happily playing using this new facility.
Two events happened that have affected us in our country. One was the announcement by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the workings of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States because of what the Vatican felt were possible deviations from Catholic teaching. This has led to an uproar and cries from various people throughout the country coming to the defense of the women religious. The secular media in our country, of course, in their usual way, chose to make this sound like an attack on all the good work being accomplished by religious women in our country. Two things need to be kept in mind: 1) The LCWR was created as a response to the Vatican's call for religious congregations to have a national entity which would be a conduit for various religious orders to maintain a connection to the universal Church; and 2) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is empowered and responsible for seeing that institutions and groups affiliated with the Church are adhering to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church. Having said that, if what the Vatican is alleging is a problem within the LCWR, let me say that it is my hope that the commission now charged with looking at the work of the LCWR do so with sensitivity and openness. Also, in no way should the review of this commission fail to take into account the tremendous work done by the religious women in our country who dedicate their lives to assisting the poor, in teaching, social work, and health care. The many thousands of these dedicated sisters must not go unnoticed or unappreciated. My feelings in this matter have been echoed before in one of my previous posts - Women: God's Gift to Today's Church.
The other event occurring in the country was the announcement by our president that he supports the concept of marriage for gays and lesbians. This is a hotly contested issue and polls show the country evenly divided on whether or not these unions should properly be called marriages. My own position is that I believe in the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and in my Church this union is seen as sacramental. Nevertheless, the fact that this topic is alive today should give us all pause to take a look at how we treat our sisters and brothers whose sexual orientation is different from our own. All individuals are children of God and are worthy of being shown the respect that is due to all persons regardless of creed, race, gender or sexual orientation. May we all take a long, hard look at our own views and how we regard those who are different from ourselves.
Getting back to my final days at Sacred Heart Church, I must tell you about one of the last activities I was able to attend. Our parish school - which has children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade - held their annual musical show the other night. The children in the cast were from grades four through six and they performed the musical Annie which was, for this production, entitled Annie, Jr. These children were amazing and well poised as they performed. The audience was tremendously pleased and thoroughly enjoyed their efforts. It was a great mark of excellence for a great school. I will certainly miss the children.
One thing I do have to look forward to in the near future is a trip to the Eternal City - Rome, where on October 21, I will be privileged to be among the hundreds of thousands who will gather for the canonization of several new saints. Two of these new saints are from upstate New York: Blessed Marianne Cope, a religious sister who worked with (St.) Father Damien in the leper colony on Molokai. The other one is one who was born here within the borders of our own Diocese of Albany - Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha - a Mohawk Indian maiden who will become the first Native American saint to be canonized. It will be a glorious celebration and one to which I look forward with great anticipation.
Finally, today, here in the United States, we celebrate Mother's Day. We all owe a great deal to those wonderful women who have borne the sacred name of "mother" be they living or deceased. As a tribute to them, I would like to quote a passage from the author John Killinger from his book Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise:
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary,
I believe in the love Mary gave her Son,
that caused her to follow him in his ministry
and stand by the cross as he died.
I believe in the love of all mothers,
and its importance in the lives of the children they bear.
It is stronger than steel, softer than down,
and more resilient than a green sapling on a hillside.
It closes wounds, melts disappointments,
and enables the weakest child to stand tall
and straight in the fields of adversity.
I believe that this love, even at its best,
is only a shadow of the love of God,
a dark reflection of all that we can expect of him,
both in this life and the next.
And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights
in the world is a mother who lets this greater love
flow through her to her child,
blessing the world with the tenderness of her touch and the tears of her joy.