Monday, March 2, 2020

ASH WEDNESDAY & HOLY SPIRIT MIRACLE OF GRACE!

Ash Wednesday is a really busy day for all of us priests because "God's magnet" draws them to Church for ashes.  It's incredible year after year, and regardless of why they are there, the point is they are actually there.  And God's grace, compassion, and mercy reaches all of them in different ways.

Ash Wednesday 2020 was an extraordinary day, and God's compassion and mercy were poured out in ways I have never experienced as a priest.

As with every parish, we had Masses and Services for Ashes from early morning until late at night.  I was at the early Mass helping, and I celebrated the 12:05 pm Mass.  Afterwards, I went to my rooms at the parish and was going to catch up on some desk work before going back later in the afternoon for ashes and Mass.

I sat down at my desk, and quickly this message began coming into my mind:  "Go hear confessions."  I ignored it, and went on with the desk work.  "Go hear confessions" kept coming back.  After a while I went to get a Parish Bulletin to see if we had confessions on Ash Wednesday afternoon.  We did not.

Back to my desk, but this message kept coming:  "Go hear confessions."

Finally, since I couldn't get anything else done, I made up a small sign that said:  "Confessions 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm."  I picked up a spiritual book to read and went over to Church.  Since Ash services were continuing all afternoon, I put on my alb and stole, and went to Our Lady's Chapel where we have a free standing confessional--for anonymous and face to face confessions.

I sat down and picked up my book since I thought no one would be coming.  And that's when the Holy Spirit went to work.

Within five minutes a person came to confession who had been away almost 30 years.  I was astounded at such a sincere and humble confession.  I asked the person how they got here.  The person responded that they had come "to get the ashes," and on the way out saw my small sign.  The Holy Spirit took hold of this person and brought them to confession.

And then, one after another, for three hours the Holy Spirit brought so many people--all who had been away from confession for 10 years or longer.  One after another.  I was spellbound at the grace and action of the Holy Spirit who had obviously called all of these people to receive ashes, and then in a marvelous way, "hijacked" them to confession.

Grace upon grace flowed all three hours.  I was so humbled by God's incredible compassion and mercy to these people, and humbled to be an instrument of Jesus' welcoming forgiveness.

These graces were poured out for three full hours.  I never picked up my book because they never stopped coming.  Miracles of God's limitless love and mercy took place in one long continuum of grace.  

Not a single person came who had been to confession recently.  All had been away for at least a year or more.  

And then at 4:35 pm, the long line of God's grace and mercy ended.  No one else came.

I went back to my residence and directly to the chapel where I sat before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and lifted up prayers of praise and gratitude for the miracles of grace which I had witnessed over those hours.  I sat there for a long time in disbelief, which is the human reaction.  But then I realized this entire afternoon was in God's plan for all of those people, and this was his day to show his love through compassion, and his mercy through forgiveness.

I urge my brother priests to love the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You never know when at an unexpected moment, the Holy Spirit will prompt you:  "Go and hear confessions."

As Pope Francis has reminded us, "The Name of God is Mercy."


Monday, January 27, 2020

THREE HOURS WITH POPE FRANCIS

Monday, January 27, 2020

We have just concluded an extraordinary three hour private visit with Pope Francis as we begin our Ad Limina visit to Rome.

All of the Bishops of California, Hawaii, and Nevada shared their own pastoral experiences, and had a wonderful of exchange with Pope Francis.  We shared our hopes, our challenges, our joys, and our anxieties as we serve our various Arch/Dioceses in this era of history.

Sitting with the Pope in this setting felt like being with a beloved grandfather, a beloved friend who himself had been through the same struggles and hopes as we had.  He was so open, warm, welcoming, and invited us to share anything that we wished with him.

Pope Francis had the ability to listen carefully, ponder our views, and to respond in a kindly manner.  His demeanor and thoughtfulness truly reflected the mode of discernment which St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his fellow Jesuit followers.  The movement of the Holy Spirit needs to be discerned and recognized throughout our ministry.       

His insights about the world and the Church revealed his profound knowledge of the complexities of life across the broad spectrum of countries.  He expressed sadness over the sufferings and pain so many peoples endure daily, while always lifting up the hope which Jesus proclaimed and called us to live out.

The Successor of Peter truly carried out his role of "confirming his brothers in faith" and giving us courage to continue forward despite difficulties and even opposition from the culture.

 It was not the list of topics that was so impressive; rather, the openness of Pope Francis to listen to our faith journeys, our pastoral hopes, and to gently offer his own insights from his long ministry in Argentina.  The topics included the best efforts to bring Jesus to people living in our culture which at times seems so hostile to commitments and to making sacrifices for others.  The longing of young people, the challenges of family life in a cyber society, how to create unity among our people in their parishes, and similar topics were met with openness and collegial response.

Pope Francis is fond of the idea of "closeness" in our lives:  first, our closeness with Jesus day by day, and our closeness with brothers and sisters to Jesus.

He urged us to foster deeply "four aspects of closeness":  our closeness to Jesus through daily prayer and reflection, our closeness to our brother priests and all who minister with us, our closeness to each other as those called to shepherd God's people,  and our closeness to brother Bishops around the world in a new and vital unity.

An extraordinary and memorable day with Pope Francis!!  Surely one of the finest Ad Limina visits I have ever experienced!!

Viva Pope Francis!!






Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nuncio to US Bishops: Reflect on gift of communion with Pope.

The Fall General Assembly of the Bishops of the United States opens with speeches by the Apostolic Nuncio, and the outgoing President of the Episcopal Conference.

Vatican News:

The Bishops of the United States are meeting in Baltimore this week for their regular Fall General Assembly, with the prelates expected to address numerous topics, including the formation of priests, the political responsibilities of Catholics, and the strategic priorities for the Church in the United States for the coming years. At the meeting, the Bishops will also be electing a new President and Vice-president, as well has chairmen for several committees of the USCCB.

Bishops at prayer during the 2019
Fall General Assembly of the US Bishops' Conference

Nuncio addresses Bishops

After introductory business, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, took the floor to address the assembled Bishops. While recognizing the many challenges the Church faces, Archbishop Pierre also focused on the strengths of the American Church, including its defence of human life and religious liberty, as well as the rights of migrants and families, and its generosity in charitable works, especially for the most vulnerable.


In the face of an increasingly secularized culture, the Nuncio encouraged the Bishops to reflect on the missionary nature of the Church; how all members of the Church partake in her mission; collegiality among the Bishops themselves; communion within the Church, and especially with priests; and on how to address the shortage of clergy.

The gift of communion with the Pope

In view of the Bishops’ ongoing “ad limina” visits (taking place over the next several months), Archbishop Pierre suggested to the Bishops that “it may be useful to prayerfully reflect on the gift of communion with the Bishop of Rome”. He encouraged them to bring the Magisterium of Pope Francis to their people, focusing on the teachings of the Apostolic Exhortations Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia, and the Encyclical Laudato sí, as well as the Holy Father’s recent teachings on human fraternity. “Our communion with the Holy Father”, he said, “can be expressed in the concrete actions that we take to make his Magisterium better known among the people”.

Renewed fervor for evangelization

Archbishop Pierre also invited the Bishops, when they go to Rome, to share with the Holy Father “good news” from their Dioceses, and urged them to a renewed fervor for evangelization, in order to fulfill the “Holy Father’s dream for a ‘missionary option’ in the Church”.


He concluded his address by acknowledging the “spiritual and cultural heritage” of the Church in the United States, as well as the “faith and devotion” of the American Bishops and their flocks. “I am confident”, he said, “that the Church in the United States will discover the right path for its spiritual renewal so that it can continue to be the Church that Christ calls it to be”.


Reprinted from Vatican News

Monday, October 14, 2019

Cardinal Mahony: WHAT I SAW IN ETHIOPIA

Featured on Angelus News
Children in a Meki school. Education is key to the future of any people,
but especially so in the more rural areas of any country.


I recently returned to Los Angeles from a weeklong trip to Ethiopia, a place where the Catholic Church, with only 1% of the population, has an incredible impact across the entire country.

I went with a superb staff from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The purpose of the trip was to help its local partners with their programs that help displaced and malnourished people, and to aid its overall efforts in alleviating a variety of problems within the community.

On the first day of my trip, we drove to a town called Meki, which is an apostolic vicariate (the last step before becoming a diocese). We visited the beautiful Our Lady of Perpetual Help Clinic. The clinic serves many children, and offers care to pregnant mothers, from pre-birth to post-birth.

Small children are in the care of the clinic's day care center
while their mothers are working.

The vicariate there is doing an amazing job to promote and aid the local community. The bishop of Meki, Abraham Desta, owns and operates a large farm outside of the city, where small farmers are trained to be more efficient while raising funds for the vicariate. A variety of food can be found on this farm, from crops to dairy cows, to even vineyards for winemaking!


Bishop Abraham proudly displaying a 2018 Syrah red wine.


This farm is a unique example of how the Church in mission lands can be creative in serving the people by bringing them new skills for their own livelihoods.

Day two brought a trip to an area where a Women’s Empowerment Project is underway. Centuries of cultural tradition have empowered men to be the absolute authority in each family, while the wives are often relegated to a diminished role.

The new initiative has been designed to create a new paradigm of family life, one where husbands and wives work together, sharing the authority of the family. There is a school in this area as well, teaching both young women and young men the mutuality of the role of husband and wife from an early age.

Students at the school, where young women learn the usual subjects,
but also a new formation in women empowerment.


Day three led us to Dire Dawa, where we met with the Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Dire Dawa, who operates all the educational, social, and health projects in this large eparchy.

We then drove through more mountainous lands. CRS has pioneered the terracing of the mountains so that more land was available for food production, as well as to halt erosion of the soil. This initiative has had an enormous impact on the communities.

In Dire Dawa, our hosts prepared a special celebration bread which
is broken up into pieces and shared by all who are gathered.

CRS has developed a very creative project to make life easier for people throughout Ethiopia, creating wells and innovative water solutions to provide good, clean water to the local villages. No other project has had such an enormous, multiplier effect upon the local populations. Having clean water changes every aspect of local life — saves time finding water, fewer illnesses, sanitation, and more water for crops. 

The water points are managed by local committees.


Later, we arrived to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Deder. These people have been displaced due to conflicts involving territory and various groups.

After spending the night in Dire Dawa, we visited several projects in and around the city itself. We saw an orphanage that offers shelter to those children who otherwise would be on the streets at night. It provides a shelter for youth to gather, study, and play Ping-Pong.


 
Youth playing Ping-Pong at the shelter.



We also visited one of the 15 Ethiopian warehouses that CRS maintains, where there are fresh food items stored in preparation for any sort of disaster. I was especially impressed with CRS’ commitment to pre-staging items needed for various disasters, from typhoons and earthquakes, to displaced persons fleeing their homes.

 
A CRS warehouse filled with supplies. This is one of 15 within Ethiopia.


Our visit took us to Notre Dame School, one of the largest Catholic schools in Ethiopia, with more than 1,600 students.

We were fortunate to be able to make a brief visit to the Missionary of Charity Sisters community, where they care for the most neglected and needy people in the area. They provide medical and mental health attention to those in need. With the food supply from CRS, the sisters are able to accommodate and serve so many people.

As you know, immigrants and refugees hold a special place in the heart, soul, and ministry of Pope Francis. He always encourages us to bring “closeness” and “accompaniment” to people on the periphery. This trip allowed me to do that, in his name!

May God continue to inspire all of us, disciples of Jesus, to be alert for the most needy in our midst, and to reach out to them in his name!


This article was featured in Angelus News 
 
 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

PROJECTS IN DIRE DAWA

DAY 4

After overnight in Dire Dawa, we visited several projects in and around the city itself.

ORPHANAGE

This is a non-residential facility which deals with two types of youth:  those in homes with special needs, such as a single parent; and those on the streets with no place to stay at night.

The at-home youth are provided a place to gather, to play, and to study after school.  Simple facilities provide various things for the youth to do, such as ping pong.






Women in the community come together to learn how to create and operate small businesses.  One woman bakes very fine cookies and is selling them to various stores and food outlets.  She has received a loan from the Community Group, and repays it over a few months.  This woman is saving to purchase larger baking equipment so she can expand her business.  These many businesses give women a greater security for their families, and are able to provide more opportunities for their children.  



It is a real joy to feel the enthusiasm, interest, and commitment of all these women.  They support each other and learn different techniques from each other, as well as specialists who come in to work with them.  Really impressive to see their initiatives!!




CRS WAREHOUSES

One of the most impressive aspects of CRS activities around the world is their long-held strategy to station relief supplies in large warehouses in so many countries.  These are called Primary Distribution Points, and there are 15 of them in Ethiopia.  CRS brings in commodities from the port of Djibouti and stores, as in this example.
In order to keep the items fresh, they are brought in and stored for no more than 3 months, then sent on to local centers.


Over several years of seeing the CRS projects around the world, I have been so impressed with their commitment to pre-staging items needed for various disasters and needs:  typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, groups fleeing all kinds of threats, and the like.  In this way CRS can respond quickly when crises arise.

NOTRE DAME SCHOOL

We had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame School, one of the largest Catholic schools in Ethiopia with some 1,600 students--from kindergarten to seniors in high school.  The quality education is provided for all these students who come from the surrounding areas.  Three Ethiopian Sisters serve in the school, along with a layman as principal.  A large and varied staff helps teach and form these young people.

MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY SISTERS

Since our time was limited before having to fly back to Addis Ababa, our visit was very short.  Basically, these Sisters of St. Mother Teresa's Community care for the most neglected and needy persons in the community.  Almost all need medical attention through various clinics, as well as living arrangements for many until they are able to live on their own.

Medical and mental health issues are very prevalent here, as well as those in advanced age who are near death.  The Sisters benefit from various doctors and nurses who help out, but they are also able to send patients to the local hospital for more specialized care.

CRS is the primary food source for this enormous compound.  Without this food, the Sisters would never be able to accommodate and serve so many people.


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PLEASE DONATE TO THE INCREDIBLE PROJECTS OF CRS:  www.crs.org

SPECIALIZED PROJECTS IN ETHIOPIA

DAY 3
Today we flew to Dire Dawa, about an hour southeast of Addis Ababa.  We first met with the staff of the Secretariat of the Eparchy of Dire Dawa.  The Catholic Secretariat operates all of the educational, social, and health projects across this very large Eparchy.  



We met the staff and enjoyed a traditional coffee ceremony with them.  Ethiopian coffee is of very high quality and drank all acround the world.  In addition, they prepare a special celebration bread which is broken up into pieces and shared by all who are gathered.




We then drove through more mountainous lands with people living in villages at various elevations.  The main highway is the one taken from Ethiopia to Djibouti.  Since Ethiopia has no link to an ocean, all cargo coming by sea enters through the port of Djibouti.  We saw many large Containers being hauled in both directions, as well as fuel and other products.


TERRACED MOUNTAINSIDE

CRS pioneered the terracing of the mountains so that far more land was available for food production, as well as the halting of the erosion of the soil.  This one initiative has had an enormous increase in the amount of land available to farmers, as well as the production of food.






We then drove to an Internally Displaced Persons [IDP] camp in Deder.  These people have been displaced because of conflicts between different groups in various places of Ethiopia.  One example is the class between local farms in an area with roving herdsmen who come into their area and allow their herds to eat crops.  These conflicts result in people having to flee.  

Approximately 300 persons live in such tin shelters, with about 8,000 such displaced persons around the country.

WATER PROJECT: Belina Area

In this mountainous region, CRS has developed a very creative project to obtain good, clean water and make it available to people at local water stations.  Before, they would spend hours per day going in search of water.


One example of this project consists of a well down in the valley floor where there is abundant water below the surface.  This water is then pumped uphill about 2.5 miles to various levels of the mountain into storage tanks.  One large water tank holds 32,000 gallons.  Then, water lines descend down to 12 water points, and 6 water points for displaced persons' camps.

This means that some 45,000 people benefit from these water projects in and around this region.  The water points are managed by local committees.  So far, these pumps use diesel or electricity to pump the water.  Possibly in the future solar panels will replace them.



No other project has had such an enormous, multiplier effect upon the local populations.  Available good and clean water changes every aspect of local life:  little time spent in finding water, fewer illnesses because of the high quality of the water, better water for bathing and washing, and water for more crops.




On our return journey, stopped at one of the food distribution warehouses operated by CRS across the country.  These warehouses contain basically food products such as grains, and they are distributed as needed to various communities near and around these storage facilities.  Having the food near at hand is a great blessing for the people in need since little time is lost in transporting the food.



We then flew back to Addis Ababa after a most fruitful visit to this section of Ethiopia.

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP CRS WITH THESE PROJECTS:  www.crs.org






Friday, October 4, 2019

ETHIOPIA: WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT, WATER PROJECTS

DAY 2:  VISITING WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT PROJECTS AND WATER PROJECTS.



















Before departing Meki, we visited one of the Catholic Schools.  Catholic Education is a high priority for the Church and CRS across Ethiopia.  This school is located near the compound where the Bishop and his staff carry out all their local projects.

Education is key to the future of any people, but especially so in the more rural areas of any country.

WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT PROJECTS

We then drove to an area where a Women's Empowerment Project was underway.  Centuries of cultural tradition have empowered men to be the absolute authority in each family.  The wife has a very diminished role, relegated primarily to fetching water--often at several miles; caring for the children, preparing meals, washing clothes, and the like.



This new initiative has been designed to create a new paradigm of family life where husbands and wives together share the authority of the family.  Women are taught about their personal identity and dignity, and how to help their husbands understand that sharing mutually the authority of the family brings many blessings to the entire family.

These women learn business skills whereby they are able to begin small enterprises such as raising chickens and selling eggs, raising goats, preparing food products for sale, and the like.  They are then able to save their own money and eventually expand their businesses.  They do this in harmony with their husbands, not in opposition, a new mutuality of roles.



At the same location there is a school where young women learn the usual subjects, but also a new formation in women empowerment.  They are given new skills.







Also at the same location the boys are taught and formed as well.  They begin to understand the concept of mutuality in the role of husband and wife, and the great benefits to the family and to the marriage when such equal sharing in duties and rights is observed.




WATER PROJECTS

The single element essential for all human life is water.  Without water there is no life.

However, the only water which really benefits the people is good, clean water.  In rural areas throughout the world often the water supply is inadequate, or polluted, or not near to the people.

CRS long ago saw the need to help small communities develop new water projects which would provide clean and safe water where the people actually lived.  CRS purchased five very large drilling rigs for use across Ethiopia to help locate water, drill down to the water, and pump it up for the people.



A well is drilled to a level where fresh, safe and good water is located.  A pump is installed, and initially a diesel generator is used to pump the water to the surface.  In this example, the water is delivered nearby to a water station.  People bring 5 gallon jugs to obtain the water, about one or two cents the charge.


A local committee receives the money and accounts for it, using it to repairs or improvements to their system.  This committee is composed of both women and men.


A new addition to this water well is that of solar panels.  The panels are more expensive to install, but they have no moving parts, require no fuel, and have fewer performance problems.  The use of solar panels across Africa will mean an entirely new and sustainable source of energy for all projects.




The installation of water wells and the supply of local water that is good and clean is one of the great achievements of CRS over the years.


PLEASE DONATE TO CRS AT:   www.crs.org