Kansas City, Mo., Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) -
Encouraging and supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life has been a top priority for Bishop Robert Finn since his installation in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph. Currently, the diocese has nearly 30 men studying to become diocesan priests while others have been called to nearby religious orders.
While 27 men are currently in various stages of formation to serve as diocesan priests in the diocese, others have been called to different communities. Over the past year, at least three women and one young man from the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph entered religious life in other dioceses. Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioner Rebecca Restivo entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. St. Pius X grad Therese Ringel and St. Mary's High School alumna Lisa Gordon both entered the School Sisters of Christ the King in Lincoln, Nebraska. O'Hara High School grad and Benedictine alumn, Carl Baker, recently became a novice at St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kansas.
When asked if Baker was the “fish that got away,” Keith Jiron, Director of the Office of Vocations for the diocese remarked that they would “never say 'don't do the order' out of our own greed because we have to be faithful to God's call in their own life."
Vince Huber, a local man studying Theology in Rome for the Apostles of the Interior Life, spoke with the Catholic Key, the newspaper from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, about his journey to the religious life. Huber is the oldest of four children to Randy and Debbie Huber. He grew up first at St. Peter Parish in Kansas City and then Nativity in Leawood.
When Huber began studies at the University of Kansas, he felt he had a big decision to make - Would he continue to go to Mass each Sunday? "The whole experience of going to college was very important," Huber said. Now with independence, he had the ability to decide if he really wanted to go to Mass. If he did, he "didn't want to go just because my family did."
Deciding that he would go to Mass, Huber felt he must make a full and conscious commitment to his faith. He first decided to pray daily. In his sophomore year he began going to Mass daily at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center and made a commitment to pray for a half hour before classes. "That experience of prayer really started transforming me," Huber said. Huber also began taking theology classes at the Center.
Aside from deepening his spiritual life, Huber also acquired a girlfriend in his sophomore year. Already though, the seed of a vocation began to surface. "The night we broke up," Huber explained, his girlfriend said, "I think you need to be a priest." It may have been said with a touch of anger, but it was also the truth.
One influence on Huber's discernment of a vocation was the Center's director, Monsignor Vincent Krishe (then Father Krishe). It wasn't necessarily any conversation they had, Huber explained, "The most important thing was his presence and what he had done at the Center. He represented Christ to us as students." The Center had begun an hour of Eucharistic adoration at 6:00 a.m. daily. When the leader of that group had to drop his involvement because of conflicts with schedule, "Father Vince took over," Huber said. Huber was profoundly moved by Father Vince's example and commitment. He kept it going for an hour each day even though much of the time, Huber and Father Vince were the only two there.
Following his junior year, Huber took the summer off in order to seriously discern a call to the priesthood. He even began the process to enroll for studies with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
But then in his senior year, Sisters from the Apostles of the Interior Life joined the staff at the Lawrence Center and his life took a different direction. He began receiving spiritual direction from the Sisters and eventually felt "called to be an Apostle instead of entering the diocesan seminary."
Huber had already wanted to be a priest and was "inspired by the priestly life." Some things attracted him more than others. An aspect of the priesthood that most attracted Huber was "forming people in the image of Christ and the Sisters were doing that." While he was inspired also by the priest's role as minister of the Sacraments, he also saw the importance and need of "preparing people to receive the Sacraments well," which was another thing the Sisters were doing.
These were things Huber felt called to, while at the same time he was realizing that a "parish priest has to do so many very practical things," which while essential to the life of the Church, were not where his interest or calling led.
The Apostles of the Interior Life are consecrated women dedicated to evangelization and the "interior formation of all who seek to know and love Jesus Christ." They were founded under the direction of Father Salvatore Scorza, a priest of the Diocese of Rome. The first member, Sister Susan Pieper, is an American and the group has houses both in the U.S. and Italy. In 2002, Father Scorza founded a men's branch which consisting of men from the U.S. and Italy, including Vince Huber, who live in community in Rome and are studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical University of St. John Lateran. More information about the Apostles, their ministries and charism can be found at www.apostlesofil.org.
Like most vocation stories, Huber's includes his family. "A vocation doesn't come out of nowhere," Huber said, "I've been privileged to have a great family. They've always been a model of love and faithfulness to each other." It's a model which will serve Huber well.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Key, newspaper from the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph.
Minneapolis, Minn., Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) - In a recent series of teachings on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis John C. Nienstedt discussed how sin affects our relationship with God and related his personal experience as a confessor of 13 years.
Justifying the Catholic practice of Penance, he described confession from a priest’s point of view and also warned against the abuse of General Absolution.
“From the very beginning of his public ministry, then, Jesus calls all men and women to conversion from sin,” the archbishop wrote in the November 5 issue of the Catholic Spirit.
He then cited paragraphs 386-387 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which note that without Revelation “we cannot recognize sin clearly” and that we try to explain it as “merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure.”
The Catechism emphasizes that sin “is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.”
Citing the First Letter of John’s admonition not to deceive ourselves by thinking that we are “free of the guilt of sin,” Archbishop Nienstedt wrote:
“To be truthful, we must all admit that we have sinned. Sin affects both our relationship with God and with our neighbor. But the truly good news is that Jesus came to save us from sin and that he has entrusted the power to absolve sin to his apostles. That power of forgiveness is offered to us in the sacrament of penance, otherwise known as reconciliation.”
The archbishop gave several reasons for the Sacrament of Penance being administered in a verbal confession of sins to a priest.
First, Jesus “always forgave sins in a one-on-one encounter with the penitent.”
Second, human beings generally only apologize with difficulty.
“We can inevitably find all kinds of self-justifying reasons for what we have done or failed to do. Yet, once we have spoken out loud the reality of our guilt, it is often only then that we accept responsibility for what we have done, and only then can we begin to reform our ways,” Archbishop Nienstedt remarked.
Finally, the actions we call sins “very often betray an attitude or an inner disposition that ultimately led us to commit a particular sin,” a disposition which must be addressed.
He also described penance from a confessor’s viewpoint:
“Having taught a penance practicum to seminarians for 13 years, I have learned that there is an art on the part of the confessor in hearing a confession. The priest has to listen closely to what is being said ‘between the lines.’ It is one thing to know that one has been uncharitable, hurtful or unfaithful, but that doesn’t necessarily lead one to know why he or she committed the particular act, i.e., what prompted this action in the mind or heart.”
Archbishop Nienstedt criticized the abuse of General Absolution, noting that two popes, a bishops’ synod, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have never approved its use as a normal practice.
Its regular use, the archbishop said, is “bound to have a negative effect on the spiritual well-being of the penitent because general absolution involves a depersonalized experience of the sacramental grace of forgiveness.”
“Without the one-on-one encounter and an explicit confession of guilt, penitents also risk developing a superficial understanding of their willing participation in the personal evil that is sin.”
He appealed to priests of his diocese to refrain from delivering general absolution, especially during Advent penance services.
He closed his remarks with a prayer, saying:
“Let us pray again and again for the grace of that conversion from sin that Jesus announced so long ago: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!’”
Denver, Colo., Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) - Principal Jessie Skipwith of Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver, Colorado recently spoke with CNA about his school’s selection for the National Catholic High School Honor Roll.
The National Catholic High School Honor Roll, an independent project of the Acton Institute, has named Bishop Machebeuf High as one of the best 50 Catholic secondary schools in the United States for the third year in a row. The selections are made based on the criteria of academic excellence, Catholic identity, and civic education.
Writing in an e-mail interview, Principal Skipwith credited the school’s success to its “significant conscientious efforts” to live out its mission as “a community of Catholic faith.” In his words, the school strives daily “through all of its endeavors” to “form the hearts, minds and souls of our students in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the living tradition of the Catholic Church.”
He also praised the “direct impact” made by the school’s faculty, students, parents and administrators, calling it an “extraordinary blessing” to have families committed to the investment of Catholic education.
“It directly impacts the evangelization of our faith and the future numbers of the Church,” he explained.
Skipwith also described the Advanced Placement and Honors courses provided by the school, saying their availability is maximized to best prepare students for college.
Asked by CNA about the contribution of Bishop Machebeuf High School’s campus ministry, the principal said the program helps set the high school apart from other schools and has been “one of the major defining aspects of that which makes our daily school environment resonate with our students and families in the way that it has.”
Campus ministry helps the school begin and end each day with prayer. All classes also begin with prayer.
“Students enjoy participation in the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist and many, through their experience of conversion, participate in both Baptism and Confirmation,” Skipwith said.
Faith-based and service-oriented clubs at the school, he explained, help students acquire a focus on “cultural and socio-economic diversity, service in the community, and dialogue surrounding the many social issues that continue to influence the daily lives of our students and families.”
Each student will also participate in a theology class every day of his or her four years at Machebeuf, and they daily encounter members of the Dominican Sisters of the Saint Cecilia Congregation from Nashville, Tennessee and religious brothers from the Denver-based Servants of Christ Jesus.
Principal Skipwith told CNA that Bishop Machebeuf High School plans to continue to evaluate and assess its strengths and limitations. Further collaboration with student, parents, faculty, administration and board members will also be pursued with the goal of advancing “a more complete development and unsurpassed personal, spiritual and academic success” for Machebeuf’s students.
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) - Having returned from his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Sunday Angelus with 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. In his words to the faithful, the Pope challenged them to be mindful of how the Lord comes into their lives and to make room for him.
Before the praying the Angelus, he noted the beginning, with the First Sunday of Advent, of a new liturgical year. "All of us say that 'we don't have time' because the rhythm of daily life has become, for us, frantic...God gives us his time. We have always little time; especially for the Lord we do not know or, sometimes, do not want to find. Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the beginning of the liturgical year makes us rediscover with always new marvel.”
Pope Benedict then explained that God gives us his time “because he entered into history with his word and his works of salvation to open it to the eternal, to make it become part of the history of the covenant. Time is already in itself a sign of God's love: a gift that like every other thing, man is in a position to value or, to spoil; to understand, or to neglect with obtuse superficiality."
The Pontiff suggested three great "hinges" of time, which scan the history of salvation: at the beginning, Creation; at the middle, the Incarnation-Redemption and at the end, "parusia," the final coming that also includes universal judgment.
"These three moments," he continued, "are not understood simply in chronological succession. In fact, creation is at the origin of all, but it also continues and is carried throughout the entire cosmos, until the end of time. So too the Incarnation-Redemption, which occurred at a given historical moment, the period of Jesus' passage on earth, still extends its radius to all time, before and after. And at their time, the final coming and last judgment, which on the Cross of Christ had a decisive advance, exercise their influence over the conduct of men of every age."
The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in two moments, the Holy Father explained."First it invites us to reawaken the expectation of the glorious return of Christ; then, as Christmas approaches, it calls upon us to welcome the Word made flesh for our salvation.
“But the Lord comes into our lives all the time,” Pope Benedict reminded the faithful.Turning to today’s Gospel reading, he said, “Jesus' appeal therefore comes very much at the right time and in this first Sunday it is again proposed with force: 'Be watchful!' Jesus directed these words to his disciples, but also to 'everybody else' because each one will be called to answer for his existence at a time known only to God. This entails the right detachment from earthly things, sincere repentance for one's own errors, active charity towards one's fellow man and especially a humble and trusting faith in the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father."
Benedict XVI concluded, "The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We invoke her to help also us to become a prolongation of humanity for the Lord who comes."
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) - Following the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict noted that today marks the Feast of St. Andrew, and that his feast day highlights the relationship between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.
"St. Andrew is the patron saint of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; for this reason the Church of Rome feels closely connected to that of Constantinople by a tie of special fraternity,” Pope Benedict said.
Little is definitively known about St. Andrew. He was originally a disciple of John the Baptist and along with John the evangelist he became one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.
After the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, St. Andrew brought the Gospel to numerous parts of modern-day Turkey, including Constantinople.
St. Andrew was martyred on November 30, 60 A.D. under the reign of Emperor Nero. Instead of being nailed to a cross, historians generally agree that he was tied to the cross to prolong his sufferings.
According to tradition, Pope Benedict said today that he had sent a delegation of the Holy See, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to visit the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.Pope Benedict XVI also said, “With all my heart I extend my greetings and my best wishes to him and to the faithful of the Patriarchate, calling on all the abundance of heavenly blessings.”
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2008 (CNA) - Shortly after completing the Angelus prayer and his reflections on Advent, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the outbreaks of violence in India and Nigeria and deplored the thinking of the attackers.
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India began on Wednesday evening but were only brought to an end on Saturday. The perpetrators of the attacks and their motives remain unidentified, but close to 200 people were killed in the armed siege of eight different locations in Mumbai’s commerce and film districts.
Immediately following the attacks Pope Benedict condemned the violence and offered his prayers for the victims and their families.
The violence in central Nigerian city of Jos erupted after the results of regional elections were announced on Friday. The party which is generally associated with Christians, the People’s Democratic Party, was declared the victor in the elections, but the announcement was quickly greeted with accusations of rigging from the backers of the Muslim-associated All Nigeria People’s Party.
Rioting ensued, and the casualties are estimated to be in the hundreds. Although conflicts in the region are generally over resources, the violence usually breaks along ethnic and religious lines.
Speaking from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI reacted to the news of the violence.
"There are many causes and circumstances behind these events but we must all feel the horror for and deplore the explosion of so much cruel and senseless violence,” he said.
“Let us ask the Lord to touch the hearts of those who are under the illusion that this is the path to solve local or international problems. Let us all be stirred to give an example of meekness and love so that we can build a society worthy of God and man," the Pope exhorted.