Kansas City, Mo., May 16, 2009 (CNA) - Years after exchanging the gridiron and goalposts for vestments and the altar, Father Richard Rocha is again taking up coaching, of a sort. As the new Director of Vocations, he will be recruiting, mentoring young men in the process of discernment and cheering them on.
Father Rocha, who grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri had always dreamed of coaching football, even while hearing this constant, quiet voice calling him to something greater, the priesthood. It took 14 years for him to answer, while he lived his original dream of coaching. In 1996, he finally realized that it wasn’t what he wanted, it was what God wanted. He made the decision to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood at the age of 34.
He understands the uncertainty and rebellion many young men feel when they first think they hear the call. He also understands the power of prayer when it comes to vocations.
“My mother prayed every day for 14 years that I would become a priest, praying to St. Jude and Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he said. “I had no chance.”
Father Rocha was ordained in 2002.
He served as a parish priest for several years before being tapped by newly installed Bishop Robert Finn to serve as his Master of Ceremonies and secretary in 2005.
He expects to use his experiences, as a high school and college football coach and as a priest to help young men discern and nurture their call to the priesthood.
“We’re all on God’s team, he said.
In the years since his ordination, Father Rocha has learned that prayer is a huge component needed in our daily lives. “We need prayer, to thank God for our blessings and to make requests, like praying for more vocations. We have to help young people develop the mindset of prayer. Staying close to God through prayer and the sacraments will help those called to priesthood or religious life to discern.”
Putting God first is huge, he said, “developing prayer lives and having a spiritual direction. I hope to get that across to young men.”
He himself was drawn to the Eucharist, attending Mass with another coach occasionally at first then daily, wherever he was. “It’s important for a young man who thinks he might be called to the priesthood to stay close to God through prayer, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and adoration.”
He is excited about his new job, and is confident that although there will be challenges, the groundwork laid by current Vocations Director Father Steve Cook and his staff, Keith Jiron and Marilyn Schaeffer, will make the challenges simpler.
“It is a good idea to get priests to develop a watchful eye for possibilities, young men and even school boys, who might be considering the priesthood. Father Cook has put together quite a database of potential priests, which will be very helpful.”
Father Cook is returning to parish life; he will serve as pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kansas City.
Father Rocha hopes to recruit more young men to the priesthood. Serving as Bishop Finn’s secretary has given him a take on what the bishop wants for this diocese, and one of those is a greater number of vocations. “It’s important to plant the seed early. That’s one reason why we have fifth grade Vocation Days, begun by Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland in 1995, to interest and excite youngsters about the priesthood. We also need to plant the seed in parents, asking them to pray for a vocation for one of their own. That’s a challenge, not just praying for vocations in general, but to pray that their son or daughter hears and heeds God’s call.”
The Vocation Office has seen an increase in young men wanting to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood. There were six seminarians from this diocese in 2004. Five years later, there are 26 seminarians studying at seminaries across the country, including Conception Seminary College, St. Meinrad in Indiana, St. Gregory the Great in Nebraska, Mundelein in Illinois, Kenrick-Glennon in St. Louis and The North American College in Rome.
“I don’t plan on having an annual draft day for seminarians,” Father Rocha said with a laugh. “Right, each parish in the diocese required to send one of its young men to the draft and seminaries will take their pick. No. What we will do is suggest and ask. I’ve heard of young men who considered the priesthood, but since no one ever asked them if they were thinking about it, the call went unanswered. But we have about six young men entering the seminary class next year.”
Father Rocha joked that with this new job, he was moving up, to the sixth floor of the Gillham Plaza Building next door to the Chancery. He looks forward to working with the Vocations Office staff and bringing in new recruits for God’s team.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Key, newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City, Missouri.
San Diego, Calif., May 16, 2009 (CNA) - A student conference on the importance of marriage and its defense is scheduled to take place this August in San Diego. It aims to bring together students and faculty who support natural marriage to help educate and motivate a new generation.
The conference, titled “It takes a family to raise a village,” is co-sponsored by the Ruth Institute and the National Organization for Marriage. It will be held at the University of San Diego from August 6 to 9 and is free to accepted students. Some travel assistance is also available.
An announcement for the conference says it will provide students with an “intense weekend” in the company of top scholars from various disciplines to discuss the social significance of marriage and the family. Students will interact with like-minded students and faculty “from across the faith traditions that support natural marriage.”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, will be among the scholars participating in the conference.
The conference says it will motivate students to understand the urgency for defending natural marriage and help them realize that marriage between a man and a woman is “more natural and practical.” It also promises to help students believe that it is “fun” to be on the side of marriage.
A May 8 newsletter from the National Organization for Marriage connected the conference to the attacks on Miss California Carrie Prejean, who was targeted for criticism for making comments supporting marriage between a man and a woman during her appearance in a beauty pageant.
“This young woman is not being smeared and attacked for anything she did wrong; she is being viciously attacked for one great thing she did right,” the National Organization for Marriage newsletter said.
“We need more young men and women with courage--and a community that backs them up,” it continued, saying the conference would help people to stand up to “the bullies” and to “speak for truth” on “hostile territory” such as college campuses.
Applications for the conference are due May 25.
More information on the conference and conference applications are available at the Ruth Institute web site, http://www.ruthinstitute.org
Madrid, Spain, May 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Socialist government in Spain has given the green light to a measure that would liberalize the country’s laws on abortion, allowing the procedure for any reason up until the 14th week of pregnancy. In cases of fetal deformation, it would be allowed until the 22nd week.
Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, said the law that would also allow abortion after the 22nd week in cases of grave or terminal illness in the unborn child. The law is intended “to safeguard the dignity of women.”
The measure will now be reviewed by officials from Spain’s Justice department and then sent to the Council of Ministers before being put before Parliament.
The new law, which the Church in Spain has strongly opposed, expands the current law which allows abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Washington D.C., May 16, 2009 (CNA) -
Encouraging Catholic universities and other institutions to act within the structure of the Church, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Donald W. Wuerl has warned that those institutions which ignore legitimate instructions from the bishops weaken the Church’s "practical communion."
Writing in a Tuesday column in the Catholic Standard, Archbishop Wuerl noted periodic media reports about Catholic institutions apparently behaving at odds with their Catholic identity. He said the incidents often prompt discussion about the unity of the Catholic Church and how Catholic institutions relate to the broader Church.
"Institutions that are recognized as Catholic and that exercise their ministry and activities as a part of the Church and in the name of the Church are not independent from the Church," he said. Such institutions must "live and act" within the structure of the Church, working "in solidarity" with the bishops who are responsible for preserving the unity of the Church.
He noted that contemporary Catholic thought, following Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," increasingly reaffirms the Catholic university as an "integral part" of the Church. The Catholic university must look to the bishops, especially the local bishop, to authenticate its claim to be "an expression of the faith and mission of the Church."
Archbishop Wuerl characterized the U.S. bishops’ 2004 document "Catholics in Political Life" as a "practical judgment" about the path that best serves the unity and teaching of the Church, with the local bishop being responsible for its application.
Though some disagree with a bishop’s application, Archbishop Wuerl said, "Communion in and with the Church obliges its members, even in practical decisions, to support the legitimate exercise of a bishop's responsibility… Otherwise, the unity of the Church becomes a theoretical consideration and the role of the bishop, who has the responsibility of unifying, is diminished."
The archbishop cited the directive of "Catholics in Political Life" that Catholic institutions should not honor those "who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."
Though Archbishop Wuerl did not explicitly mention the controversy over Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama, the passage he quoted has been frequently cited in the debate.
Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John D’Arcy cited the same passage in a letter to Notre Dame’s president, saying he should have been consulted about the school’s invitation to and honoring of the U.S. president who supports permissive abortion policies.
Archbishop Wuerl said the bishops’ document was "all the more significant" because of a contemporary mindset that suggests the bishops are "just one among many voices" offering direction and guidance to Catholics and the wider community "in the name of the Church."
When any Catholic institution chooses to disregard a legitimate instruction, the archbishop explained, "it weakens the Church's practical communion and fails to recognize the authentic role of the leaders of the Church."
"Public honors are different from the internal affairs of a university, such as the formulation of its budget, the advancement of faculty or the regulation of normal student activities," he continued. "Honors are a public declaration in the name of the institution. They therefore automatically invoke the institution's self identity and very mission. Such action necessarily touches on the school's relationship to the whole Church community and its leadership."
John Paul II’s "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," the archbishop said, helps to refocus on what it means to be an institution not only academically excellent and culturally engaged, but also one that is active specifically from its Catholic identity and heritage.
Archbishop Wuerl closed his column with a call for renewed attention to how institutions may meaningfully express their ecclesial communion, Catholic identity and "practical solidarity" with the bishops.
Ottawa, Canada, May 16, 2009 (CNA) -
An estimated 12,000 Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday to rally and march against legalized abortion in Canada.
The participants, part of the Canadian 2009 March for Life, included 18 Members of Parliament. Their numbers exceeded last year’s record-setting turnout of about 8,000.
Jim Hughes, president of the Campaign Life Coalition which organizes the march, said the turnout was "a real blessing," especially in the crowd’s "growing number of young people."
The March has taken place annually for 12 years, LifeSiteNews.com reports. Events began with interdenominational prayer services at the Canadian Reformed Church and St. George’s Anglican Church, while Masses were celebrated at Notre Dame Basilica and St. Patrick’s Basilica.
About 900 people attended the Mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica, while over 1,100 crowded into St. Patrick’s Basilica. About 200 additional people watched each Mass from the basement of each church due to lack of space.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, Hughes said he was "especially pleased" by the show of support from the Canadian Catholic bishops, with at least 12 bishops celebrating the Masses. The 2009 March marks the first time the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has given its official support for the event.
Abortion has been legal in Canada for 40 years.