Vatican City, Jun 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI says the Church's celebration of the birth of John the Baptist should be a reminder that for God, all things are possible.
“From his mother’s womb, in fact, John is the forerunner of Jesus: his miraculous conception is announced from the Angel to Mary as a sign that 'nothing is impossible to God,'” he said to pilgrims in St. Peters Square during his midday Angelus address June 24.
The Pope was marking today’s Solemn Feast of The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. He noted that apart from Our Lady, St. John is the only saint to have their birthday celebrated as a liturgical feast “because it is closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”
He explained that St. John is emphasized by all four Gospel writers as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament by preparing the way for the Christ and the New Covenant.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” said Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
St. John’s father, Zechariah, was “a priest of the cult of the Old Testament,” and yet “he did not immediately believe the announcement of an unexpected fatherhood,” said the Pope.
And so Zechariah was silenced until the child’s circumcision when “animated by the Holy Spirit” he proclaimed his son’s mission;
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”
“All this was manifested 30 years later,” said the Pope, when St. John started to baptize in the River Jordan “calling the people to prepare, through the act of repentance, the imminent coming of the Messiah.”
St. John then fulfilled his mission by both baptizing the Messiah in the River Jordan and, explained Pope Benedict, in being “asked to precede Jesus even in violent death.”
Thus in being beheaded by King Herod, St. John “bore full witness to the Lamb of God, whom he had first recognized and announced publically.”
“Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly cousin Elizabeth to carry to term the pregnancy of John,” the Pope concluded.
Dodge City, Kan., Jun 24, 2012 (CNA) - Sister Arlene Vasquez, MCDP (Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence) had no intention of becoming a sister.
It’s not that the thought of becoming a sister hadn’t occurred to her. It had. And she decided it wasn’t for her. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a deep personal faith.
After attending Catholic school in San Antonio run by the Congregation of Divine Providence, and having been reared by two deeply devout parents, Arlene chose to become a lay associate, which is a bit like being a sister, with one large exception – you don’t profess vows.
“I remember thinking, this I can do,” she said. “A non-vowed member is fine. I was one of those who had a long litany as to why religious life is not pertinent in today’s society. “Fortunately,” she said,
“God has a sense of humor.”
Arlene was living with her sister, also a lay associate, in a home “too large for us” when they were asked if they would open their house to sisters living in community. Before long, two MCDP sisters moved into the home.
Pretty soon, Arlene said, “All those misconceptions about the Religious life, all those barriers we put up were slowly done away with.
“We were rubbing shoulders with them. I learned that the way I was living and they were living wasn’t much different. As a young adult, if you’re ministering to teens, there are certain life choices; there are things you won’t do. You can’t preach one thing and do another.”
“I discovered the gift of community, being able to share life’s joys and some of the sorrows, the jarriness of life.”
As it turned out, she said,
“The two sisters who moved in with us were both former formation and vocation directors. Needless to say, I started some serious discernment. I was 26.”
She took her not-so-final-vows as a Missionary Sister of Divine Providence in May, 2006.
“In our community we don’t take perpetual vows,” she explained, “we take triennial vows. What it means is that every third year we will profess vows again. I find it very moving. Almost a third of our congregation takes vows every year.”
After San Antonio, Sister Arlene was assigned to Rio Grande City in the Brownsville Diocese. Just before arriving in Kansas a year and a half ago, she completed a year-long sabbatical. She serves at St. Anthony Parish in Liberal as the Director of Religious Education. It’s the first time she has served in a
parish without a school.
Yet, she still fulfills her greatest joy,
“sharing the faith with the next generation, and helping parents grow in their faith and be able to share that with their children and empower their children. That’s my greatest joy. Also journeying with young people as they discover more about their faith.”
Girls will occasionally ask her about her role as a sister, in particular about her vows.
“Poverty, chastity and obedience; sometimes they want to know what that means. Poverty, I tell them, means everything is held in common. Yet, I have what I need to be able to live. Obedience is trying to say that we live by discernment, by the leadership needs or congregational needs. We ask what it is that God is ultimately calling us to do.”
“Chastity means that I won’t have my own family. But it frees me to love in a different way.”
And of course there are challenges. When she first joined her congregation, they hadn’t suffered a death in 25 years.
“Since committing to the community, we’ve had 10 deaths. A few have left. It’s a challenge. It causes you to reflect on your own story: What brought me to religious life? What sustains me in religious life? I freely chose this life based on a call by God.”
To girls or women who may be discerning a religious vocation she offered this advice:
“Ask questions. Get in contact with other women religious. See how they live life. When you make the choice, find that one congregation that fits for you.”
“It doesn’t mean we have all the answers. As you discern, you’ll discover opportunities extended to you. You may think this is not the right place or vocation for you, but you will always walk away enriched by the experience or the opportunity extended to you to better know yourself, your faith, your career – including a life as a professed woman religious.”
Posted with permission from The Southwest Kansas Register, the official newspaper for the Diocese of Dodge City
Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Facing a $17 million projected deficit, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is cutting over 40 jobs, closing and restructuring programs, and shuttering its 117-year-old newspaper The Catholic Standard and Times.
“I took this action with great reluctance, as one of several urgently needed steps to restore our Church to a healthy footing,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said June 21.
He added that every departing employee has “the respect and sincere gratitude of the archdiocese,” and urged people to pray for the employees who are losing their jobs.
Staff reductions will affect 45 positions, while 19 offices or ministries will consolidate.
Archbishop Chaput said that the archdiocese has paid for its ministries with growing deficits for many years .
“These serious deficits have then been made whole with the sale of assets or the drawing down of investments. This is sometimes necessary in an emergency. But it can’t be justified or sustained as a normal way of operating,” he said in his weekly column at CatholicPhilly.com.
The archbishop said that even with the adjustments the archdiocese’s budget in fiscal year 2013 will face a deficit over $5 million. He has asked the archdiocese’s financial staff and the Archdiocesan Finance Council to “do everything required by best business standards” to balance the budget by 2014.
With the closing of the one-time weekly The Catholic Standard and Times, which became a monthly last year, CatholicPhilly.com will continue to serve as the archdiocese’s official news outlet. A reduced staff will publish Catholic news, commentary and information.
Programs that will be completely eliminated include Camp Overbrook, a summer camp for poor children, and the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization, which served black Catholics. The Catholic Institute for Evangelization site will close and the institute will continue its work in another form.
The archdiocese’s youth office will merge with the Catholic education office and the catechetical formation office, while Hispanic ministry programs will merge into the Office for Hispanic Catholics.
The archdiocese’s Office of Financial Services will be implementing cost-cutting initiatives, but these will not meet the budget shortfall.
The shortfall does not include over $11 million in legal fees in the past year as the archdiocese continues to respond to sex abuse lawsuits.
Financial problems have forced the archdiocese to close 27 schools and nine parishes since Archbishop Chaput became head of it last year.
Archbishop Chaput noted the archdiocese’s ongoing duty to serve the religious needs of Catholics, to serve the poor, to support sexual abuse victims and to defend the Catholic community in the public square.
“All of these obligations are important. We will work hard to meet each of them,” he said. He promised to work to help Philadelphia Catholics live a life of faith where “their children are safe and their spirits are nourished.”
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Fox News Rome correspondent and former National Catholic Register journalist Greg Burke has been praised as the ideal choice for the Vatican's new media adviser post.
“It's an incredible challenge,” Burke told CNA on June 24. “I didn't want to leave the job at Fox, which has been a wonderful gig.”
“But I think if I didn't take it, I would always be wondering if I could have made a difference,” he said. “I guess now I'll get to find out.”
Burke's newly created position requires him to assist the Vatican with communications issues between the Holy See press office, other Vatican communications departments and the Secretariat of State.
Originally from St. Louis, Mo., the 52-year-old is a Columbia University journalism graduate, a lay member of Opus Dei, and previously worked as a Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register.
He credits his work at the Register – writing during the 1980s and early 90s under former editor-in-chief and friend Francis Maier – as preparation for the new job.
“I feel very fortunate that I've had a lot of real world journalism experience, at a very high level, and I hope I can put that to use for the Vatican,” he said.
“Blame it all on Fran Maier if you want; he's the one who gave me a job in Rome almost 25 years ago.”
Maier, who serves as special adviser to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and was former chancellor of the Denver archdiocese, is equally enthusiastic over Burke's appointment.
“Greg dramatically improved our coverage of Vatican affairs and the state of the Church in Europe,” Maier told CNA.
“He brings a great blend of intelligence, professional skill and poise to his work anchored in a deep Catholic faith. He's a wonderful choice for the job.”
Yet despite the excitement surrounding his move, the Vatican's new media adviser admitted initial feelings of hesitation.
“The day I accepted – just a couple weeks ago – I was pretty nervous about it,” Burke said. “Was I making the right move?”
However, Burke said he recently picked up a book titled “A Good Man,” by Mark Shriver, which chronicles the life of the author's father. A longtime U.S. public servant, Sargent Shriver married into the Kennedy family and started the Peace Corps.
“Sarge Shriver was an incredibly talented guy, and also just an outstanding man of faith. His whole sense of joy and abandonment was really deeply felt, and and I think I was reading it just at the right time,” Burke said.
“The message was really clear: do every thing you can to make the world a better place, and those around you a little more joyful,” he added. “And then don't worry about anything, even in the face of great adversity. You're not the one in control.”
“I can't fix everything and I'm no PR miracle worker,” Burke said, “but I think the fact they created this position is a step in the right direction.”