Monday, March 26, 2012

Homily at the Dedication of the Church of St. Mary of the Knobs, Sunday March 25, 2012

[Many have asked for a copy of this homily so it has moved from my short-hand and scribble to the blog.]

When I was at St. John's Seminary in Boston as a faculty member, the windows of my room looked out across an inner courtyard directly at the outside of the seminary chapel. Amidst all of the ivy on the facade one could read a Latin inscription, "Quam dilecta tabernacle tua Domine virtutum," "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts." It is a phrase which begins Psalm 84 which goes on:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Hosts!
My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my body cry out to the living God.
As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young,
My home is by your altar, Lord of Hosts,
My king and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord.

I often thought the line about the sparrows finding a home quite amusing because the birds had indeed found a place for their nests all along the ivy and ledges of the chapel. It was a lovely dwelling place.

I spent many hours over the years inside that chapel. It was a place where both as a student and later as priest and faculty member I was spiritually nourished both by the holy things that took place there and by the holy people who worshipped there. God dwelt in that chapel in the sacraments, devotions, and prayers offered and by the holy people gathered. It was a place in which the Church, the Body of Christ, manifested itself and became more and more the Body of Christ.

I think one could say about this new church, "Quam dilecta tabernacle tua Domine virtutum," "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts.  It is truly a lovely place in which God will begin to dwell today. 

God will dwell in the community gathered, the living breathing Body of Christ.

God will dwell in the Word proclaimed.

God will dwell in the person of the priest standing "in persona Christi, " as Christ stands before the Father with all the angels and saints offering the eternal sacrifice of praise.

God will dwell in the celebration of the Sacraments, most especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, the "summit and fount" of the Church's activity.

God will dwell in the true Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle.

As God has dwelt here in Floyd's Knobs since 1823, God will now dwell in this holy place. Indeed, "how lovely is your dwelling place."

I want you for a moment to look around this beautiful space. Both from the inside and from the outside it so unlike any other building we use in our day to day lives. One can stand either outside or inside of this building, gaze upon its structure and say, "Now that's a church!" Even if one did not even know what a church is one could still say that this building is different from all the other buildings around it. It is a space in which we do something different than what we do elsewhere.  Someone once described a church building as an "extraordinary space in which we do extraordinary things." It is a space in which heaven and earth are joined, a space in which we process towards the Divine and the Divine moves towards us in theophany.

I want you to gaze at the ceiling for a moment. If you use your imagination, doesn't the pattern of the wooden support beams that hold up the roof mimic the bottom of an upside down boat? The space in which you are seated is technically called the nave which comes from the Latin, "nave," which means "ship." One of the ancient symbols of the Church was that of a ship - a Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution, but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of souls guided by the successor of St. Peter.  See in this "nave" a ship guided by Peter, a place of safe harbor, a place of comfort and peace.

This space is also very human space, filled with all that makes up the human community. It is a place where we participate in the ceremonies and liturgies that touch the deepest edges of our lives - birth, death, marriage, nourishment, festival, initiation, sickness, sorrow, guilt, repentance, forgiveness - all of these at the hands of God in the Sacraments and life of the Church. It is as if the life of this very building will mirror the pattern of our human lives. This building has in a sense become a symbol of a living thing. It was born out of the love that you have for the Church, nourished and constructed, made to grow from infancy by generous hands, and now in its maturity, it will serve this community for years to come.

This is why today's ritual of dedication is so much like our ritual of Baptism.  At the beginning of this Mass, I sprinkled the entire building, the altar, the ambo, the sanctuary, and the people gathered with the blessed water that recalls our own baptism, that which made us a part of God's holy people. I will soon proclaim a prayer of consecration over the new altar and smear its surface and then the walls of this church with the Oil of Chrism, the same oil with which the priest or deacon smears the head of newly baptized child with the words, "Little child, as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his holy people, sharing everlasting." The anointing marks us for a new use, a new holy mission in life. So this altar and this place will be marked to be useful, to be missioned and directed towards our eternal salvation. As our liturgy continues, the altar will be draped in white as with a baptismal garment, or even as if of the wrappings of the tomb in which we are dead to sin but alive to Christ. The Easter candle will then be brought forward and the altar and walls of this church will receive the light of Christ. 

Today, my friends, this building, your child, is being initiated into the life of the Church to be useful to the Church's mission and its ultimate end - salvation. You have so match to be proud of in generously giving of your time, talent, and treasure in building this holy place. This building now shines as a beacon to the entire community of Southern Indiana of holy things, godly things, and divine gifts. What will make it shine all the more is the holiness of those gathered within it each and everyday, each and even week for years to come. In the Greek Rites of the Catholic Church just before Holy Communion within the Divine Liturgy, the priest holds up the Body and Blood of Christ and says, "Holy things for holy people." While we do not say it, we know it, we mean it, when we hear the priest say, "Behold the Lamb of God." This church is now a holy gift for God's holy people, a light upon the hill that shines forth to all who pass by.  Fill this place with the holiness of your lives and then leave this place to spread the good news as God's holy people. Be yourselves a holy gift for all God's holy people!

There is an inscription that was found on a bell that hung in the tower of a church in Northern Wisconsin that read:

"To the bath and the table,
To the prayers and the Word,
I call every seeking soul."

For many years, that bell rang out calling many a "seeking soul" to the promise of salvation. While this church has no bells - for now - this building by its very presence within the community calls every seeking soul "to the bath and the table, to the prayers and the Word," to the celebration of holy things for God's holy people, to the promise of salvation that God offers through the fullness and truth of the Catholic Church and that is why we can cry out with the words of the psalmist,

"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Hosts!
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord!"

Today you are indeed blessed.

Health-care Mandate Puts Ministries in Jeopardy

Here is a reprint of a column that appeared in the Indianapolis Star on March 23, 2012.

One of the highlights of my first year in Indianapolis has been meeting many of the religious sisters in our city and seeing how their good works improve the lives of so many people. Their dedication to their ministries has inspired me and given me an even deeper appreciation for the religious liberty that is a core value and fundamental right we all share as Americans.
It’s hard to imagine how much life in our state would be diminished if these sisters weren’t here. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see the federal government unnecessarily trying to force virtually all private health-care plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
All people who cherish the freedom given to us under the First Amendment should be alarmed by the precedent President Obama is establishing with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate for “preventive services.” Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience.
I recently celebrated Mass for the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in thanksgiving for their nearly 100 years of providing health care in Beech Grove at St. Francis Hospital. The story of how these Franciscan sisters came to Indiana holds a lesson for us today.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration was founded in Olpe, Germany, in 1863 by Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel. They served God by looking after the educational and health-care needs of the poor and neglected children. Staying true to the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, the sisters worked for the common good and cared for anyone in need, not just Catholics.
The sisters willingly worked with the German government to carry out their ministry, but when anti-clerical laws enacted in the 1870s made it difficult for them to continue their work or receive new members without compromising their religious beliefs, they looked for a place where they had the freedom to practice their faith without government interference.
Bishop Joseph Dwenger of Fort Wayne knew of their predicament and invited them to establish a convent in Indiana. Six sisters settled in Lafayette in 1875 and within three weeks they were operating a temporary hospital. Their community flourished and soon they were founding numerous hospitals, schools, orphanages, homes for the aged and centers for social work.
Given their history it’s not surprising that the good sisters are shocked to find themselves 137 years after coming to the United States once again fighting a battle to carry out their ministry without government intrusion and pressure to violate their religious beliefs.
“As Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, we cannot and will not comply with this mandate and ask you to please join us in offering prayers and sacrifices for this very important intention,” the sisters wrote in a recent statement concerning the recent Health and Human Services mandate.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate St. Augustine’s Home for the elderly in Indianapolis, faced religious persecution in their native France during the French Revolution and fled for other countries. For more than 140 years the Little Sisters have cared for the elderly in the United States. They’ve carried out their ministry by working together with volunteers and benefactors in their local communities and employed a lay staff, without discriminating on the basis of race or religion. Their health insurance offered to employees has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion. It has never been a matter of controversy.
The Little Sisters have said they will end their service to the elderly before being forced to violate their religious beliefs.
Catholics know many people do not agree with what our faith teaches concerning contraception, sterilization or abortion and we would never try to force anyone to accept our beliefs. All we ask is that we be allowed to operate our schools, hospitals and many charitable ministries without being forced to violate our religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church has a long tradition of effective partnership with government and local communities in the service of the sick, children, elders and the poor. We hope to continue to serve people everywhere regardless of their faith or if they have no faith. This mandate, however, puts all of our ministries in jeopardy.
I ask all people who believe in the religious freedom guaranteed under the Constitution to take a stand during this critical moment in our nation’s history.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

United for Religious Freedom: A Statement of the Administrative Committee of the USCCB

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered for its March 2012 meeting, is strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day. In our role as Bishops, we approach this question prayerfully and as pastors—concerned not only with the protection of the Church’s own institutions, but with the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.
To address the broader range of religious liberty issues, we look forward to the upcoming publication of “A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. This document reflects on the history of religious liberty in our great Nation; surveys the current range of threats to this foundational principle; and states clearly the resolve of the Bishops to act strongly, in concert with our fellow citizens, in its defense.
One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.
We begin, first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.
Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
So what is it about?
An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. [Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33]. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community. And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs.” [Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2].
A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops
have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.
A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.
Third, we want to indicate our next steps. We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.
Most importantly of all, we call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Letter of Cardinal Dolan, president of the USCCB, to his brother bishops regarding the HHS Mandate: "you now ask the obvious question, “What’s next?”

March 2, 2012

Dear brother bishops:

Twice in recent weeks, I have written you to express my gratitude for our unity in faith and action as we move forward to protect our religious freedom from unprecedented intrusion from a government bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I remain deeply grateful to you for your determined resolve, to the Chairmen of our committees directly engaged in these efforts - Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop William Lori -who have again shown themselves to be such excellent leaders during these past weeks, and to all our staff at the USCCB who work so diligently under the direction of the Conference leadership.

How fortunate that we as a body have had opportunities during our past plenary assemblies to manifest our strong unity in defense of religious freedom. We rely on that unity now more than ever as HHS seeks to define what constitutes church ministry and how it can be exercised. We will once again dedicate ample time at our Administrative Committee meeting next week, and at the June Plenary Assembly, to this critical subject. We will continue to listen, discuss, deliberate and act.

Thank you, brothers, for the opportunity to provide this update to you and the dioceses you serve. Many of you have expressed your thanks for what we have achieved together in so few weeks, especially the data provided and the leadership given by brother bishops, our conference staff and Catholic faithful. And you now ask the obvious question, “What’s next?” Please allow me to share with you now some thoughts about events and efforts to date and where we might go next.

Since January 20, when the final, restrictive HHS Rule was first announced, we have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it. We recall the words of our Holy Father Benedict XVI to our brother bishops on their recent ad limina visit: “Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop William Lori, with so many others, have admirably kept us focused on this one priority of protecting religious freedom. We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.

As pastors and shepherds, each of us would prefer to spend our energy engaged in and promoting the works of mercy to which the Church is dedicated: healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor. Yet, precisely because we are pastors and shepherds, we recognize that each of the ministries entrusted to us by Jesus is now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church. You and I both know well that we were doing those extensive and noble works rather well without these radical new constrictive and forbidding mandates. Our Church has a long tradition of effective partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad, and we sure hope to continue it.

Of course, we maintained from the start that this is not a “Catholic” fight alone. I like to quote as often as possible a nurse who emailed me, “I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.” And as we recall, a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.” No doubt you have heard numerous statements just like these. We are grateful to know so many of our fellow Americans, especially our friends in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, stand together in this important moment in our country. They know that this is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception. It’s about religious freedom, the sacred right of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain, not only we bishops and our Catholic faithful, but people of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest. The worry that we had expressed -- that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values -- was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, instead of the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach having to do so. He considered this “concession” adequate. Did this help? We wondered if it would, and you will recall that the Conference announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give the President’s proposal close scrutiny. Well, we did -- and as you know, we are as worried as ever.

For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry. Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” we still ask how this protects us. We’ll still have to pay and, in addition to that, we’ll still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate. And what about forcing individual believers to pay for what violates their religious freedom and conscience? We can’t abandon the hard working person of faith who has a right to religious freedom. And three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception. In many ways, the announcement of February 10 solved little and complicated a lot. We now have more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

So the important question arises: What to do now? How can we bishops best respond, especially united in our common pastoral ministry as an Episcopal Conference? For one, under the ongoing leadership of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Blaire and Bishop Lori we will continue our strong efforts of advocacy and education. In the coming weeks the Conference will continue to provide you, among other things, with catechetical resources on the significance of religious freedom to the Church and the Church’s teaching on it from a doctrinal and moral perspective. We are developing liturgical aids to encourage prayer in our efforts and plans on how we can continue to voice our public and strong opposition to this infringement on our freedom. And the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, that has served the Conference so well in its short lifespan, will continue its extraordinary work in service to this important cause.

Two, we will ardently continue to seek a rescinding of the suffocating mandates that require us to violate our moral convictions, or at least insist upon a much wider latitude to the exemptions so that churches can be free of the new, rigidly narrow definition of church, minister and ministry that would prevent us from helping those in need, educating children and healing the sick, no matter their religion.

In this regard, the President invited us to “work out the wrinkles.” We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is scurrilous and insulting, not to mention flat out wrong. Bishop Blaire did a fine job of setting the record straight.) The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets.” That doesn’t bode well for their getting a truly acceptable “accommodation.”

At a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff, our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for “working out the wrinkles.” Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in America. The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.

We will continue to accept invitations to meet with and to voice our concerns to anyone of any party, for this is hardly partisan, who is willing to correct the infringements on religious freedom that we are now under. But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching.

Congress might provide more hope, since thoughtful elected officials have proposed legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom. Meanwhile, in our recent debate in the senate, our opponents sought to obscure what is really a religious freedom issue by maintaining that abortion inducing drugs and the like are a “woman’s health issue.” We will not let this deception stand. Our commitment to seeking legislative remedies remains strong. And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom. Period. (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women. Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.) Bishop William Lori, Chairman of our Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, stated it well in a recent press release: “We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the Administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Perhaps the courts offer the most light. In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, apparently unheeded by the White House. Thus, our bishops’ conference, many individual religious entities, and other people of good will are working with some top-notch law firms who feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono. In the upcoming days, you will hear much more about this encouraging and welcome development.

Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times. Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some, like Bishop Robert Lynch wisely noted, wonder whether we might have to engage in civil disobedience and risk steep fines; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.

Brothers, we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans. There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within. As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.
I look forward to our upcoming Administrative Board Meeting and our June Plenary Assembly when we will have the chance to discuss together these important issues and our way forward in addressing them. And I renew my thanks to you for your tremendous, fraternal support and your welcome observations in this critical effort to protect our religious freedom.

With prayerful best wishes, I am Fraternally in Christ,
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 

My First Year as a Bishop

Today I celebrate the one year anniversary of my ordination to the episcopacy. I am not dabbling in hyperbole when I say it feels like three years. It is amazing to me to recall all that has happened this year ...

Receiving the call from the papal nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, in late December telling me that the Holy Father has called me to be a bishop and wants me to go serve as an auxiliary in Indianapolis. When I asked him why the Pope was sending "a son of Boston to Indianapolis," his reply was, "the Church does what the Church does. *** Arriving in Indianapolis in mid January to the press conference announcing my appointment and being so warmly received by Archbishop Buechlein and those gathered at St. John the Evangelist Church, downtown *** Encountering the "Cult of the Colts" for the first time *** Arriving back in my parish in Westwood the next weekend and without saying a word, receiving a standing ovation as I came out to speak after Communion *** Having to learn things like how to choose a motto, an episcopal shield, what vestments I needed to buy and where, when I was supposed to where what vestment and how I was to wear it, moving from "tab shirts" to the Roman collar *** Packing and unpacking *** Saying "goodbye" to New England and "hello" to Central and Southern Indiana *** How many of my relatives, friends, and brother priests came out from Boston on such short notice *** The absolutely perfect and generous manner in which Archbishop Buechlein and the archdiocese hosted my family and guests *** The pre-Ordination lunch at Crown Plaza Hotel *** Hugging my Mother at the start of the ordination *** Missing my Dad *** My three sisters in the front row *** Taking too much cold medication before the ordination and then wondering if I was going to be able to get up from the "prostration" without falling over *** Being ordained by the laying on of hands by Archbishop Buechlein and Bishops Lennon and Etienne *** Being told after going through the congregation after Communion for the "Rite of Blessing and the Hymn of Thanksgiving" that I had my crozier facing the wrong way (the first, but not even close to the last time I have been corrected by an MC) *** Being called "Your Excellency" for the first time *** Learning to drive in Indiana (no horn) *** My first Confirmation at which I was so nervous to do it right I had the book absolutely in front of me the whole time *** Hearing the sad news that Archbishop Buechlein had suffered a stroke *** Going out to all the parishes and deaneries around the archdiocese and meeting all the great priests, deacons, religious, and lay folk *** Learning how to use FaceBook and Twitter *** Dedicating the new wing at St. Francis Hospital *** Presiding at the Rite of Election and Welcoming of Candidates at the Cathedral *** Ordaining Jerry Byrd at St. Meinrad's Abbey to the transitional diaconate *** Celebrating the Easter Triduum and Easter Sunday as a bishop *** Going back to Westwood MA to preside at Confirmation *** Giving the invocation in front of over 200,000 people at the 100th anniversary of the first running of the Indy 500 *** Eating my first Hoosier church meal containing fried chicken, fried biscuits (with apple butter), regular biscuits, canned green beans with ham, and four starches: mashed potatoes, chicken and noodles, corn off the cob, sweet potatoes, and lots of iced tea *** Eating my first pork cutlet sandwich at the Elbow Room restaurant in Indy *** Eating my first deep-fried twinkie at the Jennings County Fair *** Blessing the "Catholic" cows at the Jennings County Fair *** Ordaining Dustin Boehm to the priesthood *** Suffering along with everyone else 17 straight days of 100 degree plus weather in late June and early July *** Giving out bottles of water late at night to the homeless people sleeping outside of St. John's church downtown in the heat *** Presiding at the funerals of Fathers Joe Kern, Don Quinn, and Jim Arneson *** Burying my sister-in-law Jeanine ***Seeing all the good work we do at places like the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, St. Elizabeth's Shelter for pregnant women and children, the new shelter for homeless women and children in Bedford, and the like *** Attending meetings (lots of meetings) and meals to promote the Christ our Hope Campaign *** Attending "Bishops' School" in Rome and meeting the Pope for the first time *** Being appointed Apostolic Administrator when Archbishop Buechlein retired *** Presiding and preaching in front of 26,000 young people and adults at the National Catholic Youth Conference *** Posting my first video podcasts *** Celebrating Christmas Midnight Mass in the cathedral *** Fun moment: going to the Super Bowl *** Not-so-fun moment: going to the Super Bowl *** Attending my first "ad limina" visit to the Holy See *** Having a private audience with Pope Benedict *** Celebrating my one year anniversary at the Catholic Center last night *** God is good.
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