February 4, 2012 – Talkin’ Church Again

My apologies for being late in getting the blog out this week.  I failed to mention last time that the Diocesan Pastoral Council that I am a part of met this morning in Belleville, so I waited to write this to see if there was anything pertinent that came out of the meeting to talk about.

The meeting basically focused on two things.  The first is what I talked about extensively last week, which is the mandate from Health and Human Services that non-profit employers have one year to include coverage of contraceptives and sterilization procedures in their health care plans.  This will affect institutions such as Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities.  This of course goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church and will force people to go against their conscience to implement this – not only the employers, but the employees who will be forced to pay higher premiums to cover these extra costs (part of the mandate is that these aservices must be covered without co-pays).

The fact that this was the first agenda item at a Diocesan meeting indicates how important this issue is and the fact that the Bishops are united in their efforts to get this mandate reversed.  As Bishop braxton stated in the meeting, most likely part of the administration’s thinking is that Catholics and other people of faith are either indifferent to issues involving creation of life, or simply reject the teachings of their faith when it comes to pro-life issues.  This cannot stop the efforts of the faithful to keep from being forced to violate their consciences in having to pay for coverage of something that does not involve prevention or curing of a disease.  Besides the links I shared with you last week, the Diocesan Respect Life office has posted on their website a number of online resources and means of contacting our legislators to let them know that we oppose this mandate.  Here is the link to this page:

http://home.catholicweb.com/RespectLife/index.cfm/NewsItem?ID=267625

The other main agenda item of the meeting was Bishop Braxton’s upcoming visit to Rome for the Ad Limina visit.  This is a visit that each Bishop must make every 5 years (although due to Pope Benedict’s schedule it has actually been eight years since this visit was made).  All Bishops from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin will be in Rome at the same time for this visit.  Each Bishop will have a brief personal greeting with the Pope as well as a group meeting with the Pope. 

Also, each Diocese is required to submit a report prior to the visitation.  This is an extensive report that includes updated statistics of the Diocese, reports on the various ministries, and a detailed, audited financial report.  In addition to the meetings with the Pope, each Bishop will have meetings with officials in various Vatican offices that oversee particular segments of the Church’s pastoral life.  These officials will point out any particular concerns found in the report, and will also address any concerns that the Bishop has. 

The term “ad limina” comes from the Latin phrase ad limina apostolorum which means “to the threshold of the Apostles.”  Also as part of the visit, the Bishops will pray at the tombs of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.  Also, during the time Bishop Braxton will be in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI will create 22 new Cardinals.  Please pray for Bishop braxton and all of the Bishops who will be traveling to Rome next week.  If you would like to learn more about Bishop Braxton’s visit, here is a link to click on:

www.diobelle.org/documents/BISHOPBRAXTON-AdLimina.pdf

Bishop Braxton also addressed briefly the Pastoral Planning and Restructuring process.  Basically the original timeline is still holding true, and despite speculation, it will be at least another year before any final decisions are made in regard to possible mergers or closures of schools and parishes.  There is a massive amount of data to be gone through, and this will take time.  We at St. Mary’s are fully cooperating with the process.  We are meeting with the parishes in our cluster this coming week and we will prepare our final report next month.

As you may have read in the paper or heard it through the grapevine, there are 2 of our Diocesan priests who have resigned their pastorates – Fr. Brian Barker of Pinckneyville and Fr. Bill Rowe of Mt. Carmel.  Their situations are different and I don’t want to get into specific details about what happened, especially since I do not know many details myself.  However, I’m sure I share the frustration of many in that during a time when we already have small numbers of clergy that 2 of our clergy felt compelled to minister elsewhere.  I asked the Bishop this morning if he felt that the majority of priests in the Diocese were doing a good job and were following the teachings of the church to the best of their ability.  His response was “yes, absolutely.”  I think we gain a different perception because we hear so much of the negative and so little of the positive.  My hope is that in the future the Bishop will feel compelled to do more to show appreciation for our priests and their  dedication to us.

Just a couple of random notes before closing.  First, congratulations to our school for planning and executing a great Catholic Schools Week celebration.  There are some photos on our website and on our Facebook page of the program our school held this past Tuesday in honor and appreciation of our veterans.  If I get hold of any more photos from the week, I will certainly post them as well.

Finally, this is of course Super Bowl weekend, which means it’s time for my annual prediction.  I went 1-1 for the conference championships, but I’ve had 2 weeks to study this game, so I am confident in my predicton (yeah, right).  Anyway, I feel like the Giants are playing better all of the time, and I think they have a more well-rounded team than the Patriots.  So that, combined with my hatred of the Patriots, leads me to believe the Giants will prevail 31-24. 

Have a great week.  Enjoy the game and don’t worry about your New Year’s resolutions tomorrow.  I declare that all diets are off during the Super Bowl!  Peace.

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