Palestinian youth hangs flag outside souvenir shop in Bethlehem
By Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Fifty years ago, in January 1964, soon-to-be Blessed Paul VI became a pilgrim, making an historic visit – the first by any pontiff since the earliest centuries of the Church – to Jerusalem and the Holy Land – or, as he put it, “This land where down through the centuries there resounded the voice of the prophets speaking in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” A little more than a year later, the epochal decree, Nostra Aetate, was promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church condemned anti-Semitism and pledged to work with love and respect in dialogue with Jews. These were groundbreaking events, seminal moments that transformed the Church and its relation to the Jewish people.

Now, 50 years later, Pope Francis becomes a pilgrim as he journeys to Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

The relationship between Catholics and Jews has changed dramatically, thanks not only to the efforts of Paul VI, but also those of Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II and Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. John Paul and Benedict both visited Israel and worked hard to continue to forge better relations with the Jews.

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew exchanging sign of peace during Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Who can forget Saint John Paul’s 1986 visit to the Synagogue of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, or the moving image of him praying before the Western Wall in 2000 before leaving the following prayer:

God of our fathers,
You chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring Your name to the nations:
we are deeply saddened
by the behavior of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of Yours to suffer,
and asking Your forgiveness
we wish to commit ourselves
to genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant.

Pope Benedict’s 2009 pilgrimage to Israel, and his visits to synagogues in Rome, Cologne and New York, deepened the relationship we have established and nurtured during the past half-century. The work of these popes has further affirmed the principle that God’s covenant with the Jews was irrevocable, and that Judaism was not extrinsic but intrinsic to Christianity.

It is within this context, I believe, that Pope Francis’ trip must be viewed. He will travel as a pilgrim, whose actions, as much as his words, will demonstrate his desire to continue the path of dialogue and friendship that has been established.

As his friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, puts it, “I am convinced that this trip will usher in a new era in Jewish-Christian dialogue: the era of empathy.” What an uplifting thought, and so appropriate for this Holy Father, whose entire papacy has emphasized the need for the entire Church – including the pope – to be one with others.

My Jewish friends have told me how excited they are that Pope Francis will be visiting Israel and the Holy Land. As one rabbi friend here in New York tells me, “Don’t forget, Francis is our pope, too!” They see a man of deep faith, great love and honest openness. Their prayer has been that this visit will mark a continuation of the journey begun by Pope Paul VI and advanced by his successors to deepen the relationship and understanding between Christians and our elder brothers and sisters in faith. That is very much my prayer as well.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York delivers address during 2014 Catholic Men's Conference in Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan is Archbishop of New York and devoted to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

 

Pope Francis uses incense during Easter Mass at Vatican

In my last blog, I mentioned how I had attended the Elms College symposium The Footsteps of Francis earlier in April. During the symposium, Fr. Mark Stelzer mentioned one line that has stayed with me ever since: “Are we answering questions that no one is asking?” He posed this question as a way of looking at the relevancy of our teaching, ministry, and outreach. Aside from my work managing the Annual Catholic Appeal, I also volunteer as a catechist, so this question really changes how I look at CCD/RCIA, because it flips the traditional religious education model to one that is student-centric and question-driven. And if you look at the teaching style of our Pope, you can see why people respond to him: he’s answering the questions people are asking, and going out and meeting them where they are at that moment – physically and spiritually.

Pope Francis kisses a foot of a disabled person Our Lady of Providence Center in Rome

Consider one of his comments from last year: “At this time of crisis we cannot be concerned solely with ourselves, withdrawing into loneliness, discouragement and a sense of powerlessness in the face of problems. Please do not withdraw into yourselves! This is a danger: we shut ourselves up in the parish, with our friends, within the movement, with the like-minded… but do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she becomes an ailing Church, she falls ill! That is a danger. . . .A Church closed in on herself is the same, a sick Church.” Last week, my blog focused on the work that Saint Francis and Pope Francis have done to repair God’s house; we have seen that this repair work includes reaching out to our brothers and sisters of different denominations and faiths. Have you seen this cell phone video that Francis made this past January?

And now he recently spent Holy Thursday at the Don Gnocchi Center for elderly and disabled people, washing the feet of 12 people, including a woman and a Muslim. What a beautiful image for all of us to remember from Holy Week: that at the Lord’s Supper, all are invited; and that we are called to serve with love.
I’d like to invite you to come to an upcoming event to learn more about how you can become more involved as a volunteer in our local agencies and parishes. On June 11th, we’re having a Volunteer Fair at the Bishop Marshall Center at St. Michael’s Cathedral from 5-7 p.m. We will have on hand representatives from several of our ACA supported agencies with information about their programs as well as opportunities for folks to find out how and where they can volunteer. Light refreshments will be served. If you’re interested in learning more about this event, please email me at s.dibbern@diospringfield.org or call me at (413) 452.0670.

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Nun walks near Basilica of St. Francis in 2011 in Assisi, Italy

By Stacy Dibbern

This past weekend, I was at The Footsteps of Francis, a fantastic symposium hosted at the Elms College. During one of the presentations, the speaker mentioned the vision St. Francis had in 1299 while praying before the cross in the Chapel of San Damiano, where he was told, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” The Chapel had fallen into ruin, and so Francis took these instructions quite literally, and began repairing the roof. And then he proceeded to beg for stones to continue to the repair of the church in obedience of the Lord’s request.

Of course, at the same time, he was changing people’s perception of the Church (with a capital C) and its role in the community. It had been allowed to decay and crumble from neglect. Francis’ efforts not only restored San Damiano, but renewed peoples’ belief in the beauty that exists in servitude to others and the Lord. Sound like another Francis we’ve come to know over the past year? “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.”

Pope visits St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro

Over the past year, Pope Francis has shown us what this means. He has eschewed palatial apartments for simple guest quarters; he has washed the feet of prisoners; taken “selfies” with the young; embraced the disfigured; walked among the poor; and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. In this case, repairing God’s house has meant removing the barriers and letting people hold and touch and be with their Holy Father.
As we approach Holy Week, how can we replicate this in our own lives?

Our spiritual selves- in a recent conversation, someone mentioned how when they pray, they offer their prayers for all of the Blessed Mother’s intentions, knowing that what she has in her heart must be for the best of the universe. That might be a nice way to repair our shared house through prayer!

Our homes and families- Francis (both of them!) has shown us through example that we do not need much to be joyful. As you and your family prepare your home for Easter, consider donating items to local agencies.

Our community and our church- be involved! Make time to volunteer in your parish or a local agency. Not sure what you want to do? Contact me, and we can talk about the opportunities that are available. Call 413 452-0670.

ACA Poster 2014

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona

Bishop Gerald F. Kicansas of Tucson

In 1958, I was a junior in high school. I attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary, a day high school, where I began discernment to consider if I wanted to be a diocesan priest serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago. That year marked major changes in our local church of Chicago and the universal church.

Cardinal Samuel Stritch, Chicago’s Archbishop, had been called to Rome on March 1, 1958 to serve as Pro-Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith only to die several months later.

Cardinal Albert Meyer was appointed the new Archbishop of Chicago on September 19th. He would play a significant role in the Second Vatican Council especially influencing the Council’s statement on religious liberty.

On October 5th, 1958 Pope Pius XII died and on October 28th after eleven ballots, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was chosen Pope at 77, taking the name Pope John XXIII. Unexpectedly, as if by inspiration, on January 25, 1959, with jottings on a piece of paper, he called for the twenty-first Ecumenical Council. It had been 95 years since the first Vatican Council that was called for by Pope Pius IX in 1864.

Blessed John XXIII

Needless to say in the mind of a young seminarian, it was a time of excitement and change. A seminarian like any aspirant looks to the elders, the leaders, those responsible, for modeling, inspiration and direction. I found just that in the humble, simple aura of our new Pope.

John XXIII was Pope during my most formative years in the seminary through high school and philosophy. He was like a grandfather, one you admired, one you wanted to be with. He modeled what a seminarian would most want to be, proven in virtue, holy, prayerful, joyful, jovial, caring, loving and approachable. Although adorned in papal regalia, he never lost the simplicity of a sharecropper’s son, one among the people. I felt close to him, admired and respected him as someone who lived what I was trying to learn.

We were given prayer cards of the new Papa Roncalli and I remember looking at his picture, thinking I was sitting with him, chatting together as he told me what being a good priest would entail.

At that time, many kept saying that he was just filling in, a “care taker” Pope. He surprised everyone. He would inspire my generation of priests with a desire to enliven the Church, to make the Church speak to the burning questions of the times. Engagement and dialogue were to be expected of a priest. The one ordained was not to stay in the sanctuary but be out serving in the street, mixing and mingling with his people, leading them into an encounter with Jesus Christ.

When John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council it was as if the Church awoke from her sleep as we entered an exciting time of new ardor and creative ideas. Pope John challenged the church to think and act anew. There was a sense of breathing fresh air, a state of exuberance. The Church’s patrimony would be dusted off, renovated and renewed.

POPE JOHN XXIII LEADS OPENING SESSION OF SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

As seminarians we were being exposed to a wealth of thoughts on theology that took us beyond our textbooks to an engagement with theologians and bishops filling us with insights on liturgy, the meaning of Church, who we were to be as disciples of Christ.

Good Pope John now to be St. John XXIII continues to inspire and prod us to step boldly into the world with the saving message of Jesus Christ. He wanted a Church unafraid to engage new ideas, confident to embrace the world. The Church was not set over and against the world but was to be the breath of the world. John XXIII received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and as always the Spirit worked wonders in opening the locked door of the upper room, sending out missionary disciples possessed with the Gospel message for all to hear.

I pray that the Church, still beset by challenges as was the Church when Roncalli was chosen Pope, will face these challenges as he did, creatively, confidently, and courageously. A saint is meant to inspire, to make holiness seem attainable, to communicate the joy of knowing Christ. John XXIII for me and for many has done all of that.

St. John XXIII, pray for us.


Stepping out of our comfort zone. Isn’t that what Lent is about? Shaking up those daily rituals so that we see the world from a different angle – hopefully one that is more God-focused, and less focused on ourselves. This Lent, I decided to “take up” going to Mass twice during the week during my lunch hour. Talk about shaking up your work week! While in years past, I had always focused on the “giving up” tradition, the taking up of this new spiritual discipline has had a profound effect: twice a week, I hit the “pause” button on the concerns and stresses of my job and spend some time with the Lord. It gives me time to pray for my family and my friends and to think about the things that really matter. Those two extra hours each week force me out of my Sunday morning complacency and have me looking at things in a new way.
As you know, this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal theme – Serve with Love – is based on Pope Francis’ unceasing call over the past year for us to step out of our comfort zones and be with the poor: attending to their needs, listening to them, ministering to them, learning from them, and working to end poverty altogether. I recently read an article by Cardinal Sean O’Malley (who was the keynote speaker at this year’s Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference), which discusses the influence of Ignatian spirituality on Pope Francis, and how this has led the Holy Father to challenge our “core assumptions about power, authority and leadership.”

It’s in that spirit that we wanted to shake things up and look at the Annual Catholic Appeal differently. For so many years, we’ve politely asked for your donations, you have generously donated, we have allocated those funds, and the agencies and schools have done amazing work. It was time to hit the “pause” button and figure out how we could connect neighbor to neighbor, to help donors get something back spiritually by interacting with those who need their help. That’s why this year, we’ve incorporated a volunteerism campaign into the Appeal, as Bishop McDonnell explained during our kick-off. I’m happy to report that so far, over 40 people have pledged to volunteer over 1,000 hours in local agencies and parishes! Of course, the 40+ agencies, schools, parishes and ministries still need financial support. We are also closing in on the $1 million milestone: as of March 17th, we have raised $947,064 from 6,545 generous donors.
If you are interested in volunteering and want to learn more, there are several options:
• Fill out our online volunteer form
• Like our Facebook page so you can hear when different agencies supported by the ACA need your help
• Follow us on Twitter: @ACASpfldMA2014
• Call me at 413.452.0670

ACA Poster 2014

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@ACASpfldMA2014

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared with you what we mean when we say “Serve with Love,” why we do it, and whom we help through our Annual Appeal. But there’s still an important part of this story to tell, and it’s a bigger story than I can tell myself. So I need your help. I want to hear how YOU are making a difference every day. How are you living out the gospel message in your own way? How are you empowering people? Helping them live with dignity and joy? How are you, as Pope Francis is urging us to do, “protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about?”

Over the remainder of Lent, please share your stories on twitter with #wmaservewithlove. And be sure to follow us @ACASpfldMA2014. We’ll share our favorites in this blog and on our Facebook page.

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Beth & Ray Ginepro
Worldwide Marriage Encounter
  
Turning Points
    
    We spring ahead an hour this month and from that time on the days get longer, the weather gets warmer and activities shift more to the outdoors.  We can think about the milestones in our lives also marked by the phrase “from that time on”: We met ‘the one’ and from that time on our life was never the same. We got married and from that time on it was no longer just about me but about us.  Children came along and from that time on we were a family.  Demands of daily living pulled us in separate directions and from that time on disillusionment began to set in.  We forgave each other and from that time on our relationship began to heal.  We lived our marriage encounter weekend and from that time on we grew in intimacy and joy again.
 
            In scripture too, as Bishop Ken Untener so keenly points out, turning points in Jesus’ public life are marked by the phrase “from that time on.” (See Matthew 4:17 “From that time on Jesus began to preach”, Mt 16:21 “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly”, Mt 26:16 “From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.”)
 
            Turning points are an opportunity to grow…together or apart…for better or for worse…closer to each other and God …or not.  How we approach the turning points in our own lives affects the direction in which we will go. Are you happy with where you are headed? 
 
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Discussion questions to explore some more:
  • What have been the turning points in my life? What have I learned from them?
  • When did I first realize that you were the one for me?
  • What is one thing we can do to recapture some carefree timelessness together?
  • Recall a time when have I stepped out of my comfort zone as an act of love for you?
  • What do I need to turn away from to turn closer in relationship to God/to my spouse?
  • If I had one do over what would it be?
  • I feel loved and cherished when you________.
  • How has the love of neighbor/of God touched me in my life?
  • What dreams do I have for our future?
  • How open are we to invite God to be our “able bodied navigator”?
May your discussion blossom with blessings in your journey toward Easter and Spring!
 
(To find out more about a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend go to www.wwmeMA.org)
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Three million dollars. That’s a lot of money! That is also how much we hope to raise through this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal. If you’ve had a chance to read through our 2013 Accountability Report, then you know that last year’s Appeal, which raised $2,727,110, was able to help our neighbors and churches by:

·         Providing over $700,000 in educational support to Catholic elementary and secondary students in the Diocese

·         Providing  $288,005 for direct social services to people in need

·         Allocating $372,750 for Catholic Latino Ministries, which ensures all services afforded to diocesan Catholics be made available to the Catholic Latino community

·         Promoting the Catholic faith through print and media by supporting Catholic Communications Corporation

Campaign costs were kept to less than 7%, and only 11% went towards supporting three offices within the Diocese. The Appeal has always been about neighbor helping neighbor, and we work hard to keep it that way.

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So how can we reach our goal of $3,000,000 this year? If every registered Catholic in the Diocese – there are approximately 219,000 – were to donate just $14, we’d make our goal. But I understand that not every person is able to give financially. That’s why we’re encouraging area Catholics to visit and like our new Facebook page, which showcases the many area agencies and causes that the Appeal supports. If you are not able to make a financial donation, consider volunteering your time and talents to one or more of these worthy organizations.

In the past few days, we’ve highlighted Rick’s Place, Northern Berkshire Pregnancy Support Center, Homework House, Montague Catholic Social Ministries, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, and The Gray House. By liking our Facebook page, you’ll receive an update each day about volunteer opportunities, events, and meaningful ways to serve others over the coming months.

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In the end, when we serve our neighbors with love – whether through our donations of time, talent, or treasure – we all reach our goals.

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As we prepare for our big kick-off weekend for our 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal, I’m often asked, “Where does my money go? Why should I give?”  These are great questions, and I want to help you make informed decisions about how you can best serve others this year. That might be through a donation to the Appeal. It might be by learning about one of the agencies we support through the Appeal, and volunteering there. Or your agency might learn more about our charitable mission, and become more closely involved with us.

So to answer the first question, of the approximately $2.5 million raised last year, nearly $350,000 went to grants to external agencies. The remainder of the money raised is allocated to diocesan programs, such as Seminarian education, supporting retired religious, our Catholic schools throughout the diocese, Catholic Communications, and Latino ministry.

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As the Annual Catholic Appeal Manager, one of my favorite things is getting out into the community and discovering a new agency that is doing work that could be funded through the Annual Catholic Appeal. Here are the basic requirements:

  • The agency performs one of the Corporal Works of Mercy (feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick)
  • The agency is endorsed by a pastor or priest in the county in which they operate
  • The agency, while not necessarily Catholic, abides by and follows Catholic teaching (does not contradict Catholic teaching)
  • The agency is within the boundaries of the Diocese of Springfield (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties)

Right now, we are able to fund agencies between the range of a few thousand dollars up to $30,000 and beyond, depending on the capacity of the agency to deliver programming. Here are the criteria I use when determining funding:

  • What population is served (youth, elderly, families, unborn, etc.)?
  • What other funding sources does the agency have access to?
  • What is the current size of their budget?

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So is your agency a potential match? Consider the following:

  • Our “feelers” are always out for agencies that promote the Corporal Works of Mercy and whose mission aligns with the mission of the Appeal.
  • Demonstration of need, purpose and population served are all things that we look for when deciding to invite an agency to submit a grant proposal
  • Unique programs (Rick’s Place is a wonderful example) that fulfill a need that is not currently being fulfilled are always of interest to our funding group

Next week, I’ll discuss our goals for 2014 and what those goals mean for our region and the agencies serving it. Until then, I encourage you to read our 2013 Accountability Report and to visit and like our Facebook page.

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Aesop once said that, ”After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.” It would definitely seem that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is not content with letting the Church be guilty of just talking about the problems of the world; rather,he insists that we take the Gospel to heart and roll up our collective sleeves and attend to the needs of the suffering, the hungry, and the poor: “be open to others, especially to the poorest and neediest, to work to improve the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, real champions in the service of others.”

As you may know, we are about to kick-off the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal. Our theme this year – based on the call of the Gospel and inspired by Pope Francis’ urges for us to return to our Gospel roots – is Serve with Love. In addition to supporting the ministry of the diocese, did you know that the Annual Catholic Appeal directly supports local organizations that are responding to Pope Francis’ call to serve the poor, the underserved, and the neglected?

This year, we’re adding a social media component to our campaign to better share the stories of these organizations and the families they serve. Through our daily Facebook posts and tweets, you’ll not only be able to learn more about their important work, but you’ll be able to share how you choose to serve with love in your own way: we encourage you to share your comments on our Facebook page or to tweet how you are responding to Francis’ call – whether it’s “liking” an organization’s work, or volunteering your time at one of their events, or supporting the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal – by using the hashtag #wmaservewithlove.

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