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.


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



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.


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? 
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



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.


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.


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




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.


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?


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.



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.




By Peggy Weber

Friday afternoons were pretty easy in the 4th Grade. After lunch we had art and then headed next door to church for Benediction. However, On Nov. 22, 1963 things were different. We were told to put away our art supplies right away and clear our desks. The whole school was rushed out of the building. The teachers were visibly upset. Something was wrong.

We soon learned that President Kennedy been shot. 

There was no horsing around in church that afternoon. The mood was different. Some of the sisters were crying. All the students at Holy Name Grammar School in Springfield were on their knees trying to pray the first Catholic president back to health.

Since then I have learned that many other students were taken to church that fateful Friday. Catholic school children throughout the land were doing the only thing that can be done in face of tragedy and sorrow — they prayed. 


I recall that somehow we were informed that the president had died and were sent home. I think we were let out early. You could do that back then. Kids went home for lunch. Entire classes were kept after school for talking too much.

I rushed home and was greeted at the door by my mother. One look at her face told me that she knew the sad news. She looked really, really sad. I began to cry and we hugged. This was followed by our usual afternoon ritual of a cup of tea — mine had lots of milk in it.

Friday afternoons also meant tap dancing class at Charmaine’s School of Dance. I told my mother I was too upset to go to class. She said I had to go anyway because you had to pay for the class whether you did or did not go. We didn’t waste money. I trudged down Alderman Street to White Street and shuffled and pointed — with very little enthusiasm.

That night — those were meatless Fridays back then — we did something very unusual. My dad set up a card table in the living room and we watched TV. 


We never ate in front of a TV when I was little. I knew that night that things were really different.

In a way, this was the second death that had struck our family that year. In June our beloved Pope John XXIII had died. They were the special “Johns” in our world. However, this one hurt more. It was violent and tragic. It left two children without their dad. It left everyone wondering why.

The weekend was a blur as our family was glued to the old black and white set in our living room. Finally on Sunday, my mom told us to go out and play. We did. We were not out long when one of the seven kids from the house next door burst out of his front door. He was a few years older and had our attention as he said, “I just saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot.”

We rushed back into our homes to learn more. The unreal weekend continued. 

I remember black-rimmed prayer cards in church.

I remember the riderless horse.

And, of course, I remember the salute from young “John-John.”

I know the world changed that day — just as I watched it change for my children on September 11th.

But one thing has not changed. On the night of September 11th, our parish gathered for Mass. We went to our knees in the face of violence and tragedy — just as I had as a fourth grader 50 years ago. 


Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service



By Don Clemmer

Editor’s Note: Don Clemmer is the assistant director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington D.C. He wrote this blog for the memorial of Blessed John XXIII.


Pope John XXIII and  Pope Francis hold the respective distinctions of ushering in the most significant reforms the Catholic Church had seen in a millennium and being the first Latin American and Jesuit pope. But both men are also witnesses to how Christian holiness permeates daily life in moments big and small and that it’s not just what a person does, but how he or she does it, that matters.

Sure, both men provide visions of The Big Picture. John XXIII gave his recipe for sustainable global peace in his final encyclicalPacem in Terris (1963). And Pope Francis has put in place with lightning speed his program of global solidarity and a Church that goes out to the margins to serve.

But Francis has also focused much of his preaching and teaching energy — exemplified by his daily Mass homilies especially — on the “small things,” behaviors of everyday life like gossip, laziness and cynicism. These are not lofty theological concerns, but pitfalls of human behavior that apply to everyone. And he doesn’t criticize them lightly. Often the devil gets dragged into it. It’s as if the last thing Pope Francis wants is a Church that “believes correctly” but is populated by otherwise miserable people.

Blessed John XXIII

While this may sound like “papal micromanaging” to some, it’s more like a cheat sheet for the Christian life. Yes, you know the 10 Commandments and the Catechism, but just in case there was any doubt, the end result should look like this…

John XXIII had his rules for dealing with the small stuff too. His famous managerial maxim (recently quoted by Pope Francis in his interview with the world’s major Jesuit journals) was “See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.” His guide to living together in harmony (attributed to St. Augustine) had a similar spirit: “In essentials, unity. In doubtful matters, liberty. In all things, charity.” 

Pope John’s leadership style was on full display at the Council. He didn’t participate, wishing to promote freer discussion among the bishops, but watched the proceedings from his apartment on closed circuit television. However, when the curia proposed a highly unpopular draft for the document on divine revelation and the bishops did not have quite enough votes to reject it outright, Pope John, to the Council fathers’ surprise, intervened and threw out the draft. He didn’t see the point in such an unpopular schema taking up so much of the Council’s time and energy. See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.

Pope smiles as he leaves general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis exercised a similar sense of discernment and freedom in the act of moving ahead Pope John’s canonization without the required second miracle. Look at the witness of his life! The world has already proclaimed him a saint! This system was meant to guide us, not hinder us. Pope Francis seems to be saying. And he is, after all, the pope.

From the model of John XXIII to the current admonitions of Pope Francis, Catholics everywhere can learn from these men how to discern what is truly important in matters large and small and learn follow their lead in in exemplifying the key to a Christian witness: “See how they love another.” Both men extended that love, in word and deed, to the entire world.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.