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The following is a talk given recently at Our Lady of the Valley Parish, Easthampton. The author is featured in the May/June issue of The Catholic Mirror.
By Alice Charland
Hi, I’m Alice Charland — a “cradle Catholic,” having been born into a close-knit very devout, Catholic family, more than a few years ago. I was engaged at age eighteen and married at nineteen, ten days after my fiancée returned from his first tour in Viet Nam. Do you see any red flags popping up?
But I was a good Catholic, and did the best I could. By the time I was 21, I had birthed two children and a marriage that was heading south. My husband asked first for a separation, and then for a divorce. There was no easy way out of this. I had been raised to believe that once you had “made your bed,” you had to lie in it. Divorce was not an option, but divorce was what I had, and at age 27 I had two young children to raise by myself.
At that point I was very involved in Parish life at Notre Dame Parish, having taught CCD for many years, was a member of the Parish Council and Spiritual Life Committee. Despite my love for the Church, though, I couldn’t see any future for me there. I couldn’t or wouldn’t commit to not remarrying for my own sake and my children’s sake, and I believed that the fee for an annulment was thousands of dollars, which was not available to me, so I did not pursue it.
Over the next three years I began a process of detaching myself from the Church, and my children from Catholic education. It didn’t take long before I became influenced by friends and family members who had also left the Church and were enamored of the New Age spirituality, where one was “spiritual,” but not “religious,” and Jesus was an Ascended Master, among many others.
It was the 70’s and I was still young. Eventually I started dating, and let it suffice to say, that I did a number of things I should not have done.
As I became involved in the whole New Age scene, I thought myself very progressive for having freed myself from what I perceived as the pitfalls of organized religion.
I thought I had freed myself, but somehow I didn’t feel free. An emptiness pervaded my life, and I tried to fill the Christ-sized hole in my heart with many other things. I remarried and gave birth to three more children. My husband was not Catholic and was not at all interested in exploring Catholicism. And although I was beginning to feel Jesus calling me back, I still believed that the fee for annulment was way out of my reach, and return to the Church impossible.
After 30 years of marriage Jesus began calling me in earnest, but I felt it was kind of mean to be called back to Catholicism without the means open to me to return. That’s when my friend Debbie, newly converted, asked me why I didn’t return. She told me that her friend had just gotten an annulment and it only cost her a few hundred dollars.
Shortly after, I contacted Fr. Tom at Notre Dame Parish and decided to apply for an annulment. My husband told me he thought I was less than sane, but I was determined. I can’t tell you how I longed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, or how painful it was to watch fellow parishioners at Our Lady of the Valley Parish go up to receive Communion, some reverently, some not so reverently.
For 60 weeks I watched, waited and prayed — not knowing if my application would be approved. I prayed to God in front of Jesus in the tomb that Lent, that my application for annulment would be approved, fully knowing how my pride had led me far from Him and the Church for so long. I told Him, “I have nothing to offer you but your Son.” I felt Him speak deeply in my heart, “It is enough.” Three and a half months later, my annulment was approved.
So I have been asked to speak about how I moved from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus.” This is my answer: I desired Him. I acknowledged His love for me, and am doing my best to love Him back. But how?
It is only through a committed relationship that this can take place, and it takes time to build intimacy. Like all loving relationships, it is also based on good communication, mutual trust and a strong desire to sacrifice for the good of the other. This doesn’t happen overnight – for most of us, at least – it is an on-going process.
My relationship began with learning about Jesus through scripture readings, homilies and Bible Study. But that could be likened to reading a biography about someone, without ever having had a conversation with him.
For me, the most meaningful conversations that I share with Him are before and after having received Holy Eucharist, and during Eucharistic Adoration. Of course, I can speak with Him anywhere.
What do I say? I tell Jesus what is on my mind at the time. Sometimes I ask for strength, clarity, forgiveness or healing. In return I pledge my love to Him, and I seek His will for me because I desire to please Him.
He continues to call me to come closer to Him, and I am challenged to prove my love, by my willingness to move out of my comfort zone, and into the greater expanse of His image of me.
I feel Him willing me to come to Daily Mass whenever I can, and although I sometimes resist along the way, I know that our union is blessed and deepened every time I receive Our Lord in Holy Eucharist. Why wouldn’t it be? It is the place where I am in Communion with Him. And as weeks and months go by, I realize that some of my “go to” sins no longer have a hold on me. Jesus is transforming me from the inside out.
I’d like to share a brief excerpt from a Lenten booklet, “Five Minutes with the Word.” … “If we want to know the freedom of a living relationship with God, we have to put aside any stubborn self-reliance and place our faith in Jesus and the atonement He has won for us.”
This faith in Jesus has grown in me as I began to realize that every good thing I am and have ever received, comes from Him. He alone is the source of my good.
Still, the world is constantly telling us that we need to be “in control” – all the while, becoming immersed in greater and greater demands on our time and resources.
It isn’t easy to let go of the sense that we need to try harder and harder to maintain control and succeed. Yet our greatest lessons often come when we have reached the end of our proverbial rope, and have no one to rely on but God. It is then that we come to understand that He is always there, waiting for us … so patiently … so lovingly.
Jesus truly thirsts for us – He desires to be in intimate relationship with you and me. I invite you to take a leap of faith into His loving arms. I can only tell you, from my own experience, that you will not regret it, and that He will welcome you home with great joy.
For more information about annulments contact the Marriage Tribunal at email@example.com or call 413 452-0664.
By Peggy Weber
You probably won’t find a section in the card aisle for “Happy Cloistered Day” cards. Much of the life in a monastery is meant to be quiet and not seeking attention.
However, I could not let this day, November 21, go by without recognizing the men and women who choose to spend most of their life in one place and most of their day in prayer.
The Institute of Religious Life has given this day the title “Pro Orantibus” day. It translates “For Those Who Pray.”
It is our turn to thank and pray for those who pray for us each day.
I have been blessed to spend time with both the Visitation Nuns in Tyringham and the Dominican Nuns in West Springfield. They are wonderful communities.
And this Saturday, on Nov. 21, “Real to Reel” will air from the Trappist Monastery in nearby Spencer.
All three places offer solace, prayer and some really cool stuff.
The Trappists have recently begun brewing a highly-praised Trappist Ale. In fact, Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski recently toured the facility. And a special report about the monastery and its business will be featured on Real to Reel this Saturday.
The Visitation Nuns offer a variety offer some beautiful vestments through Chantal Artisans.
They also offer Sacred Heart talks on the first Sunday of the month, except for January, July and August, and usually at 4 p.m.They also focus on their music and have even released a CD called “A Visitation Christmas.”
And they offer opportunities for private retreats.
The Dominican Nuns have been a presence in the Diocese of Springfield since 1925. They offer beautiful “spiritual bouquets” and Mass cards as part of their “work.” They also host community events through the Third Order Dominicans and special novenas.
When I visited the Visitation Nuns I felt so at home and welcome. I have gone during the summer when they have a beautiful garden growing and I have gone in the winter when they put up an ice skating rink.
My dear Dominican Nuns have been a part of my life since I was a baby. My mother visited their monastery on Ingersoll Grove in Springfield and helped collect “egg and butter ” money for them. My children, and now my dear granddaughter, Cordelia, have visited the monastery often.
They are a source of joy. They also are a source of comfort.
I have turned to them in times of need. Either I call or e-mail the monasteries with my prayer request. The Visitation Nuns and the Dominican Nuns are my spiritual 911.
When I need help I know that the “good sisters” in the Berkshires and on Riverdale Road will be there.
There are so many times in life when one feels helpless. There are times when one faces great sorrow or a great challenge.
That is usually when I pray and when I seek the comfort and support of our local monasteries. I know that they are scheduled to spend hours in prayer each day.
I have seen bulletin boards at each monastery where they post prayer requests. I have felt the healing comfort of these women and their deep faith.
So Happy “Pro Orantibus” Day!
And thank you for praying for us!!!
For more information about the monasteries mentioned go to:
Photos by Peggy Weber or courtesy of the Dominican Nuns
By Peggy Weber
On a rainy, autumn afternoon, several people were lined up on a basement stairwell at St. Mary’s Rectory in Westfield. They had appointments for the Food Pantry which is run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
They were early and eager. They also were nice to me and my videographer who were there to report on how the Annual Catholic Appeal helps the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
I admit I felt sorry for them and grateful that I could just go to the grocery store and select what our family needed for the cupboard.
However, I also was so impressed with how the organizers of the pantry treated each person there with great respect and dignity.
They did not hand them a bag of groceries and send them on their way. They offered them choices from the food available. They helped carry bags of groceries for people. They chatted about recipes and life.
This group, which is run totally by volunteers, really is making a difference in the lives of so many people.
Volunteers from the local middle and high school talked with me about their work. One explained that she wants to earn a Girl Scout medal by increasing donations and targeting much-needed items like toilet paper and coffee.
One volunteer was excited because he had gotten a lot of meat at the Food Bank in Hadley for a very good price.
Joanne Miller, the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society explained that they are trying to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy.
She noted: “The members of the St. Vince de Paul Society step in the crisis time and time again to help hundreds of families in Westfield. The financial expenses totaled $25,561, which does not include the thousands of bas of food given out at the Food Pantry. Each penny, each can, jar and box that was taken in was given back out with love, personal contact and a caring heart.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society offers rental assistance, heating aid, outreach to Veterans at the Soldiers’ Home and local nursing homes and so much more.
They are carrying on a tradition that was started in France in 1831 when Blessed Frederic Ozanam was challenged to do good work. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded and spread and began its legacy of caring in 1845 in St. Louis, Missouri.
However, on this cold and chilly day, those receiving bags of groceries probably did not know about this illustrious past. They were just grateful to receive help. And those sharing food with a smile were happy to give.
It really was a day I loved my work and my Catholic faith a lot.
For more information about the St. Vincent de Paul Society call the helpline at 568-5619.
By: Mari Barboza, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
A couple of days ago my mom called me. She had seen the image of Aylan, the drowned Syrian boy whose photo has captured the attention of the world, and was affected by it because Aylan looks like my toddler son Will. This heartbreaking tragedy became more personal for me this summer when I traveled to Jordan and Lebanon as part of a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) delegation, where we witnessed the work that CRS and our local partners are doing to help Syrian refugees and those displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
My visit with CRS changed my perceptions of the Middle East. In the media, we only see chaos and violence. However during the trip, we learned that the situation is much more complex than what the media portrays. What’s more, we learned about the difficulties the refugees face. Some of the refugees come from educated, middle-class families, but had to leave their comfortable lives behind because they feared that they would otherwise be killed.
In these difficult circumstances, we saw many people rise above the situation and perform extraordinary service. Our partners, the Caritas staff in Jordan and Lebanon, were some of the most professional teams I have seen. What sets them apart is a profound sense of mission.
They are not simply meeting immediate needs of food and shelter, but they’re helping these people deal with trauma. They’re also contributing to a culture of tolerance and peace . The Good Shepherd Sisters, with the support of CRS, work with refugee children in a village in the Bekaa Valley that borders Syria.
Sister Micheline, who directs the center told us: “Before, the kids were throwing paper on the ground. Now kids are cleaning the playground. We are teaching them respect for each other, and how to live together peacefully and how to respect others.” She also told us how the community was involved. “This village suffered 300 deaths in the war with Syria, but the community has accepted them (the refugees).
People have opened their land. We are working with local government to create respect.“ The sisters and the local Lebanese volunteers will have a lasting impact on the lives of these children. They are mutually transforming the Lebanese communities affected by the war, and are creating new paradigms of respect and tolerance.
After this experience, thinking that this situation does not affect me is not an option. After our return to the United States, a Syrian teacher at the center, wrote me this note: “Many thanks for your visit to my people from Syria last Tuesday. Your visit gave them a lot of hope that someone is interested in their situation in Lebanon and thinks of them from afar. Your gesture of love touched my heart profoundly, that you would put your lives in danger and come here to listen to and help the people who suffer in this war.”
I invite you to join me in a response: Praying for refugees, contributing financially, if you are able, advocating so their basic needs are met and that they have fair treatment. Finally, if they come into our country and our communities, let’s welcome them. Aylan could be my Will, he could be your son or grandson or nephew.
By Peggy Weber
Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service
This week I have a few concerns.
One is that I have eaten too much ice cream this summer and gained back the weight I had lost in order to look “good” for my daughter’s wedding.
Another is that I need to organize my Tupperware cupboard.
I also want to exercise more, pray more and be a better person.
How lucky am I!
Just listing these things makes me feel ridiculous. I know a healthy lifestyle is important but right now God is saying, “Seriously, Peggy! Look around you!”
God is right, as usual.
I am struck, most especially by the refugee crisis in Syria and Afghanistan that has spilled into Europe.
On August 27, 59 men, 8 women and four children — all refugees believed to be from Syria — were discovered in the back of an abandoned truck in Austria. Police believe they suffocated and had been dead at least two days before they were found. The smugglers had left the truck by the roadside with those seeking a better life locked inside.
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna,president of the Austrian bishops’ conference, said, “Such refugee suffering should awaken us, like a bolt from the blue, to the need for more generous attitudes and courageous decisions. The joint handling of the refugee tragedy in the face of such inhumanity is a test for European values.”
“My sympathy is with those who’ve suffered this imaginably agonizing death, and I cannot find words for the contempt for human life shown by the traffickers,” the cardinal said.
And just yesterday, I stared at a picture of a young child who drowned while his family attempted to reach the Greek island of Kos. It is reported that thousands of people have died as they flee their violent and war-torn homes.
Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.
We cannot ignore this suffering.
What can we do? Pray. Pray. Oh, and Pray.
We also can provide financial support to Catholic Relief Services and other agencies who support refugees. We can see what we can do for refugees in our own area.
I will cut back on my ice cream consumption. I will try to exercise more. However, most especially, I will look around each day and thank God for the life I have and try and figure out how I can do more for others.
PEGGY: Welcome, bishop.
BISHOP MITCH: Thank you, Peggy. It’s great to be here with you today.
PEGGY: And happy anniversary.
BISHOP MITCH: Well, thank you very much. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.
PEGGY: I know. And I remember when you had just come here, about a year ago, I said to you, “My, you’re quite popular.” And you jokingly said, “Until I make a decision.” Now, your goal isn’t necessarily a popularity contest but you have had some big decisions this year. Tell us about them.
BISHOP MITCH: Well, when I arrived in the diocese I was briefed on so many issues and one of them certainly was the rebuilding of Cathedral High School. And I knew that we had to take a look at not only the rebuilding of Cathedral High School but really, eventually, the whole Catholic education system, here in the Diocese of Springfield. But the presenting issue when I got here was the rebuilding of Cathedral High School and it needed really to be looked at from a perspective of long range. The enrollment had been declining, certainly. And the facility that would be built would be a huge investment by the diocese, perhaps the largest investment the diocese had ever made. So I knew that was a decision that could not be done in a vacuum. It had to be done with great consultation, with talking with the different groups. I knew that people would be upset about it, certainly because there had been expectations that had been set. But it still needed to be done.
And leadership does not mean going along with the flow. Many who are parents in families know that they have to make decisions for the family that are sometimes unpopular but yet they’re the best decisions that have to be made in the interest of everybody. So I felt that this needed to be a process that had to look at the total situation, take in all of the considerations, and then decisions made from there. So I was glad that we had the time to do that. Over the year, the taking down, the demolition of what was left of Cathedral High School, was taking place so nothing could be done until that had happened. So I knew we had that time to do it. So that was really one of the major decisions that I’ve had to make this year.
PEGGY: Right, but you also made a couple of big deals in the sense that you’ve hired a youth minister and you’ve decided about promoting evangelization. Please tell us a little bit more about that?
BISHOP MITCH: Sure. Well, when I arrived here, a series of letters that I received was of the concern for youth ministry in the diocese and the support for the parishes of youth ministers there, coming from the diocesan office. So through a gift that was given to the diocese in a bequest, we were able to put that money toward an endowment for youth ministry. So I was very happy, I was very grateful for that endowment that was given to the diocese and that it gave us the opportunity to reopen the office of youth ministry to have someone there who could be a resource person for youth ministry in the parishes. I felt that it’s very, very important, especially in today’s day and age. (Gina Czerwinski, pictured above, is the new director of youth ministry for the diocese.)
And in the evangelization efforts, I knew that as I traveled throughout the diocese there were people who were either disaffected by the church or had stopped practicing their faith. So again, not only characteristic of the Diocese of Springfield, but I think really of dioceses around the country, there are many who have stopped practicing their faith whom we want to invite back. We want to say welcome, we are the church, we are here to support you. We are here to live the gospel, please come back. So this coming year, and coincidentally with the Year of Mercy, it seems an appropriate time to have this effort of evangelization. So I’m looking forward to that. It’s a very positive way of presenting our faith and a positive way of living our faith.
PEGGY: Wonderful. Now you also said in your first year you also wanted to visit as many parishes as possible. How’s that going? How many have you been to?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, I think I’ve been to about 60 to 65 of the parishes in one form or another, either for Sunday Mass or for Confirmation or for different events that have taken place at the parish. So I still have a few more to cover, but it’s been a good year being able to just get out to see so many of the parishes, to meet the people of the parishes, the priests, the deacons, the religious who work in the parishes and the parish staffs — seeing very dedicated, dedicated people at work. And to know it’s a boost to me to see the enthusiasm of my co-workers in the parish and of the enthusiasm of parishioners in our parishes too.
PEGGY: And now this fall you hope to visit them in a different way. Do you want to explain that program?
BISHOP MITCH: Sure. It’s a pastoral visit that will take a good chunk of time – a day or two to be spent at the parish to meet with the pastor, the parish staff, with the different lay groups of the parish, the pastoral council, any of the groups that make, indeed the parish a community of vibrancy – to meet with them. And after that we will give back to the parish our feedback of commendations and of recommendations asking the parish to take, the feedback in terms of a report, to roll that report into their planning for the future.
And a team will go with me to look at the different aspects of the parish: education, schools, youth ministry, any of the ministry to those who are homebound, the total, overall ministries of the parish. I’m looking forward to getting to know our parishes much better through that series of parish visits. Now because it takes so much time, I will probably visit two parishes a month beginning this fall because there has to be the preparation, the day of the parish visit or the two days of the parish visit and the follow-up work in terms of the report that is given back to the parish. So I won’t cover all the parishes this first year, my second year, but I hope to get around during my time here to each one of the parishes for an extended pastoral visit.
PEGGY: How many miles do you put on your car?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, western Massachusetts is a very compact area and the furthest parish from Springfield is only an hour and a half drive. So compared to western Maryland where I had a three and a half hour drive, the furthest parish out, I’m saving some miles on my car. I look at it that way. But I do put a lot of miles on the car each year and that’s good. It’s good to be out and about.
PEGGY: And I know you are out and about because I follow you on Facebook at Bishop Mitch. And tell us about that ministry. And first of all, are you going to expand to Twitter or stick with Facebook for now?
BISHOP MITCH: We’re certainly finding Facebook to be a good way to get the word out, getting the gospel message out. But perhaps in the future we can look at Twitter to see if we can do that too.
PEGGY: And what made you decide to go to the social media, to cast our nets out into cyberspace as bishops have said. (Bishop Mitch has a Facebook page with almost 1,000 followers.)
PEGGY: Do you remember his chalkboard talks and his cape?
BISHOP MITCH: Yes, and his little JMJ that he’d put up on the board before he did every talk and the angel that erased all of his writings up there when they needed to be erased.
PEGGY: He was amazing! So Bishop do you take a day off?
And what I’ve been doing here, in western Massachusetts, is during my day off is trying to explore different areas of the diocese to get out to see different sights and different things in the diocese here, so I’ve been doing that. I’ve been doing some reading, catching up on that and also I must admit on my day off sometimes I take time for my work with the ecumenical and inter-religious affairs committee.
PEGGY: And do you go on a vacation?
PEGGY: Oh, that’s a nice thing. Now have you made any new discoveries, like, “Oh, I love the hamburgers here or I love this bookstore or I love this nature site.”Are you an outdoorsy person or more into bookstores or what?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, I enjoy the beauty of nature of western Massachusetts, and even in the midst of this past winter, which we know everybody told me was unusual and that we never have this much snow and this much cold. I do enjoy even winter’s stark beauty so it’s been good to get out and about and around and to be able to see some of the sights here. I’ve been able to visit the Clark Museum. I’ve been to the Fort Restaurant after that had reopened so that’s been a good thing and a few other places around in our area.
PEGGY: There’s a lot to see and a lot to do in our area. And I’m sure you get lots of recommendations, right?
BISHOP MITCH: I do. Lots of people tell me different things. And certainly what I am looking forward to and experienced last year within the first month of my arrival and installation is the Big E. So I enjoy going over to the Big E and walking around — seeing the different sights there, meeting different people. Everybody had told me about it in the weeks leading up to it, and then the Mass that we celebrate at the Big E was wonderful. So it’s just been a good experience of finding the different – both the large and the little favorite spots of western Massachusetts.
PEGGY: And as you adjust here, what has surprised you the most? You know, “I’m not in Baltimore any more, I’m not in Maryland any more.” Has anything just made you think, “hmmm, this is different!”
BISHOP MITCH: I knew nothing about the diocese of Springfield when Archbishop Vigano (Apostolic Nuncio of United States of America) called and told me I would be the bishop of Springfield, I knew nothing about it. So everything is new. Everything to me is new. But I have noticed there were great parallels between western Massachusetts and western Maryland. They had many of the same issues I faced as the vicar bishop, the auxiliary bishop, in western Maryland, I’m finding here, as in western Maryland, that industries that had closed down that had really been the lifeblood of the communities for many decades. I found that in western Maryland that it had occurred and that it also had occurred here in western Massachusetts. The declining population happened in western Maryland and again I find it in western Massachusetts. I guess what I was really surprised about was the parallels between those two places — western Maryland and western Massachusetts. They are both very, very beautiful in the scenery, in nature and in lots of possibilities. And it’s good to see that those possibilities are being worked on here in western Massachusetts.
BISHOP MITCH: Well, Peggy, when I was a newly-ordained priest and getting my first assignment, I never knew what I was getting into. I didn’t know where I was going to be assigned. However, any assignment that I’ve had in a parish — and then kind of the surprise assignment of being asked to be auxiliary bishop of Baltimore — and then being asked to be bishop of Springfield, I just felt though it wasn’t of my own making that it was God’s making. This is what God wants, and let’s do the best. He’s confident in my gifts if he’s asked me to do this — to put my gifts to the best of my ability. So I was thinking that here I bring my experience. I thanked God that I had ten years as an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore so I felt as though I was well-prepared to be ordinary of the diocese and it was God’s will. It’s God’s way, and let’s do it.
PEGGY: And now?
BISHOP MITCH: I feel as though God’s grace has really gotten me through the past year. I tried to take this first year as much as I could to listen, to learn, and as we spoke about this, to visit the many parishes, the many institutions of the diocese. I feel as though with one year down, I’ve learned a lot and hopefully people have gotten to learn a lot about me, and let’s move forward. We’ve got lots of the Lord’s work to do and let’s do it.
PEGGY: Bishop, what do you want people to know about you. You communicate a public face. You’re spiritual and you’re here to lead us and I don’t think that anyone wouldn’t think you are earnest. But how would you want people to see you and what do you want people to understand about you?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, I think that first of all I am sort of an extrovert so I don’t like to be tied to the office. I feel very drained if I have to spend a significant amount of time in the office on administrative things. I like to be out amongst the people and so I think that’s one aspect of my ministry that really gives me energy — being out and amongst the people and in parishes and being able to do that. The administrative side of it is not my forte. At least I can say I can do it but it doesn’t energize me. I really enjoy being out.
So it was told to me that when you’re asked to serve in leadership positions in the church that it is a challenge of love — to see how much you are willing to sacrifice even more for the church. And becoming bishop has I think really tested my depth of love for the church because it took me out of parish priesthood but we have to be open to the call that God gives to us. What I’ve been amazed at is the grace that I’ve received in being able to be a bishop and especially the grace of this past year of being here in the Diocese of Springfield. So, I’m a people person, administrative work is not my forte, I can do it but I’d rather be out and about.
PEGGY: So bishop tell us about how you will be heading to all three cities where the pope is going to be in September.
BISHOP MITCH: Yes, the holy father is coming to Washington, D.C., .where he will first meet with the bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and then we will have Mass on the side of the National Shrine where he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the great missionary of the western part of the United States. He will speak also to Congress and then he will move to New York City. And in New York he will have Mass at Madison Square Garden. But there’s also an ecumenical and interfaith service that will be held at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center. So I will be there for that part of the visit, at the prayer service and then of course to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. And we will have that wonderful, wonderful Mass that will be celebrated on the front steps of the museum — which might be very familiar to people there. It’s the site where Rocky Balboa ran up and down the steps. And that’s where the papal mass will be held.
PEGGY: So you won’t run up the steps and wave the papal flag, will you?
BISHOP MITCH: (with a smile) I hope not. I hope I will be concelebrating at that Mass.
PEGGY: With our busloads of pilgrims at the Mass
BISHOP MITCH: With our six busloads, I believe that many are coming from the diocese so it’s wonderful to know so many are going to be coming down there — very hearty pilgrims.
PEGGY: Say hi to Pope Francis for me, will you?
BISHOP MITCH: Certainly. I will, indeed, thank you.
BISHOP MITCH: Well, I began my term in November. Actually the November after I was installed here — my term officially began. And one of the highlights of this past year of being the chair of ecumenical and inter-religious affairs was the conference that was held at Catholic University on the document of Vatican II called Nostra Aetate — “In our time.” It’s one of the shortest documents of Vatican II but it has far-reaching implications. And the Nostra Aetate conference involved a gathering of leaders of Jewish groups, and leaders of Muslim groups and reflecting on how the past 50 years has really brought us closer together in our collaboration and our working for the common good.
And Nostra Aetate really opened that up for us and the reason that we have the office of ecumenical and inter-religious affairs is because of the decree Nostra Aetate. So that’s been a highlight of it. I’ve been working with Christian churches — African American churches, protestant churches, mainline protestant churches, evangelical protestant churches — orthodox and catholic on the issues that unite us in our country. So that’s been a very rich and rewarding experience. Again, something I never would have expected to be doing as a bishop but the opportunity has presented itself and I find that opportunity to be very enriching.
PEGGY: It’s so needed in this time when everyone just seems to be pitted against each other. I mean look at your own hometown of Baltimore, the violence last year, it seems like the hand of God or the love of God is needed now more than ever among all people
BISHOP MITCH: Certainly and I think that in our ecumenical and our interfaith relations we really have to show the unity of people of faith — that people of faith are people of hope. They are people who build bridges between one another and build bridges to others too. So it’s very, very important and I think that Vatican II, the fathers of Vatican II, had a great insight into reaching out to other faiths and to other denominations and saying there are things that divide us, certainly, we cannot deny them, but there are other things that unite us and in those things that unite us, we need to reach out as people of faith.
PEGGY: Now, when you look back, you did a lot this year. What are your goals for next year?
PEGGY: Any personal goals?
BISHOP MITCH: My personal goal is to be able to — in all the busyness of life — to be able to have that time, to preserve that time for prayer and to make sure that as I am taking care of the spiritual needs of others that I also deepen my relationship with the Lord. It is important because that is not only a personal goal, it is an example for everyone and I feel that it’s a very, very important part of being a bishop.
PEGGY: So are you one of these people that are up at 6 a.m. and to bed at midnight.? Do you get enough rest? What’s your day like?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, I’m up early, I’m up early for prayer and for daily Mass. And then breakfast, certainly to get some energy for the morning and depending upon what was on the calendar sometimes the mornings or the afternoons can be out of the office. Sometimes I need to be in the office. But I find that if I can balance my day amongst prayer and meditation, being out and visiting amongst people, and doing my administrative work, at the end of the day, I feel pretty fulfilled.
PEGGY: That’s good and I hope you take some time for yourself just to read or take a walk or anything like that.
BISHOP MITCH: I do, I try. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes, I’m not. That’s all part of life.
PEGGY: Do you have five year goals? Are you looking that far ahead?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, as I’m looking at the diocese and working with the different collaborative groups, for example the clergy commission, the presbyteral council, the finance council — certainly there are goals that are immediate that we mentioned,. They are: evangelization, education, the Year of Mercy in collaboration with Pope Francis calling for that year of mercy beginning on December the 8th. But I think that in working with those goals that they will certainly broaden out to long term goals in the future. I think that some of what’s on my plate — while I will get to them very soon — will not just be a year but rather a few years out. And then as I work with them, I think that other goals for the long term will become clearer.
PEGGY: Right and it will be a chance for the young people of the diocese to just sort of hang out with you and get to know you better.
BISHOP MITCH: Certainly, and bishops from all over this country will be there also. So there will be times for catechesis, times for prayer, times for dialogue, and then again the highlight of World Youth Day will be the visit of Pope Francis to Krakow.
PEGGY: Congratulations, again on your anniversary. Is there anything that you would like to add? Anything I haven’t asked you or that you want to say?
BISHOP MITCH: Well, yes, I just want to express the deep sense of gratitude that I have to the priests, the deacons, the religious men and women and the laity of the Diocese of Springfield. I was a stranger when I came into your midst but you’ve accepted me and you’ve all worked with me and collaborated with me and supported me and I am just so grateful for all of that. And I especially want to single out Bishop Tim McDonnell, who from the very day he met me at the airport, was so welcoming and has been available to me for his counsel and his insights too. So I feel very, very supported here in ministry as bishop and I’m grateful for all that support.
PEGGY: Well, thanks a lot bishop and thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you “ad multos annos,” many more years.
BISHOP MITCH: Thank you, toward many years,(translation of ad multos annos) indeed! Thank you so much, Peggy, and thanks for taking the time to be with me today.
PEGGY: Glad to do it. Thanks, bishop!
BISHOP MITCH: Thank you.
Holy Cross Church – July 27, 2015
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11
Romans 12: 10-21
John 14: 1-14
With Tommy’s parents, Betty and Jerry, his sister Diane, her
husband John, his brother Joe and Tommy’s nieces Mary Kate,
Nikki and Chloe, his nephew Connor we come together in Holy
Cross Church today to express our gratitude to God for giving us
this wonderful son, brother, uncle, friend and child of God who was
at the depths of his heart a dedicated Marine.
United in our grief at Tommy’s tragic death, we ponder the question
“why.” Why did this happen to Tommy, his fellow Marines, Staff
Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire Wells
and Navy petty officer Randall Smith, good men who sought to
serve their country in a most honorable way?
The outpouring of support that has come from the
people of Springfield and our Western Massachusetts area has
shown us how much Tommy’s life and his fellow servicemen’s lives
mean to all of us who benefit from their ultimate sacrifice.
Another man who questioned the presence of evil and death in
our world was the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, whose name
was Quoheleth. We know little about him, except for his writing
that made its way to be part of Sacred Scripture, our first reading
today. His words about the changing of seasons, the times of life,
both good and bad, are the most well-known of anything he wrote.
These words of deep thought reflect on the inevitabilities of life, the
many changes that surround us and yet the one constant that
Tommy knew so well in his life, that God’s love and presence never
His deep love for his family, his selfless dedication to
being a Marine and his solid faith in God helped Tommy through
the many challenges that he faced in training for service, in his
deployments to Iraq, in being a leader for his fellow Marines and
facing the danger on July 16th, when he and his brothers in service
heroically thought of others above themselves.
In a world that can be so fickle, the timeless values that Tommy espoused and lived as a Marine show forth true courage, selflessness and ultimate concern for others.
It is here that we find the depth of love lived as a reality that continues to inspire each one of us, as it inspired Tommy in his life of service for others.
When St. Paul wrote to the people of Rome, he wanted to encourage
them as they encountered persecution. But Paul’s words do not
speak of revenge, rather, they speak of allowing love to conquer
even the hatred of enemies. Today, perhaps, it is easy to desire
revenge and yet that would not pay full tribute to Tommy’s life and
the lives of those who died with him.
A Marine is the epitome of strength and St. Paul tells us that the greatest strength we have as people of God is love. Like Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s words may confound the wisdom of this world, but they ask from us the strength to love in situations like this when hate seems to triumph.
Not an easy thing to do, but Tommy shows us how much of a
difference a person’s life makes when self-sacrificing love is lived to
its fullest. St. Paul’s wisdom lies in recognizing that real strength is
based in love, not in hate.
In today’s scene from John’s Gospel, Jesus is gathered with
His disciples at a very difficult time. They are moving to Jerusalem,
where Jesus will ultimately face his own death. There is a sense of
anxiety among the Apostles, not knowing what will happen once
they reach Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus’ own words bring a sense of calm
to this troubled situation. “Have faith in God and have faith in me,”
Jesus tells them, giving them words of comfort and hope at a time
of much confusion and questioning. These words are also meant for
all of us who gather here to mourn for Tommy. For Jesus knows the
sadness of heart that we feel this day and is present with us in this
Mass. He is present to us as we seek His comfort in the depth of our
sorrow and pain.
Tommy lived his life knowing those words of Jesus spoken to
the apostle Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life”
through his service here as an altar server, a student at Holy Cross
School and Cathedral High School.
He knew those words as he basked in the love of Betty and Jerry, of
Diane and Joe, of his family and friends who knew his wonderful
sense of humor and felt the love that he has for them. Tommy knew
those words as he left Springfield to join the Marines, in an
adventure that he found so satisfying and rewarding by serving our
And Tommy lived believing in Jesus’ words knowing that
we are created not for just the finite time we have here on earth, but
that we are called to be with God forever. It is this faith that brings
us here today, to thank God for dedicated men and women who are
inspired as Tommy was, to live lives of service for all of humanity.
As a follower of Jesus, Tommy knew the strength of faith that made
him an exemplary Marine, a leader and a man of true courage. He
leaves with us a legacy that will be forever cherished.
Today, we ask God to welcome this hero to his Eternal reward, for he literally
gave his life for others. The greatest tribute we can give to Tommy
is to emulate the faith and values that he lived and thanking God
for allowing us to witness the goodness that Tommy has brought to
this world, a light that no darkness can overcome.
Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski
Bishop of Springfield, MA
Editor’s note: Catholic Communications has gone to summer camp. This week we sent a crew to produce a feature about Camp Holy Cross for “Real to Reel.” We also taped a Mass for the Chalice of Salvation. It will air August 9th at 10 a.m. I went along and was super impressed. The following is my reflection and some photos shared by the camp.
By Peggy Weber
Photos courtesy of Camp Holy Cross
I never went to summer camp. In fact, I am not a big “outdoorsy” kind of person. But I would love to go to Camp Holy Cross.
Under the direction of Father Chris Malatesta this scenic and peaceful place in Goshen inspires!
Father Chris works with many capable people to run various camps and activities.
He is assisted by Father David Aufiero, parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Parish in Northampton. It is clear that they both enjoy working with young people and the camp.
And it is clear that the kids have fun at this camp! Activities are designed to create community, build skills and have a good time.
No one is texting or playing a video game. In fact, all electronic devices are collected at the start of camp.
Campers pitch in to clean tables, serve food, lead grace and help out.
They also pray. They have Masses outdoors or in the camp chapel each day.
I attended a Mass where Father Dave spoke about living out one’s faith. The campers eagerly volunteered to do readings and joined in with their own petitions with great sincerity.
They prayed for their pets, for their parents, for soldiers and for anyone who was sad.
Father Chris told us how they had a pasta meal one night where no one used utensils. He says he joins in the fun.
Campers come from all over the diocese. Some are sponsored by their parish or others and get a taste of the great outdoors that is different from city or even suburban life.
In our world, where there is so much bad news and so much concern for young people, Camp Holy Cross shines as brightly as its campfire and really makes a difference!
For more information about Camp Holy Cross go to http://www.campholycross.org/
A Refection on the Life and Death of Anna A. Morin
By Julie Beaulieu
In Wladyslowow Poland, February 20, 1924, Anna made a frightening journey through the darkness of her mother Olga’s womb, into the unknown. This new world is traumatic and frightening to any newborn baby, who is helpless and completely innocent. In 1924, Anna began her journey in this life.
Anna’s family owned a large farm in Poland where she grew up with her older brother John, younger brother Karl and sister Herta. She loved nature and was a joyful young girl.
As Anna grew into her teen years, World War II began. Germany occupied her section of Poland. She was torn from her family and forced to go to Germany and work. Not knowing any German, Anna attended night school. This is where she met another Polish girl, Lydia. Lydia would later become Anna’s sister-in-law.
Despite nightly air raids and the other cruelties of war, Anna got a job working for the railroad, and she recalled these days as some of the happiest in her life.
Anna’s journey took her to yet another foreign country where she had to learn yet a third language. She said, “I did it because I had to.” Her first marriage to Mitchell Paradzinski produced two children, Irene and Paul, whom she loved dearly. Sadly, her marriage ended in divorce and her journey took her to a sadder place, that of a single, working mom in the 1950’s. Anna struggled during these times when she also met shame and social prejudice.
In 1965, Anna married Leo Morin, a French-Canadian drunk who took advantage of her and later deserted her. Around the same time, her son-in-law, Louis, was drafted and sent to serve in Vietnam. These were tumultuous times for not only Anna, but mostly everyone.
After another war of fear, darkness and death came 1970, and in 1970 the brightest light in Anna’s life was born, her first and only grandchild.
As a child, I remember cuddling up to her soft and gentle skin, the smell of her Polish cooking, the touch of the clothing she made for me. Her house was always a safe place in which I felt loved and secure.
My grandmother was my biggest fan. She went to every dance recital, choral performance, cheerleading competition, high school play, college play, and became a faithful viewer of, “Real to Reel.” She watched it every week, whether I was on or not. When I asked why, she said, “I get to see your name at the end in the credits.”
Anna battled cancer three different times in her life; first, in her nasal passages, second, in her left breast, and lastly, in her uterus, each time with much bravery and courage.
After retiring, she returned to Germany four times to visit her family.
She loved good food, a good joke, but most of all, she loved to shop.
In 2008, Anna was diagnosed with vascular dementia, a tough blow for both her and her family. This was the start of a long road leading deeper and deeper into darkness and confusion. The dementia lead to her needing 24/7 care and she entered a nursing home in 2012.
Later in life, Anna’s greatest wish was to become a great-grandmother. She lived to see Viola Anna D’Angelo born in Oct. of 2013.
The last year of her life, Anna came up against the blackness of cancer for the final time. In the end, Anna had to be diapered, fed, washed and carried. Her family never left her side and she fought until the very end. She lived to hear Viola’s laugh, the sound of my voice saying grandma, and the simple touches of her family each holding her hand and stroking her white hair.
In the early hours of May 3, 2015, she fought for her life with her son at her side. She once again journeyed down a dark tunnel, uncertain and afraid, only to find eternal light, everlasting love and perpetual bliss.
To watch a video tribute to my grandmother click on this link:
By Peggy Weber
Photos courtesy of Don Wielgus
The power of prayer and the love of the Blessed Mother were in evidence in Westfield on May 17th.
The combined Rosary Sodalities of Holy Trinity Parish, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, St. Mary Parish and St. Peter and St. Casimir Parish gathered for a Communion Breakfast and social.
However, the event was much more than delicious scrambled eggs and a chance to connect with friends.
The morning began with about 114 women gathering in Holy Trinity Church for a recitation of the rosary. LaSalette Father Lukasz Krzanowski led the group in the opening and closing prayers and the proclaiming of the glorious mysteries. The presidents of each parish sodality recited the decades. It was a wonderful example of unity and faith.
LaSalette Father Rene Parent celebrated the liturgy and welcomed the women. It was an impressive sight to see so many faith-filled ladies gathered in their Sunday best for prayer.
A breakfast was served in the Holy Trinity Parish Hall by the men of the Holy Name Society of the parish and some great teen volunteers.
Schoenstatt Sister M. Barbara Ebbe, who was stationed in Westfield for many years, was in attendance. She is moving from Nebraska to Staten Island, N.Y. and re-connected with many people.
Father William Wallis, pastor of St. Peter and St. Casimir Parish, joined the community after celebrating First Communions in his parish.
I joined the women because I was asked to speak at the breakfast. I felt so welcomed and so at home with so many good and kind people.
I spoke about the many names of the Blessed Mother and how they can inspire and teach us.
I left the day filled with enthusiasm and hope. These women are truly the backbone of many parishes. They are so devout and good and really care about their faith and their parishes.
They also are smart. They recognize the importance of cooperation and community. I was told the breakfast was sold out and the women hope to hold another one next year. Truly, the group sees how good it is when women come together in honor of Mary.
This was really a joyous day!