home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
September 14, 2007

In this edition:
-- Why each person matters.
-- Why our lives together matter.
-- A quality Blessed Mother Teresa brought to ministry and life.
-- Catechesis: How a culture of vocations relates to priestly and religious vocations.
-- Evangelization: Survey shows nonchurchgoers await invitation.
-- Current quotations to ponder.
-- What did Pope Benedict XVI say in Austria?
-- Facts on the church's young adults.

Each Life Matters

A few of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's words Aug. 26 at the investiture of Rabbi Leon Klenicki into the order of St. Gregory the Great can perhaps be applied not only to the life of this distinguished leader in Jewish-Catholic relations, but to "the harvest" reaped by the life of any one of us. So today let's start out with those few, rather affirming words. Speaking to Rabbi Klenicki, the Boston cardinal said:

"Some years ago, as a preamble to an essay you wrote titled 'Toward a Process of Healing: Understanding the Other as a Person of God,' you quoted a phrase from Martin Buber that speaks in a sense to all ages. Buber remarks:

"'We live in an unredeemed world. But out of each human life that is unarbitrary and bound to the world, a seed of redemption falls into the world, and the harvest is God's.'"

Rabbi Klenicki, former interfaith affairs director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, was invested into the order of St. Gregory the Great during a ceremony in New York at the Holy See's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.

Our Lives Together Matter Also

"We who survived Katrina have had to relearn some important lessons," Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans wrote in his Sept. 1 Clarion Herald newspaper column for the second anniversary of the devastating hurricane. He said:

"We have learned that we are really not in control of our lives, however much we may have thought we were. We are dependent on God and interdependent on one another. We have learned to be vigilant and prepared. We have learned that faith is the most powerful weapon in the face of adversity; that family relationships should never be taken for granted; that people are far more important than the things we once possessed; that acts of thoughtful kindness by strangers strengthen solidarity and forge human community."

In his reflection the archbishop said, "We have learned where our treasure truly is: our faith in God; our conviction that for those who love God everything turns to good; our embrace of others, not on the basis of race or education or economic status, but on the basis of our common humanity and our need for one another."

A Quality Blessed Mother Teresa

Brought to Ministry and Life

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta not only radiated energy and enthusiasm, she "radiated joy and love," said Sean Callahan, vice president of overseas operations for Catholic Relief Services. Speaking about Mother Teresa for the 10th anniversary of her death Sept. 5, Callahan recalled his encounters and conversations with her, and the personality she brought to ministry and life.

"Among the nuns in her order, Mother Teresa instilled not only an unwavering compassion for others, but a true sense of camaraderie," Callahan said. People tend to think of her as an idol, a saint, but "she was very human," according to the CRS official. "Laughter, joke-telling and singing were a trademark of Mother's persona." He described her friendliness and said, "She loved to sing, she loved to tell jokes, she loved to smile."

There was a joy that Mother Teresa brought to things, Callahan commented. She coupled a certain softness and joy with action. She was, as is well known, an "action-oriented person who really got things done."

Mother Teresa may have been small in stature, but she was great in presence, said Callahan. He added: "Her dynamism and enthusiasm to help those less fortunate was contagious. She had a way of soliciting others to help in her cause." (Callahan can be heard and seen discussing this in an enjoyable podcast on the CRS Web site, www.crs.org )

Catechesis: How a "Culture of Vocations"

Relates to Priestly and Consecrated-Life Vocations

In a speech June 21 to the U.S. bishops, who were meeting in New Mexico, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pa., said that:

1. We need to catechize our children and young people about personal vocation so that they understand and embrace God's plan for their lives, whatever it is, and so become ready to discern the state in life to which God is calling them."

2. "Far from distracting us from the crisis of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, catechizing about personal vocation is essential to promoting these vocations as well as the vocation to marriage."

Bishop Rhoades examined what often has been termed "a culture of vocations." As some leaders in vocations ministry have explained it in the past, to build a culture of vocations is to create a seedbed from which vocations to priesthood and the consecrated life will emerge. Within this vocations seedbed, in which all in the church understand that they are called (have a vocation), e.g. to marriage, to the single life, to specific forms of work, it becomes quite natural for some to discern that theirs is a call -- a vocation -- to priesthood or the consecrated life.

Bishop Rhoades said that the Harrisburg Diocese is developing "a curriculum for our younger children, specifically those in seventh and eighth grades, focused on the more fundamental reality of personal vocation. This is part of their preparation for the sacrament of confirmation." The bishop asked how those called to priesthood and the consecrated life "can hear God's call to these particular vocations unless they first realize that God calls absolutely everyone by name and wants each of us to discern the unique part he is calling us to play in building up the church."

The bishop said that in catechizing "children and young people about personal vocation, we must help them see that God is calling some of them to closely collaborate with Jesus in leading people into his heavenly kingdom," and these include those called to priesthood and consecrated life.

Two extremes to avoid when promoting vocations were spelled out by the bishop. "One extreme focuses exclusively on vocation as a call to the priesthood or consecrated life," while "the other extreme neglects vocations to priesthood and consecrated life." Bishop Rhoades added, "The solution, it seems to me, is for us bishops to promote what John Paul II in 'Pastores Gregis' called 'a vocational culture.'"

He is convinced, Bishop Rhoades said, "that to overcome the vocation crisis we must help each child to understand and become excited about the fact that God has a plan for his or her entire life." And, said the bishop, "We must ensure that the study of holy orders and the consecrated life is included, along with marriage and the single life, in all our schools and catechetical programs."

Evangelization: Survey Shows

Nonchurchgoers Await Invitation

In launching an initiative Sept. 3 urging all Catholics to reach out in the months ahead with an invitation to those around them who have been baptized, but rarely, if ever, are found at Mass, the British bishops cited one of the findings of a major survey in Britain released this spring: The survey showed that while just one in seven adults in Britain attends a Christian worship service monthly, nearly 3 million more people said they would go if they were invited. The survey was conducted under the auspices of the Tear Fund, a Christian relief and development agency.

"The good and bad, the fervent and the lukewarm, saints and sinners are all part of what makes up [the Catholic Church's] rich tapestry, so there will always be 'lapsed Catholics' to reach out to, and that is what we're inviting parishes to do," said Msgr. Keith Barltrop, director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization, an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. "The Catholic Church," he said, "has never been an exclusive body, catering only for a spiritual elite, but a net in which all sorts of fish are caught, to use the Gospel image."

Msgr. Barltrop commented that "most Catholic families have members who, for different reasons, no longer go to Mass: Some lost contact during their teenage years, others drifted away after a broken marriage, while some have had painful experiences with the Catholic community. Our initiative aims to encourage Catholics to listen respectfully and lovingly to people's stories and invite them back."

The need to reach out to Catholics who do not participate in the Eucharist is nothing new for the church, said Msgr. Barltrop. He said: "There have always been a significant number of Catholics who rarely attend church. As with other denominations, people get baptized, but only a proportion will regularly participate in their local parish community. Our initiative is therefore trying to address and positively respond to a longstanding part of Catholic culture."

Current Words to Ponder

The world in perspective: "We know well that if all the inhabitants of the world were reduced to a village of 100 people, 80 of the villagers would live in poverty, seven would own computers, the six people from the United States would consume 40 percent of all the village's resources and only one person would have a college education. To understand the world is to realize that 1.2 billion people have no access to drinkable water and are forced to try to survive on $1 a day or less." (From the Aug. 20 university convocation address of Jesuit Father Stephen Privett, president of the University of San Francisco)

The difference between nonprofit and for-profit organizations: "In the for-profit world there are benchmarks for excellence. For example, if same-store sales at Gap decrease relative to their industry peer group, that's bad. There are many external benchmarks, including return on equity and other financial metrics. How do you benchmark nonprofits? Lives saved? Souls saved? It's kind of tough. The setting of the bar is done by the leadership of the organization as opposed to external constituents. If the setting is ambiguous or if the bar is not set at all, you won't get outstanding performance. The biggest mistake organizations make is that they don't spend enough time up front defining what's really and truly required to achieve their goals." (From a June 28 speech by Thomas Tierney, chairman of the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit organization involved in management consulting, to the annual meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management)

Time to abandon the clash of civilizations: In an interview Sept. 3 with Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian Catholic magazine, Archbishop-designate Gianfranco Ravasi, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the world's cultures and religions today, instead of engaging in a "duel," should be part of a "duet, like in music, when two voices remain different, but harmonious." The concept of a clash of civilizations -- between East and West, for example -- ought to be adandoned, he proposed, because the great urgency now is to rediscover unity in a fragmented and sectarian world.

What Did Pope Benedict XVI Say in Austria?

1. How the heart expands:

"Whenever people do more than their simple duty in professional life and in the family (and even doing this well calls for great strength and much love), and whenever they commit themselves to helping others, putting their precious free time at the service of man and his dignity, their hearts expand," Pope Benedict XVI said Sept. 9 when he met in Vienna, Austria, with groups of volunteers who contribute their services to church and/or society. The pope visited Austria Sept. 7-9.

A similar theme was heard from the pope during a Mass Sept. 9 in Vienna. "Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life," the pope said in his homily. "In other words, only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it always demands leaving oneself." The pope said that without this "losing of oneself, there is no life."

2. Sunday, the Lord's Day:

Three dimensions of the Lord's Day were identified by Pope Benedict XVI during the Mass in Vienna Sept. 9. First he explained that "the early Christians celebrated the first day of the week as the Lord's Day because it was the day of the resurrection."

Second, the pope continued, the church came very soon "to realize that the first day of the week is the day of the dawning of creation, the day on which God said: 'Let there be light' (Gn. 1:3). Therefore Sunday is also the church's weekly feast of creation -- the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God's creation." Reiterating his ongoing concern for the environment, the pope said, "At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too."

Third, said the pope, "for the early church the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God's rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God's creatures."

3. Celibate chastity:

In a homily Sept. 8 at the Marian sanctuary of Mariazell, Austria, Pope Benedict addressed priests, religious, seminarians and deacons. "Priests and religious are not aloof from interpersonal relationships," the pope said, adding: "Chastity, on the contrary, means an intense relationship; it is, positively speaking, a relationship with the living Christ and, on the basis of that, with the Father. Consequently, by the vow of celibate chastity we do not consecrate ourselves to individualism or a life of isolation; instead, we solemnly promise to put completely and unreservedly at the service of God's kingdom -- and thus at the service of others -- the deep relationships of which we are capable and which we receive as a gift."

Pope Benedict said that "in this way priests and religious become men and women of hope: Staking everything on God and thus showing that God for them is something real, they open up a space for his presence in our world."

Priests and religious "have an important contribution to make," the pope exhorted. He said: "Amid so much greed, possessiveness, consumerism and the cult of the individual, we strive to show selfless love for men and women. We are living lives of hope, a hope whose fulfillment we leave in God's hands because we believe that he will fulfill it." The pope asked, "What might have happened had the history of Christianity lacked" outstanding examples of such a life?

Facts on the Church's Young Adults

"Young adults are defined by the church as those 18-40," and that means that "40 percent of U.S. Catholics are young adults." And, of the "5 million Catholic students attending colleges and universities in the U.S., 4.5 million attend non-Catholic colleges or universities." Those statistics on the church's young adults are found in a fact sheet appearing in a section of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Web site devoted to young adults and titled "Generation Christ" (www.usccb.org; click on "departments").

The racial and ethnic makeup of the current U.S. young-adult population is as follows, according to the fact sheet: "48 percent Anglo; 44 percent Hispanic/Latino; 3 percent African American; 4 percent Asian or Pacific Islander; 1 percent Native American."

The fact sheet says the 90 percent of Catholic dioceses "have an employee designated specifically for young adult ministry."

Accenting the willingness of so many young adults to serve as volunteers, and citing the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate as a source, the fact sheet says that "in 2004 there were 12,689 serving the church at home and abroad through the 200 programs under the Catholic Network of Volunteer Services. The overwhelming majority of these volunteers are young adults. Over 80 percent of them have a four-year college education."