September 2013

September 29,2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

As I sit down to write this column the news has just been announced that Bishop Shelton Fabre has been named the fourth Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. He will be installed at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Houma on October 30, succeeding the retiring Bishop Sam Jacobs there.

This is wonderful news on many levels. First of all, I have to admit that Bishop Fabre is a close personal friend of mine! We met when I was first made pastor back in the summer of 1984: he was beginning his senior year of college seminary and was assigned to my parish. We became fast friends, and I was particularly pleased that I was able to steer him toward my old seminary in Belgium, The American College of Louvain, and graduate studies at the Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven there – where he did very well. Ordained in 1989, he proved to be an outstanding priest. Every parish he ever served in fell in love with him, his preaching and his obvious care and concern for everyone. In 2007 became the auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the archdiocese of New Orleans. Since that time he’s learned his way around a chancery and become very familiar with the demanding job of running a diocese. From my own observation in many parishes – and in chancery administration particular for two full decades – I can tell you: he’s very good at what he does!

But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. In 1995 then-Father Fabre resided here at St. Joseph Cathedral and served as administrator during Father Frank Uter fall sabbatical that year. Some of our not-so-young parishioners remember his gentle demeanor and effective preaching to this day!

Now he’ll get a chance to show off his skills – and, even better, to live out his deep faith and lead with his exemplary love – among the wonderful faith communities along Bayou Lafourche and along the Louisiana coast from Grand Isle to Morgan City. It won’t take him long to be “at home” there, and once the Christian faithful of his new diocese hear him preach and lead them in worship – and learn that he likes shrimp and other Gulf seafood! – they will warm up to him too! I’m happy for him, and ask that you please keep him and his new flock in your prayers.

As we move into October, we’re getting closer to our annual “GRAND Day” on Sunday, October 20 this year! Remember: all grandparents and grandchildren are ’specially invited! Our “St. Francis of Assisi” theme this year will highlight his love of nature and animals. Let me ask again: please invite your friends to be grandfriends here with you that day at our 12 noon Mass and street party afterwards. Everyone’s looking forward to it!

Sincerely in the Lord.

September 22, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

As fall continues, I have to admit I’m thinking of two things a lot. The first is something we’re all certainly mindful of: “When will the cool weather ever get here??” Unfortunately, there’s no sure answer for that question!

My second preoccupation, though, is one that brings a smile to my face. In fact, it brings a smile to everyone’s face! It’s something we all should have on our calendars by now: our upcoming “GRAND Day” on Sunday, October 20! Our Cathedral Parish invites grandparents and grandchildren – and everyone “in between”!! – from throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge to share a little of their love with us on that day. We’re going with a “St. Francis of Assisi” theme this year, focusing on his love of nature and animals especially. Please ask your friends to be grandfriends here with you that day at our 12 noon Mass and street party afterwards. It will be a wonderful occasion, I promise!

One of Pope Francis’ most significant qualities is his ability to be very, very thought-provoking in some of his improvised homilies and responses to questions. He possesses an extraordinary way of stressing proper priorities and summarizing Church teaching in just a few words. (I wish I had his gift for preaching that short and that well!)

Many of his statements have surprised people. He got a lot of attention when, on the way back from the World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he emphasized that all peoples are called to holiness of life – and should be appreciated for their innate goodness as well as the good that they do – saying “Who am I to judge?” persons of same-sex attraction and by implication all others who may feel alienated from the Church. He’s pointed out traditional Church teaching that Jesus’s death-and-resurrection means that salvation now is possible for all men and women – even atheists! – who seek and embrace the truth which God has planted in their hearts. He’s urged justice and compassion for immigrants and for the imprisoned.

Of course, sometimes the Holy Father’s brevity and plain-speaking is not appreciated. It especially confounds those who wish he’d emphasize other issues than the ones he chooses. There are some who don’t find his simplicity all that inspiring. And there also are those who sincerely prefer and need longer, more “in-depth” explanations of complicated topics. But honestly, we already have the Bible, the Word of God, to inspire us. And our Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a ready, comprehensive overview of all of our Church’s beliefs and practices. Pope Francis cannot change any Church teaching that reflects the will of God, and in fact has not notably changed any Church doctrine or practice that’s of purely human origin.
What the pope does seem to realize as crucial is that we Catholics need to understand the basics, like mercy and justice, and the dignity of those who are too-often marginalized by society. It’s a lesson that all of us ought to take to heart: we are too-easily tempted to exaggerate, to make mountains out of molehills. Proper perspective means we try to see and understand things as God wishes us to do so, not as we might more selfishly prefer!

Sincerely in the Lord.

September 15, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

First off, let me offer a word of appreciation to everyone who is responding to our annual Stewardship of Ministry appeal. Not only are our “veteran” parishioners remaining wonderfully active in various Parish activities and ministries, a number of new volunteers have stepped forward, not only to be involved in already-existing ways but in a number of new services. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You and your involvement are what make our Cathedral Family so great!

This week I (along with about 400 other priests from the seven dioceses in the State of Louisiana) will be taking part in a Priests’ Convention in New Orleans. This means that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there will be no noontime confessions or Mass here at the Cathedral: none of us priests have quite perfected the skill of bilocation! I know it’s an inconvenience for the many downtown workers who make us an important part of their spiritual lives: thank you for understanding!

Even more, please keep all of the priests of Louisiana in your prayers. Over 20 years ago we were the first region of the country to begin holding this kind of convention. Every four years we gather to share the graces of our vocations, and be inspired and informed by top-quality speakers. This year the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta are headlining the list of major speakers, with a number of other presenters offering workshops and leading sharing-sessions. The location of the convention in New Orleans offers lots of restaurants in which to renew friendships and enjoy the company of priests from various places who encounter each other infrequently. It should be an enjoyable and beneficial time for us all!

Something else that’s taking place this week is the official “going out for bid” step as we prepare to renovate our Parish Hall! The architect has just about finished drawing up the final plans, and the general contractors will now have a month to prepare their bids for the project. We should open the bids on October 29, and make our choice of contractor as soon as we can afterwards. All signs continue to point to breaking ground sometime in November!

Please remember to put “GRAND Day” – October 20 – on your calendar! The “St. Francis of Assisi” theme will focus on his love of simplicity and of nature. That sounds like he’d like us, right? Please bring your grandchildren, invite your grandparents, and ask all of your friends to be grandfriends here with you that day! The 12 noon Mass and street party afterwards will be enjoyable for everyone!

Sincerely in the Lord.

September 8, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

Most of the time when I sit down to write this column for the Parish Bulletin I don’t know what I’ll be writing about. This week I do. Since this weekend in my homily I’ll be focusing on our annual “Stewardship of Ministry” here at the Cathedral, I want to develop that idea a bit more. In fact, I’d like to ask you to do something, especially if you are a regular worshipper at the Cathedral: consider more active liturgical ministry here.

I think all of us are proud that the liturgies of our Cathedral Parish are so beautiful, and this is as it should be. A Cathedral is supposed to model proper ways to pray together. The daily and weekly rhythm of worship and prayer that takes place here sanctifies not just those who take part but rebound to the benefit of all of our far-flung friends and the wider Baton Rouge community. People from throughout the diocese depend on us and on our efforts. So from time to time we need to make particular efforts to focus our attention on the job we do.

And this is a future-oriented perspective! We cannot rest on our laurels: just because the services here in the past have been beautiful and inspiring – and they have! – doesn’t mean that this will automatically happen in the future without our attention and earnest efforts.

Virtually every role during our shared prayer times could use some new and smiling faces. For instance, we need more adult and youth altar servers for all of our weekend Masses. Sacristans are needed to open and set up our worship space. We need more readers, and especially more hospitality ministers and ushers. We’re always looking for singers to join our choir, which will begin practice next week. We need persons willing to distribute holy communion, during Mass and outside Mass to our sick and homebound. Dusting and cleaning may not be glamorous jobs, but they are necessary ones nonetheless. If your washing machine is Catholic and you’re handy with an iron, we even could use your help in washing and folding various altar linens and vestments!

So, please give some consideration to how best you could add more explicitly to our liturgy. Of course we want to “match” gifts and talents: if you can’t hold a tune then we understand why you can’t be in the choir, for instance. We understand that “mumblers” can’t be lectors, and so forth. The Church also has various – and sensible! – requirements about proper formation for liturgical ministry, and insists that its clergy and lay ministers be exemplary in their lifestyle outside of the church building. And we don’t want to overwork anyone: even our best volunteers deserve a chance to sit down occasionally and just attend Mass with their spouse and family instead of “doing” something!

I don’t want to move off of this topic without stating a word of appreciation for all who have done so much to make St. Joseph Cathedral well-known as an outstanding, inspiring “house of prayer.” Our Cathedral building itself is a treasure because it’s historic and beautiful, but our Cathedral community is even more of a treasure because it is prayerful and dedicated to worshipping Almighty God as best we can. I hope you feel like I do, fortunate to be part of this wonderful Parish family! Let’s resolve to keep it up!

I hope you’ve noticed from announcements here that this year’s “GRAND Day” is coming up on October 20, at and after the 12 noon Mass! Each year this is one of the absolute best events here, and once again it’s already generated a lot of interest! (Yes, we’re planning on having a camel! Our theme centers on St. Francis of Assisi, and, well, he’s known to have loved animals of ALL kinds!) Is GRAND Day on your calendar yet?

A number of young people have told me already they’ve invited their grandparents, and even more older parishioners have made plans to make it a big family weekend too, as they bring their beloved grandchildren and children here to church that day! Have YOU contacted YOUR grandchildren – or for that matter, your grandparents! – to make sure that they’ll join you at the special Mass and family fun day that will follow? I hope so!