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Priest-historian: 75 years later, Pearl Harbor remains ‘such a powerful event’

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Catholic News Service

A Catholic military chaplain and historian says the attack on Pearl Harbor, even 75 years later, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it is “such a powerful event.”

Pearl Harbor survivors Clark Simmons of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Aaron Chabin of Bayside, N.Y., look at the water after throwing a wreath into the Hudson River during a 2015 ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York marking the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

Pearl Harbor survivors Clark Simmons of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Aaron Chabin of Bayside, N.Y., look at the water after throwing a wreath into the Hudson River during a 2015 ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York marking the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

As the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack neared, Father Daniel Mode detailed the effect of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian outpost.

“Before that, we were debating whether to get involved with World War II or not. We were basically a neutral country, trying not to get engaged in it. It (the attack) changed the tenor, and the president’s resolve,” Father Mode told Catholic News Service. “It brought our country together to fight a common threat.”

Speaking from the Pentagon, where he works for the chief of chaplains, Father Mode said he can see a parallel between Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terror attacks.

“They’re both cataclysmic events that galvanized our country,” he said. “One was more obviously targeted toward the civilian population, one toward the military population,” the priest added, “but both certainly were defining moments in our country.”

As a child, young Daniel Mode lived at Pearl Harbor for four years while his father was on duty in the Navy.

“I vividly remember as a young kid — fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade — going to the (USS) Arizona Memorial. As an altar server, I served Mass. It made a great impact on me. It was probably the seeds that were planted in my heart as I discerned my vocation to the priesthood. Pearl Harbor has made an amazing impact on my life.”

The lesson to be learned from Pearl Harbor, he said, is “always vigilance, to be vigilant. To use all sorts of opportunities for diplomacy, opportunities for peaceful engagement, to use all those opportunities ahead of time to engage with populations of other countries, but to be ever vigilant. We want to be friends, right? We have to have friends all over the world. But we have to be aware that not everyone wants to be our friend.”

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, 24 years ago, Father Mode has spent most of his ordained ministry in the Navy Reserve, and the last 12 years in full-time chaplaincy, where he has attained the rank of commander. He’s now six months into a three-year stint at the Pentagon, where his work, among other things, includes collecting data on all the work performed by chaplains.

Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first U.S. chaplain killed in World War II, is pictured in an undated photo. He died during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 while helping others escape his ship, the USS Oklahoma. Nearly 75 years after his death, the remains of Father Schmitt, a native of St. Lucas, Iowa, and graduate of Loras College, were identified and came home to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Witness files)

Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first U.S. chaplain killed in World War II, is pictured in an undated photo. He died during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 while helping others escape his ship, the USS Oklahoma. Nearly 75 years after his death, the remains of Father Schmitt, a native of St. Lucas, Iowa, and graduate of Loras College, were identified and came home to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Witness files)

He took a brief break from that work in October when he was selected to represent the Chaplain Corps at a funeral Mass in Dubuque, Iowa, in October for Father Aloysius Schmitt, a chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, who pushed a dozen men out a narrow porthole to safety during the attack at the cost of his own life as the ship was sinking. He was the first U.S. chaplain to die in World War II. It was only recently that his remains had been positively identified.

“It amazed me, too, that 75 years later, it would be an amazing occasion that gathered so many people together, but that it made national news,” Father Mode said.

Another heroic World War II chaplain Father Mode identified was Father Joseph O’Callahan, a Jesuit priest who was the Catholic chaplain aboard the USS Franklin, then a troop transport ship about 50 miles from the coast of Japan in March 1945, five months before the war ended. Father O’Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor, for organizing rescue and firefighting parties, leading men below deck to soak magazines that had threatened to explode, which would have catastrophically increased the death toll beyond the 800 who did perish, and administer last rites.

“He certainly comes to mind as a hero,” Father Mode said. “He did not die. He served, he went back to (the College of the) Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, to continue teaching math, which is what he did as a Jesuit priest. He is buried in the Jesuit cemetery at Holy Cross.”

Father Mode does not confine his historical research to World War II. For his master’s thesis in history, he wrote a book on Father Vincent Capodanno, a Navy Reserve chaplain who died while serving with the Marines in Vietnam in 1967, was affectionately called “the ‘grunt padre’ for his ability to relate well with soldiers and his willingness to risk his life to minister to the men.” “Grunt” is slang for a member of the U.S. infantry. The cause for his sainthood was formally opened in 2006.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Oakland bishop prays for victims, first responders in warehouse fire

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OAKLAND, Calif. — In response to the Dec. 2 fire that erupted in an Oakland warehouse, Bishop Michael J. Barber of Oakland said in a statement that his “prayers and thoughts are with all those who have died or are suffering from the tragic fire.”

A woman prays Dec. 5 at a makeshift memoria near the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. The Dec. 2 blaze claimed the lives of at least 33 people. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

A woman prays Dec. 5 at a makeshift memoria near the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. The Dec. 2 blaze claimed the lives of at least 33 people. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

“We also pray for the first responders, medical personnel and others who are aiding the victims and their loved ones. We will be remembering the deceased in our Masses this weekend throughout the Diocese of Oakland,” he said in a Dec. 3 statement.

As of Dec. 6, the death toll was 36 and officials said that no additional bodies have been recovered.

The fire started during a dance party at a warehouse that had been converted to artists’ studios and illegal living spaces, dubbed the Ghost Ship. The cause of the fire, reported to be the most lethal building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade, has not been determined.

“We owe it to the community and those who perished in this fire, and those who survived the fire to be methodical, to be thorough, and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at every piece of potential evidence,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, according to The Associated Press.

Hundreds attended a vigil Dec. 5 at Oakland’s Lake Merritt for those who died in the fire.

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New York archdiocese appeals ruling to move Archbishop Sheen’s remains to Peoria

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Catholic News Service

PEORIA, Ill. — Hopes buoyed in the Diocese of Peoria by a Nov. 17 court ruling allowing Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s family to transfer the sainthood candidate’s remains from New York to Peoria were tempered by an emergency stay being granted to the Archdiocese of New York, which planned to appeal the ruling.

In a 10-page decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth had granted the request of Archbishop Sheen’s niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, to have the remains of the famed orator and media pioneer removed from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, where a crypt is being prepared for his re-interment.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured at a pulpit in an undated file photo.  Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., president of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, said early March 6 he received word that the seven-member board of medical experts who advise the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes has unanimously approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. (CNS file )

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen  (CNS file )

However, five days later, lawyers representing the Archdiocese of New York and the trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, who oppose the relocation of the remains, announced their intention to appeal Bluth’s ruling. They also sought and were granted the stay.

In a statement provided to Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese, attorney John M. Callagy said: “We are confident that we will present substantial reasons for the appeals court to overturn the initial decision.”

In announcing her decision, Bluth wrote that “the petitioner has set forth a justifiable, good, and substantial reason for moving the remains.”

Among the reasons cited for disinterment is that the move will aid in the canonization process; that Archbishop Sheen’s parents are buried nearby in Peoria; and that St. Mary’s Cathedral is where Archbishop Sheen was ordained a priest and a place he visited often during his lifetime.

The Diocese of Peoria, which has been a promoter of Archbishop Sheen’s canonization cause for more than 14 years, expressed joy at the ruling and pledged “to begin working with the Archdiocese of New York to make this process happen as soon as possible.”

Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Diocese of Peoria, called the decision to appeal disappointing, but expressed the hope the stay would be rejected at a hearing that could occur soon. If that happened, she said, it is possible Archbishop Sheen’s remains may be present for Christmas Masses at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Archbishop Sheen, who won the 1951 Emmy for outstanding television personality for his show “Life Is Worth Living,” was born in the Woodford County community of El Paso on May 8, 1885, and moved with his family to Peoria so that he and his brothers could attend St. Mary Cathedral Grade School and Spalding Institute. He was ordained to the priesthood in the cathedral on Sept. 20, 1919.

After brief priestly ministry in Peoria he would go on to serve on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington for nearly 30 years and was national director of the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966.

A former auxiliary bishop of the New York Archdiocese, he was bishop of Rochester, New York, from 1966 to 1969 and was given the personal title of archbishop when he retired from that diocesan post. He is the author of dozens of books, including his autobiography: “Treasure in Clay.”

Archbishop Sheen died Dec. 9, 1979.

In 2000, the Archbishop Sheen Foundation was officially organized and two years later, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria petitioned the Vatican to open the canonization process.

Archbishop Sheen’s heroic virtue and life of sanctity were recognized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, who granted him the title “Venerable.” The Diocese of Peoria has said that, with progress already made in the cause and pending the approval of Pope Francis, a beatification could be celebrated in the near future after the arrival of the remains at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

 

Dermody is editor of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.

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Iraqi Christians in U.S. pray to reunite with family at Christmas

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — On a recent overcast Sunday morning in northwest Chicago, the pews of the small wood-paneled St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church were filled to overflowing. Among the rows of Massgoers sat Firaz Rassam and her sisters.

After the Mass, Rassam and her sister, Victoria Rassam, said they “pray, pray that (Victoria’s) children would be able to get out (of northern Iraq) in time” before any major Islamic State attack or any other conflict reaches their neighborhood in Ankawa, a Christian hub in the Kurdish region. Firaz Rassam, who arrived in Chicago in September, said this year she would not be able to celebrate Christmas “with the type of happiness that (her family) normally would celebrate.”

Fairuz Rassam, a long-time Chicago resident, sent for her Iraqi sisters, Firaz and Victoria, so they could escape the conflict in Iraq. They are seen at Mass Dec. 4 at St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church in Chicago. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Fairuz Rassam, a long-time Chicago resident, sent for her Iraqi sisters, Firaz and Victoria, so they could escape the conflict in Iraq. They are seen at Mass Dec. 4 at St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church in Chicago. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Speaking through their nephew who interpreted from their native dialect, an Aramaic derivative, Firaz Rassam, 44, said that she and her three children came ahead of her husband after her other sister, Fairuz Rassam, sent for her.

“The environment over there,” said Firaz Rassam, who used to be a librarian. “There’s no electricity. It’s dangerous. There’s no work. I want to have a better future for my kids.”

Victoria Rassam, 56, who migrated to Chicago two years ago, was still waiting for her family to come. She said all she could do was pray and that she was really hoping she would see her children again soon.

“This Christmas we will celebrate by going to midnight Mass and praying for them,” said Victoria Rassam.

Since the second Gulf War in 2003, oil-rich Iraq has been unstable with ethnic and religious conflicts that have given rise to various terror organizations, including the Islamic State group, which grew out of Saddam Hussein’s military, factions of al-Qaida and other groups. Many Christians migrated; others fled Islamic State and other terror organizations.

Deacon Hameed Shabila, a longtime Chicago resident who works at St. Ephrem, told CNS his siblings in the Baghdad area have not been able to attend midnight Mass for years because it is not safe. He said the churches are heavily guarded by armed forces after dark.

Deacon Shabila, who has asked that his siblings be allowed to come to the U.S., said it was also around Christmas time that one parishioner’s adult son was killed in Iraq 10 years ago. Shabila served as interpreter for the parishioner, Maria Yonan.

Yonan said she fled Iraq with her daughter-in-law and two grandsons immediately after her son was killed when he was celebrating on New Year’s. The 77-year old widow was hesitant to speak with CNS and feared for her grandsons’ safety as she described how a group she called terrorists attacked her son and his friends.

Yonan and her daughter-in-law spent a couple of years as refugees in Syria, trying to get to Australia, where her daughter-in-law has family. But the wait was too long and they decided to come to the U.S., which was accepting refugees. Her daughter also came to the U.S. as a refugee and is living in California, but one other daughter stayed behind with her own family.

Yonan, who recently became a U.S. citizen and lives in low-income housing, said at Christmas she likes to go to midnight Mass at St. Ephrem, where she can be with people who speak her language. She has tried to keep up some of the same Christmas traditions that her family kept in Iraq.

Yonan said every Christmas her grandsons visit and she makes special Christmas candy called klecha, a treat that “makes people happy” and signifies a joyful time. But this year, Yonan said she was not planning to make the candies because she is in mourning after the Nov. 25 death of her son-in-law, who suffered a heart attack in Baghdad.

Hazim Maryaqo and his family also will not be celebrating Christmas this year because of the death from illness of his brother in Baghdad. Maryaqo, 49, arrived in the Detroit area Oct. 4 with his pregnant wife and three children, all younger than 8.

In a phone interview with CNS, he said through an interpreter that when the family was living as refugees in Turkey during the two years before coming to the U.S., “There was no (Christmas) celebration.”

“The three or four (Christian) families that were around us, they came to our house, we went to their house. That was as simple as we could do,” said Maryaqo, who was threatened with death at his family pastry shop in central Baghdad for selling certain cakes with liqueur in them.

Maryaqo said now that he is in Michigan, his family tries to go to Mass often, but sometimes trying to find transportation is tough. He said he is hoping to find work as a pastry chef so that the family can have some stability and get to church more regularly. But he also expressed anxiety about the safety of his elderly father and siblings left behind in Baghdad.

“I will never go back to Iraq, but I hope I can bring my family here,” he said.

Going to Christmas midnight Mass was something that Eevyan Hanoon said she longed for when she lived with her husband and toddler for three years at a refugee camp in Turkey. She said that she made klecha and tried to make the most of the season. But something was lacking.

“The difference at Christmastime was the Eucharist. I missed taking the Eucharist. I was with two church choirs in Mosul (Iraq),” said Hanoon, 28. “This is the most important thing in our life. We have not missed a single Sunday” since arriving in Michigan in September.

In Chicago, the Rassam sisters’ nephew, Rakan Kunda, said even if his own family has been living in the U.S. for two decades, they “always remember … family back home” at Christmastime.

“We think about them,” said Kunda, 26. “We pray for them but there’s nothing we can do at this point. Until all this is over.”

By Simone Orendain

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Pope names two auxiliary bishops for Baltimore

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WASHINGTON —Pope Francis has named Msgr. Adam Parker, vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Msgr. Mark Brennan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, as auxiliary bishops for Baltimore.

Msgr. Mark Brennan, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, Md., is pictured in a Dec. 2 photo. Pope Francis has named Msgr. Brennan an auxiliary bishop for Baltimore. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lipplemann, Catholic Standard)

Msgr. Mark Brennan, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, Md., is pictured in a Dec. 2 photo. Pope Francis has named Msgr. Brennan an auxiliary bishop for Baltimore. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lipplemann, Catholic Standard)

The pope also has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, who is 76. Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope at age 75. A Baltimore auxiliary since 2005, Bishop Madden is former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The changes were announced in Dec. 5 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishops-designate Parker and Brennan’s episcopal ordination will be Jan. 19 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.

“This is a joyous and blessed day for our archdiocese,” Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said in a statement.

He said Bishop-designate Brennan, 69, will bring to his new role “his four decades of experience as a priest who has served in a variety of settings, including most recently as pastor of a large parish with a significant Spanish-speaking population.”

“His pastoral leadership and experience working with Spanish-speaking Catholics suits him well for the duties of auxiliary bishop, which include helping to oversee our efforts to grow and care for the spiritual needs of Spanish-speaking Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Archbishop Lori added.

About Bishop-designate Parker, 44, he said he has “been blessed to work with (him) on a daily basis for much of my time since arriving as archbishop of Baltimore” in 2012. The priest “is widely regarded by his co-workers and fellow priests,” Archbishop Lori said, “and is well-prepared to assume the duties of auxiliary bishop, while continuing to manage the day-to-day operations of the central services offices of the archdiocese.”

Archbishop Lori said the archdiocese also has been blessed by the dedicated service of Bishop Madden. “I’m pleased that he will continue serving our local church (in retirement). … I am grateful for his selfless service and his willingness to continue serving God’s people.”

Bishop Madden was Baltimore’s only active auxiliary after then-Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was named bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, in June 2014.

Msgr. Adam J. Parker, vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is pictured in an early October photo. Pope Francis has named Msgr. Parker an auxiliary bishop for Baltimore. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, The Catholic Review)

Msgr. Adam J. Parker, vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is pictured in an early October photo. Pope Francis has named Msgr. Parker an auxiliary bishop for Baltimore. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, The Catholic Review)

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl in a statement said Bishop-designate Brennan’s appointment “is a tribute to his faithful and fruitful priestly ministry.”

“We in the church of Washington have greatly appreciated Msgr. Brennan and his pastoral ministry over the years,” he said. “Together with the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington, I offer heartfelt congratulations to Msgr. Brennan.

“We will miss him, but know that the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be gaining a fine pastoral leader. He brings with him our prayers for his success.”

Bishop designate-Parker has been the Baltimore archdiocese’s vicar general and moderator of the curia since 2014. From 2013-2104, he was vice chancellor for a year before that. He was priest-secretary to now-Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, from 2007-2012, when he headed the Baltimore Archdiocese.

“From the earliest days of my priesthood, in all kinds of situations and most especially in times of transition, I have consistently prayed the words, ‘Thy will be done,’” Bishop-designate Parker said in a statement about his appointment. “Such was my prayer when I received the news that I had been appointed auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. … My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead and guide me to do God’s will and in so doing, that I may be a faithful shepherd and an instrument of God’’s love and mercy.”

Since 2003, Bishop-designate Brennan has been pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, Md., a multilingual parish that is one of the largest in the Washington Archdiocese.

He celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood this year. Reflecting on his vocation during a recent interview with the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper, he said he felt an “overwhelming sense of God’s faithfulness. … The Lord is always there for me, giving me the help I need.”

The greatest challenge he said he faced as a parish priest “is just meeting the great variety of situations you encounter.” The greatest joy, he added, comes in seeing God’s “grace work in the lives of people,” for example, when couples he counseled are working through the difficulties in their marriage, or when a young person is back on the right path, or when a man whose confession he heard tells him that he helped turn around the problems he was facing.

In a statement about his appointment as an auxiliary bishop for Baltimore, he said he was humbled by it “at this stage in my life and being simply a parish priest.”

“It is something I never expected but I will trust in God and do my best. I have found that God never lets us down,” Bishop-designate Brennan said. “As he has promised, his grace is always there for us, so I will take up my responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore with gratitude and openness to both God and the people.”

Born in Boston Feb, 6, 1947, Bishop-designate Brennan earned a bachelor of arts degree from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1969. He pursued seminary studies at Christ the King Seminary in Albany, New York, 1969-1970. In 1972 he received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, 1972; he also earned a graduate degree from the Gregorian in 1974. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington May 15, 1976.

Over the years he has had a number of parish posts around the archdiocese. He oversaw pastoral care to the Hispanic community from 1988-1989; and was director of vocations and priest programs, 1988-1998. Among other assignments he has been vicar forane for the archdiocese, 2002-2005.

 

Mark Zimmermann in Washington contributed to this report.

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Some fleeing wildfires in Tennessee describe it as escaping ‘hell’

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — St. Mary’s Catholic Church was at ground zero in the wildfires that devastated parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Nov. 28, and while flames reached to within yards of the tourist city church, it appears to have been spared.

Some parishioners weren’t as fortunate.

Father Arthur Torres, associate pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., assists volunteers Nov. 29 in unloading items donated for victims of the wildfires that ravaged the Great Smoky Mountains region. (CNS photo/Bill Brewer, The East Tennessee Catholic)

Father Arthur Torres, associate pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., assists volunteers Nov. 29 in unloading items donated for victims of the wildfires that ravaged the Great Smoky Mountains region. (CNS photo/Bill Brewer, The East Tennessee Catholic)

Its pastor, Carmelite Father Antony Punnackal, was forced to evacuate St. Mary’s as intense fires came within 300 yards of the church that sits in the heart of Gatlinburg.

The church and rectory have been closed since then, but the priest has received reports that the buildings were spared from the blaze but sustained smoke damage and possible damage from high winds that fueled the flames.

The wildfires left a swath of destruction in and around the city of Gatlinburg, causing at least 13 deaths, more than 50 injuries, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Dozens of residents and visitors to the tourist destination still are missing. Three people who suffered serious burns were transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

As of midday Dec. 2, the city of 5,000 residents still was closed down, with only emergency personnel allowed to enter as well as residents and property owners on a limited basis.

“I know of seven families in our parish that lost everything,” Father Punnackal told The East Tennessee Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Knoxville. “Five of them lived in apartments that burned to the ground. They lost their housing and all their belongings. They’re also jobless because the businesses where they worked burned.”

Many evacuees reported fleeing through horrific infernos, with intense flames licking at their vehicles as they fled down narrow mountain roads to safety. But a number of residents and tourists perished in the flames, and rescue workers still were trying to account for everyone.

Some members of Holy Cross Parish in Pigeon Forge also lost their homes, belongings and businesses. The fires burned nearly 16,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Father Punnackal was told he could re-enter Gatlinburg Dec. 2 to assess the church and rectory. But he could only stay for a few hours.

He said that as he monitored the spreading fires Nov. 28, smoke was entering the church and rectory to the point it became unsafe to breathe. Shortly thereafter, he was forced to evacuate with just an overnight bag as fire threatened the property.

Father Punnackal has been staying at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Newport while his parishioners were spread out in shelters and hotels, or with family or friends.

“I’m now far away, and I can’t get to my parishioners. I have tried to go back, but I’ve been unsuccessful,” the priest said. “I greatly appreciate everyone offering help. I’m doing what I can, but we have a long way to go.”

While a severe drought over several months prompted many of the recent eastern Tennessee woodland blazes, officials are investigating whether some of the wind-whipped fires above Gatlinburg were caused by individuals, either accidentally or intentionally.

The wildfires raced down the mountains, eviscerating everything in their path: homes, condominiums, chalets, cabins, apartments, businesses, automobiles. YouTube was populated with harrowing cellphone videos of people fleeing, blinded by thick, suffocating smoke, many of them unsure if they would make it out alive. Some of them described the situation as escaping the “gates of hell” and running through “rivers of flame.”

As a stream of vehicles exited Gatlinburg and surrounding areas, shelters were set up to accommodate those displaced, which numbered as many as 2,000 at one point. Evacuees were receiving food, clothing and other help in shelters set up by the American Red Cross, said Father Andres Cano, pastor of Holy Cross.

“Many people are showing solidarity and generosity toward the people affected by the fires,” he said, adding that “there is a longtime recovery ahead for the people and the local community.”

Father Cano was assessing the impact of the wildfires on his parish. As of Dec. 1, the parish knew of one family that lost their home to fire, but more could be affected. He also said parishioners’ employers in and around Gatlinburg were affected, and those parishioners are now out of work.

Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika has been working with volunteers from around the diocese to get assistance to the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge communities.

On Dec. 1, the bishop announced a $25,000 grant for fire victims through the Diocese of Knoxville’s St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation. The $25,000 grant is in addition to $735,000 that the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation will be distributing to charities and nonprofit groups throughout eastern Tennessee in 2017.

“What happened in the Gatlinburg area was unexpected, and each day we’re hearing about more lives lost, more property destroyed, and more heartache for many, many people. The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation has a very precise way of evaluating grant distributions before they’re announced. In this case, the foundation felt it was best to react to this tragedy immediately,” Bishop Stika said.

“The St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation also recognizes that many communities across our entire diocese have been affected by wildfires, and more recently, tornadoes. For this reason, the $25,000 grant will be channeled into our diocesan Fund for Wildfire Victims. We want to make sure we can help everyone who needs assistance,” he added.

East Tennesseans began donating needed items to the Sevier County relief effort early Nov. 29, and those donations continue.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville began a drive to collect bottled water, food, and clothing that has turned into a multiday effort. Those donated goods were delivered to the National Guard armory in Sevier County, just outside of Pigeon Forge, where Guard troops are assisting in the relief effort. Diocese of Knoxville schools also took part in collecting donations.

Bishop Stika said offers for assistance were coming in from around the country, including from Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, who chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Home Missions, and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, has helped in getting information out about the relief effort.

“It just shows that the Catholic Church is the face and hands of Jesus, and that we do together what we can’t do by ourselves. Together, with the Holy Spirit, we can overcome anything,” Bishop Stika said.

The diocese is accepting donations online for its assistance fund at http://tinyurl.com/j6gf2wd. All parishes and mission churches in the diocese were asked to hold a special collection at Masses the weekend of Dec. 3-4 for relief efforts.

The wildfires damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses, including about 300 buildings Gatlinburg and about another 400 in Pigeon Forge.

Sevier County native Dolly Parton announced her My People Foundation will give $1,000 a month in assistance to people affected by the wildfires that also destroyed a number of cabins near the Dollywood theme park. The theme park itself was not damaged in the fires, according to Dollywood officials.

Father David Boettner, rector of Knoxville’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, also was working to get assistance to St. Mary’s and Holy Cross parishioners.

He is confident the popular tourist destination will rebound.  

“It is tourism that built this area and it is tourism that will bring it back,” Father Boettner said. “Dolly Parton, to her credit, has reinvested in her home community. The immediate need was emergency assistance. Now that has shifted to long-term needs, getting people back into housing, to get these folks back on their feet and rebuilding the community.”

By Bill Brewer, editor of The East Tennessee Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of Knoxville.

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Hawaii Catholic paper’s 1941 war edition cited faith, patriotism of Catholics

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Catholic News Service

HONOLULU —“Our beloved country is at war. Our peaceful shores have been ruthlessly attacked, and all citizens are called upon to unite their efforts toward that peace for which we have all prayed, that peace which the world cannot give, and that peace which God will surely bring about when mankind has seen its folly and conforms its ways to his.”

Those are the opening words of the front-page editorial of The Catholic Herald, the publication of the Diocese of Honolulu, published Dec. 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The first bomb is seen exploding during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. A Catholic military chaplain and historian says the attack on Pearl Harbor, even 75 years later, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it was "such a powerful event." (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

The first bomb is seen exploding during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. A Catholic military chaplain and historian says the attack on Pearl Harbor, even 75 years later, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it was “such a powerful event.” (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack.

The smallest of editions, a single tabloid sheet printed front and back, the newspaper was a somber reassurance of the faith, resolve and patriotism of Hawaii’s Catholics.

“Our duty is clearly marked out,” the editorial continued, “and will be faithfully executed. The pages of history proclaim the love and loyalty of Catholics for their fatherland in time of war as well as in time of peace. Catholics have been in the front lines at every battle in the history of our nation. And every war-time president from Washington down to our own beloved President (Franklin) Roosevelt has sung their praises.

“Difficult times may be ahead. But we are ready to face them. There may be many things which others would call sacrifices. But our leader has reminded us that for us they are not sacrifices, but rather privileges. We shall consider them as such, and take them in our stride.”

At the time of the attack, the diocese was only 3 months old. The newly installed Bishop James J. Sweeney was in California at the time, stranded with all commercial travel on hold, following his attendance of the annual U.S. bishops’ meeting in Washington. He was able to find a berth on the first troop transport ship to the islands and immediately took a role as chaplain, counselor and confessor for men headed for the battlefield.

It may have been providence that Bishop Sweeney was away because the one news story in that post-attack edition reported that his home on the slopes of Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, about eight miles from Pearl Harbor, had been “bombed.”

“The home of His Excellency Bishop Sweeney on Thurston Street was considerably damaged when bombs struck the Spencer Street entrance and destroyed the stairway leading to the second floor,” the story said. “The house was unoccupied at the time.”

Later, it was speculated that the bombs were probably American anti-aircraft fire.

The story further reported that “several narrow escapes were reported by various pastors, but no serious losses.”

It also said that “St. Stephen’s Seminary in upper Kalihi Valley suffered some damage as a result of a bomb which fell quite close to the building, shattering windows and breaking a water pipe. No one was injured, and the students have returned to their families until the government order affecting schools is lifted. The seminary building will probably be taken over by army authorities temporarily.”

Oddly or not, considering the large number of Hawaii residents of Japanese ancestry, the Catholic Herald never named the attacking country.

The unsigned front-page editorial, framed by a drawing of a man and woman gazing upward at a flying American flag, pledged prayers and the resolute cooperation of the church for the still unknown sacrifices ahead.

“Already our Catholic institutions are bee hives of activity. Our hospital is equipped. Our schools and halls are at the disposition of those who need them. Our Sisters are ready, as ever, to lend the helping hand, to suffering wherever it may be. Our priests are striving to assist their confreres the noble chaplains of our armed forces. Everyone is anxious to render as much assistance as is humanly possible.

“Thank God for our good Catholic people also who realize that we must not only work for peace, but must continue, nay redouble our prayers and self-denials. The kingdom of Heaven is said in holy Scripture to suffer violence, and we are reminded that it is the violent who bear it away. So we shall storm the heavens with our prayers while we do everything possible in the realm of material things to bring about what we all desire: Peace on earth to men of good will.

“God grant that the trying times through which we are passing may be shortened. May the Lord hear our prayers and hasten to our aid. And meanwhile, let us carry on courageously, united for God and country.”

 

Downes is editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.

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Advocates of refugees, immigrants seek to calm postelection fears

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Catholic News Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the American people continue to unpack exactly what the election of Donald Trump means for the country, those who work with vulnerable populations such as refugees and immigrants have serious concerns and questions about what the future holds.

President-elect Trump made the issue of immigration one of the foundations of his campaign. He promised to round up those in the country without legal permission and deport them, and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; he also talked about enacting a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees can be put in place.

A creche titled "Jesus the Global Refugee" is seen outside Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, N.Y., Nov. 27. The structure, designed as a refugee's lean-to, was created to call public attention to the biblical mandate to welcome immigrants and give shelter to refugees. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A creche titled “Jesus the Global Refugee” is seen outside Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, N.Y., Nov. 27. The structure, designed as a refugee’s lean-to, was created to call public attention to the biblical mandate to welcome immigrants and give shelter to refugees. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

In the days following Trump’s election as president, the Catholic Charities Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Diocese of Nashville began receiving calls from school counselors seeking assistance for how to talk with refugee children who are afraid of being sent back to the countries they fled. “These are calls we haven’t gotten before,” said Kellye Branson, Refugee Resettlement department director.

“We want to calm their fears,” Branson said, noting that anyone who arrived in the country through the refugee resettlement program is here legally and faces no imminent threat of deportation. However, “we’re kind of in a holding position, waiting to see what policy implications are for the future,” she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.

The president has the authority to set the number of refugees accepted annually by the United States. President Barack Obama has raised it from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 in 2016 to 110,000 for 2017. Trump could reduce that number for future years.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee has decades of experience resettling refugees in this state. Since its founding in 1962, it has assisted refugees and asylum seekers and helped them assimilate to American culture and the local community. Catholic Charities has helped resettle 637 refugees in the Nashville area so far this year, including refugees from Congo, Somalia and Syria.

While the world’s refugees wait and hope to be resettled in a more stable and secure country, those who work with refugees in Tennessee are taking steps to clear up misconceptions about who refugees are and the rigorous process they must undergo to reach the United States.

Refugees are defined as individuals who have had to leave their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution. They are targeted because of their religious or political beliefs, or membership in a particular social class.

Branson pointed out that the refugee resettlement program “is the most secure way of entering the U.S. It’s a lengthy process.”

First, a refugee reports to a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. If a refugee is seeking entry into the U.S., he or she will undergo vetting from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the State Department. This involves extensive interviews and background checks, with a particular focus on any signs of radicalization or connection with a terrorist group, which would immediately disqualify that person from entry into the U.S.

Branson understands that Americans are concerned about national security and the integrity of the refugee resettlement program.

“We want it to be secure too,” she said. “The people resettling are fleeing the same people we don’t want to enter the country. We want to safely and humanely resettle the people who have been persecuted most throughout the world.” She also noted that less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide ever get resettled.

One positive outcome of the election so far, Branson said, is a surge in calls from people interested in volunteering with the Refugee Resettlement office. In the two days following the election, her office received about 20 calls from interested volunteers, the same amount they normally receive in a month.

“Now more than ever, Americans and longtime residents are needed to reach out to our new arrivals and offer a hand of friendship and welcome,” Branson said.

If newly arrived refugees can make personal connections with American volunteers, it can make for a smoother transition to a new culture, help them learn English and make them feel like a part of the community more quickly. “Developing those connections is a huge thing for our clients,” Branson said.

Donna Gann, program coordinator of Immigration Services for Catholic Charities of Tennessee, said her clients are anxious as well. “There has been an increase in calls wanting to know what’s going to happen now,” she said.

Maggie McCluney, a caseworker with the agency’s Immigration and Hispanic Family Services, echoed Gann, saying that since the election, “it is especially difficult to keep up with inquiries. Many clients are concerned about deportation and separation of families. There is a lot of uncertainty.”

If clients have their paperwork in order and are applying for citizenship, “we are hopeful that any process currently pending will continue without (increased) scrutiny,” Gann said via email. “The only clients we are really concerned about are the DACA recipients,” Gann said, referring to those who are currently protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Many immigrants in the country without legal permission who fall under that protection were brought to the United States by their parents as young children and may not even remember living in their country of origin.

More than 720,000 of these young immigrants have been approved for that program, which protects them from deportation for two-year periods and grants them work permits. Since DACA was created by executive order, it could be rescinded by executive order under the new Trump administration, which officially begins with Inauguration Day Jan. 20.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders on immigration. “If the threats come to fruition, then they could be under removal proceedings,” Gann said of those currently protected under DACA and DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program. “That will be an issue we will continue to review and fight hard against,” she added.

 

Laurence is a staff writer at the Tennessee Register, newspaper of Diocese of Nashville.

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Catholic leaders call on Congress to increase humanitarian aid in budget

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BALTIMORE — The head of Catholic Relief Services and the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees have urged congressional leaders to approve additional funding for humanitarian relief and recovery operations as part of a comprehensive budget measure for fiscal 2017.

The Catholic leaders wrote a letter Nov. 28 in support of a request by the Obama administration for Overseas Contingency Operations funds to address the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world or as a result of the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants.

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

They urged action before the Dec. 9 deadline that Congress faces on the federal budget. The government is funded through that date because of a continuing resolution the House passed, and President Barack Obama signed, at the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

“More than 50,000 people have already fled Mosul, joining the approximately 3.3 million Iraqis who have been internally displaced since ISIS began occupying parts of Iraq in 2014,” stated the letter, released by Baltimore-based CRS Nov. 29. “(We) believe that as the world’s wealthiest nation, we have an obligation to help the innocent who fall victim to war, to protect the marginalized and to lift people out of poverty.”

It was signed by Carolyn Woo, outgoing president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Addressing the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, the Catholic leaders also pointed to increased suffering in other places besides Iraq, such as Southern Africa, which is suffering a severe drought.

They also named South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Lake Chad Basin, a region that comprises parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Ongoing violence and military conflicts in those places have displaced whole populations and exacerbated food insecurity, resulting in acute malnourishment for many. According to a recent report from the U.S. Agency for International Development, an estimated 9.2 million people, primarily in northeastern Nigeria, require humanitarian assistance.

Additional funding from Congress, the Catholic leaders said, will help ensure CRS can continue to respond “to crises like these that don’t make the headlines.”

They acknowledged Congress’ steadfast commitments to humanitarian and development needs around the globe” and urged lawmakers to incorporate the administration’s amendment request for humanitarian relief and recovery activities” in their final appropriations bill.

September’s short-term measure included full funding for military construction and Veterans Affairs for the new fiscal year, but left undecided were 11 remaining annual appropriations bills for various federal agencies.

Woo and Bishops Vasquez and Cantu praised the current proposals before Congress for funding “key humanitarian accounts” — $3.2 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance; $2.8 billion for International Disaster Assistance; $1.6 billion for Food for Peace; and $60 million for Emergency Refugee and Migrant Assistance.

But they asked Congress also appropriate new Overseas Contingency Operations funds. The Obama administration has requested $14.9 billion.

“We urge you to respond generously to the administration’s request of Nov. 11 for additional humanitarian and recovery assistance,” they wrote.

“As we have already learned in Iraq, individuals, communities, and countries divided by war face significant challenges amidst their suffering,” Woo and the bishops continued. “They must rebuild their communities, and establish inclusive governance that protects majorities and minorities.

“We must provide them with humanitarian help and durable solutions to their plight because it’s the right thing to do, and because their security and prosperity is critical to the stability of the entire region,” they added.

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Bishop Parkes named bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla.

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, and named as his successor Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida.

The changes were announced Nov. 28 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., center, is seen during morning prayer Nov. 15 at the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  in Baltimore. Pope Francis Nov. 28 named him to succeed retiring Bishop Robert N. Lynch as head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., center, is seen during morning prayer Nov. 15 at the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Pope Francis Nov. 28 named him to succeed retiring Bishop Robert N. Lynch as head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Lynch, who has headed the St. Petersburg Diocese since 1996, is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. Bishop Parkes, 52, has been the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee since 2012.

“I’m very grateful to Pope Francis for appointing me bishop of St. Petersburg,” Bishop Parkes said in a statement. “It has been a joy to serve as bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee for the past four and a half years. I’m going to miss the panhandle and all those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my time here.”

He will be installed as the fifth bishop of St. Petersburg Jan. 4 at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg.

Bishop Parkes told Catholics of the St. Petersburg diocese that he felt “blessed to be your new shepherd. Please pray for me that I will be a good shepherd, that I will be faithful shepherd, a holy shepherd.”

Bishop Lynch said in a statement he is “relieved and grateful to Pope Francis” for giving the diocese a new bishop who is “a shepherd like his own heart.”

On March 20, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed then-Father Parkes to be the fifth bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. He was installed June 5, 2012.

Born in Mineola, New York, April 2, 1964, Bishop Parkes attended Daytona Beach Community College in Florida before earning a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida State University. He went to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, from 1993 to 1996, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, from 1996 to 2000.

He earned a sacred theology degree in 1988 and a canon law degree in 2000, both from the Pontifical Gregorian University, also in Rome.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, by Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey June 26, 1999. He has two brothers, Christopher Parkes and Father Stephen Parkes, who is a priest of the Diocese of Orlando.

After his priestly ordination, then-Father Parkes’ parish assignments included parochial vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando, 2000-2004, and parochial administrator and pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Celebration, Florida, 2005-2012. He also was the Orlando diocese’s vicar general and chancellor for canonical affairs.

For six years before his episcopal ordination to head the St. Petersburg Diocese in January 1996, Bishop Lynch was general secretary of what was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington. Before that, he was a staff member at the bishops’ conference as both layman and priest, including a stint as associate general secretary.

Born May 27, 1941, in Charleston, West Virginia, Robert Nugent Lynch received his bachelor of arts degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, in May 1963 and his master of divinity degree from Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, in May 1978. That same month, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Miami.

He served as associate pastor of St. James in North Miami, then as rector and president of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. As the fourth bishop of St. Petersburg, he succeeded Archbishop John C. Favalora, who had been named Miami archbishop a year earlier. Bishop Lynch chose as his motto, “Pro Amicis Suis” (“For his friends”).

Bishop Lynch continued the reorganization and management of the diocese begun under Archbishop Favalora. He commissioned the building of a new pastoral center, which was formally dedicated March 31, 2000. He also took an active role in planning for the future construction of new Catholic high schools, and improvements to the existing schools.

In one of his last blog posts as St. Petersburg’s bishop, Bishop Lynch recounted his recent trip in late October to Rome, where among other things he visited four men studying there to be priests for St. Petersburg.

“As I enter the remaining months of my leadership of the local church of St. Petersburg, I do so with the knowledge that almost all of my seminarians are not pursuing priesthood for respectability, ambition, power and influence but to be comfortable with a pastoral strategy that makes sense in a changing world and culture,” he wrote Oct. 28.

He added: “The very best things I bequeath to my successor are the future priests he will ordain for your service and that of the Lord.”

The St. Petersburg diocese covers about 3,200 square miles. It has a total population of just over 3 million, of whom just over 445,000, or 14 percent, are Catholic.

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