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Bishop DiLorenzo of Richmond dies

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RICHMOND, Va. — Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond died at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond late Aug. 17 from heart and kidney failure. He was 75.

A rite of reception was scheduled for the afternoon of Aug. 25, followed by visitation, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. The diocese said the cathedral was to remain open with the body of Bishop DiLorenzo lying in repose through the night. A funeral Mass for the bishop was to be celebrated Aug. 25 followed by entombment in the Cathedral Crypt.

A native of Philadelphia, he was named the 12th bishop of Richmond by St. John Paul II March 31, 2004. Before he was appointed to the Virginia diocese, he was the bishop of Honolulu. He also was a former auxiliary bishop in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“He was a faithful servant of the church for 49 years and a shepherd of the Diocese of Richmond for 13 years,” said Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, vicar general. He said he was announcing the bishop’s death “with great sadness.”

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Va., during a meeting with U.S. bishops on their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican in this 2012, file photo. Bishop DiLorenzo died Aug. 17. He was 75. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Bishop DiLorenzo had a profound understanding and faith in the eucharistic sacrifice of our Lord, which sees past the Cross and into eternal life with our Savior,” the priest added. “With that same faith and hope, we look forward to our happy reunion.”

Bishop DiLorenzo was one of the first to call for peace during the chaos- and hate-filled weekend in Charlottesville, when white supremacists holding a rally clashed with counterprotesters Aug. 11 and 12. The events led to the deaths of three people and injuries to more than 19 others. His first statement Aug. 11 was followed by a second one the next day.

“In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville,” said Bishop DiLorenzo. “I earnestly pray for peace.”

In a statement about his passing, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said that over the years he knew Bishop DiLorenzo,

“He has always been highly regarded for his firm grasp of the church’s moral teaching and as a pastoral leader. We share the bond of having been ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and of serving as rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He will be dearly missed.”

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori remembered Bishop DiLorenzo as a “good moral theologian,” an “excellent seminary rector” and a bishop who “cheerfully did whatever the church asked of him.”

The archbishop had known Bishop DiLorenzo since the late 1980s, when Bishop DiLorenzo was named auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Scranton.

“He had a personality that was larger than life,” said Archbishop Lori, who had worked with Bishop DiLorenzo more closely in the past five years after being named archbishop of Baltimore. The Diocese of Richmond is part of the ecclesiatical province of Baltimore.

“He had a wonderful sense of humor,” Archbishop Lori said. “He was a realist who understood how to face difficult situations, but he always brought good things out of these situations.”

Archbishop Lori recalled that when he heard his friend’s health was not well earlier in August, he called him.

“He said, ‘You know, I looked over my medical record and found I had never had viral pneumonia before,’” Archbishop Lori recalled. “He said, ‘I thought I had better have that at this time in my life, and so that’s what I got.’”

Even a serious illness was taken in stride and “with a lot of humor,” Archbishop Lori said.

Born April 15, 1942, Francis Xavier DiLorenzo was the son of an Italian-American butcher and a homemaker, Samuel and Anita Porrino DiLorenzo. He was the oldest of three children born to the couple. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1968 and served in pastoral and educational assignments until 1971.

In Rome, he earned a licentiate in sacred theology in 1973 from the Academia Alphonsiana and a doctorate in sacred theology in 1975 from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Then-Father DiLorenzo served as chaplain and instructor in theology at St. Pius X High School, Pottstown, Pa., from 1975 to 1977. In 1977, he was appointed chaplain and associate professor of moral theology at Immaculata College.

In 1983, he became vice rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, becoming rector two years later. In 1988, he was named auxiliary bishop of Scranton.

He was appointed apostolic administrator of Honolulu Oct. 12, 1993, when Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario, head of the diocese since 1982, retired for health reasons. On Oct. 4 1994, he became the bishop of Honolulu.

At his Mass of installation to head the Richmond diocese, Bishop DiLorenzo told the 1,200 people in the congregation that he saw his role as servant leader in which he has to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus.

“As a follower of Jesus and a bishop in his church, I should imitate his example and be a servant leader,” he said.

A moral theologian and a lover of history, Bishop DiLorenzo was known for his humility, his booming voice — he frequently broke into song — and his concern for those less fortunate, which he addressed especially through his interest in Catholic schools and lay Catholic formation.

During his tenure, vocations to the priesthood were a high priority. By the time of his death he had ordained 22 men to the priesthood. Enrollment in seminary had increased two-and-a-half-fold, from nine men enrolled in seminary to 31.

He is credited with saving Catholic schools in the Richmond diocese with the formation of the McMahon-Parater Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen schools by providing scholarships and financial assistance, as well as professional development.

In 2004, with now-retired Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, he established the Virginia Catholic Conference to represent the bishops and their dioceses on public policy issues in the state capital of Richmond and with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

In 2014, he launched the first capital campaign for the Richmond diocese, “Living Our Mission,” which raised $105 million to strengthen parishes, support clergy, advance the mission of spreading the Gospel, and develop the future church.

     

Contributing to this story was George P. Matysek Jr. in Baltimore.

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Catholics urged to work for ‘holiness of freedom, freedom for holiness’

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — When Henry VIII, as England’s reigning monarch, was declared “a defender of the faith,” the future “must have seemed so bright to Thomas More and John Fisher,” Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said in a homily June 21.

He described an England which “seemed to have been spared the painful divisions that racked the Catholic Church on the continent of Europe.” Under Henry, he said, “monastic life and learning were flourishing” while “ordinary Catholics showed their love and loyalty to the church.”

“Who could have imagined the severe test More, Fisher and English Catholicism would face in so short a time?” Archbishop Lori asked. Read more »

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Church leaders welcome leaked HHS draft lifting contraceptive mandate

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON — A leaked draft rule from the Department of Health and Human Services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act was welcomed by church officials and attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that challenged the mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a June 1 statement that the leaked draft has “yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication,” but it provides encouraging news.

“Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed,” he said. Read more »

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Bishops seek revised health care law that’s ‘affordable and comprehensive’ — updated

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WASHINGTON — Calling health care “a vital concern for nearly every person in the country,” the U.S. Catholic bishops said March 8 they will be reviewing closely a measure introduced in the House March 6 to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gestures at a stack of papers that he said was the Affordable Care Act during a March 7 press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer looks on at the White House in Washington. The law, as passed in 2010, was 906 pages long. Republicans in the U.S. House have introduced a measure to repeal and replace the federal health care law. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gestures at a stack of papers that he said was the Affordable Care Act during a March 7 press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer looks on at the White House in Washington. The law, as passed in 2010, was 906 pages long. Republicans in the U.S. House have introduced a measure to repeal and replace the federal health care law. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

“Discussions on health care reform have reached a level of intensity which is making open and fruitful dialogue difficult, even while most people recognize that improvements to the health care system are needed to ensure a life-giving and sustainable model for both the present and future,” said a letter to House members signed by the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees.

“Given the magnitude and importance of the task before us, we call for a new spirit of cooperation for the sake of the common good,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman, Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman, Committee on Migration.

Main provisions of the new House bill include: eliminating the mandate that most individuals have health insurance and putting in its place a new system of tax credits; expanding Health Savings Accounts; repealing Medicaid expansion and transitioning to a “per capita allotment”; prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions; and cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood clinics.

The Catholic Health Association in a March 7 statement said it “strongly opposed” the House repeal and replace measure, saying it “asks the low-income and most vulnerable in our country to bear the brunt of the cuts to our health system.” It pointed to the proposal to cap federal financing of Medicaid, which is a state-federal program; to eliminate cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people and create “barriers to initial and continuing Medicaid enrollment.”

CHA said the provision on pre-existing conditions would come with a 30 percent monthly premium surcharge for a year “should they have a lapse in coverage.” Its vision for health care in the U.S. “calls for health care to be available and accessible to everyone, paying special attention to poor and vulnerable individuals,” the CHA statement said.

In their letter, the Catholic bishops called on lawmakers to consider moral criteria as they debate the measure, including: respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; a plan that is “truly affordable … comprehensive and high quality.”

“Any modification of the Medicaid system as part of health care reform should prioritize improvement and access to quality care over cost savings,” they said.

The U.S. Catholic Church, the bishops said, “remains committed to the ideals of universal and affordable health care, and to the pursuit of those ideals in a manner that honors” the moral criteria they outlined.

Health care is not just another issue, but a “fundamental issue of human life and dignity” and “a critical component of the Catholic Church’s ministry,” they added.

The U.S. bishops have advocated for universal and affordable health care for decades and they supported the general goal of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, but the bishops ultimately opposed the law because it expanded the federal role in abortion and failed to expand health care protections to immigrants.

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is executive director of the Catholic social lobby Network, said the new health care bill “must be rejected.”

“Our test for any ACA replacement bill is simple,” she said in a March 8 statement. “Does the bill protect access to quality, affordable, equitable health care for vulnerable communities? After reviewing the House GOP replacement bill, the answer is a resounding no.

“Instead of providing greater health security, the bill increases costs for older and sicker patients and drastically cuts the Medicaid program, all while providing huge tax cuts to wealthy corporations and individuals,” she continued. “This is not the faithful way forward and must be rejected.”

Catholic Charities USA sent a letter March 8 to Congress voicing its opposition to the new health care measure, signed by Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the organization. She noted “commendable efforts” in the bill including protection for the unborn and greater flexibility for the states.

But Sister Markham said the measure makes major reductions in health care for more than 70 million poor and vulnerable on Medicaid and said it “undermines access to life-saving health care coverage.”

Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March for Life Action, praised lawmakers for the bill’s pro-life provisions.

“House leadership and those who drafted the American Health Care Act deserve high accolades for their efforts to make certain that any changes to the health care system do not encourage, subsidize or directly pay for abortions,” he said. “They also deserve praise for sticking to their commitment to eliminate Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, from Medicaid reimbursements for one year.”

“This will redirect women to federally qualified health centers, which provide all of the health services American women need and outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics by a ratio of 20:1,” McClusky added.

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Executive order missing? No religious freedom action from Trump yet

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Talk of President Donald Trump possibly signing an executive order on religious freedom, which drew both criticism and praise, has been replaced with discussion about what happened to it and what a final version, if there is one, will look like. Read more »

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U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

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WASHINGTON — Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board.

The damaged entrance of St. Mary's Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

“A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians,” said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” the statement said. “Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

“It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities,” the bishops said in their statement.

The bishops called on Americans to accept “our nation’s fair share” of vulnerable families, regardless of religion and ethnicity, for resettlement as refugees. They called for special consideration of the victims of genocide and other violence.

They urged the U.S. to encourage the Iraqi government and the regional government in Irbil, Iraq, to “strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all.”

U.S. aid should assist local and national efforts to improve policing and the court system and encourage local self-governance, the bishops said. Similar efforts are needed in Syria as well, they said.

The U.S. also can provide “generous” humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced people and Iraqi and Syrian communities as they rebuild, the statement said. Such funding can be directed in part to “trusted faith-based nongovernmental agencies” such as Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies, the bishops said.

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Bishops troubled: Trump retains policy banning bias based on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity

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WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two bishops’ committees expressed disappointment Feb. 1 over President Donald Trump’s decision to retain a 2014 executive order by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors.

Trump’s action is “troubling and disappointing” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump's action to retain a 2014 executive order  that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors. Trump’s “troubling and disappointing  (CNS filePaul Haring)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump’s action to retain a 2014 executive order that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors “troubling and disappointing.” (CNS filePaul Haring)

The executive order, they said in a joint statement, is “deeply flawed.” In a July 21, 2014, statement, Archbishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput’s predecessor as committee chair, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, labeled the executive order “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.”

In the 2014 statement, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone said the term “sexual orientation” was “undefined,” and that “gender identity” was “predicated on the false idea that gender is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.”

They added, “Even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”

The two prelates urged Obama to include a religious exemption. Fourteen other religious leaders also asked for such an exemption in a letter to Obama so that “protection for one group would not come at the expense of faith communities” who religious beliefs motivate them to serve.

Father Larry Snyder, then Catholic Charities USA president, was one of the 14 leaders who signed a letter to the president. He told Catholic News Service he was among religious leaders who then met with White House staff to discuss the executive order before it was issued. The priest said later the order upheld “already existing religious exemptions, that will allow us to maintain fidelity to our deeply held religious beliefs.”

In their Feb. 1 statement, Archbishops Chaput and Lori said, “The church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” but the Obama executive order “creates problems rather than solves them,” adding that it instead “creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith.”

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New Baltimore auxiliary bishops offer thanks to clergy and families

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Following their Jan. 19 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, new Auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore recalled the litany of the saints, during which they lay prostrate before the altar.

“I felt a lot of joy and a tremendous hope for what is to come in the future, and for the future of ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Bishop Parker said as he was whisked to the post-Mass reception.

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

“I was praying along with the litany,” Bishop Brennan said with a grin while obliging the camera-wielding faithful who had momentarily cornered him and his priest handler. “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, hear my prayer.”

Close to 2,000 gathered in the cathedral on an unusually sunny and mild January afternoon to witness and take part in the ceremony, led by principal celebrant and consecrator Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori.

The archbishop was joined by co-consecrators Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, where Bishop Brennan served as a parish priest before his elevation to the episcopacy; and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and former archbishop Baltimore, whom Bishop Parker had served as priest-secretary from 2007 to 2013.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York concelebrated the Mass; he was rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome while Bishop Parker studied there from 1995 to 2001. Bishop Brennan also studied at that college, from 1970 to 1974.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read the mandates from Pope Francis authorizing the ordinations, and drew laughter from the pews when he opted to begin with “the older one,” Bishop Brennan, who is 69. Bishop Parker is 45.

Archbishop Lori also broached the age topic, referring in his homily to the first reading, which was from Jeremiah and read by Sister Maria Luz Ortiz of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. In it God steamrolls the young prophet’s fretting: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

“So, Bishop Brennan, let no one take advantage of your youth and inexperience,” the archbishop quipped, adding on a more serious note: “After all, you know, Bishop Brennan and I, we’ve been in priestly ministry a little over 40 years -– we go way back.”

Archbishop Lori shared some insight on the role of bishops.

“The greatest challenge in being a bishop is not administration; it’s not public relations; and it’s not fundraising,” he said. “The greatest challenge is to be always and everywhere an example for God’s people. This is how we become witnesses of hope; this is how we strive to be authentic shepherds.”

He exhorted Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan to teach the faith “not as words to be followed but as words of spirit and life that transform us from the inside out and make us bearers of the peace of Christ in a world that is broken, a nation that is divided, and in communities that are in need of healing.”

After promising to uphold the faith and fulfill their duties, and after lying prostrate before the altar, Bishop Parker kneeled in reverence as Archbishop Lori laid his hands on his head, a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, followed by Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal O’Brien.

The archbishop and the two co-consecrators did the same for Bishop Brennan; then the other bishops present laid their hands on both men.

Ending the rite of ordination, Archbishop Lori anointed Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan with holy chrism and presented each with his Book of the Gospels, episcopal ring, crosier and miter.

“This is the day the Lord has made,” Bishop Parker said in his remarks at the end of Mass. “Let us rejoice and be glad.”

He thanked “the Lord for calling me to the priesthood and now giving me its fullness” as well as the people of the Baltimore Archdiocese for their prayers and “profound encouragement.”

He thanked Archbishop Lori for ordaining him and Cardinal O’Brien for his guidance and friendship. “You have changed my priesthood forever,” Bishop Parker told the cardinal.

Finally, he thanked his mother, Maureen Parker, who sat in the front row and was first to receive Communion from the new bishop.

“It was from you and Dad I first heard about Jesus Christ,” Bishop Parker told her, also acknowledging his father, George Parker, who died in 2012. “To you I owe gratitude for my life and my faith.”

Bishop Brennan thanked those who came before him in the succession begun with the Apostles.

“We stand today, all of us here, on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

He also acknowledged his parents, both deceased, who had taken him and his brother, Paul, who was present, to Mass and confession.

“They grounded us in the Catholic faith in a very simple and unpretentious way,” he said.

Bishop Brennan also noted that his elevation to the episcopacy was not the first unexpected change in his ministry. He said in the Washington archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, then the archbishop there, “sent me from a nice little parish in Northwest Washington … to a huge, multicultural parish, St. Martin of Tours” in suburban Maryland. “It opened me up ever more to serving people who speak differently and look differently than I do.”

He also delivered remarks in Spanish and French, primary languages of the immigrants he served at St. Martin.

Archbishop Lori reflected on his first time ordaining bishops.

“It was a very moving experience,” he told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet. “As the ceremony unfolded, it just took on a life of its own thanks to the Holy Spirit.”

Thinking of all the people in the Baltimore Archdiocese thankful for two new leaders to share the work, he said, “I’m at the top of that list.”

— By Eric Zygmont

Zygmont is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. George P. Matysek Jr. contributed to this story.

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Mount St. Mary’s seminarian from Kansas believed drowned after saving a life

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WICHITA, Kan. — Brian Bergkamp, a seminarian from the Diocese of Wichita who was studying at a Maryland seminary, is believed dead after saving the life of a woman who fell into the Arkansas River July 9.

By mid-day July 12, he remained missing. Friends and family members remember were holding vigils to pray for the recovery of his body.

Brian Bergkamp, a seminarian in the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., disappeared into the Arkansas River July 9 while trying to save the life of another. Bergkamp, 24, had been kayaking with four friends, a man and three women, when they hit churning water. Bergkamp is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/Catholic Advance)

Brian Bergkamp, a seminarian in the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., disappeared into the Arkansas River July 9 while trying to save the life of another. Bergkamp, 24, had been kayaking with four friends, a man and three women, when they hit churning water. Bergkamp is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/Catholic Advance)

Bergkamp, 24, was among five people traveling in separate kayaks when all got caught in turbulent waters. According to The Wichita Eagle newspaper, Bergkamp jumped from his kayak to save the woman before getting pulled under himself. He was not wearing a life jacket. The other kayakers made it to shore.

“I knew Brian to be an exceptional seminarian, well on his way to demonstrating so many of the qualities needed to be a good and faithful priest,” Wichita Bishop Carl A. Kemme wrote in an email to The Catholic Advance, the diocesan newspaper. “I personally looked forward to the day when I might be able to ordain him.”

Bishop Kemme said Bergkamp was quiet, dedicated, diligent in his work and studies, and presented himself always with a sense of decorum and maturity, well beyond his years. “I was looking forward to how God would use him as a priest in the Diocese of Wichita. Now, we must all mourn his much anticipated ministry and the many fruits we all knew would be abundant by his priestly life and ministry.”

Life on this side of heaven is full of mysteries, contradictions and ironies, Bishop Kemme said. “Brian’s untimely death is full of these mysteries, which must wait until heaven to be solved.”

Bergkamp had just finished his second year at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, which is in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is the son of Ned and Theresa Bergkamp of Garden Plain and would have been ordained to the transitional diaconate at the end of the upcoming school year. His brother, Andy, was ordained to the transitional diaconate in May. He is preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Wichita at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.

“Brian’s death is a great tragedy and a great loss, not only for his family and friends,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, “but to all who knew him and to the church he was so generously seeking to serve.”

In an email to the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet, Archbishop Lori said Bergkamp’s “heroic and brave actions” speak to the “great character and to the wonderful priest I’m sure he would have become.”

Msgr. Andrew Baker, rector of the seminary, remembered Bergkamp as a “quiet, but very effective leader.”

“He was a thoughtful and prayerful young man,” Msgr. Baker told the Catholic Review. “He was extremely reliable and hardworking.”

Bergkamp had served as a sacristan at Mount St. Mary’s, the priest said.

The circumstances of Bergkamp’s death show that he knew the depth of what it meant to be a Christian and a priest, Msgr. Baker said.

“It was self-giving love,” he said. “He didn’t have to think twice before he acted (to save another’s life).”

Seminarians and the entire Mount St. Mary’s community were taking Bergkamp’s death “very hard,” the priest added.

Derek Thome, a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary from Viola, Kansas, said Bergkamp was a man of dedication with a big heart who would do just about anything for anyone, as long as it would help them.

“It didn’t matter what he had going on, his life was spent thinking of others first,” he told The Catholic Advance. “Brian died doing what he went to seminary for, to save souls.”

Bergkamp did so many things around the seminary, Thome said, adding that he was always keeping busy fixing things. “The joke goes that Brian was the only reason the seminary building still stands!”

Bergkamp showed a true priestly quality in his last moments, Bishop Kemme said, apparently saving the life of another while risking his own. “This all took place on the weekend when we heard the parable of the good Samaritan. Brian was living that parable in his last moments. No one could ever hope for or expect a greater homily than this.”

In addition to keeping Bergkamp’s family in prayer, Bishop Kemme asked the faithful to keep all of the diocese’s seminarians and priests in their prayers. “Pray fervently for more seminarians like Brian, so that others will come to take his place. More than likely, Brian’s heavenly service will help to make this happen, according to God’s providence.”

By Christopher M. Riggs

Riggs is editor of The Catholic Advance, newspaper of the Diocese of Wichita. Contributing to this story was George M. Matysek in Baltimore.

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Fortnight for Freedom: Martyrs’ relics linked to today’s threats to religious liberty

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori linked urgent matters of “immigration, marriage and the church’s teaching on sexuality” to a pair of 16th-century martyrs during a June 21 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore that began the fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offers a history of the sacrifices made by Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher during his June 21 homily at the Fortnight for Freedom opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The relics of the two saints, on loan from Stonyhurst College in England, are on a national tour. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offers a history of the sacrifices made by Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher during his June 21 homily at the Fortnight for Freedom opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The relics of the two saints, on loan from Stonyhurst College in England, are on a national tour. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

The theme of this year’s fortnight is “Witnesses to Freedom.” It features relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, an English layman and bishop, respectively, who were martyred in a 16-day span in 1535, when they refused to accept Parliament’s Act of Supremacy, which had declared that King Henry VIII was head of the church in England.

On display for veneration were St. John Fisher’s ring and a piece of bone of St. Thomas More. According to Jan Graffius, curator of Stonyhurst College in England, which holds the relics, it came from St. Thomas More’s skull, which was rescued by his daughter, Margaret, from a spike on London Bridge.

During a Mass that was televised nationally by the Eternal Word Television Network, Archbishop Lori’s homily connected Thomas More and John Fisher to an array of 21st century struggles, among them the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate that the Little Sisters of the Poor continue to challenge in the nation’s highest courts.

“This night we recognize gratefully the courage of all who are resisting the mandate, especially the Little Sisters of the Poor,” the archbishop said. “They are vigorously defending their freedom and ours –- and they are doing so with a beauty and a joy, borne from the heart of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Lori, who is chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sponsors the Fortnight for Freedom, also asked for prayers for the victims of June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and their families.

“We may think that the days of the martyrs have ended,” Archbishop Lori said in his homily, “but as Pope Francis points out, there are more martyrs for the faith in our times than there were during the first centuries of the church.

“We remember with reverence and love those who died for their faith — Jews, Catholics and Protestants -— an ecumenism of blood, as Pope Francis says, during the reign of terror that was Nazism and Communism.

“This night,” he continued, “we draw close to the martyrs of the 21st century in Iraq, Iran, Syria and parts of Africa, those slain for their faith in plain sight of us all with no one to hold their persecutors accountable. Refugees are streaming from the Middle East just as Jews tried to escape from the horrors of Nazism, only to find that they are held suspect and they are unwanted.”

While religious liberty in the U.S. might not seem in such dire straits by comparison, vigilance is required nonetheless.

“We would like to think,” Archbishop Lori continued, “such things could never happen here. … Yet, there are ominous signs that protections for religious freedom have waned as bad laws, court decisions and policies pile up and as the prevailing culture more readily turns away from religious faith.

“Let us be clear that challenges to religious freedom in our nation pale in comparison to those faced by our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world; yet who is served when we fail to take seriously the new and emerging challenges to religious freedom that are before us?

“We may not be called upon to shed our blood,” he continued, “but we are called upon to defend our freedoms, not merely in the abstract, but as embedded in matters such as immigration, marriage and the church’s teaching on sexuality.”

Concelebrants of the Mass included Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley., and dozens of priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Other Catholic organizations represented included the Knights of Columbus, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Order of Malta. The second reading was given by Dr. Marie-Alberte Boursiquot, president-elect of the Catholic Medical Association and a basilica parishioner.

June 22 is the feast day for both Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More.

The linking of current threats to religious freedom with the relics of the two saints carried particular resonance for one worshipper.

Jim Landers, a parishioner of St. Ignatius, Hickory, was keenly interested in the St. Thomas More relic. He is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, where his great-great-grandfather, Thomas Lawson Moore, was a U.S. senator whose lineage included Thomas More.

The spelling of the name was altered when his ancestors came to the U.S.

“This Mass, and everything it stands for, is extremely important to me,” Landers told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan publication. “Beyond that, there’s the family connection. I can’t even describe that. It’s extremely exciting.”

His sentiments are compounded by the fact that Landers was raised Baptist and became a Catholic after attending Mass for years with his wife, Michelle.

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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