Much of the news about the Catholic Church for the past month
has been discouraging, hurtful, disappointing, horrifying,
and (insert a long list of other negative emotions)....
it can become almost too much
and we may be tempted to lose hope....
Those with whom we minister may also be losing hope.
In many schools of psychology, it is taught that we must first admit our current feelings and work through them towards the end goal, or what it is that gives us hope. For the Church, we have the Eucharist, the Sacraments and Liturgy to remind us of the hope that is Jesus our Christ. We must work through these hard times, but keep our hearts fixed on our Triune God.
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after: that I may dwell
in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
(Psalm 27: 4 - 5)
I am thankful for colleagues around Ohio and the United States that have been working on resources that we can use to help facilitate discussions with teens and our adult volunteers about the scandals. I am sharing a few with you - click on the buttons below to connect to the resources - and will be praying that you and those with whom you minister find them to be helpful. (If you happen upon others that you would recommend, please mention them in the COMMENTS to this post.)
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him, so that you may overflow
with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
English translation of August 20, 2018 Letter from Pope Francis:
Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" ( 1 Cor12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to be pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain,
1. If one member suffers ...
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as it happens, we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; These wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to solve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side I have stands. Mary's song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: "I have scattered the proud in their conceit; I have cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty "(Lk 1: 51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and we continue to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I made my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross for Good Friday 2005, I identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: "How much filth there is in the Church, and Even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ's betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart.
Kyrie eleison - Lord, save us! ( Mt 8:25) "(Ninth Station).
2. ... all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires to come with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf.Evangelii Gaudium , 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' ( 2 Cor 11:14) "( Gaudete et Exsultate , 165). Saint Paul's exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all of our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?" ( Gen 4: 9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: "If we have truly started out from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see it especially in the faces of those with whom I have wished to be identified" ( Novo Millennio Ineunte , 49 ). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire faithful faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting , following the Lord's command. 1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says "never again" to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God's People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and consciousness have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that "not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people". 3 Clericalism, if fostered by priests themselves or by persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say "no" to abuse is to say an emphatic "no" to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that "in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people "( Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil is that you have given many lives to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church's members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God's People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For "whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today's world "(Evangelii Gaudium , 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us be forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of without help us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and the us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people's sufferings and overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be "a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" ( Lumen Gentium , 1).
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it," said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son's cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus' side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, "to insist more upon prayer," seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
Vatican City, 20 August 2018
1 "But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting" ( Mt 17:21).
2 Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (May 31, 2018).
3 Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (19 March 2016).
[01246-EN.01] [Original text: Spanish]
See original at:
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee,
the professor went to the kitchen
and returned with a large pot of coffee
and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal,
some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite -
elling them to help themselves to the coffee.
After all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
"If you noticed,
all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up,
leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.
While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves,
that is the source of your problems and stress.
"Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.
In most cases, it's just more expensive
and in some cases even hides what we drink.
What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup,
but you consciously went for the best cups...
and then began eyeing each other's cups.
"Now consider this:
Life is the coffee,
and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.
They are just tools to hold and contain life,
and the type of cup we have does not define
nor change the quality of life we live.
Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup,
we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."
God brews the coffee, not the cups . . .
enjoy your coffee.
Following many years of success through parish and school programs as well as larger events such as World Youth Days, national youth conferences, diocesan youth conventions and other signs of the Church’s ministry by, with, for, and to youth and young adults, it is exciting that the Universal Church is taking this moment to focus on ministry to young people through a Synod and the accompanying consultation process.
In the Diocese of Youngstown surveys, it was encouraging to see the number and variety of responses representing ages from thirteen through adults, from all areas of the diocese, and representing all facets of the Church: priests, seminarians, staff and volunteers in addition to the direct input from high school youth and young adults. The surveys also seem to represent the broad spectrum of Catholic beliefs and practices.
The surveys clearly show that teens and young adults want “more” from the Church – more opportunities for leadership, service and relationship building. However, it is surprising that the surveys did not reflect the view of many in the diocese who have expressed in other forums the importance of increasing the financial dedication of our diocese, parishes and schools for both youth ministries and young adult ministries. Increased funding would allow for more full-time paid staff, more resources, more dedicated physical space, and more support for activities and faith experiences. The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has received many requests for financial assistance for young people to participate in local, regional, national, and international service, formation, spiritual and programs.
Aside from the funding issues, the surveys did clearly indicate an important focus for youth ministry and young adult ministry: community. The surveys of young people indicated they wanted a place where they belong and are listened to, as well as more welcoming communities in general. What seems to be working is where committed adults – priests, youth ministers, staff, and other caring adults – are present to teens and young adults. In these situations, the young people are more connected to the Church through these relationships.
It was interesting to note that the polarization in the American Church community was evident in our diocesan surveys, from a desire to greater access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and an emphasis on traditional teachings to a more engaging Mass and changing Church teachings in areas such as priestly celibacy and LGBTQ community tolerance. Our diocese reflects the challenge of being a community rich in both unity and diversity.
The challenges that young people face in the culture present both an area of a concern and an opportunity for youth ministry and young adult ministry. Knowing the concerns of youth and young adults - especially peer-pressure, drugs (in particular heroin and alcohol), bullying, and anxiety – require a response of our faith communities to present an authentic witness of God’s love. Discernment is a skill that we must both teach to our young people and practice as a community to empower missionary disciples of all ages.
+ Did anything you read here surprise you?
+ Did anything affirm efforts you are already making for/with young people and their families?
+ In what ways might your faith community do more to help young people in regards to their faith and vocational discernment?
If you read the previous blog post about the Diocese of Youngstown Synod Surveys, Part 10, you may have noticed this:
<<other initiatives which are highlighted at the end of the report are a summer mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky and St. Andrew discernment dinners.
Here is that additional information:
House of Discernment at the Catholic University within our diocese (Walsh).
The House of Discernment is under the charge of the Vocations Office and allows men to be fully engaged as an active student on campus while living in community in a setting that allows them to discern a possible calling to the priesthood. The men participate in communal prayer, formation conferences, service work in the community, and other formation elements. If the man feels called to the priesthood, he can move to a seminary setting before he completes college. If he determines he is not called to priesthood, he will move out of the discernment house into university housing.
The second activity is a mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky.
Each summer in June, men ages 16 to 35 are invited to attend a mission and discernment trip. The Vocations office and seminarians organize the week for those who participate. During the day, the men work around the community helping repair homes for people in need. In the evening, the men work with the seminarians to discuss what they experienced in the day and its theological implications. In addition, they discuss various aspects of discernment and where God is present and working in their lives. (Note: This trip was not offered in 2018 as the program is under review, however, there had been success in previous years, and it may return for 2019.)
The third activity is a St. Andrew Discernment dinner.
Two times per year, the Vocation Office offers a dinner for high school men and older. The evening runs two hours long. It includes Evening Prayer, dinner, a discussion on discernment and priesthood. The Bishop is present at these dinners along with members of the Vocation team and any seminarians that can attend. Priests in each parish are encouraged to invite young men to the dinners and to attend with them. The combination of the dinner discussion and the discussion following is very fruitful as it gives participants the opportunity to ask personal questions and to understand vocations and discernment in a communal setting. Each dinner is hosted by a parish in the diocese.
(I feel like I should now flash that "The More You Know" logo from a certain TV station....since you may have learned something new about a couple of the initiatives in the diocese!)
Thank you for your continued interest in the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. I hope that by breaking up the overall Diocese of Youngstown survey results and summary report, you have been able to take time to pause and reflect on many aspects of the theme.
As this process continues to move towards the October gathering of hundreds of bishops and cardinals, and we await the outcomes from the actual Synod, we can take small steps each day towards helping our youth and young adults to see their importance in our Church and our world!
A question in the Preparatory Document asked about ways we plan experiences for the pastoral vocational program for young people?
In the Diocese of Youngstown, the Office of Vocations reported several initiatives to help young people discern their vocation. There is a discernment retreat every December for men that includes personal and communal prayer, discussion with other young men who are discerning, informational sessions, and the opportunity to talk with current seminarians.
The Office of Vocations also encourages participation of junior high to college age men in the “live-in” weekends at the seminaries the diocese is connected to. The weekends offer the experience of what seminary is like, including attending classes, experiencing the prayer life, participating in community recreation, and learning how to discern their vocation.
The Office of Vowed Religious invites young people to participate in the annual “World Day for Consecrated Life” liturgy.
Along with the other five dioceses of Ohio, the Office of Vocations supports a YouTube channel (Buckeye Vocations) that highlights videos, such as highlights of ordinations, testimonials of seminarians, highlights from mission trips, and more.
Two other initiatives which are highlighted at the end of the report are a summer mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky and St. Andrew discernment dinners.
The diocese also shares announcements from the women’s religious communities in the diocese about discernment events, retreats, and other experiences.
Discernment and vocations are topics of workshops and hands-on-learning experiences at the biennial Diocesan Youth Convention and at the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Regarding spiritual guidance:
As reported by the Office of Vocations, clergy are selected to serve as spiritual mentors for men who are discerning a call to the priesthood. The priests use the book To Save a Thousand Souls to guide their monthly meetings, though the exact amount of time spent varies in each case.
In addition, women’s religious communities have vocations directors and spiritual directors who spend many hours with young people to assist their discernment.
Parishes reported a wide range of hours spent on personal spiritual guidance (from 0 to 450) with an average of about 18 hours per parish. It was noted that guidance was also offered within catechetical classes, confirmation preparation, and scouting.
The Office of Vocations reported a variety of print resources for those who provide pastoral vocational guidance. Priests who serve as spiritual mentors for men discerning a call to the priesthood receive the book To Save a Thousand Souls. All priest and deacons received the book Lend Your Own Voice to Christ to help them share their personal vocation story in order to assist young men and women in their vocational discernment. In addition, there is a wealth of printed resources for those discerning, their parents, and those who are spiritually guiding the discerner.
Parish staff reported a variety of ways that they provide vocational guidance, including mentoring, spiritual counseling, encouraging and affirming young people, living as an example, and casual conversations. In addition, many parishes and Catholic schools invite clergy and religious to give talks to students or participate in programs such as the Serra Club “Vocations Cross” wherein families are invited to take the cross into their homes for a week of prayer for vocations.
1. What above affirms or challenges you?
2. Are there opportunities that we missed mentioning in this report?
3. What tools/formation opportunities might be helpful for you to as you spiritually guide young people?
Pray that young people open their minds and hearts to God's calling in their lives, and that when opportunities come around to assist them in this endeavor, they are open to those as well!
On June 19th, the Vatican announced the release of the "working document" or Instrumentum laboris for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops taking place in October.
This is the table of contents:
The Part - Recognizing: The Church in listening to reality
Chapter I: Being young today
Chapter II: Experiences and languages
Chapter III: In the culture of waste
Chapter IV: Anthropological and cultural challenges
Chapter V: Listening to the young
Part II - Interpreting: faith and vocational discernment
Chapter I: The blessing of youth
Chapter II: The vocation to the light of faith
Chapter III: The dynamism of vocational discernment
Chapter IV: The art of accompanying
Part III - Choosing: paths of pastoral and missionary conversion
Chapter I: An integral perspective
Chapter II: Immersed in the fabric of everyday life
Chapter III: An Evangelized and Evangelizing Community
Chapter IV: Animation and organization of pastoral care
Prayer for the Synod
As we await the full English translation,
please continue to keep the process
and all young people in your prayers.
The bishops of the United States gathered in Florida for the Spring General Assembly in mid-June.
During the afternoon general session on June 13, 2018, the U.S. delegates to the pre-synodal gathering convened by Pope Francis on March 19-25, 2018, Brother Javier Hansen, Nick López, and Katie Prejean McGrady, addressed the body of bishops on their experience. Now, you can hear their report as well, followed by a conversation with several bishops/archbishops/cardinals.
(In the video below, they begin at the 12:30 mark, the discussion with the bishops begins at 36 minutes; section ends at 1:09).
Archbishops Tobin and Chaput then report on the Synod preparations, then Bishop Caggiano on World Youth Day Panama 2019 and a conversation with other bishops.
I love that Cardinal Dinardo (at 1:36) comments that the bishops need to make sure that young people know that they are being prayed for! (As well as offer free doughnuts!)
What did you hear that challenged you?
What did you hear that affirmed you?
If you are between the ages of 16 and 29, what might you have added?
Another question posed in the Preparatory Document for the 2018 Synod was:
In what manner are you taking into account the cultural changes resulting from the development of the digital world?
From the Diocese of Youngstown surveys, we responded:
While some adults shy away from the digital world, we have more in our diocese that have incorporated it, with cautions, into their classrooms and ministries. Parishes have reported:
Similarly, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry is at the forefront of technology use for ministry purposes. Examples include:
1. Did anything you read above affirm or challenge you?
2. How can we utilize technologies to spread the Gospel, build relationships, and assist young people as they navigate life challenges?
Today's let's offer up a prayer to the patron saint
of the internet, St. Isadore:
Almighty and eternal God who has created us in thine image
and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,
especially in the divine person of Thy only-begotten Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee that through
the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during
our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands
and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and
treat with charity and patience all those souls whom
we encounter. Father we ask you this, through Christ our Lord.
The Most Reverend George V. Murry, S.J.,
bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown
has been diagnosed with a form of acute leukemia.
He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on Sunday, April 29, 2018.
He will undergo intensive chemo therapy for the next four weeks.
The Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have stated
that there are to be no visitors.
Please keep Bishop Murry in your prayers.
There is also a Facebook group set up of those praying for him on that social media site:
The Diocesan offices of Evangelization and Lay Ministry, Continuing Education of Priests, Permanent Diaconate, Pro-Life, Marriage and Family, Religious Education and Youth & Young Adult Ministry, with a grant from Catholic Extension, sponsored two days of "Innovation Labs" on April 25 and 26.
Over one hundred parents leaders participated in these workshop days that included instruction and suggestions by John Roberto. John is the President of Lifelong Faith Associates and consultant to churches and national organizations. He conducts workshops and teaches courses on faith formation. John has authored and co-authored numerous publications. He was the creator and project coordinator of the Generations of Faith project (which brought him to the diocese of Youngstown a few times in the past), and he is the founder and first director of the Center for (Youth) Ministry Development. He is a visionary, popular speaker, and more importantly here, an innovator!
Day one focused on "Digitally Enabled Faith Formation" which discussed tools, methods and resources for outreach to all generations. Parish leaders were then challenged to create ways to utilize them in their faith formation efforts. It was exciting to hear how a few parishes are already taking advantage of free and inexpensive platforms for spreading the Good News digitally, and to see what new ideas were beginning to form!
Day two focused on placing "Families at the Center of Faith Formation" which encourages parish leaders to design and implement strategies to create new and enhanced programming that engages families at home, in the community and even at home!
These workshops will be followed up with two webinar discussions to provide further ideas and resources as the parishes move forward with the plans. One will take place in about 6 - 8 from now, and the second will be about two months later.
This means an exciting spring and summer of planning for our parish leaders, and the diocesan offices that support them! I am sure you will begin to see some small changes soon, with new programs, activities, or ways of doing things soon to follow!
For those leaders that participated,
I would love to read about some of your insights and ideas
in the comments below.
Readers, look for additional information following the webinar-meetings!
Keep these parish leaders in your prayers as they discern the best ways to integrate this information to be of service best for your community!
And, if you would like to see additional photos from the Innovation Labs, visit the
"Event Pictures" page of this website:
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.