As I write my final column before entering into retirement, I think back to how it all began. According to my mother, when I was five years old, I played with little statues of saints. My grandmother emptied a kitchen cupboard, where I stored the little statues on a shelf. I would take out the statues, rearrange them on an altar made from a wooden milk box, and I would pray every day. I guess at that tender age, the Lord began calling me.
The abuse of children anywhere is a heinous crime and sin. When it occurs by those working in the Catholic Church, however, the abuse is even more horrific. This should never have happened. The problem of sexual abuse is a societal problem that permeates the Church, schools, sports programs and families.
During my years of preaching, I have found that concrete images help the hearers focus on what the truth of the homily is about. So I want to give you an image that in my mind encapsulates the role of the Bishop in the Church. St. Augustine tells us, “With you, I am a Christian, and for you I am a Bishop” which is printed on the cards distributed at today’s Mass, with a new picture of myself. This is what I believe about a Bishop’s role in the Church.
Each November, we come to recognize in our liturgical celebration what we recite in the Apostle’s Creed, our firm belief that we pilgrims on earth are not alone in the Church. Those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, some still being purified awaiting their entrance into heaven, and the blessed saints in heaven, together form this one Church of Jesus Christ.
Today, I am happy to offer some ideas on the transition and the responsibility between myself as Seventh Bishop of Brooklyn and Bishop Robert Brennan, newly appointed as the Eighth Bishop of Brooklyn.
We come together today to initiate the Synodal process in the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. The concept of Synod is nothing new to the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the first council, the Council of Jerusalem, where the people came together to discern the question of how new non-Jewish Christians should be initiated into the Church.
October is the month that the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month. During this month, the Church concentrates on making sure that we are following the life issues that greatly affect our society.
Each year for the last 50 years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has maintained the custom of aligning National Migration Week with the theme of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The Bishops recently decided to move National Migration Week, normally celebrated in January, to September to coincide with the Holy Father’s annual message on migration.
As we approach Catechetical Sunday and the open- ing of the academic year, we recognize that our Catholic Schools and Academies, Religious Education programs, and Faith Formation programs all have the ultimate goal of catechizing, of preaching God’s Word and making it understandable to its hearers.
As we arrive at the 20th anniversary of September 11th, the terrible terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon right outside Washington, D.C., in Shanksville, Pa., and, in fact, all of our Nation, we recall the lingering pains of those horrific events. The fact is, we never will forget, nor never can we forget what happened on that day.