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  • Holy Week this year begins on March 24th, a day that marks the 33rd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. His death was preceded by the assassination of Rotelio Grande, a Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero. Padre Grande had been working among the campesinos trying to encourage them to become more self-reliant and less intimidated by a repressive government. When his friend died, Archbishop Romero thought, “If they killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”

  • March 24, 2013
    Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
    One of the most inadequate phrases in the English language is “next of kin.” It is part of the language of bereavement and death. Obituaries list these people and they sit in the front row of the funeral home and the church. They are the ones to whom we express our sympathy but they may not include those who most feel the loss of the one who has died.

  • By the time this column is published Lent will be more than half way spent. We soon will celebrate the Mass of Blessing of the Holy Oils on March 20 and then Holy Week and Easter in parishes all over the world. Finally, two days after Easter, April 2, at the Chiles Center in Portland, we shall install our new Archbishop, Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample.
  • The season of Lent abounds with meaningful rituals. Some of them are quite familiar to most Catholics. Others – not so much.
  • After 11:00 a.m., PST, on February 28th, the Catholic world will be without a Supreme Pontiff.  Pope Benedict XVI has told us that he is resigning his papal office at that hour.  Then we shall begin a brief period of time described as Sede Vacante, (when the See is vacant).  All the Cardinals soon thereafter enter a conclave, during which they will elect a new Pope.
  • Pope Benedict certainly took the spotlight off the Archdiocese of Portland.  With his announcement on Feb. 11 that he would be resigning the papacy on Feb. 28, news about the transition of leadership here in Portland was quickly eclipsed by news about the transition of leadership in Rome.  Even though it has always been possible for a Pope to resign, it had not happened for nearly 600 years.
  • Vultum Christi Contemplari!  (To Contemplate the Face of Christ!) This has been the motto of our new Archbishop, Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample, ever since his ordination to the episcopacy back on Jan. 25, 2006.  These words were taken from the writings of Pope John Paul II in which he reminded us all that the task of the church is to make the face of Christ shine in today’s world.  The Pope said, “Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.”
  • Our preparations for Easter come early this year.  Ash Wednesday will be Feb. 13 when we begin our ascent to the holy mountain of Easter.  Repentance and Baptism are the two special themes of the Lenten season.  Throughout the forty days of Lent we journey with the catechumens to the Baptismal fonts in our parish churches where they will be initiated to the Christian family.  We join them in the spirit of repentance, confessing our sins and experiencing the forgiveness of the Lord as we ourselves renew the Baptismal grace we received, many of us long ago.
  • Recently I received a report from the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame entitled “Unleashing Catholic Generosity.” In that report comparisons were made between the self-reported religious giving and philanthropy of American Catholics and those of other religious groups. Almsgiving has always been looked upon as an important element of Christian discipleship. Why are some Christians more generous than others? It all seems to come down to whether donors see a connection between their faith and their giving.

  • Nowadays when folks are looking for employment, many wisely look into the benefits that are included in the compensation package.  We priests have a marvelous benefit that we probably take too much for granted and seldom acknowledge.  I’m talking about the benefit of being able to make an annual retreat, paid for by our employer - by you!  This yearly opportunity to look into our hearts and see how we are growing in Christ is a precious gift.  As some of you have noticed on my calendar, we bishops of the Northwest made retreat together from the evening of January 2nd to the morning of January 9th.  I thank you so much for this opportunity to tend to my own spiritual growth.
  • Once again this year our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, issued on Jan. 1 his “Message for the World Day of Peace.” In that statement, the Pope said, “The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in this fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.” The Pope went on to state, “Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this rate they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenseless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace.”
  • The Advent season was significantly marred this past year by the tragic loss of lives here in Clackamas and in Newtown, Connecticut. Here it was violence directed at shoppers in the Clackamas Mall. In Connecticut it was the slaughter of twenty children and six adults in an elementary school.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the President of our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed deep sorrow for all the victims. He called upon all of us and our fellow citizens to work for peace in our homes, streets and worlds. Together with other church leaders the Cardinal asked all Americans, especially our legislators, to address national policies that will strengthen regulations of firearms and improve access to health care for those with mental health needs.
  • The first two Sundays of the new year, Jan. 6 and Jan. 13, culminate our celebrations of the beautiful Christmas season.  On Jan. 6 we shall celebrate with Catholics the world over the solemnity of the Epiphany.  The gospel that day tells us about the visit of the wise men from the East to the place of the Lord’s birth.  Maybe some prayerful time could be spent that day thinking about the most satisfying gift we received at Christmas and the most rewarding gift we gave.  Then on Sunday, Jan. 13, the final day of Christmas, we celebrate the solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord.  Christ’s Baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry.  Our Baptism invited us to share in his evangelizing mission, giving witness to God’s great love not only by what we say but how we live our daily lives.
  • During the beautiful days of the Christmas season the new year begins.  In the days before Christmas the church again proclaims the story of John the Baptist’s birth.  Nowadays friends and neighbors ask much the same question about newborn children as we heard asked about St. John, “What will this child be?”  Well, when 2013 rolls in on January 1st, our question will be quite similar, “What will this new year be?”  We wonder.  We pray.  We hope for the best.
  • There is a French legend about the midnight hour on Christmas Eve.  As the story goes, a mysterious spirit of peace prevails throughout the world at that time, a spirit that is so powerful and all-emcompassing that even the cattle in the stables and the deer in the forest fall to their knees in adoration
  • The fifth Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly took place the weekend of Nov. 16-17 at St. Pius X Church here in Portland.  The theme of the Assembly was “Setting Faith Afire!”  The good news is that this dramatic goal was achieved.  Participants left the assembly greatly renewed in their own relationship with the Lord and committed to the goal that there will be no mere afterglow to this Assembly but rather a flaming fervor of evangelizing fire across western Oregon in the coming years.
  • Advent has begun. It’s a short season this year but still enough time for spiritual renewal and growth among all of us. This Advent season falls during the Year of Faith that our Holy Father has asked Catholics to observe. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to respond to the challenge Pope Benedict extends to Catholic people during this very special year. Clearly between Oct. 11 of this year and the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 24, next year, we ourselves need to be strengthened in our friendship with the Lord Jesus. But the greater challenge which confronts us is the work of the New Evangelization, doing what we can to help our relatives, friends and neighbors, whose relationship with the Lord is marginal at best, renew their relationship with Christ and the church.
  • The week before Thanksgiving I was in Baltimore for the annual fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York serves as our President and opened our meeting with a challenging presidential address.  He had just returned from the Vatican where he had been a participant in the synod on the New Evangelization.  He reminded us that the New Evangelization cannot be reduced simply to a program, a process or a call to conversion.  It must first and foremost lead each one of us to a deeply personal conversion.
  • Last month the Catholic newspaper, Our Sunday Visitor, which was a regular visitor to my home as a youngster, headlined an article about election 2012 with the words “Pro Life and Social Justice Catholics Increasingly at Odds.”  The election is now past, but the division apparently lingers.  It is an unnatural dichotomy, one that any teacher of the faith deeply regrets.  It certainly has made the life of a pastor more challenging as he tries to articulate Catholic social teaching for his people.
  • As I look back over the years, this year in particular, I do indeed have to know how to count pretty high if I am going to be able to acknowledge all my blessings.
  • Who among us would claim not to be a sinner?  Who is without need of forgiveness?  All our sins have consequences.  They disrupt our relationship with God and the church.  They make it difficult for us to resist temptations and they certainly hurt other people.  Healing is necessary and sometimes help is needed.  Our prayers, fasting, almsgiving and works of charity truly help the healing process.  But over the centuries the church has offered another aid, indulgences.
  • How often have you heard it sung, “Oh when the saints come marching in, let us march in their number.”  With the canonization of seven new saints last month by Pope Benedict XVI and the celebration of the feasts of All Saints and All Souls at the beginning of this month of November, our thoughts quite naturally go to these blessed companions on our journey of faith. As a youngster, I always delighted in reading stories of the saints.  When I was in second grade, sick in bed, I received a beautiful book about St. Martin de Porres with all kinds of colorful pictures.  The story about his kindness and compassion for the poor helped me learn early in life that my life simply could not be just about me.  It would have to be about and for others.
  • Is an anti-Catholic bias growing among the media?  I would suspect that very few reporters and commentators are truly anti-Catholic in the sense of hating Catholics.  But lots of them have an aversion to Catholic teaching, even some who are Catholic themselves.  In their judgment the church comes across as very negative about too many things, including sex before marriage, cohabitation, contraception, in vitro fertilization and now gay marriage.  They focus on what the church opposes, but they don’t always know the reason why.
  • Over the 15 years I’ve served as archbishop here in Portland, a number of planning meetings have taken place where we set some goals and objectives for our church here in western Oregon. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has been very helpful in helping me set these goals. But there was one goal that no one ever recommended that I hold deep in my heart.  Since the highest calling any one of us ever receives from God is to holiness, I remain hopeful that one day someone who was a Catholic in this archdiocese during my tenure as archbishop will be canonized a saint.  Naturally I want all the people to become saints, but recognition given to one special person would be the frosting on the cake!
  • The coming days will be filled with some significant memories for me.  It was back on October 12, 1983, that I received a message from the then Apostolic Delegate in Washington, D.C. that Pope John Paul II had appointed me to be a bishop.  Fourteen years later, on Oct. 15, 1997, I received the message that the Holy Father had appointed me to be the Archbishop of Portland in Oregon.  Both calls invited me to serve as a successor of the apostles in a particular Catholic church, while making sure that all I did and said helped the people entrusted to my pastoral care to be catholic Catholics!  Let me explain.
  • Back on Sept. 15 the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure took place in Portland.  It was the 21st time that Portland hosted the event to raise funds for the cure of cancer and to pay tribute to survivors. The media reported that participation was down by several thousand people. Both a poor economy and the decision of the Komen Foundation to stop funding Planned Parenthood were cited as reasons.  That was it.
  • This coming week, October 1-4, all the Portland archdiocesan priests together with other priests with archdiocesan assignments will be gathering for the annual clergy convocation in Newport.  The annual convocation is always a special project of our Presbyteral Council, this year under the leadership of Father John Henderson, our Vocations Director.  The chair and co-chair of the 2012 gathering are Father Ted Prentice of St. James in Molalla and Father Les Sieg of St. Anthony in Tigard.  We priests look forward to the gathering.  It is always a very fraternal, upbeat and informative session.
  • Last October Pope Benedict XVI announced a Year of Faith to be observed by Catholics the world over.  He did this in an apostolic letter entitled Porta Fidei, “The Door of Faith.”  He began by saying that “the door of faith” (Acts 14:27) “is always open for us, ushering us into a life of communion with God and offering entry into his church.”  It’s so true.  God never closes the door to friendship with him.  But, sad to say, often we close the door to friendship with God.  Through Baptism and Confirmation we became special friends of the Lord, disciples in mission together.  Over the years for many Catholics this friendship has diminished in importance and has little bearing on their daily lives.
  • “Is anyone among you sick?”  That question is raised in the fifth chapter of the Letter of St. James.  The frustration of sickness is common and not surprisingly we often find someone sick among us.  St. James goes on to write, if so, we “should summon the priests of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of the faithful will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.  If he has committed any sins, he would be forgiven.”
  • So much changed this past Aug. 13 when Father Angel Perez, Pastor of St. Luke’s Church in Woodburn, was arrested because he had been accused of abusing a minor.  Until then most of us thought we had turned the corner on the terrible tragedy of child abuse here in this archdiocese. Policies for the protection of children were in place and seemed to be taken seriously in most parishes by parishioners and staff.  We were hopeful.
  • When our Chancellor, Mary Jo Tully, is involved in preparing youngsters to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, she not only expects the youngsters to be familiar with the ten commandments of the church and the eight beatitudes of Jesus, she also insists that they become familiar with the seven themes of Catholic social teaching.  These themes speak to us about the importance of building a just society and living holy lives in the midst of all the challenges in today’s world.
  • As we do look forward to the elections in November, first and foremost, I encourage every single Catholic who is of voting age to make sure he or she votes. It is not a difficult activity, especially here in Oregon, when we all can vote at our convenience by mail. We appropriately restrict the right to vote to citizens.  Many non-citizens, who are significantly affected by the outcome of elections, would love to vote. Why in the world would anyone decide to let such a golden opportunity to have a say in promoting good governance go by the boards? Effective democracy requires responsibility on the part of all citizens.  Christian discipleship demands that you and I fulfill our responsibilities as citizens of this land.
  • The Pope Speaks
    They say that actions speak louder than words.  If so, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken loudly by honoring six wonderful people who are outstanding disciples in mission here in our Catholic Church of western Oregon.  It was in late July that I learned from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganó, that Father Jack Topper, OSM; Sr. M. Krista von Borstel, SSMO; Sr. Anne Marie Warren, OSF; Mr. Clint Bentz; Mr. Russ Danielson and Mrs. Cathy Shannon will be receiving the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, an award bestowed by the Pope on persons, both laity and clergy, who have given outstanding service to the church.  The Archbishop forwarded the diplomas and insignias to my office and I will confer these honors on Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This day is an especially appropriate time to honor these individuals since it marks the beginning of the Year of Faith.
  • When this column appears online in early August, I shall be far away on vacation in the Wolverine state of Michigan, where I spent many wonderful summer days in my youth.  I know that not everyone is able to enjoy an opportunity to get away and be at rest for a while.  I am grateful to God and to all of you who have made this possible for me once again this year.
  • Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga began his studies for the priesthood at Mount Angel Seminary in late August, 2011. Last summer he had been accepted by the Archdiocese of Portland as a candidate for the priesthood and became one of our more than 50 seminarians.  He had a good year at Mount Angel and the rector of the seminary, after consulting with the faculty, recommended that Nicholaus return to the seminary to continue his preparation for ordination.
  • Venerable Fulton Sheen
    On June 28 of this year Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a decree affirming the heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  He may now be called “Venerable.”  His cause for beatification and canonization has been promoted by Most Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, Bishop of Peoria.  Venerable Fulton Sheen was born and raised in that central Illinois community.  We need good news about bishops these days and the Pope gave us one with that declaration.
  • Blessed Pope John Paul II often talked about the two lungs of the church.  He was referring to Catholics of the Eastern Church and Catholics of the Latin Church.  He insisted that the church breathes best using both lungs! On July 24 we shall be celebrating the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, a hermit saint from the Eastern Church’s Maronite tradition. There is a Catholic parish here in Portland with good Saint Sharbel as its titular.  Parishioners of St. Sharbel are Maronite Catholics.  I take this opportunity to greet those folks and to assure them that we Roman Catholics welcome them in our midst and are eager to learn more about them.
  • Our National Catholic Fortnight For Freedom ended on the Fourth of July.  On the first day of the Fortnight, June 21, a Mass was celebrated in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Basilica of Baltimore, the primatial archdiocese of the United States.  Some protestors had gathered in front of the cathedral, unhappy about why the church had gathered to pray.  Some of them carried a banner saying, “Bishops, we need pastors, not politicians.”  Those folks obviously had forgotten that one of the top challenges of a good pastor, the shepherd of the flock, is to protect the flock when danger lurks.  The wolves understandably are not pleased, but so be it.  Why praying for the protection of our civil rights is considered so distasteful by some is a puzzle.  But I was very grateful to all of you who joined me in prayer for the protection of our religious liberty during the Fortnight, especially those who came to the Holy Hour at our own cathedral on June 28.  I would like to share with you some of the remarks I made on that occasion.
  • Here in the United States we begin summer with the observance of our own Independence Day on July 4. We proudly celebrate our freedom as a nation. We Catholics and our many friends conclude our observance of the Fortnight for Freedom on the Fourth of July this year, 14 days of praying for, proclaiming and protecting the religious freedom which is so much a part of our American heritage.
  • We American bishops held our spring assembly in Atlanta earlier this month.  That meeting marked the tenth anniversary of the approval by the American bishops in Dallas of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  When we bishops from the Pacific Northwest walked into our meeting room for a regional discussion, we found a bulletin from Atlanta’s “Voice of the Faithful,” telling us that, “the Charter to Protect Children and Young People is still fundamentally flawed.”  VOF stated that the reforms were “not significant,” bishops still don’t welcome people who speak the truth about abuse, and there has been no cooperation with the recommendations from the bishops’ own National Review Board.
  • From June 24 through July 4 the Catholic people of the United States and their many friends will be observing a “Fortnight For Freedom.”  As I mentioned in an earlier column, these two weeks will be a time for all of us to understand better our church teaching about religious liberty and also to pray and advocate for the protection of this most fundamental right.
  • On Saturday, June 9, it was my privilege to ordain 10 men to the priesthood for service here in the Archdiocese of Portland. It was a great day for the people of western Oregon. Before imposing hands on each one, I asked them, “Do you resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as worthy ready fellow workers with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?”  Together they all answered, “I do.” Then in presenting to the newly ordained priests the chalice for Eucharist, I said, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
  • “The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.”  Those were the words which were used by the Vatican in calling for a renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  The Holy See went on to state that this project is being undertaken in support of that essential charism of Religious which is so obvious in the life and growth of the Catholic Church in the United States. Does this introduction suggest that church leaders are unappreciative of the wonderful work women religious have performed in evangelizing this great nation of ours?  I don’t think so.
  • As Catholics and as Americans we have never before been compelled to choose one allegiance or the other.  Such was the wisdom of our nation’s founders and our Constitution, a treasured document that guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.
  • Last week in the print issue of the Sentinel I wrote about the ad limina visit of us bishop here in the Pacific Northwest to Rome at the end of April. Our newly ordained brother from eastern Oregon, Bishop Liam Cary, was able to accompany all of us on that visit.  He found it to be an excellent preparation for his new duties as Bishop of Baker.  As always, I found the experience uplifting and challenging, a great reminder of the universality and the complexity of the church.  It all began on that first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles.  I sensed that the same Holy Spirit was coming upon his successors from the Pacific Northwest during our days in Rome.
  • The 50-day Easter season is quickly drawing to a close as we prepare to celebrate the solemnities of the Lord’s Ascension and Pentecost. Ascension is our annual reminder that the risen Jesus decided upon a new way to remain here on earth, namely, in the church, through those of us who are baptized believers. Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit who accompanies all of us on our journey of faith and blesses us with the gifts we need to continue Christ’s work of proclaiming good news, calling people to conversion and building the kingdom of God here on earth. Pentecost also celebrates the universal call of Jesus, his invitation to people of every race, culture and creed to be his disciples.  Pentecost invites us to see the big picture of our worldwide Catholic community, not the small one of our parishes or archdiocese which tends to dominate our thoughts, reflections and conversations about the church.

  • These weeks between Easter and Pentecost are truly “Alleluia” time as we praise our God for Christ’s Resurrection and the gift of the new life of grace we all received in Baptism. The good news of Easter was so good that it had to be acclaimed for much more than one day. Fifty days, in fact, has been the tradition for the church. During this seven-week period the first reading at Mass is almost always taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the book in the New Testament found right after the four gospels. Some have described this work of St. Luke, the author of the third gospel, as the gospel of the Holy Spirit.

  • In his gospel, St. Luke tells us that, when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he explained to them how his passion, death and resurrection all took place in fulfillment of the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world.  In referring to his suffering and rising on the third day, Jesus told them, “you are witnesses of these things.”  Giving witness to the truths of our faith is still a challenge of discipleship today.  It isn’t always easy.  And it is not always clear how this is to be carried out in our daily lives.

  • Greetings from Rome! This week of April 22 I find myself in Rome with the bishops of Region XII for our ad limina visit. These visits usually take place every five years, but the last time we were asked to come to meet with the Holy Father and to report on our stewardship of the local churches we have been called to serve was back to 2004. Then it was Pope John Paul II who greeted us, prayed with us and spoke to us.  This is our first visit with his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
  • The days after Easter, right from the very start, have always been very heady ones for the followers of Jesus. Just this past Sunday we heard an amazing passage from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. In describing the early Christian community, the sacred writer said: “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they would distributed to each according to need.” Obviously over the past 2,000 years the attitude about sharing our resources has changed considerably among the followers of Jesus the Christ. But that ideal proclaimed from Scripture still belongs to us. Even though we tend to look upon it nowadays as excessive, it is nevertheless a very serious and important reminder that concern for the needy around us is still an important aspect of our life as Catholic Christian people.
  • Now that we have embarked upon the fifty days of Easter, I take some pleasure reflecting upon the wonderful celebrations of Holy Week and Easter which it has been my privilege to lead at St. Mary Cathedral over the years.
  • The great joy of the Easter season is now upon us.  For 50 days we shall celebrate Christ’s triumphant victory over sin, suffering and death.  We shall join our neophytes in rejoicing over the new life of grace which is ours through Baptism.  We thank God that the Holy Spirit continues to empower us for our church’s evangelizing mission through the sacraments of the church.  The forgiveness of our sins is a gift ready for the taking.  How blessed we are to be the people of God, the holy church entrusted with the message of God’s amazingly great love for all of us.
  • On Feb. 28 I was attending a meeting at the Benedictine Abbey in Lisle, Illinois. I had missed a call on my cell phone and when I finally connected with my voicemail, I learned that the Apostolic Nuncio was trying to reach me by phone. I had sent my letter of resignation from the office of archbishop the previous Wednesday, Feb. 22. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is certainly a quick response to my letter.” As it turned out, the Nuncio was not calling me about my letter, but about the appointment of our own Father Liam Cary as the new Bishop of Baker. As it turns out, Father Cary is the third priest from the Archdiocese of Portland to be named Bishop of Baker.
  • Yes, Shalom, Israel! That certainly was the fervent prayer of all of us pilgrims who spent 10 wonderful days in the Holy Land on pilgrimage earlier this month. At our final Mass on the Mount of Olives I suggested to the pilgrims that an appropriate theme song for our journe