Program #0281 for Thursday, April 19, 2012: Pope’s anniversary; Fr. Sepe’s new role; NCEA; religious liberty

April 19, 2012

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Summary of today’s show: Our regular panel reviews the headlines of the week, including Pope Benedict’s 7th anniversary as Pope and 85th birthday; the appointment of Fr. Kevin Sepe to the significant post of Secretary for Parish Life and Leadership in the Archdiocese; the Pilot’s extensive coverage of the NCEA convention last week; a profile of the Fall River diocese’s office of pastoral planning; the Vatican’s call for reform of a US religious women’s group; defeat of an assisted suicide bill in Vermont; and the US bishops’ statement on religious liberty.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Pope’s anniversary; Fr. Sepe’s new role; NCEA; religious liberty

1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show and talked about his recent time he’s been able to spend with his family. Susan said tomorrow she’s looking forward to the Co-Workers in the Vineyard conference taking place tomorrow at t Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton. Many different offices and ministries are participating and producing the conference together for parish staff, pastoral associates, and other parishioners.

2nd segment: Scot noted that today is the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005. Rick played a clip from CNN of the announcement of the pope’s election. Scot asked Susan for her recollection. She said she was in her office at the tribunal building in Brighton. They’d heard the announcement was coming and they all gathered in a small conference room with a TV along with people from some other offices to hear the announcement. Susan said her pastor, Msgr. Helmick, was in St. Peter’s Square that day. It’s exciting to see the tradition and the Holy Spirit at work.

Greg said the Pilot was in Cray library at the old chancery and they gathered in a room with a TV there as well. He recalls the reactions of people after all the speculation on who would be elected. He said no one was upset although they might have been hoping for a Latin American or African. Fr. Roger said he was on a priests’ retreat in Pembroke when it was announced the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel had gone up. They decided to tell the priests before the conference that it was happening and interrupt. He recalls being certain it was going to be Ratzinger after just four votes. It made the rest of the retreat very memorable

Scot said this past Monday was also another significant date for the Holy Father as he celebrated his 85th birthday. He is the now the sixth oldest pope in recorded history. Pope Leo XIII was over 93 years old when he died. The others were Clement XII, Clement X, Pius IX, and Innocent XII. Some have asked how old a pope would be before resigning. Scot asked Fr. Roger. He said Cardinal Ratzinger had offered his advice to Pope John Paul II on this, but John Paul wrote in 2004 that he never looked at the papacy as a job, but as the vocation of a father., Fathers don’t resign from their fatherhood and he wouldn’t as long as he could continue. That was probably from the advice he got from Ratzinger at the time. Scot noted that the holy Father recently traveled to Mexico and Cuba and then celebrated the very rigorous Holy Week.

Greg said his recollection in Cuba was that the Holy Father was very vigorous during his trip. He said John Paul II set a tone and expectation of being very energetic and making many trips, but Pope Benedict has set a different tone. Susan said it’s not important whether he can walk the length of St. Peter’s, but what is important is that he’s working on a new encyclical and a new volume in his trilogy of books on Jesus of Nazareth. His writings are far more important than that he does these other tasks.

Fr. Roger said he expects the Holy Father will put most of his work into his homilies each week, his book on Jesus, and a continued renewal of the Church, especially the episcopacy, trying to choose the right men to be bishops. There have been rumors in Rome this week that a reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the only schism since the Second Vatican Council. Signs are very hopeful that the schism will be brought to a conclusion, and this was a major part of the Holy Father’s work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

3rd segment: Scot said in the Pilot this week is the announcement of the appointment of Fr. Arthur Mackay to be pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Marshfield. He was recently ordained from Bl. John XXIII Seminary, which is for late vocations.

Another big appointment concerns Fr. Kevin Sepe who has been pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Braintree. He will succeed Fr. Tom Foley as Secretary for the Parish Life and Leadership. Fr. Foley will become an Air Force chaplain. Scot said he’s a wonderful builder of fraternity and well liked by his brother priests.

Greg said Fr. Foley said in the Pilot story that he felt a calling to the military chaplaincy. Greg said of Fr. Sepe that he has been known for his work with seminarians, senior priests, and other priests. Scot said some priests are known as builders of great community in their rectories. Susan said Fr. Sepe has high standards for his religious education program, and a few years ago the parish received an award from the town of Braintree for their work in religious education with special needs kids. He’s been at St. Francis since 1998. He was ordained in 1986. Scot said he hopes to have Fr. Foley on the show before he ends his tenure on July 1.

Fr. Roger said military chaplaincy is very demanding and rewarding work among young men and women willing to lay down their lives for their country. Many of these young people will only see a priest once every few months in the theater of operations. There is a great demand for priests in military service. He said the military lately has been getting some of the finest priests available even where they don’t have many of them.

Scot said the Pilot has extensive coverage of the NCEA convention in Boston last week. Greg said it’s the second time the convention has been here. They had expected 8,000 attendees and got over 10,000, which is a record. They were at the Hynes for workshops and talks and networking. A big part of the convention was the expo where vendors could show their wares. Greg said the nature of the vendors has changed a lot from 2004 when he saw it last. There’s now a lot about iPads and other technology in schools.

Greg said the fact that the convention was in Boston allowed many schools to send their entire faculty to the convention. Some schools had each staff member attend a different workshop and then brief the rest on what they had learned. Susan said the liturgies were among her favorite part. They were reverently done, despite being in a giant auditorium seating 10,000 people. The music was wonderful with a different group each day. They had a number of school choirs providing the music. Susan said her first NCEA was in 1984 and then 1991 when they were in Boston before. She said this convention was the best because of the energy of the group. Scot said he was stunned by the number of exhibitors showing some kind of new technology for our local schools.

Scot said in the Anchor this week is another profile of a Diocese of Fall River office, the Office of Pastoral Planning. Fr. Roger said they give a snapshot of the typical work in that office. Pastoral Planning is about more than closing or merging parishes, but advancing the mission of the diocese as a whole. One initiative is the formation of leaders in parishes to set up pastoral plans.

Scot noted that in Boston, the associate director of the Office of Pastoral Planning has left for another job and the director has been reassigned by his religious order, so Fr. Paul Soper, pastor of St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, will be filling in part-time until a new director is appointed.

4th segment: Scot said a significant story in the Church broke yesterday regarding an action by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regard to the Leadership Council for Women Religious. Fr. Roger said there was an investigation begun a few years ago of this group because of the some of the teachings of the Church were not being supported and being disputed in some cases by the leadership or speakers at conferences.

The Vatican has appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has been appointed to lead a reform of the group. Fr. Roger said women’s religious groups ought to be known for their fidelity to the Church’s teachings. He also noted that some of these religious orders have very few vocations, while those that are growing are the more orthodox orders that don’t belong to the LCWR. Fr. Roger hopes it’s an opportunity for real, genuine renewal.

Scot said women religious have made many contributions to the Church over the years. The LCWR represents about 80 percent of the country’s women religious, although many of those communities aren’t growing quickly, which some say is because of straying from Catholic teaching. Greg said there was a meeting of women religious at Stonehill College a few years ago in which Cardinal Seán and Cardinal Rode spoke, and Cardinal Rode said some orders had moved outside the bounds of the Church. Susan said this report grew out of the apostolic visitation of women’s religious orders that began in December 2008 and was submitted to the Vatican this past December.

Scot said they said yesterday that the revising of statutes and reviewing liturgical texts and affiliation with problematic organizations among other actions could take about 5 years. Fr. Roger said the timeline could depend on how much resistance there will be. He said some people are encouraging the LCWR to leave the Church and form a secular organization. This highlights the problems underlying the leadership of these groups.

Scot said another local story reported in the Anchor was the defeat of an assisted suicide bill in Vermont. He said he hopes this has a positive ripple effect in Massachusetts. It also notes some recent polls in Massachusetts that indicate those opposed to assisted suicide have their work cut out for them. The poll showed 43% in Massachusetts were in favor of assisted suicide with 37% opposed. There’s also an age gap, with those who are older very opposed while those who are younger but in a caregiver age range are in favor. Fr. Roger said those who have been pushing this have been better at getting their message out. Even in Vermont, which is among the most liberal states in the country, people were opposed to assisted suicide.

Fr. Roger’s editorial this week concerns the US bishops’ document on religious liberty. He said this is a very significant intervention by the bishops. He said their statement on not obeying unjust laws was very courageous. They also concretely addressed the various groups in the Church to assimilate these words and work to protect religious liberty. He encouraged everyone to read the document.

Greg said his experience is that we shouldn’t be surprised that people around need to hear about this issue from us, however much we think they’re well-informed.

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