Fundación sólido encontrada en historia breve de los obispos

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz

Opisbo Kopacz

El 28 de julio, la Diócesis de Jackson marcó el 180 aniversario de su fundación con la promulgación oficial del Papa Gregorio XVI como la 13 ª diócesis católica en los Estados Unidos. Ahora hay casi 200 diócesis católicas en el país, lo que nos hace una de las tatarabuelas. La diócesis celebró su 175º aniversario con una conmemoración más formal y festiva. También es importante reconocer estos 180 años con gratitud y orgullo, pero no habrá celebraciones diocesanas en este aniversario. Como un vino fino, seguimos envejeciendo mientras nos esforzamos por ser siempre antigua y siempre nueva en el anuncio del Evangelio en nuestro tiempo.
Tendremos la oportunidad en octubre de este año de tener una conmemoración diocesana amplia del 100º aniversario de las apariciones de la Virgen en Fátima. Vamos a consagrar nuestra diócesis al Corazón Inmaculado de María, una manera espléndida de marcar nuestro 180 aniversario como diócesis.
La historia de nuestra diócesis es amplia y multidimensional y elegí el legado de los 11 obispos diocesanos para presentar un pedacito de nuestra herencia de fe. Cuatro años después de la fundación de la diócesis, el Obispo John Joseph Chance de Baltimore llegó a Natchez en 1841 a fundar y cuidar la fe católica que estaba realmente en un estado embrionario. Al momento de su muerte inesperada en 1852, había establecido 11 parroquias en Mississippi en Paulding, Biloxi, Jackson, Bay St Louis, Pass Christian, Vicksburg, Sulphur Springs, Pearlington, Port Gibson y Yazoo City. También fue coadyutorio para la creación de la primera escuela católica en Mississippi, una academia de señoritas, establecida en Natchez por tres de sus sobrinas, un signo de gran amor por su tío. Las Hijas de la Caridad también llegaron en 1847 para comenzar la tradición de la educación católica en la Escuela Catedral en Natchez, marcando su 170º aniversario.
El Obispo Oliver Van de Velde, S.J. llegó a Natchez durante un tiempo trágico – el brote de una epidemia de fiebre amarilla en la región en la que murieron unas 750 personas en Natchez y más de 7,800 en Nueva Orleáns. El ex presidente de la Universidad de San Luis, Obispo Van de Velde, se movió rápidamente para continuar la obra del Obispo Chance. Otro hito en la historia de la Iglesia Católica en Mississippi se produjo en 1855 con la apertura del Colegio de San Estanislao en Bay Saint Louis. Cinco hermanos del Sagrado Corazón sirvieron como profesores, el comienzo de su historia orgullosa en la diócesis. El Obispo Van de Velde sucumbió a la fiebre amarilla y murió en 1855, al igual que otros 40 feligreses.
El Obispo William Henry Elder fue ordenado e instalado como el tercer obispo de Jackson en 1857 y sirvió hasta 1880. Durante la administración del Obispo Elder, la Guerra Civil consumió al país en violencia y derramamiento de sangre durante cuatro años. El Obispo Elder ministró a los soldados y celebró Misa para los heridos durante la guerra. Él también sirvió como ministro a una comunidad de libertos en Natchez formada por esclavos que huyeron después que la ciudad fue ocupada en 1863 por las tropas federales. Bajo la ocupación de la Confederación, el obispo fue expulsado de Natchez y encarcelado en Vidalia, Louisiana, por negarse a orar por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos. Durante la epidemia de fiebre amarilla de 1878, el obispo personalmente asistió a las víctimas y contrajo la enfermedad. Sobrevivió, pero seis sacerdotes diocesanos se encontraban entre los muchos que perecieron. El Obispo Elder fue nombrado coadjutor de la Archidiócesis de Cincinnati en 1880 y más tarde se convertiría en arzobispo, donde sirvió hasta 1904. Cuando se fue de Mississippi, había 19 sacerdotes, 42 iglesias, 12 escuelas para niños blancos, tres escuelas para niños negros, y una población de 12.500 católicos.
En 1881 el Papa León XII nombró a Francis August Janssens de Nueva Orleans como el cuarto obispo de Jackson. El Obispo Janssens se concentró en la finalización de la construcción de la catedral, la contratación de la construcción de la sacristía y la instalación de un órgano de tubos.
La educación católica fue una característica de su tiempo en Mississippi. Cuando llegó, en 1881, existían 15 escuelas; cuando salió para Nueva Orleans, siete años más tarde, había 26. Durante su administración, se comenzó una misión entre los indios Choctaws en Tucker, creando una escuela integrada por tres Hermanas de la Misericordia. Las Hermanas de la Caridad comenzaron a enseñar a los niños afroamericanos en el presbiterio original durante este tiempo. En 1888 el Obispo Janssens fue trasladado para convertirse en Arzobispo de Nueva Orleans
El Padre Thomas Heslin del Condado de Longford, Irlanda, un pastor en Nueva Orleáns, fue nombrado el quinto obispo de la diócesis por el Papa León XIII. Una de las iniciativas principales del Obispo Heslin fue evangelizar y establecer misiones entre los afroamericanos. El Obispo Heslin invitó a la Sociedad de San José y a la Sociedad del Verbo Divino a que asistieran a misiones entre los negros de Mississippi. En 1890 fue establecida la parroquia Sagrada Familia en Natchez como la primera parroquia de la diócesis dedicada a ministrar en la comunidad afroamericana. Santa Madre Katharine Drexel fue instrumental en la construcción de una escuela para los niños de la Sagrada Familia en Natchez. El Obispo Heslin murió después de 22 años al servicio en la diócesis y fue enterrado en la Colina Católica en el cementerio de la ciudad de Natchez.
El Padre John Gunn, un sacerdote marista del Condado de Tyrone, Irlanda, fue nombrado el sexto Obispo de Natchez por el Papa Pío X en 1911. El cultivó la relación de la diócesis con Extensión Católica la cual ayudaría en la construcción de capillas en todo el estado. En el momento de su muerte en 1924, casi todos los católicos en Mississippi podían ir a Misa en una de estas capillas al menos una vez al mes. Las iglesias católicas aumentaron de 75 a 149 durante su administración, y los católicos crecieron en número de 17.000 a más de 31.000. El Obispo Gunn murió en Nueva Orleáns en 1924 y está enterrado junto a su compatriota irlandés, Monseñor Thomas Heslin en la Colina Católica en el cementerio de la ciudad de Natchez.
El Padre Richard Oliver Gerow de Mobile fue nombrado el séptimo Obispo de Natchez por el Papa Pío XI. Trabajó durante 42 años y vio un crecimiento enorme de la Iglesia Católica en Mississippi. El número de sacerdotes aumentó de 63 a 222, y las iglesias aumentaron de 108 a 159. Durante su administración se incluyen los años de la inundación del Río Mississippi en 1927, la Gran Depresión, la Segunda Guerra Mundial, el conflicto de Corea, y el movimiento de los derechos civiles, incluyendo el trágico asesinato de Medgar Evers en Jackson. El Obispo Gerow supervisó la renovación del santuario de la catedral para la celebración del centenario de la diócesis en 1937.
Estaba particularmente interesado en el ecumenismo y es recordado por su postura cristiana en los primeros días de la integración escolar. Fue un historiador consumado y un fotógrafo ávido y documentó eventos y actividades numerosos de la Iglesia en toda la diócesis. En 1957, la Diócesis de Natchez se convirtió en la Diócesis de Natchez-Jackson. La Iglesia San Pedro en Jackson se convirtió en la co-catedral.
En 1967, Joseph Bernard Brunini fue nombrado el octavo Obispo de la diócesis y fue instalado el siguiente año en la co-catedral de San Pedro en Jackson, después de haber sido ordenado obispo en 1957 por el Papa Pío XII. El Obispo Brunini es nuestra única vocación nativa de Mississippi que ha servido como obispo en nuestros 180 años de historia. Su administración fue muy diversa – la implementación del Concilio Vaticano II, la continuación del movimiento de los derechos civiles, y la guerra de Vietnam. Supervisó la desegregación pacifica en las escuelas católicas de Mississippi y como un líder fuerte abordó los asuntos del ecumenismo, la evangelización, la pobreza y la justicia social.
En 1973, Joseph Lawson Howze fue nombrado Obispo Auxiliar de la Diócesis de Natchez-Jackson. En 1977, la Diócesis de Natchez-Jackson fue dividida para convertirse en la Diócesis de Jackson, compuesta de 65 condados del norte del estado, y la Diócesis de Biloxi, compuesta de más de 17 condados del sureste de Mississippi. En ese momento, el Obispo Howze se convirtió en el primer obispo de la Diócesis de Biloxi.
El Obispo William Russell Houck fue uno de 27 obispos ordenados por el Papa Juan Pablo II el 29 de mayo de 1979. Fue obispo auxiliar de la Diócesis de Jackson de 1979-1984, y fue instalado en 1984 como el noveno obispo de Jackson. Proclamar que Jesucristo es Señor fue el lema episcopal elegido por el Obispo Houck, el cual sería su misión durante casi 37 años como obispo en Jackson, a través de santificar, predicar, escribir, enseñar, liderar, servir a los pobres. En enero de 2003 el Papa Juan Pablo aceptó la renuncia del Obispo Houck y siguió sirviendo como el presidente de Extensión Católica hasta el 2007.
El Obispo Joseph Nuncio Latino, un nativo de New Orleans y sacerdote de Houma Thibodaux fue ordenado e instalado como el décimo obispo de Jackson en 2003 y sirvió hasta el 2014. Dedicó su ministerio como obispo a fomentar las iniciativas de la justicia social basada en el evangelio, al trabajo de dirigentes laicos y las vocaciones. Durante su mandato, la Oficina de Protección de los Niños fue establecida para ayudar a garantizar un seguro entorno para los niños en nuestras iglesias, escuelas y comunidades. Bajo su liderazgo, la iglesia implementó la nueva traducción en inglés del Misal Romano, y acompañó a la diócesis a través del proceso de misión y ministerio en el 2007 que condujo a las seis estructuras pastorales de los seis decanatos que sirven a la diócesis tan bien diez años más tarde.
Esto nos trae a mí, su Obispo Joseph Richard Kopacz de Scranton, PA. Fui ordenado e instalado como el undécimo obispo de Jackson en 2014. Durante los últimos tres años y medio la diócesis ha abrazado un proceso de visualización que ha inspirado una visión renovada con Prioridades Pastorales que se encuentra ahora en una fase de implementación diocesana.
Damos gracias por lo que ha sido y procedemos con esperanza para lo que será, como discípulos de nuestro Señor Jesucristo en nuestra fe católica.
(Nota del editor, busque más información sobre la consagración al Corazón Inmaculado de María en las próximas ediciones de Mississippi Catholic.)

Opisbo Chance

Strong foundation found in brief history of bishops

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

On July 28, the Diocese of Jackson quietly marked the 180th anniversary of its founding with the official promulgation by Pope Gregory XV1 as the 13th Catholic diocese in the United States. There are now nearly 200 Catholic dioceses in the country which makes us one of the great great grandparents.
For the 175th anniversary the diocese celebrated with a more formal and festive commemoration which was fitting for such an auspicious milestone. It is noteworthy also to acknowledge the 180-year marker with gratitude and pride, but there will not be diocesan wide celebrations for this anniversary. Like a fine wine we continue to age as we strive to be ever ancient and ever new in the proclamation of the Gospel in our time.
We will have the opportunity in October of this year to have a diocesan-wide commemoration for the 100th anniversary of our Blessed Mother’s appearances at Fatima. We will consecrate our diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a splendid way of marking our 180 anniversary as a diocese. The history of our diocese is expansive and multidimensional and I choose the lens of the 11 diocesan bishops to present a sliver of our legacy of faith.
Four years after the founding of the diocese, Bishop John Joseph Chanche from Baltimore arrived in Natchez in 1841 to plant and nurture the Catholic faith which was truly in an embryonic state. At the time of his unexpected death in 1852 he had established 11 parishes in Mississippi in Paulding Biloxi, Jackson, Bay St Louis, Pass Christian, Vicksburg, Sulphur Springs, Pearlington, Port Gibson and Yazoo City. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the first Catholic School in the state, an academy for young ladies, opened in Natchez by three of his nieces, a sign of great love for their uncle.
The Daughters of Charity also came in 1847 to begin the tradition of Catholic Education at Cathedral School in Natchez, marking its 170th anniversary. Bishop Oliver Van de Velde, S.J. arrived in Natchez at a tragic time — the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic in the region, which killed some 750 people in Natchez and more than 7,800 in New Orleans. The former president of St. Louis University, Bishop Van de Velde, moved quickly to continue the work of Bishop Chanche.
Another milestone for the Catholic Church in Mississippi occurred in 1855 with the opening of St. Stanislaus College in Bay Saint Louis. Five Brothers of the Sacred Heart served as the faculty, the beginning of their proud history in the diocese. Bishop Van de Velde succumbed to the yellow fever outbreak and died in 1855, as did 40 parishioners. Bishop William Henry Elder was ordained and installed at the third bishop of Jackson in 1857 and served until 1880.
During Bishop Elder’s administration, the Civil War consumed the nation in violence and bloodshed for four years. Bishop Elder ministered to soldiers and celebrated Mass for the wounded throughout the war. He also ministered to a community of freedmen formed in Natchez by slaves who fled after the city was occupied in 1863 by federal troops. Under Union occupation, the Bishop was expelled from Natchez and imprisoned in Vidalia, Louisiana, for refusing to pray for the United States government.
During the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, the Bishop personally ministered to victims and contracted the disease himself. He survived, but six diocesan priests were among the many who perished. Bishop Elder was named Coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1880 and would later become Archbishop where he served until 1904. When he left Mississippi, there were 19 priests, 42 churches, 12 schools for white children, three schools for black children, and a Catholic population of 12,500. In 1881 Pope Leo X11 appointed Francis August Janssens of New Orleans as the fourth bishop of Jackson.
Bishop Janssens focused on the completion of the cathedral, contracting for the building of the sacristy and installing a pipe organ. Catholic education was a hallmark of his time in Mississippi. When he arrived in 1881, there were 15 schools; when he left for New Orleans seven years later, there were 26. During his administration a mission among the Choctaws at Tucker began, creating a school staffed by three Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters of Charity began teaching African-American children in the original presbytery during this time. In 1888 Bishop Janssens was transferred to become Archbishop of New Orleans. Father Thomas Heslin of County Longford, Ireland, a pastor in New Orleans, was named the fifth Bishop of the diocese by Pope Leo XIII.
One of Bishop Heslin’s major initiatives was to evangelize and establish missions among African Americans. Bishop Heslin invited the Society of St. Joseph and the Society of the Divine Word to staff missions among black Mississippians. In 1890 Holy Family Parish in Natchez was established as the first parish in the diocese dedicated to ministering in the African American community. Saint Mother Katharine Drexel was instrumental in building a school for the children of Holy Family in Natchez.
In 1894 the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened a school for boys in Natchez. Bishop Heslin died after 22 years of service to the Diocese and was buried on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery. Father John Gunn, a Marist priest, from County Tyrone, Ireland was appointed the sixth Bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius X in 1911. He cultivated the diocese’s relationship with Catholic Extension to help in the building of chapels throughout the state. By the time of his death in 1924, almost every Catholic in Mississippi was able to reach one of these chapels for Mass at least once a month.
Catholic churches grew from 75 to 149 during his administration, and Catholics grew in number from 17,000 to more than 31,000. Bishop Gunn died in New Orleans in 1924 and is buried beside his fellow Irishman Bishop Thomas Heslin on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery. Father Richard Oliver Gerow of Mobile was appointed the seventh Bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius XI. He served for 42 years and saw a tremendous growth in the Catholic Church in Mississippi. Priests grew in number from 63 to 222, and churches increased from 108 to 159.
His administration included the years of the 1927 Mississippi River Flood, Great Depression, World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Civil Rights Movement, including the tragic murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson. Bishop Gerow oversaw the renovation of the cathedral sanctuary in celebration of the centennial of the Diocese in 1937. He was especially interested in ecumenism and is remembered for his Christian stand in the first days of school integration. He was a consummate historian and an avid photographer and documented many church activities and events throughout the Diocese. In 1957, the Diocese of Natchez became the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson. St Peter Church in Jackson became the Co-Cathedral.
In 1967, Joseph Bernard Brunini was named eighth Bishop of the Diocese and was installed the following year at that co-cathedral, having been ordained a bishop in 1957 by Pope Pius XII. Bishop Brunini is our only native Mississippi vocation to serve as bishop in our 180-year history. His administration was quite diverse — implementation of Vatican II, the continuing Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. He oversaw peaceful school desegregation in Mississippi’s Catholic schools, and as a strong leader he addressed such issues as ecumenism, evangelization, poverty and social justice. In 1973, Joseph Lawson Howze was named Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson. In 1977, the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson was divided to become the Diocese of Jackson, comprised of the northern 65 counties of the state, and the Diocese of Biloxi, made up of the southeastern most 17 counties of Mississippi. At that time, Bishop Howze became the first Bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi. Bishop William Russell Houck was one of 27 bishops ordained by Pope John Paul II on May, 29, 1979. He was auxiliary bishop for the Jackson diocese from 1979-1984 when he was installed in 1984 as the ninth Bishop of Jackson.
“Proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord” is the episcopal motto chosen by Bishop Houck, which would be his mission for nearly 37 years as a bishop in Jackson, through sanctifying, preaching, writing, teaching, leading, serving the poor. In January, 2003 Saint John Paul accepted Bishop Houck’s resignation and he continued to serve as the president of Catholic Extension until 2007. Bishop Joseph Nuncio Latino, a native of New Orleans, and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was ordained and installed as the 10th bishop of Jackson in 2003 and served until 2014. He devoted his ministry as bishop to fostering Gospel-based social justice initiatives, lay leadership, and vocations.
During his tenure the office for Protection of Children was established to help insure a safe environment for children in our churches, schools and communities. Under his leadership the church implemented the new English translation of the Roman Missal, and he shepherded the diocese through the Mission and Ministry process in 2007 that led to the six deanery pastoral structure that serve the diocese so well ten years later.
This brings us to yours truly, Bishop Joseph Richard Kopacz of Scranton, Pa. I was ordained and installed as the 11th Bishop of Jackson in 2014. During the past three and one half years the diocese has embraced an Envisioning Process that has inspired a renewed Vision with Pastoral Priorities that is now in a diocesan-wide implementation phase. We give thanks for what has been, and we proceed with hope for what will be as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ in our Catholic faith.
(Editor’s note, look for more information on the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in upcoming editions of Mississippi Catholic.)

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: Joy of the Gospel in America

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

The United States Catholic Conference was born in 1917 as a response to the demands of WW1 in order to have a national organization with a national voice. In anticipation of the anniversary of the centenary, nearly 10 years ago the planning began. Providentially, the Conference of Bishops really found their stride in the planning stages with the publication in 2013 of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel. The convocation discovered its name and its purpose. Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.
Over the four-day convocation, July 1-4, there were nearly 3,500 participants, representing the face of the Church in America. There were approximately 3,000 religious and lay leaders across the spectrum of church ministries and organizations. There were 155 bishops, mostly Latin Rite, but also Eastern Rite, representing their dioceses from around the nation, and nearly 500 priests and permanent deacons. In total, there were 185 national Catholic organizations on hand. Some described it as a World Youth Day for adults, something resembling a retreat and a pep rally. It was a well-balanced event. The keynote addresses were inspiring and engaging, and the panels that immediately followed them enlarged the depth and breath of vision of the speakers. Perhaps, even more valuable were the break-out sessions that were not lectures but conversations on an array of topics addressing the reality of modern society and how to respond as the Lord’s disciples in the spirit and conviction of the Joy of the Gospel.
In fact, conversations were the hallmark of this Convocation, and in whatever direction one turned bishops were speaking with their diocesan delegations, and in every corner and at every table, participants were in animated dialogue. The drumbeat throughout was the call to missionary discipleship for all who define themselves as Catholic in the 21st century. We are to go to the margins, to the peripheries to encounter and accompany the poor and marginalized. This could well be a family member, the young, the old, the poor, those close at hand, those out of sight and mind. This is the apostolic leadership of Pope Francis, the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles powerfully unpacked this reality in his Keynote Address. “The peripheries are parts of our cities and rural areas we never visit, the other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are prisons and the tent cities in our public places. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about, where people are wounded and feel their lives have no meaning and make no difference, trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception. The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world, and these peripheries are new mission territories. The Church has always been present in the peripheries, but we can do better; we are called to do more.”
Overall, the Convocation was a great sign of unity in the Church in the United States and people were there for the right reasons. In this gathering the Bishops experienced their national conference not only as a bureaucracy, but also as a phenomenal tool for engaging our entire Church in its 21c mission. Church leaders seemed to be trying something new, another way that hasn’t been tried. All of the people were willing to sacrifice their leisurely 4th of July holiday and go to learn and be challenged. They didn’t go to be patted on the back but to learn. How can we share Christ better?
A cross fertilization of ministries, a great sign of unity for certain, and all were challenged to hear the voices of the poor and marginalized. The Convocation lit up social media for four days, which meant that the Joy of the Gospel was pulsating through cyberspace, plantings seeds of faith, hope and love. In the Diocese of Jackson the implementation of our vision and Pastoral Priorities is well underway. The path ahead is to inspire disciples, to serve others and to embrace diversity by being inviting and reconciling communities, by being intentional about life long faith formation, and by proclaiming Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith.
The Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the Joy of the Gospel in America enlarges our vision with the exhortation to be missionary disciples who break out of our comfort zones and go the poor and marginalized with ever renewed vigor in the work of proclaiming the crucified and risen Lord by living the Gospel in all of its truth, goodness and beauty.

 

Los jóvenes, la fe y el discernimiento vocacional

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

El documento preparatorio en previsión al 2018 Sínodo Mundial sobre los Jóvenes, la fe y el discernimiento vocacional  recuerda la progresión constante del diálogo que la Iglesia tiene con el mundo moderno en el tercer milenio. Los próximos párrafos del documento preparatorio ofrecen este contexto. “Estas cosas os he hablado para que mi gozo esté en vosotros, y vuestro gozo sea colmado” (Jn 15, 11). Este es el plan de Dios para todos los hombres y mujeres de todas las edades, incluyendo a todos los jóvenes, hombres y mujeres del tercer milenio, sin excepción.
Proclamar la alegría del Evangelio es la misión confiada por el Señor a su Iglesia. El Sínodo sobre la Nueva Evangelización y la Exhortación Apostólica Evangelii Gaudium trataron en cómo llevar a cabo esta misión en el mundo de hoy. Los dos Sínodos sobre la familia y la Exhortación Apostólica postsinodal Amoris laetitia, fueron en lugar de ello, dedicados a ayudar a las familias a encontrar esta alegría.
En consonancia con esta misión e introduciendo un nuevo enfoque a través de un Sínodo con el tema “Los jóvenes, la fe y el discernimiento vocacional”, la Iglesia ha decidido examinarse a sí misma en cómo ella puede conducir a los jóvenes a reconocer y aceptar la llamada a la plenitud de la vida y el amor, y a pedirle a la gente joven para que la ayude a identificar los métodos más eficaces para anunciar la Buena Nueva de hoy.
Al escuchar a los jóvenes, la Iglesia volverá a escuchar al Señor hablando en el mundo de hoy. Como en los días de Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 3:1-21) y Jeremías (cf. Jeremías 1:4-10), los jóvenes saben discernir los signos de los tiempos, indicado por el Espíritu. Escuchando sus aspiraciones, la Iglesia puede vislumbrar el mundo que tenemos por delante y las rutas a las que la Iglesia está llamada.”
Esta es una interesante iniciativa y representa el compromiso del Papa Francisco y la iglesia para promover el diálogo, el discernimiento y la dirección de la Iglesia en el mundo moderno. Es un diálogo dentro de la Iglesia y más allá de la Iglesia.
Un estudio longitudinal recientemente publicado por el Centro de religión y sociedad de la Universidad de Notre Dame ofrece una seria pero esperanzadora realidad sobre la transmisión de la fe de una generación a la siguiente. Hicieron la punzante pregunta, ¿por qué es la pérdida de la identidad católica, tan común en los Estados Unidos? Tienen una investigación basada en la perspectiva desde la cual  proponen una respuesta. “Después de mirar cuidadosamente a jóvenes adultos católicos actuales y anteriores, encontramos motivos de inquietud y razones para esperanza. Por un lado, muchos de ellos se sienten alienados o sospechoso de la religión organizada.
Muchos piensan que la religión viola los principios de la ciencia y la lógica. Muchos están simplemente más concentrados en otras cosas, tales como terminar la escuela, pasar tiempo con sus amigos, encontrar una pareja romántica, conseguir un buen trabajo y lograr propósitos necesarios.
Muchos de ellos se resisten a la idea de la doctrina o a la sugerencia de que la religión es algo más que una elección personal, como el tipo de música que uno prefiere. Por otro lado, muchos católicos adultos todavía creen y oran a Dios y tienen la opinión de Dios no lejos de la doctrina católica. Muchos de ellos ven el valor de la obra de caridad de la Iglesia y piensan que la religión es generalmente una buena cosa para la sociedad.
Algunos están abiertos a la idea de volver a la Iglesia, especialmente cuando piensan en comenzar su propia familia… La Iglesia necesita comprenderlos en su lugar particular en la vida y a buscarlos. La religión y la fe están todavía evidentes en sus historias, aunque no de una manera que la Iglesia normalmente considera fieles.” Todo este proceso por delante no será reinventar la rueda. Será construir sobre los esfuerzos de la evangelización que está ya trabajando con los  jóvenes (edades 16-29) en nuestro país y donde la Iglesia está presente, en las familias, en las escuelas católicas, educación religiosa, y a través de una serie de ministerios para y con los jóvenes.
En los Estados Unidos los esfuerzos de evangelización y catequesis de Mateo Kelly y Dynamic Católica, con un personal de 100 personas, cuyo promedio de edad es entre mediados y finales de los 20s, han sido una transformación de energía en los últimos años en la iglesia y en la sociedad. El Obispo Auxiliar Robert Barren de Los Ángeles a través de su escritura, predicación y enseñanza, y más recientemente a través de su proyecto Palabra en Fuego, se centra especialmente en la obra de evangelización de la cultura a través de la visión de casi 2000 años de sabiduría y verdad.
El Reverendo Robert Spitzer, S.J., ex presidente de la Universidad Gonzaga, y ahora Director del Instituto Magis en Irving, California, tiene un fuerte compromiso para conciliar la fe con tres áreas críticas que suelen empujar una apertura a Dios a los márgenes: ciencia, sufrimiento y una vida de virtud. CARA, el Centro de Investigación Aplicada en el Apostolado, también contribuirá poderosamente a este proceso que conduce al Sínodo de sus investigaciones sobre los millennials.
La Diócesis de Jackson estará involucrada en este proceso durante la fase preparatoria y se ha comprometido a estudiar y aplicar el conocimiento y la comprensión que emerjan a través del Sínodo, y después con la visión del Papa Francisco. Creo que es oportuno finalizar esta columna con las palabras de dos de nuestros jóvenes que fueron confirmados recientemente.
Su formación en la fe para el sacramento de la confirmación, revelan el poder de Dios trabajando en su generación. “Quiero ser confirmada porque quiero vivir mejor, para estar más cerca de Dios, para estar más madura en mi fe y ayudar a otros a estar más cerca de Dios” y “Mi amor por el servicio ha crecido cada vez más a lo largo de mi confirmación a través de mi compromiso personal de servir a Cristo y a la Iglesia. Me siento agradecido y bendecido por seguir la misión de Dios para mí.”
Que nunca nos cansemos de combatir el buen combate de la fe de una generación a la siguiente, sabiendo que el Señor está siempre con nosotros hasta el fin de los tiempos.

Young people, faith, and vocational discernment: bishops begin synod work

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz

Bishop Kopacz

The preparatory document in anticipation of the 2018 World Wide Catholic Synod on Young People, The Faith, and Vocational Discernment recalls the steady progression of the dialogue that the Church is having with the modern world in the third millennium. The next few paragraphs from the preparatory document offer this context. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11). This is God’s plan for all men and women in every age, including all the young men and women of the Third Millennium, without exception.
Proclaiming the joy of the Gospel is the mission entrusted by the Lord to his Church. The Synod on the New Evangelization and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium treated how to accomplish this mission in today’s world. The two synods on the family and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia were, instead, dedicated to helping families find this joy. In keeping with this mission and introducing a new approach through a Synod with the topic, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today. By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. As in the days of Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 3:1-21) and Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1:4-10), young people know how to discern the signs of our times, indicated by the Spirit. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called.”
This is an exciting undertaking and it represents the commitment of Pope Francis and the Church to further the dialogue, discernment, and direction of the Church in the modern world. It’s a dialogue within in the Church and beyond the Church. A recently published longitudinal study from the Center of Religion and Society from the University of Notre Dame offers a sobering yet hopeful reality on the transmission of faith from one generation to the next. They asked the poignant question, why is the loss of Catholic Identity so common in the United States?
They have a research-based perspective from which to propose an answer. “After looking closely at current and former Catholic young adults, we find causes for concern, and reasons for hope. On the one hand, many of them feel alienated from or suspicious of organized religion. Many think that religion violates the principles of science and logic. Many are simply more consumed with other things, like getting through school, spending time with friends, finding a romantic partner, getting a good job, and making ends meet. Many of them are resistant to the idea of doctrine or the suggestion that religion is anything more than a personal choice, like the kind of music one prefers. On the other hand, many formerly Catholic emerging adults still believe in and pray to God, and have a view of God not far from Catholic teaching. Many of them see value in the Church’s charity work and think religion is generally a good thing for society. Some are open to the idea of going back to the Church, particularly when they think about starting a family of their own… The Church needs to understand them in their particular place in life and to seek them out. Religion and faith are still evident in their stories, even if not in ways that the Church normally considers faithful.”
This entire process ahead will not be reinventing the wheel. It will be building upon the efforts of evangelization already at work with young people (ages 16-29) in our nation and wherever the Church is present, in families, in Catholic schools, religious education programs, and through a host of ministries for and with young people. In the United States the evangelization and catechetical efforts of Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic, with a staff of 100 whose average age is mid to late 20s, have been a transforming energy in recent years in the church and in society.
Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barren of Los Angeles through his writing, preaching and teaching, and most recently through his Word on Fire project is focused especially on the work of evangelization in culture through the lens of nearly 2,000 years of wisdom and truth. Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., the former president of Gonzaga University, and now the Director of the Magis Institute in Irving California, has a strong commitment to reconciling faith with three critical areas that often push an openness to God to the margins: science, suffering and a life of virtue. CARA the Applied Center of Research in the Apostolate will also contribute mightily to this process leading to the Synod from their research on millennials.
The Diocese of Jackson will be engaged in this process during the preparatory phase and will be committed to studying and implementing the knowledge and understanding that emerge through the Synod and afterwards with the vision of Pope Francis. I think it is fitting to end this column with the words of two of our recently confirmed young people.
Their formation in the faith leading to the Sacrament of Confirmation reveals the power of God at work in their generation. “I want to be confirmed because I want to live better, to be closer to God, more mature in my faith and help others be closer to God” and “My love for service has increasingly grown throughout my Confirmation through my personal commitment to serve Christ and the Church. I am grateful and blessed to follow God’s mission for me.”
May we never tire of fighting the good fight of faith from one generation to the next knowing that the Lord is with us always until the end of time.
(To follow: Understanding Former Young Catholics)

Creando cultura de cumplimiento, transparencia, confianza

Por Opisbo Joseph Kopacz
En la columna de esta semana voy a resaltar nuestra Oficina Diocesana para la Protección de Niños, para conmemorar el 15º aniversario de la carta de los obispos de la conferencia episcopal en Dallas, la Promesa de Proteger y la Promesa de Sanar, promulgada en medio de la crisis de abuso sexual en el 2002. Esto está en sincronía con el informe presentado a los obispos católicos de la Junta de Examen Nacional en nuestra reciente conferencia en Indianápolis para conmemorar el 15º aniversario. Un resumen de este reporte está incluido en esta publicación (página 1), así como la homilía del Arzobispo Wilton Gregory de Atlanta durante la misa de oración y penitencia de los obispos en la  conferencia (página 16).
La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos escribió y promulgó la carta en el 2002, a fin de responsabilizar a todas las diócesis católicas, eparquías y a las órdenes religiosas que prestan servicios en los Estados Unidos con respecto a su compromiso de proteger a los niños y los jóvenes. Recientemente fuí nombrado parte del Comité Permanente para la Protección de los Niños y Jóvenes de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos’ y es un privilegio servir en esta causa.
   Durante los últimos 15 años, la Diócesis de Jackson ha trabajado con seriedad para crear una cultura de cumplimiento y transparencia para proteger a nuestros niños y jóvenes, así como para proporcionar la oportunidad de sanar a aquellos que sufren de abuso sexual. Además, todas las alegaciones creíbles son reportadas a la policía, aún cuando los estatutos de limitación hayan expirado.
¿Contra qué estamos luchando? Por su propia naturaleza, el demonio del abuso sexual infantil se alimenta en secreto, en manipulaciones y mentiras, y sus actos deben ser sacados de las tinieblas a la luz de la verdad, la sanación y la esperanza.
Dondequiera y cuando quiera que se produzca, el abuso de menores es un crimen y mantener un estado constante de vigilancia en nombre de nuestros niños y jóvenes es nuestra norma diocesana. Aquellos que tienen el deseo de abusar de menores son conducidos por sus instintos más básicos y manteniendo nuestros ambientes seguros sin duda mantiene al lobo acorralado. Nunca podemos ser complacientes. Usted podría preguntarse, ¿Qué es, precisamente, lo que la Diócesis de Jackson está haciendo regularmente para cultivar una cultura de medios ambientes seguros?
La Oficina Diocesana de Protección de los Niños dirigida por Vicki Carollo y bajo el auspicio de nuestro Vicario General, el Padre Kevin Slattery, es responsable de obtener los objetivos de la carta, participando en una auditoría anual realizada por Stonebridge Business Partners. Stonebridge es contratada a través de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos. La diócesis de Jackson ha cumplido con todos los artículos de la Carta  para la Protección de los Niños y Jóvenes todos los años desde el 2003.
Cada uno de los empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes reciben el documento Protección de Niños – Diócesis de Jackson. Este documento es la política de la diócesis con varios componentes en la prevención del abuso de menores y los procedimientos a seguir cuando se reciben informes de abusos de niños o mala conducta sexual cometidos por personal de la Iglesia.
Desde octubre de 2002, la diócesis de Jackson ha iniciado investigaciones de antecedentes criminales y ha realizado sesiones de capacitación sobre ambiente seguro a 14,647 adultos. Actualmente en la diócesis hay 4,934 empleados activos y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes.
Una investigación de antecedentes criminales se realiza antes y durante el servicio del solicitante. Una nueva investigación de antecedentes penales se inicia cada tres años. Todos los clérigos, religiosos, empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes deben completar el proceso de investigación y completar la aplicación de la Diócesis de Jackson. Un formulario de acuse de recibo deberá estar firmado por el solicitante, indicando que el documento ha sido leído y entienden el plan antes de comenzar un ministerio.
La diócesis de Jackson ha designado que todos los nuevos empleados y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes participen en una sesión de capacitación inicial sobre medio ambiente seguro. Se requiere que un entrenador facilite la capacitación. Cada nuevo solicitante está obligado a firmar un acta de asistencia a la sesión de capacitación.
A partir de septiembre, la diócesis implementará el programa de conocimiento VIRTUS, Protegiendo a los Hijos de Dios para todos los nuevos empleados y voluntarios. Este programa de formación educa a los adultos sobre cómo convertirse en mejores protectores de los niños contra los abusos. Se requiere que un entrenador facilite la capacitación. En septiembre se ofrecerán tres sesiones para entrenar a los entrenadores.
Todos los empleados activos y voluntarios que trabajan con niños y jóvenes participan en el programa Virtus en el internet. Este programa  es un boletín mensual sobre medio ambiente seguro. La persona lee el boletín, responde a una pregunta de opción múltiple al final del boletín y envía la respuesta a VIRTUS. El boletín mensual proporciona valiosos conocimientos y formación permanente para la prevención del abuso infantil.
Anualmente cada parroquia y colegio presenta una reunión de información para los padres. Los padres tienen la oportunidad de que sus hijos no participen en  la sesión sobre entorno seguro. Si se diera el caso, es nuestra esperanza que los padres revisen el material de la lección con sus hijos.
La lección  está diseñada para ayudarlos a mantenerse seguro ofreciéndoles las habilidades importantes que necesitan para protegerse del abuso. La lección proporciona además el diálogo entre niños y adultos acerca de cómo mantenerse seguro.
La diócesis de Jackson está comprometida a asegurarse que nadie que está siendo servido por la iglesia corre el riesgo de abuso o explotación sexual por parte del clero, religiosos, religiosas o laicos eclesiásticos. Las parroquias y escuelas trabajan muy duro para dar cumplimiento al Programa de Protección de los Niños. Recientemente, la Secretaría de protección de la infancia y la juventud incluyó nuestra comunicación electrónica de política de protección de niños en el nuevo recurso “Toolbox”. Este es sin duda un espaldarazo para nuestro programa de protección de los niños. Los recursos son compartidos con todas las diócesis católicas en los Estados Unidos.
Como un motor afinado, el mencionado curso de acción tiene muchas piezas móviles y es sólo tan fuerte como su eslabón más débil o no implementado paso. La complacencia y/o atajos pueden poner a un niño o a un joven en peligro, y esto es una violación de la confianza.
Esforzarse por la excelencia en los ambientes seguros en todas las reuniones relacionadas con la iglesia es nuestra meta en la Diócesis de Jackson. Para lograr este alto estándar, conlleva la plena y activa participación de muchos en toda la diócesis. Gracias a todos los que sirven en nombre de nuestros niños y jóvenes. Estos son los hijos de Dios, miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo y templo del Espíritu Santo. Que ellos pueden prosperar como miembros de nuestra iglesia.

Creating culture of compliance, transparency, trust

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
In this week’s column I am highlighting our diocesan office for the Protection of Children to mark the 15th anniversary of the Catholic bishops’ Dallas Charter, also known as the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal, promulgated in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002. This is in sync with the report to the Catholic bishops by the head of the National Review Board at our just finished conference in Indianapolis.
A summary of this report is included in this publication (see page 1) as well as the homily of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta during the bishop’s Mass of Prayer and Penance at the Conference (see page 16). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote and promulgated the Charter in 2002 in order to hold accountable all Catholic dioceses, eparchies and religious orders serving in the United States with respect to their commitment to protect children and young people. Most recently, I was appointed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing committee for the protection of children and young people and it is a privilege to serve this cause. During the last 15 years, the Diocese of Jackson has worked earnestly to create a culture of compliance and transparency to protect our children and young people as well as to provide the opportunity to heal for those who suffer from sexual abuse. Furthermore, all credible allegations are reported to law enforcement, whether or not the statutes of limitation have run.
What are we up against? By its very nature the demon of child sexual abuse feeds on secrecy, manipulation and lies and its deeds must be brought out of darkness into the light of truth, healing and hope. Wherever and whenever it occurs the abuse of minors is a crime and maintaining a steady state of vigilance on behalf of our children and young people is our diocesan standard. Those who have the urge to abuse minors are driven by their baser instincts and safe environments undoubtedly keep the wolf at bay. We can never become complacent. You might ask, what precisely is the Diocese of Jackson doing on a regular basis to cultivate a culture for safe environments?
The diocesan office for the protection of children, directed by Vicki Carollo, and under the auspice of our vicar general, Father Kevin Slattery, is accountable for achieving the goals of the Charter by participating in an annual audit performed by Stonebridge Business Partners. Stonebridge is contracted through the USCCB. The Diocese of Jackson has been found compliant with all articles of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People each year since 2003.
Each employee and volunteer working with children and young people receives a booklet containing the policy of the diocese with various components on the prevention of child abuse and procedures to be followed when reports of child abuse or sexual misconduct by church personnel are received.
Since October, 2002, the Diocese of Jackson has initiated criminal background screenings and safe environment training sessions for 14,647 adults. There are currently 4,934 active employees and volunteers working with children and young people in the diocese.
A criminal background screening is conducted prior to and during an applicant’s service. A criminal background rescreening is initiated every three years. All clergy, religious, employees and volunteers working with children and young people must complete the screening process and the Diocese of Jackson application. Applicants sign a form acknowledging they have read and understand the policy prior to beginning a ministry.
The Diocese of Jackson has designated that all new employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in an initial safe environment training session facilitated by a diocesan trainer. Each new applicant is required to sign an attendance record of the training attended.
Beginning in September, the Diocese will implement VIRTUS’ Protecting God’s Children Awareness Program for new employees and volunteers. The program educates adults on how to better protect children from abuse. There are three training-the-trainer sessions scheduled in September.
All active employees and volunteers working with children and young people participate in VIRTUS’ web-based program. This online program consists of a monthly safe environment bulletin. The adult reads the bulletin, answers a multiple-choice question and submits the answer to VIRTUS. The bulletins provide invaluable knowledge and ongoing formation for the prevention of child abuse.
Children and young people in the parishes and schools are required to receive an annual age-appropriate safe environment lesson. The lesson is designed to help children keep themselves safe by providing the important skills they need to protect themselves from abuse. The lesson additionally provides dialogue between children and adults about keeping safe.
Each parish and school presents a parent information meeting annually. Parents have an opportunity to opt their children out from the safe environment lesson. Of course, we hope parents who decide to opt out will review the lesson material with their children on their own.
The Diocese of Jackson is committed to ensuring that no one being served by the church be at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel. The parishes and schools work very hard to stay in compliance with the Protection of Children program.
Recently, the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection included our Protection of Children Electronic Communications Policy in the new “resource toolbox.” This is certainly an accolade for our program. The resources are shared with all Catholic dioceses in the United States.
Like a finely-tuned engine the above course of action has many moving parts and is only as strong as its weakest link or non-implemented step. Complacency and/or shortcuts can put a child or young person in harm’s way and this is a violation of trust. Striving for excellence with safe environments in all church related gatherings is our goal in the Diocese of Jackson.
To achieve this high standard, it takes the full and active participation of many throughout the diocese. Thank you to all who serve on behalf of our children and young people. These are God’s children, members of the Body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit. May they thrive as members of our church.

U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

By Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their ministry.
He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is “not a thing of past” and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not “let complacency set in” in their efforts to stop it.
The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.
Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised the bishops for what they’ve accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world.
In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The report – based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016 – shows that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318 clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the present.
The review board chair said he was pleased with the high number of dioceses participating in the audit, noting that only two did not participate, down from six the previous year. He said all dioceses have indicated that they will participate in the next audit.
The value of participating in the audit “can’t be overemphasized,” he said.
One weak spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.
Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, stressed that the review board wants to help the Catholic Church by providing tools to implement the charter and even to work on improving the charter by making it more specific.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appointed four new members to serve on the review board. The new members, announced June 14, are: Amanda Callanan, director of communications for the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank; Suzanne Healy, victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007-2016; Dr. Christopher McManus, who practices internal medicine and is an active member of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; and Eileen Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.
Cesareo will continue to chair the review board until his term expires in 2020.
Prior to his presentation to the bishops, Margaret Simonson, chair of the U.S. bishops’ National Advisory Council, a group of laypeople who advise the bishops, gave her report.
She said the council supported several items on the bishops’ agenda for their June 14-15 meeting, particularly discussion about religious liberty, which she said was so important in “this particular time in history.”
She also said the council supported the “Mass of Prayer and Penance” being celebrated in the early evening June 14 for survivors of sexual abuse within the church, the discussion of revised guidelines for people with disabilities and an update on the upcoming convocation for Catholic leaders taking place in Orlando, Florida, July1-4.
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz has joined the committee for the protection of children. Read more about his appointment and child protection efforts in this diocese on page 3 and 16.)

BISHOP KOPACZ SCHEDULE

Monday, June 12 – 17 – USCCB Spring Assembly Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana
Sunday. June 18, 8:30 a.m. – Sister Anne Brooks of Tutwiler 60th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving and reception, Clarksdale Immaculate Conception Parish
Friday, June 23, 5 p.m. – Mass to celebrate Feast of the Sacred Heart – Sacred Heart Southern Missions 75th Anniversary, Southaven, Christ the King
Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m. – Mass orf Thanksgiving – 60th Anniversary Father Tom Delaney, Crystal Springs, St. John
Sunday, June 25, 8 a.m. – Mass, Natchez, Holy Family
Sunday, June 25, 11 a.m. – Mass and Parish Picnic, Fayette, St. Anne
Only public events are listed on this schedule and all events are subject to change.
Please check with the local parish for further details

Words for our Confirmandi

By Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron

One of the greatest privileges I have as a bishop is the opportunity to preside at the sacrament of Confirmation. A drawback, however, is that I am obligated to conduct more than 40 Confirmations in roughly a two month period — which means that I become tired, rather quickly, of my own homily! As a result, I’m frequently shifting gears, trying out new ideas, looking at the complex phenomenon of Confirmation from a variety of angles. I want to share with you in this article some of the key ideas in the latest iteration of my Confirmation sermon.
Immediately prior to the prayer, which calls down the Spirit on the candidates, the bishop leads them in a re-affirmation of their baptismal promises. I tell the young people that parents and godparents made these promises for them when they were babies, but that now they will have the responsibility of making them in their own name and while they stand on their own two feet.
The first promise is negative in form, which is only natural, for to set one’s face is necessarily to set one’s back. And so the confirmandi declare that they renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises. These empty promises, I tell them, can be heard everywhere in the popular culture. They are in practically every movie they watch, every song they listen to, every casual conversation in which they engage: “you will be happy if you just get enough wealth, enough pleasure, enough power, and enough honor; if you fill up the empty heart with a sufficient amount of these worldly goods, you will find satisfaction.” At this point, I usually ask them to consider the image of the crucified Jesus, prominently displayed in the church. Notice, I say, that we don’t have an image of Bill Gates or Donald Trump or Beyonce on the central axis of the room, but rather that of a man being tortured to death, someone devoid of all wealth, pleasure, power or honor.
The remaining promises assert what the confirmandi are for. The first of these positive formulations is the simple assertion of belief in God. This is much more than a statement of intellectual conviction; it is, instead, an affirmation of the meaning and direction of one’s life. To believe in God, is to know, I tell the young people, that your life is not about you. A baby’s life is all about himself, the meeting of his immediate needs. But as the child matures, he realizes, increasingly, that he has obligations and connections beyond himself — to his family, his community, his culture, his country, and finally to God. The central narrative of the Bible — repeated again and again — is that people find who they are precisely in the measure that they hear and follow the voice of God inviting them on mission. To say, therefore, that you believe in God is to break out of the shell of a self-regarding egotism and to launch out into the deep, to go on a spiritual adventure.
Next, the confirmandi are invited to announce their belief in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” I ask them to concentrate on the word “Lord.” The Lord is the one who has mastery, who controls, who literally dominates, (from the Latin word Dominus). Everyone in the world has a Lord. It might be a person, a country, an ideology, a political party or an institution, but everyone is beholden to something or someone.
As Nobel laureate Bob Dylan memorably put it: “You gotta serve somebody/ It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/ But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” To claim the Lordship of Jesus is to acknowledge that every aspect of one’s life belongs to him and comes under his sway. It is to be branded as Jesus’ own. I remind the confirmandi that Confirmation, along with Baptism and Holy Orders, is a “character” sacrament, meaning that it permanently marks the one who receives it, and that, appropriately enough, the word “character” is derived from a Greek term meaning “brand.”
After declaring their belief in the Son, the confirmandi are invited to affirm their belief in the “Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” The Holy Spirit, I explain, is the love that obtains from all eternity between the Father and the Son. Gazing at one another, the first two divine persons breathe forth their mutual love, and this holy breath is the Spiritus Sanctus. Therefore, the Spirit is the love that God is. Now in the first promise, the confirmandi announce what they are against, namely, the claim that wealth, power, pleasure or honor will make them happy; in this promise, they unambiguously declare what alone is sufficient to satisfy the infinite longing of their heart: the infinite love that God is. Don’t worry, I tell them, about whether you are rich or poor, famous or forgotten, powerful or powerless; worry, instead, about whether you are growing in your capacity to love. For love is what your heart finally cares about, and love is what you will carry with you into heaven, when you leave all the rest behind.
Finally, the young people are invited to affirm their belief in “the holy catholic Church.” In an anti-institutional, anti-authority time such as ours, this is a hard promise to make, but they have to remember, I tell them, what the Church is. The Church of Jesus Christ is not an organization or a club. From such a voluntary society, one can legitimately withdraw. But as Paul told us long ago, the Church is not an organization, but an organism, a living body, of which Christ is the head and all of the baptized are cells, molecules and organs. The Church is the mystical body that the Logos has taken to himself, just as surely as he took to himself a physical body in Palestine two thousand years ago; accordingly, it is the vehicle by which he continues to do his work in the world.
To withdraw from it, therefore, is to block the flow of grace. Many of the confirmandi, at least here in Los Angeles, wear red gowns that look very much like graduation robes. I emphatically tell them that these are not graduation gowns, but gowns of initiation, for Confirmation is not an end but a beginning. Renouncing Satan, believing in God, the Lordship of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit, fully initiated in the Church, they are now ready to start.  Just a few months ago, Pope Francis made the same point when speaking to a group of Italian students approaching Confirmation. Remember, he said, Confirmation is not the sacramento di arrivaderci! (the sacrament of “see ya later”).
I always assure those I confirm that I will remember them in prayer. Could I invite anyone who reads these words to pray for the army of fully-initiated members of Christ’s mystical body who have been confirmed this year?
(Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.)