latest announcements

 Please subscribe to receive email notifications of announcements and other parish events.

Subscribe
Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.
Name
Email

Announcements ~ October 14, 2108

fleur cross logo THIS WEEKEND IS OUR PARISH PICNIC! Join us for a day of celebrating our parish family and our 38th anniversary of the dedication of the church!  The picnic will follow a special bilingual Mass at NOON, combining the 11am and 1pm Masses into one. Families are invited to bring a side dish (last names beginning with A-L), desserts (M-S), or a non-perishable snack (T-Z). There will be no charge for hot dogs, hamburgers or drinks. Live music included. Join us!

fleur cross logo If you haven’t yet returned your Commitment Card, you are welcome to drop it in the second collection basket, or mail it in, or bring it into the office. Everyone is encouraged to make a commitment to living your faith by getting involved in the parish!

fleur cross logo All Soul’s Novena of Masses - Remembrance envelopes in which you may include the names of your deceased family or friends are available in the vestibule of the church and parish office. Envelopes will be placed near the altar during the Novena of Masses. To participate please fill out one of the envelopes with your donation and return them to the parish office before November 2nd. Questions, please contact the parish office.

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org

fleur cross logo World’s Finest Chocolates! The St. Bernadette School Chocolate Sale will run October 1 – November 4. Candy bars are available for sale after all weekend Masses. The school receives 50% of the funds raised and will use the funds to support our school’s arts, academic, technology, and sports programs, as well as other events during the school year. Thank you for supporting our school!

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 14, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,


On the 3rd of October I was asked to give a talk in Atlanta on the progress of the ecumenical movement and how liturgy and the arts (music and environment) can unite us through beauty. The group I spoke to was the national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, representatives of dioceses in the United States who lead worship on behalf of bishops. I was pretty nervous, I have to say, and spent a lot of time on the paper. It was supposed to be one hour long, and was one of two keynote addresses to the group, one by myself and and the other by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta. I don’t know if you have ever done something like this before, but I kept going over it and over it, assigning stopwatch timing to every paragraph to make sure I didn’t go over the time limit. You see, these are the leading professionals responsible for making beautiful liturgy that inspires the Church. They are our best and brightest, presumably, and have a very important role in the life of the Church.

In my paper I quoted Bishop Frank Caggiano (Bridgeport) when he spoke to us at the National Pastoral Musicians Convention in Baltimore last summer. Liturgy, he said, is the divine fuel of the work of evangelization to break through our indifference. “You are the custodians of the path to beauty,” he told us. There is an evangelical power to liturgy itself:  we are most ourselves when we are gathered to pray. Beauty transcends us, we are transformed. We are not here to be entertained, no matter how good it makes us feel. We are transformed, not by doing it, or hearing it, but by adding our gifts and voices and being it. This is the major divide between the Catholic Tradition and what has become of it in various Protestant expressions. Worship has been reduced to an opportunity for those who want to perform, and for those who want to be entertained. Trapped in the self, we can shut down the channel of being caught up in the life of God.

As I was giving my talk, I was thinking in the back of my mind about so many of the surveys which are coming in about our church renovation which say the church design is, in the mind of more than 60% (so far, at least), not necessary. One surveyed voted no, saying, “That is just beautification.”  My heart sinks; I am convinced that we humans, who rely on our senses to bring us closer to God, desperately need art and beauty. We need spaces that inspire and exalt our senses about being in the presence of God in order to open to him. We need music which will involve us, an organ that will enhance our community’s voice and not fight it. A space that fills us with a sense that we are in a holy place, a place like no other, where God has chosen to dwell among us. A bright, uplifting, inspiring place where our best offering of art and craft speaks of the importance of God in our lives and the joy he brings. This is not a practical thing, it is hard to sell to bookkeepers and analysts. It only makes sense to those who thirst for God’s presence. Last week we and the campaign consultants had a conversation about the results of the planning study (and unless our in-pew surveys from last weekend are different) we probably will not do anything with the church. 


When I was a pastor in the Dominican Republic you could always tell the neighborhoods who had overcome poverty. They were the ones where the people began to plant flowers in front of their houses. This is the place where we live, and it is beautiful, because life is good. But up until that point, people weren’t even aware of a lack. In so many places today we as a race are impoverished with regard to beauty (and truth, and goodness!), and not even aware of our poverty. All we know is that something is not right and we are often angry.


There is still a question whether or not parish meeting spaces will be supported. If so, my hope would be that, if we become a community that gathers and meets (if we build spaces to make such meetings possible), someday somebody can start the conversation again about how the nature of the worship space is vital. Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg thing:  does community grow deeper faith?  Or does deeper faith grow community?


Anyway, my one hour talk on October 3rd went one hour and seven minutes. I finished the talk with a prayer:  “Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we cry out with all hope: all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father, for ever and ever. All replied, “Amen!” and my talk ended with a standing ovation. Thanks be to God.


There are so many things going on at the same time in September and October:  already this weekend is the PICNIC!  I hope everyone has a wonderful day, as we say, just spending Saint Bernadette family time with God on the Lord’s Day. We leave for the Holy Land pilgrimage tomorrow (Monday) for two weeks, and will carry with us prayers for you and all your intentions as we go to the beautiful places where Jesus lived, proclaimed, healed, died and rose for us.


God bless you.

Announcements ~ October 7, 2018

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. Details are on page 7.
 
fleur cross logo World’s Finest Chocolates! The St. Bernadette School Chocolate Sale will run October 1 – November 4. Candy bars will be available for sale after all weekend Masses beginning October 6-7th.  The school receives 50% of the funds raised and will use the funds to support our school’s arts, academic, technology, and sports programs, as well as other events during the school year.  Thank you for supporting our school!
 
fleur cross logo Our 7th Grade Confirmation Meeting will be held on Thursday evening, October 11 at 7:00pm in the Church. Parents and Candidates are encouraged to attend.
 
fleur cross logo LIFE CHAIN - a public witness to the sanctity of human life!  We will form a chain along Franconia Road from 2:30-3:30pm. Our parish is assigned to gather in front of Key Middle School. Signs will be provided. Please join us Sunday, October 7 for a peaceful, prayerful, silent demonstration.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ October 7, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to have the day free to attend a conference at Good Shepherd Church, hosted by Bishop Burbidge and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.  It was titled “Seeking Hope and Healing in the Midst of the Opioid Crisis” and  focused on the reality of addiction, treatment and recovery.
 
The statistics of the levels of addiction and death to overdose-related circumstances are staggering, one of the highest causes of death.  Law enforcement and social services are changing their approach to this addiction crisis, because it isn’t solving anything to simply lock up all those who are trapped in this nearly-impossible-to-break-out-of situation.  Everyone is turning to solving the problem, knowing that it isn’t going away.
 
Simply beginning to speak about it is the first step to health.  If you are old-fashioned, these realities fall under the category of “none of your business”—but the silence is only exacerbating the problem.  Where the subject is brought out into the light, people can start sharing their struggles, suffering and frustration.  Parents can begin to help each other to heal, and can better guide addicts to choose treatment.  When I was in Fredericksburg, there was an annual program led mostly by Evangelical churches to plan an event, usually a concert, with booths of all the agencies and churches who wanted to express their support to anyone who might attend who was facing the problem of addiction.  I didn’t know, really, if anyone from the parish would be interested.  Suddenly there were all these moms who had young adult children who needed help, who were just grateful that the Church cared enough to speak about addiction, and pray for them.
 
Drug overdoses aren’t about suicide in most cases.  People underestimate the strength of these newer synthetic opioid drugs which are often more than a hundred times stronger than the conventional pain killers that were the original gateway drugs to addiction, or even the street heroin that became the next step when people could no longer get prescription drugs.
 
Parishes need to let people know that we are here, that there are resources and stories of hope that we can share.  Secular studies about recovery have overwhelmingly named step number one in recovery as reconnecting with God and spirituality.  One of the speakers, Fr. Mark Hushen, OSFS, from Ashley Addiction Treatment in Maryland, explained that God’s grace builds on nature—but if nature is sick, it can bounce back.  We must first rebuild nature by coming home to a safe place and seek a systematic conversion and sanctification.  Addiction is extremely self-centered; what is needed is a radical transformation in the person to become Christ-centered, and other-centered.
 
Generally speaking, this is the problem of anyone who suffers from a lack of connection with God.  We are wired to be connected to God and each other, and often our family or life situations simply don’t provide us with what we need to begin at a healthy starting point.  The good news is, that starting point is always still there.
 
He said we need to take a look at the seven deadly sins that are called deadly because they, in their self-absorption, cause spiritual death.  Pride needs to be replaced with the radical virtue of humility.  Greed, with charity. Lust, with purity.  Anger, with self-denial.  Gluttony, with self-control.  Envy, with love.  Procrastination, with perseverance.  Behaviors can change, but it must be a conscious process freely embraced, and you must be patient because it can be a long process.
 
People need to learn to pray again, and live in the present moment.  He quoted Saint Augustine, who said we must entrust the past to God’s mercy, entrust the future to God’s providence, and the present moment to God’s love.  It is in the present moment that time can touch eternity, not sometime long ago when things were somehow better, or in the future that may not evolve as we demand.
 
Perhaps there is a group in the parish who are waiting for this letter.  We want to help, and be support to you in your recovery, or your struggle in caring for a loved one who is using.  I imagine that we could have a retreat for parents, we could have an information night.  We could organize an information center for those who might be looking for a referral or to learn what options might be available.  We could invite professionals to come and talk about the strategies of treatment and recovery.  There is an existing ministry through Catholic Charities which seeks to help those who are reentering society from jail to really connect with community and not return to the familiar places that will only support relapse.
 
Ultimately, we must pray for the thousands of people who suffer from addiction and die from not getting the the help they need.  Let us commit to serve them.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ September 30, 2018

fleur cross logo This is Commitment Sunday and all are asked to put your completed Commitment Cards in the second collection at Mass. You can still turn it in, drop it in any collection basket during the next few weeks, mail it in using the return envelope provided in the Catalog packet, or drop it by the office. Please do it sooner than later; we will begin to compile lists of people for our Ministry Leaders to call, to get started. Thank you for your beautiful response to God’s call to live an active faith.This is Commitment. Sunday and all are asked to put your completed Commitment Cards in the second collection at Mass. You can still turn it in, drop it in any collection basket during the next few weeks, mail it in using the return envelope provided in the Catalog packet, or drop it by the office. Please do it sooner than later; we will begin to compile lists of people for our Ministry Leaders to call, to get started. Thank you for your beautiful response to God’s call to live an active faith.

fleur cross logo Next weekend’s Second Collection is for victims of Hurricane Florence. Please join parishes in the Diocese of Arlington in supporting this effort to assist those affected by the devastating damage from Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. Parishioners may choose to donate to these disaster relief efforts online via the diocesan website, ArlingtonDiocese.org/HurricaneFlorence. All funds collected will be forwarded to Catholic Charities USA, which will forward the entire amount to Catholic Charities agencies serving the affected areas. Thank you for your support.

fleur cross logo On Saturday, October 6, bring your beloved pets for a special Blessing of the Animals in honor of Saint Francis’ feast (October 4). We will meet at 10am in the front parking lot in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org

fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. Details are on page 7.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ September 30, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Thanks to you, all our good ministry leaders who showed up last weekend despite rain and inconvenience to be available to members of the parish who might get involved in the service of the Church.  We had a lot of people stop and visit, and learn more about what the parish is doing.  Truly, you are instruments in enabling our parish to fulfill its call from God to be a Church of service after the heart of Jesus.  Despite modest results, the greatest witness was to tell the parish that ALL are invited to this life that God opens to them.

I hope people finally received their 2018 Parish Renewal Handbook and Ministry Catalog this week and will have a chance to really look at it.  It is for you.

After last weekend’s letter, I had several people come up to me and say that what I described as an active, serving parish actually was Saint Bernadette in the past.  There was a time when ministries and activities involved many people and the parish was the center of the community.  Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t matter:  people, over time, can forget that they are a vital part of the community, and feel like they don’t matter.  A lack of activities and involvement can cause people to look elsewhere because we are wired in God’s image to be community.  He is, three in one, just as we are to be:  11,000 in one.  When that is missing, we look in other places.

This is commitment weekend:  please renew your commitment to Pray, Serve, and Give to renew the mission of Saint Bernadette to God and those in need.  It is important, our lives depend upon it.~  ~  ~  ~  ~

In conversation this week, I still sense a lot of suffering in the Body due to the sins of some members in the Church in relation to the problem of abuse in the Church and the wider world.  I suggested in a letter a couple of weeks ago that our facing these terrible sins in the Church may be an opportunity to open a conversation about this reality which is a part of all society, that we might be a source of healing that could go forth from us as a ministry.  We choose to work with God to bring good out of suffering, both in our own lives and our world.  I ran across this quote from St. Pope John Paul II (Salvifici doloris, 26):

Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace.  To this grace many saints ... owe their profound conversion.  A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person.  He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation ... Nevertheless, it often takes time, even a long time, for this ... to begin to be interiorly perceived.  For Christ does not answer directly and he does not answer in the abstract this human questioning about the meaning of suffering.  Man hears Christ’s saving answer as he himself gradually becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ.”


Again, I am not in the least attempting to minimize the real evil here.  I am, however, taking the concept of suffering out of the abstract where most people are most comfortable in dealing with it.  Suffering, except for cases of “natural” evil like hurricanes and tornados, is always at the hands of others.  Even the most abject suffering, as we see in Jesus on the Cross, can bring about salvation.

The first thing we must do is go about helping the victims/survivors heal.  We must be a place of welcome and healing, there must be no reason for anyone to fear being a part of this family of God.  We must make sure that this cannot happen again.

Then, we must figure out how we heal our Church and the wider world.  It is here, in our own flesh, that we are most like Christ, because it is here, in our limitations and weakness, that he proves his most profound love for us in our human condition.  Faith, then is not a spirituality where we try to pray ourselves out of the human condition.  It is the gradual realization that our life is united, more and more, to the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God through our human condition.  Rather than always revealing how our lives are such a mess, we need to discover that it is precisely that mess that God comes to transform, to convert, to use to accomplish his plan for us.  Without the Cross this mess makes no sense.

The work of reparation for our sins and the sins of others is not easy, but necessary.  Typically we think of the season of Lent in a general kind of way to work through certain disciplines from the Tradition that are prescribed:  prayer, fasting, almsgiving.  I would propose to you that we are in a long Lent right now, and that we might consider living accordingly.  Determine a day that you will fast, identify certain sacrifices that you might make for this intention of healing and strengthening our Church as she is suffering.  Pray for the inspiration to become instruments of God’s special grace which has the power to make us completely new people, a renewed Church, a new world.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ September 23, 2018

fleur cross logo This weekend’s Second Collection is for Kerala, India which has experienced its worst floods in 100 years. The Diocese of Arlington is taking up a collection to support Catholic Relief Services in their effort to assist thousands of families that are in emergency shelters and temporary relief centers. Please make checks payable to the parish. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.
 
fleur cross logo It’s not too late for RCIA!  Although we have begun, there is still time to register. If you or someone you know would like to join the Church or are thinking about it, you are welcome to please call the office.
 
fleur cross logo St. Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Ministry Fair Weekend is September 22 & 23.Take advantage of our time to visit with ministry leaders and representatives outside under the tents about various ministries & choose one for your commitment this year. Bring your commitment card to Masses next weekend, September 29 & 30.
 
fleur cross logo On Sunday, October 1, please join our parish along with many other parishes as we conduct a public witness to the sanctity of human life. For more information on this event or other Pro-Life events coming up in October, Pro-Life Awareness month, please contact the parish office. 703-451-8576 or office@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. More information and details in next weekend’s bulletin.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ September 23, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
I was talking with a parishioner this week about the Parish Life Weekend and the Ministry Fair, about how I hoped people would sincerely consider how they might get involved in the life of the parish, and the Church in general through participating in ministries.  And about how I wished people would be interested in discerning/learning what their baptismal gifts are, and how God is personally calling each of us to come alive in the Church. 
 
This person replied to me, “Don’t get your hopes up.  We just aren’t a parish like that.”
 
I asked for further explanation.  “Well, this is one of those parishes where people just come for Mass, do what they have to do, and leave.  At Saint Bernadette the Church really hasn’t been a big part of peoples’ lives.”
 
Then there was a long silence.
 
So I guess what I want to do is include you, dear parishioner, in this conversation.  Is this true?
 
I have looked for evidence that it is false, and haven’t found a lot.  There are great examples of people serving in the parish in various ways.  It pretty much has to be on certain terms to fit peoples’ particular schedules, that is true, but there are examples.  But generally, parish life, church life, spiritual life seems to be one entree among many on the menu and it is chosen if the time fits and the mood is good.  I have to say this because I am your pastor and no one else will say it.
 
At staff meeting this week we talked about how we somehow have to get the message out that sacraments and life in the Church aren’t fast food:  there needs time to lovingly prepare the meal, to savor it, to rest afterward.  And that this is Good News.
 
We have tents outside church at all Masses this weekend representing the many ministries in which you can get involved, but my last information says that you may not find some ministries represented, nor tables under the tents staffed at all Masses with representatives to speak with you about their work.  Everyone is busy, I get it.  Please, if there is something you feel called to do, persevere!
 
At some point, we need to discover that the Church is not a service provider.  One of the biggest mistakes we ever made was when we started using the word “Service” for Mass, but it reveals a lot.  Do we come to be served?  Or to serve?  And what would that service look like?
 
We don’t think of those in ministry as “volunteers” any longer.  The only way ministry will bring you joy is if you are actually called.  Of course, ministry is a response to a need.  We don’t become ministers because we need to feel good or fulfilled, we become ministers because somebody else has a need that can only be met by someone with a special gift or ability that you may have.  You might be the only person who can respond to a need in exactly the way it needs to be answered.  If you don’t respond, there will be something less than fullness in the Body of Christ.
 
None of it is about me; I find my fulfillment in you.  It is in our serving others that we come to full stature as the image of God and the Body of Christ.  Are we just “not a parish like that?”  Then, I ask also, what exactly are we?
 
Should I be optimistic about the ministry commitment cards coming back?  Tangible commitments to pray, to serve, and to give to your parish community? 
petrus et paulus 4th century etching1
 
I’m also concerned that our surveys about whether or not we move forward with expansion and renovation will come back and make the decision that we do nothing.  Someone asked, “Why do we need two more confessionals, we only have two priests?”  I said, if we only have two confessionals, we will never get a third priest, because people will continue to just go somewhere else (if they go).  We will never grow groups to meet together and grow in their faith if we never build rooms where they can get together (if that is a value).
 
These are real questions and I believe we are at a turning point for the future of this parish.  If this is important, now is the time to step in.  After discerning our own gifts, I believe we can accomplish what I was sent here by Bishop Loverde to do, to care for and grow the community at Saint Bernadette.  But community doesn’t grow by itself, and it can’t be forced to exist, and it isn’t true if only a few get involved and carry the responsibility.  Are we a community?
 
Community is formed by people who are formed into the People of God by savoring God’s life, brothers and sisters adopted and beloved of God in the sacraments.
 
God bless you.

  

Announcements ~ September 16, 2018

fleur cross logo We warmly welcome Fr. Rich Miserandino, formerly assigned at Saint Agnes Parish in North Arlington, to Saint Bernadette Parish. Receptions will be held on Sunday September 30 following the 9am and 11am Masses. Please join us in welcoming Fr. Rich to our parish family
 
fleur cross logo Next weekend’s Second Collection will be for Kerala, India which has experienced its worst floods in 100 years. The Diocese of Arlington is taking up a collection to support Catholic Relief Services in their effort to assist thousands of families that are in emergency shelters and temporary relief centers. Please make checks payable to the parish. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.
 
fleur cross logo It’s not too late for RCIA!  Although we have begun, there is still time to register. If you or someone you know would like to join the Church or are thinking about it, you are welcome to please call the office.
 
fleur cross logo St. Bernadette Choirs are welcoming new members. We have choirs for singers of all ages; three adult choirs in English and Spanish, Children’s Choir for 1st through 6th grade and, starting this fall, the re-launch of our Youth Choir for 7th through 12th grade. For more information contact Director, David Mathers at 703-451-8576 x112 or dmathers@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Ministry Fair Weekend is September 22 & 23. Take advantage of our time to visit with ministry leaders and representatives outside under the tents about various ministries & choose one for your commitment this year. Bring your commitment card to Masses the following weekend, September 29 & 30.
 
fleur cross logo On Sunday, October 1, please join our parish along with many other parishes as we conduct a public witness to the sanctity of human life. For more information on this event or other Pro-Life events coming up in October, Pro-Life Awareness month, please contact the parish office. 703-451-8576 or office@stbernpar.org
 
fleur cross logo Save the Date! You are invited to our Saint Bernadette Parish Picnic and Fall Festival Family Day, October 14. The afternoon Mass schedules will be adjusted to accommodate our family celebration of all the diversity in the parish. More infomration and details in next weekend’s bulletin.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ September 16, 2018

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

As we move forward together through a very difficult time in our Church, it seems important for all of us to keep talking about what is happening—and also to share as much information as possible. It’s natural when “big news” breaks for the focus to turn to sorting through the news, like the disturbing news out of Pennsylvania with the Grand Jury report. I wanted to take a moment to share additional thoughts as a way to keep building context for ever greater understanding.
 
This seems especially important because of some feedback I’ve been getting. I’m always happy to hear from you, and your  emails that reveal a very real struggle to sort out the good from the bad—while personal peace is being compromised. It’s important to take time to address what threatens the peace which God bestows on our hearts (Col 3:15).
 
For example, I received an email this week from a parishioner who, speaking about the abuse scandal in the Church, said “the silence is deafening,” and that people are reacting negatively to the lack of response. While it’s true that it seems crimes and immoral acts in specific places were hidden in silence, that is not the whole truth here. I’d like to remind us all that not everywhere is the Church silent. If you are unaware of the homilies, prayer meetings, Masses and other activities that Bishop Burbidge has provided in recent weeks, be sure to go to the diocesan website. Our diocese does not ignore abuse or the impact of abuse. It has a very active ministry to survivors of abuse which you can find on the diocesan website. Also, I think I and our priests generally have addressed the issue every weekend, either directly or in the context of preaching about the Scriptures of the week.
 
If this charge about “silence” refers to what is happening in Rome, I can’t speak to that, but I imagine that Rome is very busy working on this. While some people do criticize Pope Francis for refraining from speaking, others see in his decision to refrain from bickering in the media a model to emulate. Maybe it’s a good time to wait and see. We will see in Pope Francis’ actions his response perhaps without words. It does seem fair to give our Pope a chance for more than the short time media usually gives people to react. He is dealing with a world Church grappling with this in very different ways.
 
Another email I received this week basically dismissed the Church and said that we should just focus on getting to know Jesus. Focusing on Jesus is the source of all good things, and it’s also true that, as they say, the only thing needed for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. We have seen how, when Catholics ignored conflict over the past 500 years, good people left the Church physically by schism, or spiritually, as we see so much of today. It’s worth the effort to be sure we work toward unity as God’s family. Dialogue and working through difficult issues is what keeps marriages and families healthy, and that is what our Church family is doing. It is hard, but it does work. Just because someone fails does not mean a marriage must end or family members need to remain alienated. The Church has caused problems, but still must be a part of the solution, including all of us.
 
We all have to grapple with what is going on prayerfully. It’s important to keep deepening our understanding with more information and dialogue with each other—as a family. So, I’m sharing a few thoughts here, grateful you share your thoughts with me. You see, we need to help each other to be ready to reply to whatever others say to us. If we seem defensive, the public interprets that as denial by the Church. And, in fact, there has been a great deal of denial which has brought about this problem in our Church—but also in our whole society. The fact is that I still cherish the Church, despite her sins, and plan to run the race everyday. I became a priest to help you do the same. So, here are a few more thoughts that you may find useful.
 
I attended an interfaith religious leaders meeting recently and of course the conversation came around to the abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. All leaders present—Christian churches as well as Judaism represented—said it is time that we address this problem all together, that it is not just a Catholic problem. All have the same difficulty, but since individual congregations have their own individual leadership and boards and are not organized under a hierarchy like the Catholic Church, these cases don’t go beyond local action.
 
We discussed how, interreligiously, we might start a conversation about the reality of abuse in our society. The most conservative estimates indicate that two out of five women (some studies say three out of five) and one (maybe as many as two) out of five men live with the reality of having been abused. We are talking about millions of people who are angry and trying to find a resolution to their own wounds. One of my friends, a Protestant pastor, thinks this may be why the Catholic Church has become such a focus: millions of people are suffering and don’t know what to do about it.
 
This perspective does not, in any way, seek to rationalize or trivialize the crimes of the Church, especially the Church, where these things should never happen. The Church has to be a safe place where we can go seeking to realize Christ in ourselves. The question we face is how to make the Church safe for even the most wounded of people, in particular for adults who have survived abuse by clergy or anyone who represented the Church. 
 
I am the spiritual director for the Office of Victims/Survivors of Abuse for the diocese, and I am blessed to consider some survivors of clergy abuse my friends. They tell me that the most damaging thing people can say (and often do say) to a victim of abuse is, “You should have known better.” I was shocked how common this response is. Whether they were told this as adults, or as children, or even if as a voice replaying in their heads, many victims struggle to believe that, as children, they could not possibly “know better.” We take some things as obvious, but survivors have to come to believe that. And, as a Church, here and now, we can understand this reality. We know that children need to trust the adults in their lives. Adults need to be trustworthy, and the Church needs to be most trustworthy of all. While we cannot change the evil done to victims of abuse, we can learn how not to re-wound people who have suffered abuse and how to let them feel the welcome of our Church and parish. And, I’ll add this: Do you know how to respond to someone if they trust you enough to share they have been wounded by abuse? It’s a good time to find out what to do, to be prepared as a Catholic because this is where survivors do come for help. They are coming to us.
 
Another thought I have is how it wasn’t until the time when I was ordained, in the 1990s, that experts had even figured out that abusers couldn’t be sent away for “treatment” and emerge “healed.” If you look at the Grand Jury report from Pennsylvania, the vast majority of these cases involved abuse that happened in the 70s and 80s. At that time, bishops and counselors and others of good conscience truly believed that you could send someone with this “problem” off to a treatment program and they would return “fixed.” In my own work as a priest and pastor, my faith leaders group all said the same thing: we learned only then that you can’t send someone off for therapy and then reassign them. Everyone was using the few treatment facilities that existed, and they shared this philosophy. The abuse suffered by the victims before and after this change was equally horrible, and those guilty of abusing victims or enabling victims are still guilty. However, this is an important context to remember as we sort through the news.
 
Once clinical knowledge was advancing in the 1990s, changes were made in many places. There are some cases of abuse since the early 90s in the report, but dramatically fewer. The reduction of incidence of abuse started to appear even before the 2002 Dallas conference of bishops. Wherever even one bishop not following this advice was a travesty, and though it makes little difference to the victims and their suffering families, in terms of condemning the whole Church’s response, I think it is clear that there were big advances in many United States dioceses. The Pennsylvania report digs into the past bringing forward many cases from a time before this turning point. Many of those abusers are now deceased, and even people who might have something to say about decisions that were made are also deceased. Even with limited information, though, the investigations being launched by attorneys generally around the country will likely reveal how, after clinical scholarship got us to a turning point for dealing with abusers, some  Church leaders chose to ignore best practices and gave abusers a pass or got enmeshed in covering up for the past. This is now the reality that must be addressed.
 
It’s important to acknowledge that what these investigations focus on is not all there is. There are remarkable advances of child protection in the United States Catholic Church since 2002, when the bishops created a charter to protect children and young people, amended canon law, and launched a successful operational overhaul of child safety guidelines that now exceed those in any school or other similar institution in the United States. For more about everything the United States Church has done, you can go to the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org).
 
Nothing I’ve said can alleviate the pain felt by the victims. Nothing we do can fix the past. But it’s still important to put this new wave of scandals into perspective to help us move forward. I want people to have some insights to help in their private faith struggles wherever they are struggling. The place where people must go is the Mass. There are many clear reasons that this remains truth. For one, we all need sustenance for moving through these difficult times together. We also need to remember we come together for Mass to worship God, no matter how broken and evil the world can be.
 
But, also, I’ll share a story from a survivor of clergy abuse who is my friend. This person used to park outside a Catholic church every Sunday, following the Mass from the car using a missal. It was that hard to step back into a church, yet they tell me how they were still drawn to be as near the Mass and the Eucharist as possible. They recount how much they envied the Catholics walking in the front door like it was all just so routine. So, please remember, we are gathering for the Mass, also, for all the people who can’t be here or can’t find a way home yet.
 
In closing, I’d add that I would still like to think that we priests (and bishops) can be a part of the solution. Otherwise the evil of these sins will have divided and conquered us. We know better, we know that the love of Christ that is within us is stronger than any sin, and we are sent out to make this love known to the world. We have to pull together, not apart. Go straight into the Mystery of being Christ at Mass, who himself offered his death on our behalf. Learning is important, doing is more important, as we must become witnesses of what the Catholic Church is really here to do:  advance the salvation of the world and be instruments of healing and reconciliation.
 
This is a long letter this week, but it started smaller and grew with significant additions and insights, co-authored by one of my heroes who just happens to be a Survivor herself. Let us pledge our prayers for her and all who live with this reality, for continued conversion, and the opportunity to begin this dialogue with all churches and religions who are seeking healing.
 
God bless you.
 
 
 
 
I Brievary

ibreviaryweb en

 

 

Our Saint Bernadette 2018-'19 Ministry Catalog 

 

2018 2019 Catalog