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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
Sometimes you can be surprised by how much you don't know! Or that you've been wrong for 25 years. I discovered this week that some customs which have been in effect in every parish and with every pastor I have ever served aren't, actually, according to the law of the Church.
For all these years I have been under the impression that in order to receive a sacrament or a sponsor certificate you would have to be a registered parishioner. It turns out "registration" is not found in Canon Law. The authority of a pastor extends juridically for those who live within the borders of a parish, and if people wish to register from outside the borders, the parish is able to serve them as well.
All these years we have been forcing people to register if they come to the office asking for these things. What has resulted is a very inflated picture of the actual active members of the parish. I'm guessing the real parish is probably half as large. So many people register to be Godparents or to receive sacraments and we never hear from them again.
So here is how it works now. If you are seeking a Sponsor certificate, we can provide it for anyone, whether registered here or anywhere, or not. It is basically a statement that you fill out, under oath, that you are a practicing Catholic, fully initiated in the Church (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist), that you are at least 16 years of age, if married that you were married in a Catholic wedding, and that you will support the person you are sponsoring as a good example and spiritual guide. The testimony is yours before God, and Ivonne or Kendra will witness your signature and and seal the certificate as a legal document.
It is a little more complicated for sacraments. For example, if you seek baptism for your child, you do not need to register here, or anywhere. If you are registered here or live within our parish boundaries, there is no question. If you are registered in another parish, we need a letter of permission from the pastor of that parish. If you are not registered anywhere, you will need to obtain a letter of permission from the pastor of the parish in whose boundaries your residence lies.
As I said in my memo to the parish staff, on one hand it seems like we are giving up. On the other hand, it just seems like we are being honest. To register just to get what you want doesn't really make you a member in the active sense of a practicing, active member serving God and the Church. Also, it is not up to the parish to prove somehow the intentions of the person seeking the certificate to support another person in the faith; it is the integrity of their word, which we only witness and seal.
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A special thanks to all those who worked so intensely to produce our summer show, Kiss Me Kate. I had the privilege to attend all five shows this year and don't think I have ever had the chance to watch young actors grow so quickly in the craft of singing and dancing, in their confidence and in the way they opened up to the audience. I can see why such a dedicated staff of producers, director, conductor, costume makers and choreographer come back each year as volunteers to make this happen! Many of them were in the cast many years ago and realize how much this changed them and helped them to grow, and they are paying it back. So, thanks. A special thanks to Bill and Anna Molino, who help put it together!
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Watch the next few bulletins for information about new groups and programs in the parish. Saint Bernadette Women's Group is forming. They are planning a Bunco night on August 20 at 7pm in the Bradican Room—all women are invited to bring a friend! We are also calling on young adults in the parish to start a Young Adults' Group. After a year of no available space for new programs, we think we have figured out a way to introduce the Alpha Series to anyone interested, both an Alpha Series for adults as well as for youth. If you are curious, look at alphausa.org/ catholic. You may have noticed we have added classes in Faith Formation for youth in high school who may be looking for more of a classroom approach to learning the Faith.
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Finally, I would like to draw your attention to a very special Buddhist event which is coming here August 24-25. We are honored to host the Capital Area Tibetan Association's visit by the 7th Yongzi Ling Rinpoche, who was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of his Senior Tutor. He has traveled all over the world to teach Buddhists and will be here teaching the Buddhist community in the gym in the mornings. We are all invited to a vegetarian lunch on Sunday, August 25 at noon, an interreligious prayer/dialogue from 2:30-4pm, followed by a presentation of Tibetan Culture at 4:30pm. Please see p. 10 for details.
God bless you.
Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
At the end of August we will observe the 400th anniversary of the most-recognized date of the coming of slavery to England's American colonies, August 30, 1619. We know that the Africans who arrived in 1619 on the White Lion (and, a few days later, the Treasurer) were from Angola, and we know how they came to be captured. We don’t have all the names, but we do know that Captain William Tucker took two of them into his household, Isabella and Antony, and allowed them to marry. When their child William became the first recorded black birth in what would become the USA, he was baptized into the Anglican faith in 1624. We know that a “Negro woman” named Angelo in a 1624 census had arrived on the Treasurer in 1619. Archaeologists have recently discovered graves that might include hers.
About 20 slaves came on that ship, the White Lion, to Point Comfort—Hampton, Virginia today. They came here.
It was big business for Virginia. The economy flourished, business boomed with free "labor." Of course, human beings could never be called a commodity, as such. So we just didn't admit that they were human beings. Who goes against the system when it seems like the economy is improving?
Numbers are only estimates. 128,000 slaves came to Chesapeake, 210,000 to the Carolinas and Georgia. 27,000 to the northern U.S., 22,000 to the Gulf Coast. 2.6 million went to the Caribbean, and an unbelievable 5.1 million slaves went to the coastal ports of South America. In all, in the U.S., 387,000, and in Central and South America - 8,068,000.
And it is estimated that probably less than half survived the crossing of the Atlantic in such distress, no water, no food, no sanitary considerations, or simple torture and murder. Maybe 20 million? I did a family tree about 15 years ago. From the first Rooney families we have on record coming to Dubuque, Iowa, I have nearly 4,000 people on the tree. Imagine how many people's lives were touched by these 8,400,000 ancestors.
We've heard desperate stories about my own ancestors in Ireland who were treated lower than the livestock in the manors, and it still makes me angry to consider how "my people" had the choice to starve, or leave. I didn't know them, but they still seem like a part of who I am. Only 3 million immigrants to the U.S... Is it any wonder people are angry. I gave a talk at the Buddhist Catholic Dialogue a couple of years ago in Taiwan. My topic was nonviolence and the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. In my research I saw again riot photos that I had forgotten seeing on the evening news on our black and white TV when I was small. I knew at the time what I was seeing was wrong, though the culture I lived in sat silently, watching the TV. We had riots near our home, houses were burning. We moved to the suburbs.
Racism has been the topic of polite discussion for many years, growing and boiling and blowing up at times in ugly outrage. I don't pretend to know the solution, there are a lot of emotions we need to own for allowing the root and attitudes of slavery to coexist with our daily prayers even for next 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. What is one of the core beliefs of Christianity? That words don't matter if our actions, our thoughts don't match. In this sense, I guess you might use the word hypocrisy.
One thing I do know to be true: I don't remember ever hearing a groundswell from the grassroots that all this was terribly wrong. We can all agree on slavery and apologize for being so mistaken. These kind of stories inhabit every country and every culture in the long history of persecution and ethnic cleansing. It's the world, right?
Leaders might make statements of faith or moral values which "represent" culture, or divide it for personal or corporate gain. What would a world look like that is truly colorblind? Selfless, nonviolent, not just tolerating, but embracing?
I have a friend who is colorblind. He looks at a field of red flowers and just sees grey. So this is not the kind of vision I am talking about. We don't want to just blur our sight and live in a daze and let the world become grey. I am a painter as well as a priest, and can't imagine painting a canvas with just grey. Nor would God.
Color is such an amazing thing. In color theory, "value" means how light or dark that color is. "Hue" means how color is effected in its interaction with other colors. Colors work together to be made into beautiful things, not war and hate. That isn't God's plan. We must see God's beautiful variety in a new way. God, give us new eyes. I am not here for myself. This August let us spend our energy on reaching out to others in a groundswell of mercy.
God bless you.