Monday, Dec. 4, 2006 Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 Monday, Dec. 18, 2006

Vol. 4, No. 31
Dec. 4, 2006

I participated in the Emmaus gathering last week at the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Arizona for which about 85 young adults had gathered for an hour of praise and reflection followed by a candlelight Mass. I was inspired and impressed by the faith of these young people who meet every week during the semester. I especially was impressed by the reflection on Advent that one of the collegians shared with the gathering.
 
She encouraged us to look to the Advent models who can deepen our faith by their example. She cited the shepherds, the magi, St. Joseph and Mary. She suggested that, like the shepherds, we need to simplify, become more reflective, less distracted and less busy. We need to become searchers like the magi and to find what matters in life and to not let ourselves be controlled by what really does not matter. We need to become like Joseph who was focused on others, respectful of them, concerned for them. Advent can get us to look beyond ourselves to respond to others. Finally, she reflected that Mary calls us to live our lives in response to God, not seeking our own will, but saying "yes" to God's call to us. 
 
Her thoughts become my hopes for this Advent: simplify, seek, serve and say "yes" to God's invitations.
 
You may remember as a child having an Advent calendar. As you opened each window, you were invited to prepare for the birth of Jesus in some way. The final window, opened on Christmas Day, showed the newly born baby resting in a crib with Mary and Joseph at His side. This practice gave you a sense of time passing, marking our preparation. The Advent wreath has the same purpose of helping us prepare for something important that is about to happen.
 
Use these days of Advent to prepare. Find opportunities to simplify, seek, serve, and say "yes" to God's call.
 
1. ¡Miles de Gracias! -- The members of Bishop Manuel Moreno's family were so grateful to all who helped to make his farewell so memorable. I know how hard everyone worked to make these celebrations special, reflecting the respect and regard people held for him. So many people stepped forward. 
 
I stand in awe of what the people in our Diocese can do when we pull together, when everyone joins in and shares their gifts. People worked hard in planning the services, arranging for the family, providing hospitality, organizing parking, preparing music, working with the city, covering the events in the newspaper and television, preparing the final resting place. Everyone did her or his part carefully and respectfully. This was Church at its best.
 
The civic and religious leaders graced us by their presence at the rites. The involvement of our school children, members of the various ethnic and cultural groups in the Diocese, the turnout of deacons, priests and religious, the Cathedral packed with people from all across the diocese  all were beautiful witness to how loved Bishop Moreno was for his service over 21 years.
 
I have received countless letters from dioceses around the country joining us in our loss and offering their condolences. Again, a sense of how powerful Church is, a unity that crosses states and boundaries.
 
I encourage you to read our December edition of The New Vision and to visit the Vision website at www.newvisiononline.org or our diocesan website at www.diocesetucson.org where there are links that allow you to hear the eulogies that were given and where you can read some of the expressions of tribute that were given.
 
Eternal rest grant unto Bishop Moreno, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

2. National Pastoral Life Center Board Meeting
-- I am in New York City today and tomorrow for the quarterly board meeting of the National Pastoral Life Center. The Center serves the leadership of the Church's pastoral ministry, particularly in parishes and diocesan offices, by assembling through its studies, publications, consulting and conferences the best thinking and practices of reflective and effective pastoral ministry.

3. "Picturing Mary" -- There is a special free screening tonight at 7:30 p.m. of the new documentary "Picturing Mary" at The Loft Cinema in Tucson. The screening is made possible by KUAT-TV, The Loft Cinema and Emerging Pictures. KUAT-TV will broadcast the documentary at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 20 and 21.

4. Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception -- We observe the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this Friday and we will join in prayer with Immaculate Conception Parish in Douglas, Immaculate Conception Parish in Ajo and Immaculate Conception Parish in Yuma as they celebrate this day in honor of their patroness.

Mary Immaculate also is the patroness of our nation. On Dec. 8, as happens regularly each month, a special Mass will be offered to put an end to abortion and to provide proper care for women with child so that they can find alternatives to abortion in their time of need. Ann Downey, Sunny Turner and others help to organize these monthly Masses as we continue to pray that every person -- from conception to natural death -- will be treated with the care and respect due them. I look forward to celebrating one of these Masses in the near future as I did last year.

5. Bishop Ricardo Ramirez Ordination Anniversaries -- I am very happy to be joining my brother bishops and the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Las Cruces this Wednesday for the celebration of the 40th priestly and 25th episcopal ordination anniversaries of Bishop Ramirez. He was a great friend to Bishop Moreno and he continues to be a great friend of our Diocese. He was appointed in 1982 as the first Bishop of Las Cruces, which along with our Diocese and the Dioceses of Phoenix and Gallup and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe comprise the Province of Santa Fe.

6. In the Spirit of the Season -- This very short Advent Season will be even more of a challenge to our efforts at keeping a balance between and among our work responsibilities, the celebrations, special events and parties and our personal spiritual preparations for Christ's coming. But if we keep Christ at the center of what we are doing, we can stay in balance. 

I am grateful for the prayer, fellowship and celebration of these annual events:

This Thursday evening, I will host the annual appreciation dinner for the lay and priest volunteers who serve so generously in the Tribunal Office as Defenders of the Bond and as Auditors. The dinner also allows me to thanks the Tribunal Staff of Father John Lyons, Helen Evans and Martha Jordan for their dedication.

This Friday at 5:30 p.m., I will preside at the annual Advent Mass at Holy Hope Cemetery. After Mass, we will process to the Christmas tree for the lighting and for the placement of memorial ornaments. On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., I will preside at the Advent Mass at Our Lady of the Desert in All Faith Cemeteries. After Mass, we will light the Christmas tree and place memorial ornaments. Families are invited to bring ornaments throughout Advent for the Christmas trees at both cemeteries.

7. Assembly of Catholic Hispanic Leadership -- I will be meeting this Saturday with persons identified as Catholic Hispanic leaders in the communities of our Diocese for a dialogue on the issues and concerns that they believe are of paramount importance to Catholic Hispanics. This group includes priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders of parishes and movements throughout the Diocese. I will share with them the major pastoral issues and concerns of the Diocese. The Hispanic Pastoral Commission is facilitating this assembly. Our gathering is taking place on the feast day of St. Juan Diego and we will celebrate Mass for his feast day to conclude the assembly.

8. St. Ambrose Parish 60th Anniversary -- During this week that the Church observes the feast day (on Thursday) of St. Ambrose, St. Ambrose Parish in Tucson will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its establishment under his patronage. I look forward to being with Father John Arnold, pastor, and the St. Ambrose community for the anniversary Mass and celebration this Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

9. Redemptorist Renewal Center Dedication -- Our Diocese joins in the joy of the Redemptorists as they dedicate the new facilities of their Center this weekend. I will preside at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass of Dedication and Thanksgiving and then will bless the new and renovated buildings.

The mission and ministry of the Redemptorist community and the Center at Picture Rocks are blessings for our Diocese. We congratulate Father Tom Santa, C.Ss.R., and the Center staff on this most happy occasion.

10. Diocesan Catechetical Conference -- Programs and registration forms are arriving at parishes this week for our Diocesan Catechetical Conference, "Sharing the Hope Within Us: The Lifelong Journey of Faith," at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Tucson on Saturday, Jan. 27.

The conference features Kathy Coffey, an accomplished author and speaker in the area of catechetical ministry, as the keynote speaker, and more than 20 workshops, including a track in Spanish.  

I look forward to celebrating the opening liturgy, presenting one of the workshops and interacting with our parish catechists, youth ministers and all parish leaders who are involved in parish catechetical ministry with children, youth, and adults. Registration and program information is available through our Office of Catechesis at 520-838-2544 and on the Office of Catechesis Web page at www.diocesetucson.org/catechesisoffice.html.  

11. Christmas Season Safety
-- Diocesan Property and Insurance Manager John Shaheen has a timely reminder about safety precautions as we begin decorating our churches and parish halls for Christmas. The Property and Insurance page on our diocesan Website has two resources on safety during the Christmas season, one on ladders and the other on decorations. You can access the resources at www.diocesetucson.org/property.html.

12. Bringing Light -- As we experience the first chilly weather of this fall season, we remember the homeless, including entire families, who are so numerous in our community. I am grateful to all the agencies that care for those in need, providing shelter, food and concern. Casa Maria and Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel and Soup Kitchen directed by Brian Flagg and the Catholic Worker Community and the shelter directed by Brother David Buer, O.F.M., are just two programs that care for the homeless.

Diagonally across Church Street from the Pastoral Center is an area where the homeless congregate daily and where some spend the night on benches. Despite the efforts of the good agencies in our communities that assist the homeless, many people still fall between the cracks and find relief only through our care and compassion. Advent is a time when we become more conscious of those who live in darkness. We can bring them light.

13. Life Directions -- I appreciated the opportunity recently to meet with Sister Claudia Rushlow, S.C., the new local director of Life Directions, and with Sister Rosalie Esquerra, O.P., Life Directions chief executive officer.

The Life Directions Tucson program, primarily situated at Sunnyside High School and neighboring middle schools, strives to help teens to create an environment that values all students, to inspire them to seek alternatives to violence and to purse academic achievement. I look forward to visiting Sunnyside High School next month at the invitation of Dr. Raul Nido, principal, to learn more about how Life Directions has made a difference at the schools.
 
One of the great concerns in our State is education. We are striving to do whatever we can in our Catholic Schools to help students succeed, but we also have a responsibility to work to enhance the education provided in the public schools that so many of our young people attend.

14. Please Remember in Your Prayers -- Father Paul Larocque, one of our senior retired priests, and Rosa Gutierrez, mother of diocesan Human Resources director Richard Serrano. Both are experiencing the challenges of illnesses.

Vol. 4, No. 32
Dec. 11, 2006

Saturday, on the feast of St. Juan Diego, more than 100 Hispanic community leaders from 18 of our parishes in the Diocese met at St. Augustine Cathedral Hall to see, judge and act. They reflected on a passage from Ephesians in which St. Paul speaks of the Church as a building that has Christ as the cornerstone. The passage was read numerous times as the group reflected on its meaning.
 
The participants broke out in groups and discussed among themselves what they see as the needs of Hispanic Catholics in relation to their Church and the Diocese. They then presented their conclusions and recommendations to me. Among the needs identified were:
 
- Need for more effective communication by the Diocese and parishes with members of the Hispanic community
- Need for the bishop to be more present in the Spanish speaking community to show his interest and concern
- Need for greater harmony between Anglo and Hispanic dimensions of our parishes
- Need for our priests to provide more pastoral and spiritual guidance in Spanish
- Need for more Spanish speaking priests
- Need to address community issues of domestic violence, drugs, migration
- Need for more formation and catechetical opportunities
- Need to develop a corps of Hispanic lay leaders
 
I was inspired and impressed by those who attended. Their faith is deeply grounded, and their desire to participate in the mission of Christ was apparent. Over the next weeks, the Diocesan Hispanic Commission, our Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Pastoral Council will reflect on the suggestions and explore ways of responding.
 
I am grateful to Father Raul Trevizo, Vicar General, Ruben Davalos, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Hispanic Ministry, and their committee for their fine work that led to this gathering.
 
The gathering included a rendition of the Guadalupe story, some folklorico dancing and a Mass to celebrate the memorial of Juan Diego that included a homily by Father Robert Gonzalez, who is writing a book on Our Lady of Guadalupe.
 
1. Blessing and Rededication at the Redemptorist Renewal Center -- The Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks is a blessing and gift in our Diocese. Yesterday, it was my joy to celebrate Mass at the Center's Chapel, which was filled with people. Father Tom Pincton, C.Ss.R., Provincial of the Redemptorist Province, Fatjer Peter Connelly. C.Ss.R., Vicar Provincial, Father Tom Santa, C.Ss.R., director of the Center, and several other Redemptorists concelebrated. After Mass, everyone gathered around the new fountain of living water for the blessing and rededication of the newly renovated facilities. Through the beautiful sunshine, God was shining on the event.
 
This new and renovated facility will serve many in our Diocese as well as people from around the world. Here in the desert they will find refreshment and focus for their lives.
 
Congratulations to Father Santa and the Redemptorists for a job well done.

2. Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
-- I will be at Salpointe Catholic High School tomorrow morning for the annual Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We will remember Bishop Moreno fondly and prayerfully during the celebration. He had a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I also will be celebrating Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Nogales. The community is doing a lot of planning for tomorrow evening's celebration. I always enjoy experiencing the faith of communities across our Diocese on this special day of faith. Many of our parishes are doing a lot of planning for this great feast. I pray it will be the occasion for some to return to the Church.

I understand that "Guadalupe," the new film about Our Lady of Guadalupe that is now showing in Tucson (at El Con and Park Place) is a fine rendition of the story of faith and hope that is so meaningful to us.

Set in current day Mexico, the movie introduces a brother and sister, both scientists, who decide to investigate the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Motivated by their curiosity and by a difficult situation they are experiencing in their lives, they discover something during their research that changes their lives. The film was shot on location in Spain and Mexico, with collaboration from the Institute for Guadalupan Studies. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has endorsed the movie and has said, "It puts the discovery of the numerous unknown aspects of Holy Mary of Guadalupe within reach of the public."

3. Safe Environment Program -- The Sexual Misconduct Review Board meets this Wednesday at the Pastoral Center. We will hear from Dr. Paul Duckro, director of the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection, a report on the continuing implementation and refinement of the Safe Environment Program at each of our parishes and schools.

One aspect of the diocesan Safe Environment Program is the commitment of the Diocese to be part of community efforts to address child abuse. Paul's work as president of the governing board of the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center's is one way that we realize that commitment. I am happy to support his efforts and I am grateful for all that the Center accomplishes in helping county attorneys and law enforcement agencies respond effectively to and prevent harm to our children.

Paul facilitated the first meeting of the advisory board of the Center last Thursday. Dr. Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General of the U.S., generously gave of his time to speak to this group.

4. Conference of Major Superiors of Men -- The National and Joint Board of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) is meeting this week at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to dialogue with the participants this Wednesday. It was my honor to make a presentation to the group last February when they met at the Center.

CMSM is an association of the leadership of men in religious and apostolic institutes in the U.S. that represents U.S. male religious and apostolic communities before a number of national and international Church bodies.

The theme of the CMSM this year is "A Coat of Many Colors," reflecting the organization's 50th anniversary and the support it has provided to religious brothers and priests serving the Church. This gathering will include the new provincials from a number of communities.

5. Official Appointment -- Father Chris Orndorff is appointed pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma effective Jan. 13, 2007. Father Chris has been serving as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Tucson. He succeeds Father Marcos Velasquez, whose appointment as the pastor of the new parish in Maricopa was announced last month.

6. Diocese of Tucson Catholics Cemeteries Board Meeting -- The Board will hold its monthly meeting this Thursday morning.

Last Friday evening, more than 300 people gathered at the Mausoleum at Holy Hope Cemetery for the annual Advent Mass and tree lighting. It was a very moving celebration. Each participant received an angel ornament on which they inscribed the name of a loved one. As they place the ornament on the tree, they identified person for whom they were praying. One elderly woman prayed for her husband of 59 years, a mother for a son of 19 who was shot and killed, a family for their grandparent who died at 79. It is important during the Advent season to reach out to those who have lost a loved one this past year. Advent, Christmas and the New Year are especially difficult times to deal with loss.
 
Jim DeCastro, executive director of the Cemeteries, and his staff did a marvelous job welcoming and reaching out to those who came for the celebration at Holy Hope and the Advent celebration held Saturday at All Faiths Cemetery.

7. Priests Day of Prayer -- The monthly day of prayer is this Thursday at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks. Since this is the Advent season, I hope that many of our priests will be able to set this time aside to spend some time in prayer. This Day of Prayer is taking the place of the Advent Afternoon of Prayer that was held in past years. 

Finding time for prayer is important for all of us as we contend with the busyness of the season while trying to keep a focus on the coming of Christ.

8. In the Spirit of the Season -- In the spirit of the Advent Season, I will be attending the annual Christmas Luncheon of the Serra Club today; Wednesday, I will celebrate the annual Advent Mass with the staff of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona; Wednesday evening, I will be attending the 10th annual concert by the Tucson Boys Chorus and the Sons of Orpheus at Mission San Xavier del Bac; and on Friday evening, our Diocesan Pastoral Council will celebrate its annual Christmas Dinner.

9. Diocesan Pastoral Council -- The Council meets this Saturday morning. Our agenda includes a discussion of these three pastoral issues that challenge our Diocese: lack of priests and the need to promote vocations; alienated and lapsed Catholics and passing on the faith to future generations; and marriage and family life.

10. Border and Immigration Issues
-- Last year on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic Bishops of Arizona issued our Pastoral Letter on immigration, "You Welcomed Me." A celebration of the letter and its teaching will be the focus of a gathering sponsored by Bishop Thomas Olmsted in Phoenix. Father Robert Gonzalez will be giving one of the key reflections during that assembly.
 
The letter has been widely distributed in dioceses around the U.S., and its readership has included politicians in our State. Some parishes have offered opportunities for parishioners to discuss the letter.

The letter remains available at our diocesan Website under "Pastoral Letters, Statements and Reports."

11. Posada at the Border -- The annual "Posada on the Border" will begin at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday in downtown Nogales. We will gather at East International Street Between North Robbins and the Morley Street entrance to Nogales, Sonora.

The Posada is the Mexican cultural tradition that recalls Mary and Joseph's search in Bethlehem for a place to stay the night. On each side of the border, teens portraying Mary and Joseph will stop at three "inns" to commemorate that search. The reenactment not only creates a sense of shared culture and an appreciation for the spirituality behind the custom, it also allows us to call attention to the plight of migrants crossing the desert into Arizona. As they have in past years, the teens and their leaders will greet each other on both sides of the border when the Posada concludes with Mary and Joseph being welcomed at the stable. After the ceremony, we will cross into Mexico and process to Casa Hogar, an orphanage for girls where we will celebrate the spirit of the Advent season.

Many parishes and communities, including St. Augustine Cathedral, are planning Posadas for this Advent Season. I hope you will take part in one of the opportunities. If it would be your first time, you are in for a special evening.

12. Catholic Physicians Mass -- I will be celebrating the third annual Mass for Catholic Physicians and their families at the Chapel of St. Augustine Catholic High School in Tucson this Sunday at 10 a.m.

13. "Missionary" Outreach to Small Communities -- The rapid population growth in many parts of our Diocese is creating "missionary" opportunities for some of our parishes. I recently learned from Father Bill Gyure, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Payson, about the new outreach to the small community of Young. Each Tuesday, Father Bill or one of the parish's deacons travel the 60 miles to Young to celebrate Mass or a Communion Service and for catechesis. The entire area of northern Gila County is within the parish's boundaries, including the towns of Pumpkin Center, Tonto Basin, Strawberry and Pine.

In Pinal County, Father Chuck Cloud of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish has been providing Mass and sacramental services to the Cave Creek area.

These efforts, as well as similar outreach activities by several other parishes, that try to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics in our small communities point out the critical needs we have for more priests and for the resources to establish new missions and new parishes.

14. Welcome to Ann Suto -- We welcome Ann to the Pastoral Center and to her new responsibilities as an assistant in the Human Resources Office. She and her husband recently moved to Arizona from western New York where Ann had worked for 16 years as the principal's secretary at a Catholic elementary school in the Diocese of Buffalo.

15. Please Remember in Your Prayers -- Rosa Guttierez, mother of Richard Serrano, diocesan director of Human Resources, who died last Thursday. I will preside at the Mass for the repose of her soul that will take place at Santa Cruz Parish at 10 a.m. today.

Deacon Rodger Miller of Our Lady of the Mountains Parish in Sierra Vista who is recovering from bypass surgery that took place last week.

Ben Tuchi, chairman of the Diocese of Tucson Catholic Cemeteries Board, who is hospitalized.

Kathy Rhinehart, executive assistant for Corporate Matters here at the Pastoral Center, who this Wednesday begins six weeks of medical leave for surgery and recuperation.

On Monday, Dec. 18, at the noon Mass in the Cathedral, we will celebrate the Month's Mind Mass for Bishop Manuel Moreno. It is also the day of our Presbyteral Council meeting, and I hope that a number of our Vicars will join me for that celebration. A "month's mind" is a traditional celebration made in remembrance of a deceased person a month after death.

Vol. 4, No. 33
Dec. 18, 2006

Yesterday, we celebrated Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, which draws its name from the first word of the Introit of the Latin Mass, "Gaudete" ("Rejoice").

The rejoicing of the third Sunday of Advent has to do with the joy of expectation: we are so close to the coming of our Savior.

Everyone wants joy in their life, but sadly, for many people, the search for joy is down paths leading nowhere, and they are left bereft of joy. John the Baptizer reminds us that joy is found only in Christ. He is the One we seek. He alone brings joy.
 
On Saturday at the Border Posada, I could see joy in the faces of the young people who had come to participate as they crossed into Mexico and gave candies and goodies to those who came to receive us.

The act of giving brings joy far more than the act of receiving. I felt joy meeting Archbishop Ulyses Macias, Archbishop of Hermosillo, who had come to take part in this beautiful devotion. As Archbishop Macias and I led the Lord's prayer together and raised our hands together in blessing of those who had come to take part, I felt a deep sense of joy that even though we lived in different countries we could share an experience of our faith as brothers and sisters.
 
In this last week of Advent, try to experience joy by doing for others. There is nothing like it!

1. Presbyteral Council Meeting
-- Our agenda for this morning's meeting at the Pastoral Center will include two substantive discussions. First, we will review the feedback I received at the October convocation of the members of the Boards of Directors of the Parish Corporations on the three areas for which I sought their consultation: the need for more priests and promotion of vocations; how to reach out to Catholics who no longer practice their faith and how to hand on the faith to children; and how to respond in a more helpful way to married couples and families. We will incorporate into this discussion the feedback I received from the gathering two Saturday's ago of Hispanic Catholic leadership on how we can reach out more pastorally and be more sensitive to the needs of Hispanic Catholics. The second substantive discussion will be about the catechesis on Catholic Social Teaching that took place last November. I will express my concern about the number of parishes that did not participate in the catechesis. I will stress that we need to find ways to see ourselves as a "community of communities" that shares a common mission. It's very hard sometimes for us to see ourselves as united in our pastoral approaches, and I want to explore with the Presbyteral Council how we might better work towards this unity.

2. Month's Mind Mass for Bishop Moreno -- We will adjourn the Presbyteral Council meeting at noon for a "month's mind" Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral to mark the 30th day after Bishop Moreno's death.

3. Priest Visits -- I will be on the road tomorrow and Wednesday, continuing my visits with priests in their parishes. Tomorrow, I will be visiting with priests in the parishes of the Pinal West Vicariate. On Wednesday, I will be traveling to the parishes in the Graham-Greenlee Vicariate. These visits have been very valuable for me, allowing me to hear the priests' reflections on their pastoral challenges and to see some of the work they are doing in their parishes. I look forward to finishing these priest visits in next year.

4. Simbang Gabi Celebration -- Members of our Asian Catholic Community in the Tucson area are in the midst of celebrating a novena tradition that is known in the Philippines as Simbang Gabi. Father Miguel Mariano, our Vocation Director, shares this information about the novena:
 
Traditionally, Christmas Day in the Philippines is preceded by a novena of Masses that starts on Dec. 16. Known as the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) in the traditional Spanish, these Masses are more popularly known in Filipino as Simbang Gabi, or "Night Mass." The Simbang Gabi is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition. In some parishes, the Mass starts as early as four o'clock in the morning. The road leading to the church is lit by hundreds of candles. Going to Mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show devotion to the faith and a heightened anticipation for the Nativity. After Mass, Filipino families partake of traditional Philippine Christmas delicacies, either during breakfast at home or immediately outside the church where street vendors offer native delicacies, including bibingka (rice and egg based cake, cooked using coals on top and under), puto bumbong (a purple sticky rice delicacy which is steamed in wooden tubes, with brown sugar and coconut shavings as condiments), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate (thick Spanish cocoa).

Our Asian Catholic Community has adopted Simbang Gabi, with some changes that include not having to get up so early for Mass. The novena began last Thursday with the daily Mass being celebrated in homes. This Thursday, the Asian Catholic Community will gather at Our Lady of La Vang Parish for the Simbang Gabi Mass at 6:30 p.m., at which I will preside. The concluding Mass of the novena will be tomorrow evening at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish.

5. In the Spirit of the Season -- I will be celebrating the Posadas this Wednesday evening with the community of Santa Cruz Parish and the Discalced Carmelites. On Friday, the staff here at the Pastoral Center will hold our annual Christmas luncheon. This luncheon is an opportunity for me to thank the staff members who have reached significant anniversaries of their service to the Diocese. On Friday evening at the Bishop's Residence, I will host our seminarians and their families the annual seminarian Christmas dinner.

6. Ordination to the Diaconate of Mark Long -- At Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Tucson on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., we will celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy and the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate of Mark Long.  It is a special joy to have this ordination so close to Christmas, and I hope that many of you will be able to attend. Mark will be returning to Mundelein Seminary for one more quarter before returning to us for his assignment to a parish where he will serve until his ordination to the priesthood next June.

7. "Arizona Illustrated" -- I am very pleased once again to have been invited by "Arizona Illustrated" managing editor and anchor Bill Buckmaster to be an end-of-the-year guest for the news program's "Friday Roundtable" segment. I will join Bill and other reporters in looking back at the news and issues that have affected our communities in Southern Arizona this past year. The program will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. this Friday, repeating at midnight.

8. Mission Outreach by Jesuits -- On Saturday, I met with two members of the California Province of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Sean Carroll, S.J., and Mark Potter. They are investigating the possibility of a mission outreach along the Arizona border, possibly as a joint venture of the Jesuit Refugee Service. Already, four Jesuit volunteers are working in Nogales, and there is hope that another group will be coming soon. I expressed our interest in collaborating with the Jesuits in this important pastoral ministry. Plans will clarify in the next several months to determine if the initiative will become reality.

9. Operation Rice Bowl Training -- I want to add my encouragement and support for participation by our parishes in the Operation Rice Bowl Training that is scheduled for January. Information on the training has been sent to all parishes.

Operation Rice Bowl, which we have conducted in our Diocese for many years, is the Lenten program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that allows us to show our solidarity with impoverished people around the world.

The three-day training opportunity begins Jan. 10. It will include sessions here at the Pastoral Center and a visit to the "BANCOMUN" economic development project in Nogales, Sonora. Participants will learn about the Micro-Bank, visit the colonias where the businesses take place and learn how CRS supports such projects around the world. 
  
This is a unique educational opportunity that takes place within "National Migration Week." We know that many of the persons entering our country do so to find economic security, and projects like "BANCOMUN" are helping people stabilize their lives in their own countries.
 
Tomorrow is the deadline for registration. Please contact Joanne Welter of the Catholic Social Mission Office at socialmission@diocesetucson.org or 520-792-3410 for information.

10. Positions Open in Stewardship and Development Office -- Tom Smith, director of the diocesan Stewardship and Development Office and the Annual Catholic Appeal, is hoping that two very talented persons will join him very soon in the ministry of stewardship and development. With Nancy Gastelum's announcement last month that she needed to relocate out-of-state and Irene Holguin's announcement last week that she has accepted a position at St. Augustine Cathedral, there are now two positions open in the Stewardship and Development Office. (I thank Irene for her dedicated service to the Diocese these past seven years in the Human Resources Office and the Stewardship and Development Office.)

The positions are Administrative Coordinator and Administrative Assistant.

You can find the position descriptions and information on how to apply at www.diocesetucson.org/employ.html.

11. Don't Forget the CTSO, CCS Tax Credits -- Sunday, Dec. 31, is the deadline for making contributions to the Diocese of Tucson Catholic Tuition Support Organization and Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona that may make you eligible for credits on your Arizona income tax for this year.

Your contribution to the CTSO may qualify you for the Private School Tuition Tax Credit. Information on this tax credit is available at www.ctso-tucson.org.

CCS is recognized as a qualified agency under the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit Program for the Working Poor. Your gift made by the end of this year to CCS can make you eligible for the "Arizona Charitable Tax Credit." For more information about the charitable tax credit opportunity, you can visit www.ccs-soaz.org (click on "Giving") and www.azdor.gov (click on "individual" then "charitable tax credit").

12. Christmas Eve Morning Mass
-- I will celebrate Mass this Sunday morning at 10 a.m. at the Pima County Detention Center. I am grateful to the Center's administration for the opportunity to celebrate this Mass and to Barb Mattus, director of Detention Ministry, Annie Lopez and the other regular volunteers at the Detention Center for their ministry at the Center. This is the third annual Christmas Eve Mass at the Center. Even in their situations, those who are incarcerated demonstrate during this Mass a deep sense of the meaning of Christmas.

13. Christmas Eve Mass -- Once again this Christmas Eve, I will be celebrating the 5:30 p.m. Vigil Mass with the children of St. Augustine Cathedral Parish and the 7:30 p.m. Vigil Mass with the Cathedral Parish Community. The care and attention given to these Liturgies and the beautiful decorations in the Cathedral always make me so proud, and I so appreciate the preparations by rector Father Pat Crino, Father Alonzo Garcia, Msgr. Carlos Romero, the Cathedral's Deacons and the entire Cathedral Staff. Following the Vigil liturgies, I will be on my way to Chicago to spend Christmas Day with my Mom and family.

14. Monday Memo Christmas and New Year's Break -- This is the last memo of 2006. Monday Memo will resume on Monday, Jan. 8, 2007.

Two of the items that I know will be included in that issue of the Memo are my look back at the resolutions I made for 2006 and the formal beginning of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal.

I will be with my brother bishops of Regions XIII for the first five days of the New Year at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks for our annual retreat. On Sunday, Jan. 7, I will celebrate with the community of Sacred Heart Parish in Tucson the installation of Father Patrick Gavin, O.Carm., as the parish's new pastor. Also on that Sunday, I will be attending a reception to welcome Father Joe Rodrigues, S.D.S., and Peggy Guerrero as new members of the Jordan Ministry Team.

15. "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace" -- As we prepare to begin the New Year of Our Lord 2007, I encourage you to read Pope Benedict XVI's beautifully written message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace which is observed New Year's Day.

In the introduction, the Holy Father writes, "Out of concern for children, especially those whose future is compromised by exploitation and the malice of unscrupulous adults, I wish on this World Day of Peace to encourage everyone to reflect on the theme: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace. I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is prepared for coming generations."  

You can access the message at the Vatican Website, www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm.

16. A Christmas Greeting and Prayer -- I am grateful to Susan Imwalle for allowing the use of her beautiful watercolor of St. Augustine Cathedral for my Christmas Card.


Welcome Christ with joy and wonder!
May His coming fill your heart
with the peace He alone can bring!