Feb. 5, 2007 Feb. 19, 2007 Feb. 26, 2007

Vol. 4, No. 38
Feb. 5, 2007

"Trappistine Sisters arrive to start home near Sonoita," read the headline in the Feb. 7, 1972, edition of the Tucson Citizen.

"They arrived not on a train as did the Benedictine Sisters 37 years ago, nor on foot and in wagons as did the Sisters of St. Joseph's a century ago, but in a giant DC10 jet," the story beneath the headline reported.

"The Sisters, known officially as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are establishing a new home in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains about four miles north of Sonoita," the story noted.

A photograph taken after the Sisters deplaned shows Mother Benedict, the prioress, and Sisters Clair, Loretta, Dominic, Celestine and Victoria.



Yesterday, it was a joy for me to celebrate with the Sisters the 35th anniversary of their arrival in our Diocese. They are a blessing and a gift in our community. Before Mass yesterday, Mother Miriam showed me the new facility that was only recently finished. The new rooms are the studios for Sister Clair, a marvelous iconographer, Sister Esther, whose sculptures are so beautiful, and Mother Miriam, who does calligraphy, giving wonderful form to important documents. One of the most important industries of the monastery is baking communion bread. The 10 Trappistine Sisters each bring unique talents and gifts to their community.

Mother Miriam has an on-line journal that you can read at www.santaritabbey.org. The reflection in the journal about the funeral Mass for Bishop Moreno is beautifully written.

We also visited the new infirmary they are building on the grounds to care for aging Sisters in the monastery. Two of the Sisters are nurses, and the new facility will be a well-equipped place from which they will be able to care for infirm Sisters in the future.
 
Father Casimir, a Cistercian priest who was visiting from Utah, joined me in celebrating the anniversary Mass in the Sisters' simple and strikingly beautiful chapel. I also was pleased to see the Brothers from Urlach, a nearby monastery, present as well.
 
Santa Rita Abbey is surrounded by the gorgeous Santa Rita Mountains, some of which still have covering of snow. The Sisters refer to the area as "the southwest, with hills and mountains, and the immensity of the sky." It is a little bit of heaven.
 
After Mass, we looked at the black and white photos of the early days of the founding of Santa Rita Abbey. Sister Clair and Sister Victoria are still in the community, and they have barely changed in the 35 years since the founding.

1. 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal -- With "Announcement Weekend,"  the campaign for this year's Appeal is now officially underway.

Parishioners in our 74 parishes were invited during weekend Mass to help " Light the Way"  for the 26 uniquely Catholic charities and ministries that are supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.

The goal for this year is $3.3 million. As I say in the video for this year's campaign, " That's a lot!"  But I also say that I am confident that we can achieve that goal -- and even more -- if we work together to ensure that the programs and services of the charities and ministries will be able to continue their important work in service to the mission of the Diocese and the Church.

I was able to thank many of the Appeal's long-time supporters at last week's Annual Appreciation Luncheon at St. Francis de Sales Parish. Tom Smith, director of the Appeal, was pleased to acknowledge Barb Mattus, director of Detention Ministry, Father Angelo Mastria, O.Carm., and Sister Carolyn Nicolai, F.S.P., of Pastoral Ministry to Nursing Homes and Long-term Care Centers and Sister Jane Eschweiler, S.D.S., and Father Joe Rodrigues, S.D.S., of the Jordan Ministry Team. Their ministries are now included among the 26 charities and ministries that receive support from the Annual Appeal.

Father Joe received a standing ovation for the two beautiful songs that he performed for us.
 
2. Presentation by Father Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I.
-- I am very pleased to welcome Father Ron to our Diocese. A prolific and respected author of works bearing on living a Christian life, he is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio.
 


Father Ron will speak this evening on "Mature Christian Discipleship Today: Striving to Hear the Deeper Invitations of Jesus," at 7 p.m. in the chapel of the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks. There will be an opportunity to give a free-will offering. Please contact Pegi Dodd in the Office of Formation at 520-838-2545 or pegid@diocesetucson.org to reserve a seat.

Father Ron also will be the presenter for tomorrow's program of on-going formation for priests of the Diocese.

3. Sexual Misconduct Review Board -- The Board meets this morning here at the Pastoral Center.

4. Priests Visits -- I will continue my visits to the priests of the Diocese, meeting this week with Father John Allt at St. Joseph Parish, Father Francis Dang, C.S.s.R., at Our Lady of La Vang Parish, Father Bob Wicht at St. Rita in the Desert Parish and Father Ray Ratzenberger at Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

I look forward to this time with our priests, expressing my support for their work and listening to what they sense is going well and what some of their challenges have been. These visits are so important for me, allowing me to spend some time with our priests who work so hard to further the mission of the Church.

5. Holy Family Parish Listening Sessions -- I will be meeting with the staff, deacons and members of the board of directors of Holy Family Parish in Tucson tomorrow for a discussion about their parish and its needs. At 7 p.m., I will meet with parishioners and invite them to share with me the strengths and challenges of their parish and the qualities they feel important in their next pastor. Father Tom Millane is serving as administrator of the parish as we search for a new pastor to succeed Father Joe Baker who died last month.

6. Annual Serra Foundation Dinner -- Our Diocese's Associate Vocation Directors are the honorees for this year's Serra Foundation Dinner that will take place this Wednesday at 7 p.m. at El Parador Restaurant in Tucson. I am honored to be the " honored guest"  for this year's dinner.

The Serra Foundation is an activity of the Serra Club of Tucson. Founded in 1951 in our Diocese, the Serra Club is one of hundreds of Serra Clubs worldwide that foster and promote vocations to the priesthood, that support priests in their ministry, that encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life and that assist members to recognize and respond to God's call to holiness.

7. Priests Day of Prayer -- The monthly Day of Prayer for priests will be this Thursday at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks.

8. Mass at Lourdes Catholic High School -- I will visit Lourdes Catholic High School in Nogales this Friday and celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m. with the students, faculty and staff. I also will bless the new grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on the grounds of the school.

9. Diocesan Pastoral Council -- The Council meets this Saturday at the Pastoral Council. Father Miguel Mariano, Vocation Director, will give a presentation. The Council will continue its discussions of the critical pastoral issues in our Diocese, focusing on marriage and family life.

10. Knights of Columbus Council 1200 Centennial -- Council 1200 was chartered on Feb. 17, 1907, with 60 members. Today, Council 1200 proudly serves as the mother council for 24 Councils and four Forth Degree Assemblies with 3,500 Knights in the greater Tucson area today.

This Saturday, the Knights of Council 1200 and their families will gather at St. Augustine Cathedral at 3:30 p.m. for a special centennial celebration Mass at which I will preside. There will be a centennial celebration dinner that evening at the Doubletree Inn.

This year also is the centennial of the Arizona State Council. All Knights in Arizona are invited to attend the State Council's 100th birthday party in May. More information is available at www.azknightsofcolumbus.com.

11. Hooping It Up with Father Jojo -- Father Jojo Tabo, parochial vicar at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Tucson, got a lot of exercise the Sunday before last as he refereed two full-court basketball games at the St. Francis de Sales Parish Gym. The games featured boys' teams from the youth groups of St. Francis and Our Mother of Sorrows and a team from St. Augustine Catholic High School.

Father Jojo, who knows his way around the basketball court (according to a reliable source), is one of our Associate Vocations Directors and is our youngest diocesan priest. He initiated the idea of a mini-tournament as a way to create fellowship among the Tucson eastside parish youth groups and to promote vocations. One of the benefits of the games is that the teens are seeing that having a vocation to the priesthood or religious life means you can put your natural talents and gifts to work in service of others. The tournament will continue next week at St. Francis.
 
I am grateful for such an initiative, and I hope that we can come up with a number of ideas throughout the Diocese by which to encourage vocations. Maybe we could put together a Vocations dream team to play some of the youth group teams: Father Jojo at guard, Father Richard Kusugh, V.C, at center, and a some tall and talented " recruits"  from the University of Arizona and Pima College. I would nominate Allan Norville, who was honored last December by Loyola of Chicago for his stellar playing in the 1950s, as coach.

12. Honors for Yuma Catholic High School Seniors -- Two seniors of Yuma Catholic High School have received appointments to our Nation's military academies. Travis Sebree has received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Ashley Aitken has received an appointment to the Naval Academy Preparatory School and will be attending the Naval Academy in academic year 2008-09.

13. Please Remember in Your Prayers -- Let us continue to pray for: June Kellen and her son Joel; Father Roland Bedard, M.S.; the brother of Sister Guadalupe Jurado, O.P.; and Father Paul LaRocgue. A memorial Mass for Sister Margaret Groh, S.C., who died Jan. 21, will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. this Friday at 
St. Cyril of Alexandria Parish in Tucson.

14. Annual Convocation for Consecrated Religious -- With the theme " And God Saw That It Was Good,"  this year's convocation will take place on Saturday, Feb. 24, at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Tucson. Women and Men Religious in our Diocese will focus on " the urgent need for reconciliation, between industrialized and developing countries, between rich and poor within each country, and also between God's creation as a whole."  

Speakers for the day will include Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New Orleans, and Sister Mary Kirkhoff, M.M.S. I will give a talk on meeting the challenges of social and environmental justice in our Diocese.

Father Bernard is a missionary to our country from Ghana. He has done some groundbreaking work to build bridges between the African-American and African communities of New Orleans.

Sister Mary has been recognized by Cochise County Cooperative Extension of the University of Arizona for her work with the Douglas Special Action Group on Border Health Issues. Sister Mary helped to improve nutrition and remove unhealthy food choices from the schools in Douglas.

Registration information is available from Sister Jean Olmstead, S.B.S., Vicar for Religious, at the Pastoral Center, 520-792-3410, and at www.diocesetucson.org/vicarreligious.html.

15. Annual Mass with Black Catholic Community -- This year's Mass, celebrated during Black History Month, will be on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 5:30 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral.

Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., will be the homilist.

For this year's Mass, we have invited the priests from the different nations in Africa who are serving in our Diocese and, in the spirit of ecumenism, some of the ministers from African-American churches in Tucson.

The Mass will recognize the work of our spiritual leaders in the community. At the end of Mass, we will begin a new tradition by honoring a person in our Diocese who is an exemplar in faith with the Father Augustine Tolton Award. Father Tolton was the first African-American priest, ordained in 1886. You can find out more about Father Tolton at www.quincy.edu/information/history/tolton.html.

16. Monday Memo Mid-Winter Break -- Next week, I hope to be able to join my childhood friends for our annual reunion. Monday Memo will return Feb. 19.

17. Da' Bears -- Sigh, sob, so sad. Wait until next year!

Vol. 4, No. 39
Feb. 19, 2007

Each year, the Holy Father issues a Lenten Message. Pope Benedict XVI's message for this Lent reminds us of God's amazing love for us, which we can contemplate again and again throughout this Lenten Season, culminating in Holy Week, when we celebrate the Eucharist, instituted on Holy Thursday; when we witness Christ's love in His Passion, celebrated on Good Friday; and when we marvel at the news of the His Resurrection at the Easter Vigil.

You can access the Holy Father's Lenten Message by going to www.vatican.va or by going to the special Lenten resource page on our diocesan Website.

I will be celebrating the noon Mass on Ash Wednesday at St. Augustine Cathedral. The Cathedral is always overflowing with the faithful on this day when we come forward to be signed with the ashes and to respond with a fervent "Amen!" to the words spoken by the priest or deacon: "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return," or "Repent and believe the Good News."

Wherever we go this Wednesday, we will see the mark of the ashes on others, reminding us that we are not alone on this Lenten journey.

In my column in this month's The New Vision / La Nueva Visión, I suggest some things that we can do on our journey that will help us to consider more deeply our relationship with Christ.

Read one of the Gospels, slowly, meditatively, taking in the life of Christ, His words and actions.

Reading one of the many available studies of the Gospels can be helpful.

Read one of the many wonderful biographies of Christ.

Read the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that invites us to journey with Christ.

Spend time before the Eucharist, being with a friend Who loves you so much. Talk with Him as a friend, as someone you are interested in knowing better. He surely wants to know you better.

Do some things to imitate Christ. We imitate a person we admire, look up to and want to be like. Christ went about doing good. He healed the sick, wept with those who suffered, reached out to those on the margins of society. We can do the same.

1. Rite of Election, Call to Continuing Conversion -- Each year during the Lenten Season, we gather on two successive Sundays at St. Augustine Cathedral for the beautiful liturgies of the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion.

It is during these liturgies that we welcome in a special way those men and women, young children and even entire families who have heard the call of Christ in their lives to follow Him as members of the Catholic Church.

Our celebrations this Lent will be this Sunday and the next at 2:30 p.m. I will preside at the liturgies on both Sundays.

This year, we will welcome 190 catechumens, who will be named the Elect and who will be baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Communion for the first time at the Easter Vigil celebrated in their parishes, and 335 candidates who are already baptized in Christ and who will renew the faith of their Baptism and continue their conversion by receiving the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation.

Witnessing this welcome will be their families, their pastors and the directors of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and teams from more than 40 parishes around the Diocese.

I am grateful to Sister Lois Paha, O.P., director of the Office of Formation, and to her committee for all of the planning and organizing that goes into making these liturgies such special occasions at the beginning of the Lenten Season.

2. Lenten Internet Retreats -- The Catholic Communication Campaign, in association with Franciscan Radio, is offering a series of half-hour audio programs for each of the Sundays in Lent that you can access at www.franciscanradio.org.

The programs are meant to facilitate the prayer and reflection that are key components of our Catholic Lenten practices.

There are six English and six Spanish programs. Each features a bishop as retreat guide and homilist. Program host Elia Castillo opens the programs with a greeting and description of the retreat followed by a sung version of The Lord's Prayer. The bishop then presents his homily for that Sunday. Following the homily is a meditative song and a question-and-answer segment with the bishop. The program concludes with the bishop's blessing.

The programs were produced for the Catholic Communication Campaign by Franciscan Radio, a ministry of the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press. I am very honored to be among the bishops who are participating in the programs. The program with my homily is for the Third Sunday of Lent.

3. 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal -- I celebrated Mass this past Saturday evening at the beautiful new church of St. Andrew the Apostle in Sierra Vista, which is prominently featured in this year's ACA video that has been distributed to all of our parishes. At that Mass, mention was made of the sharing that is taking place between St. Andrew and a parish in Mississippi, one of many devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Here is a parish, like others of ours, that is reaching beyond their own community to help those in need.
 
This was spirit was further reflected in the dinner after Mass that was sponsored by the Bishop Salpointe Council of the Knights of Columbus. The dinner is an annual event to help the parish meet its goal in the ACA. What a delight to meet the huge crowd of people who came to share in the evening. St. Andrew, like so many of our parishes, has a rich diversity of cultures and languages (a Filipino choir sang at the Mass), including many military families and former military, young and old. Members of the youth group helped to serve the meal.

I was moved to see Father Greg Adolf, pastor, be the first to bring his Appeal envelope forward. He was followed by many parishioners, each willing to do her or his part to help the Appeal succeed. Many mentioned that they were increasing their contribution this year to help us reach our diocesan goal of $3.3 million so that we can fully fund the 26 ministries and charities that depend upon the Appeal. The evening was a marvelous success.

4. Lunar New Year Celebration
-- Yesterday was the start of the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by many Asian cultures and peoples, including the Chinese, Koreans and the Vietnamese.

For the start of this New Year, the Year of the Pig (or boar), I was very happy to be with the people of Our Lady of La Vang Parish here in Tucson yesterday to celebrate Mass in the morning and to enjoy the beginning of a day-long festival to begin this New Year, which in the Vietnamese culture is called Tet.

I mentioned to the community that I was looking forward to visiting Viet Nam this summer for the first time. I look forward to learning more about this marvelous culture that has suffered greatly but whose people have stayed firm in their faith.
 
Vietnamese is such a lyrical language, and the choir at Our Lady of La Vang enhanced our celebration with their beautiful voices.
 
Father Francis Hoa, C.S.s.R., pastor, was rightly proud of how everyone in the community pitched in to make the celebration of Tet a special event in Tucson.
 
I had an opportunity before Mass to see the men and women in the kitchen preparing the delicacies that would be available at the celebration. Sister Lucia Ann Le, O.S.B., of the Benedictine Convent, and a number of others were making countless numbers of spring rolls (she did some special vegetarian rolls for me). It was fun watching a man working the wok, stirring fried rice and the many other special foods that were being prepared.
 
After Mass, it was fun passing out the "lucky money" in red envelopes to everyone, which is part of the custom of Tet. Later, we gathered in the parking lot that had been transformed into a fiesta ground with tents and booths and a stage on which performances of Vietnamese singers and dancers would take place. Some of the young people from the parish dressed up as a dragon that had come in search of things to eat. Children went up to feed the dragon with envelopes. I was assigned the task of baiting the dragon with a bamboo pole from which some lettuce and a red envelope dangled. After some misses, the dragon grabbed the prize and everyone cheered.
 
It was a delight praying and celebrating with our Vietnamese community in the Diocese. I look forward to next year.

5. Mentoring Program for the Recently Ordained
-- Father Miguel Mariano, our diocesan Vocations Director, and I will be meeting today and tomorrow with priests ordained five years or less for the first gathering this year of the Mentoring Program for the Recently Ordained.

The general topic for our gathering at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks is "Care of the Minister and Working Together," which will touch on the different perspectives of our priests' personal lives and how we can work together in the presbyterate to support the mission of the Church in our Diocese.
  
6.Vocations -- Father Miguel and I will be meeting tomorrow with our 11 Associate Vocation Directors (priests from each of the vicariates) at the Redemptorist Renewal Center to discuss and plan how we can work together this year to encourage and promote more vocations to the priesthood in our Diocese.

Father Miguel and Marty Hammond, executive assistant in the Vocations Office, have asked me to express their gratitude to all who helped promote participation in the Feb. 1 Sweet Tomatoes Fun-raiser for the Seminarian Emergency Fund. More than $400 was realized by this year's event.

7. Knights of Columbus Annual Priest Appreciation Dinner -- The Knights of Columbus, who do so much to support the vocation program of our Diocese, make a special effort each year to show their appreciation for priests with a special dinner to which priests are invited. This year's dinner will take place tomorrow evening.

8. Pastoral Center Staff and Department Directors' Meetings
-- The monthly meetings of staff and directors with Father Al Schifano, Moderator of the Curia, and myself will be this Thursday morning.

9. Immigration -- This week, a number of Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders in Arizona will send a letter to our Arizona Congressional Delegation encouraging our representatives to take leadership in formulating and passing comprehensive immigration policy legislation now.

Arizona experiences the effects of immigration in a preeminent way, so it is only fitting that our elected officials would be on the forefront of trying to resolve this situation. Getting tough alone cannot adequately address what our country is experiencing. Only a comprehensive immigration policy that includes a guest worker program with worker rights protections, an earned pathway to citizenship for those now in the country and an expedited reunification of families will help us to move forward as a country that remains faithful to the values we profess. Several meetings with those legislators are being planned. It is important that the Congress and President exercise the leadership our nation needs.

Father Bob Carney is among the 11 persons in our local communities who will be honored at this Friday evening's Fourth Annual Corazón de Justicia Awards event in Tucson. Sponsored by the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, the award recognizes those who have been selected by their peers for possessing a "heart of justice" for their advocacy of the human rights of those who migrate.

10. Pima County Interfaith Council Summit and Assembly -- I will be participating in "Inequality and Opportunity in the New Economy," this Friday. Sponsored by the Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC), the summit will engage faith communities and community leaders in an examination of the issues of poverty, inequality and opportunity and their links with the local economy. Of particular concern to the summit will be the realities that 20 percent of Tucson's population lives below the poverty level and that the percentage of children in Tucson who live in poverty has increased five percent between 2003 and 2005.

There is no charge to attend the summit, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson. Information is available from PCIC at 903-2333.

Participation in local efforts to address poverty complements the participation of our Diocese and Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona in "The Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America," the new multi-year initiative by Catholic Charities USA to reduce by half the rate of poverty in the U.S. by 2020. (See the Monday Memo of Jan. 16.)

11. Annual Convocation for Consecrated Religious -- I look forward to being with the Women and Men Religious of our Diocese this Saturday for their annual convocation, which this year is being held at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Tucson.

The theme of this year's convocation is "And God Saw That It Was Good." Participants will focus on "the urgent need for reconciliation, between industrialized and developing countries, between rich and poor within each country, and also between God's creation as a whole."

Presenters for the convocation include Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New Orleans, and Sister Mary Kirkhoff, M.M.S. I will give a presentation on meeting the challenges of social and environmental justice in our Diocese.



Father Bernard is a missionary to our country from Ghana who has accomplished much to build bridges between the African-American and African communities of New Orleans. Sister Mary has been recognized by Cochise County Cooperative Extension of the University of Arizona for her work with the Douglas Special Action Group on Border Health Issues.
 

Registration information is available from Sister Jean Olmstead, S.B.S., Vicar for Religious, at the Pastoral Center, 520-792-3410, and at www.diocesetucson.org/vicarreligious.html.



12. Annual Mass with Black Catholic Community -- For this year's Mass, which will we celebrate this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral, we have invited the priests from the different nations in Africa who are serving in our Diocese and, in the spirit of ecumenism, some of the ministers from African-American churches in Tucson.

We are very honored to have Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., as homilist.



At the end of Mass, we will begin a new tradition by honoring a person in our Diocese who is an exemplar in faith with our first diocesan Father Augustine Tolton Award. Father Tolton was the first African-American priest, ordained in 1886. You can find out more about Father Tolton at www.quincy.edu/information/history/tolton.html.

13. Please Remember in Your Prayers - Let us remember in a special way Carol Davies of Safford, who died last week. Carol and her husband Jerry served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council for many years and assisted in the preparations and meetings held around the incorporation of our parishes. We pray that the Lord will grant her peace and assist her family in their loss.

Vol. 4, No. 40
Feb. 26, 2007

During Lent, we are invited to turn our lives more fully to the Lord. We hear that call in the Lenten scripture readings. We seek that conversion through our fasting and almsgiving. We are encouraged to embrace Christ more fully by the example of our catechumens and candidates who, with their sponsors and instructors and family members, gathered this past Sunday at St. Augustine Cathedral for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
 
Their desire to learn more about the Lord and to embrace the faith can be an inspiration to us in our Lenten journey. As I greeted each one of them on Sunday, I could see their enthusiasm and delight in coming to know the Lord, emotions not unlike those in the crowds who first followed Christ. They want to walk with him, leave behind their nets and follow him.
 
As we strive to make the most of Lent, we can be motivated by the nearly 200 people from all around the Diocese who are seeking Baptism and who will be received into the Church and the more than 300 people who will be fully initiated into the Church this Easter Vigil. Each one has a marvelous story to tell of how the Lord is working in their lives. As we continue our Lenten journey, I will try to share a story about one or two of them each Monday in the memo. Their stories can inspire us to stay the course this Lent.
 
We will gather at St. Augustine Cathedral again next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for the second of the annual liturgies for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
 
I am grateful to Sister Lois Paja, O.P., Pegi Dodd of the Office of Formation, all the committee and the RCIA directors, instructors and sponsors who prepare those who will be baptized and received into the Church this Easter Vigil and who plan these marvelous liturgies that inspire and strengthen all of us. I also am grateful to the members of the Tucson Mass Choir and choir directors Dorothy Reid and Sister Luisa Derouen, O.P., for the beautiful music for the liturgies.

1. Annual Convocation for Consecrated Religious -- There was a wonderful turnout of religious men and women at the annual Convocation that was held on Saturday at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Tucson. There were fine presentations by Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., on the reality and effects of racial prejudice and Sister Mary Kirkhoff, M.M.S., on how we might respect our environment as a gift from God.
 
I had the opportunity to hold an open forum with the participants that was lively and engaging. We discussed a wide range of issues that included my decision not to grant permission to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who had been invited to speak in Tucson by the group Call to Action, and the Church's efforts to respond pastorally to people with a gay or lesbian orientation. We reflected on the importance of dialogue in the Church. It was a vibrant and open exchange that I thought was helpful and well received. I was grateful to hear the appreciation that our women religious expressed for the beautiful services held for Bishop Moreno.

2. Black History Month Mass
-- St. Augustine Cathedral's 5:30 p.m. Saturday Mass moved with singing and clapping from the Tucson Arizona Mass Choir, whose voices praised God during this special Eucharistic celebration at which we recognized the gift of Black Catholics in our community. Father Bernard Assenyoh, S.V.D., from Ghana, Africa, who is the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in New Orleans, gave a rousing homily, reminding us that in all our diversity we are one family.
 
During Mass, we acknowledged and thanked the 20 priests who are serving in our Diocese who are from different nations in Africa. I was pleased that Fathers James Aboyi, V.C., Greg Okafor, Godfrey Oparaekwe and Matthew Williams could concelebrate the Mass with me, along with Father Pat Crino, rector of the Cathedral.

We also invited Black ministers serving in the Tucson area to this Mass, and I was delighted to welcome Rev. Willie Coleman of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Elwood McDowell of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church and Rev. Clifton Price of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. They honored us by their presence.

After Communion, we began a new tradition by presenting our first diocesan Father Augustine Tolton Award. Named after the first African-American priest, this award honors a person in our Diocese who is an exemplar in faith. I was very pleased to present the award to Mike Butler of Tucson. Mike has been instrumental in helping to begin our diocesan effort to recognize and affirm Black Catholics in our community, whose presence and gifts, like those of other cultures, enrich and strengthen us.

Father Tolton was born into slavery in 1854 in Missouri. The story of his life, his journey to the priesthood and the challenges he faced in his ministry is amazing and inspiring. I encourage you to visit www.quincy.edu/information/history/tolton.html and http://websites.quincy.edu/tolton to find out more about this remarkable person.

I also was very pleased at the end of Mass to acknowledge Sister Jean Olmstead, S.B.S., for her commitment, contributions and leadership in serving as my liaison to the Black Catholic community. Sister Jean, our Vicar for Religious, is leaving that position in July.

After Mass, Rev. Elwood McDowell gave a stirring reflection on Black History Month and the contribution of Black Catholics and Protestants who have used their talents and given their lives for service to others. He commented on how some cultures praise God by silence and reflection while other cultures praise God by clapping, moving and singing. Each expression of worship has a place, and we need to value and treasure the gifts of each culture.
 
Following Mass, we were treated to a performance in Cathedral Hall by the Barbea Williams Performing Company. Barbea is an adjunct professor in the UA School of Dance. They had everyone in the hall stepping out, including Father Gregory, who moved with style and grace. It was a delightful evening.

I thank Sister Jean, Willie Jordan-Curtis, Mike Butler and all those who worked on the celebration.

3. Celebration at Blessed Kateri Tekakawitha Parish -- Yesterday's celebration at Blessed Kateri, our Tucson parish that serves urban Native American Catholics, emphasized for me the blessing of diversity that we enjoy in our Diocese. The drums, the smoke blessing and the prayer to the four directions were an enriching experience for me.

I was delighted to meet Mariel Figuoroa and Maria Alejandra Escalante, two young people from the parish who are preparing for baptism this Easter Vigil. It was so enlivening to hear the community welcome them and encourage them to stay at the task of their preparation to join the Church. Their sponsors were so proud of their catechumens, supporting them in their search for Christ.
 
What a marvelously diverse community we live in. Catholic means universal, and that is what we experience regularly in the Diocese of Tucson. All are welcome!

4. Summit on Poverty, Inequality -- More than 100 people from diverse sectors in the Pima County community gathered at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson last Friday to explore how we can work together to address the daunting challenges of poverty and inequality. The goal of the Summit on Inequality and Opportunity in the New Economy, was to move beyond our own spheres of influence to join together with others to confront the issues of hunger, housing, health care, economic security and education that affect our community.

Father Raul Trevizo, our Vicar General, Father Gonzalo Villegas, Vicar Forane for the Pima South Vicariate, Joanne Welter from our Catholic Social Mission Office and Peg Harmon of Catholic Community Services and a number of persons from various parishes in the Tucson area attended the summit, which was sponsored by the Pima County Interfaith Council.
 
While there is a desire to work together and while we value working together, working together remains a difficult challenge. People are already busy and stretched in their own institutions, they come at issues from various perspectives and they have different priorities. Nevertheless, much could happen if we might learn how to work together more effectively to address the significant problems and issues we face.
 
There are currently about 37 million people in our nation who live below the poverty line, defined in 2005 as a family of four with an income below $20,000. That amounts to the combined populations of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. Two out of three families below the poverty line have one or more persons working, so these are working poor. While the majority of poor in the U.S. are white, the percentage of people of color living below the poverty line is staggering.
 
There is much work to be done and the point of the Summit was that we can only accomplish that work if we do it together.

5. Presbyteral Council Meeting -- The Council meets this morning here at the Pastoral Center. Our agenda includes a report from Dr. Paul Duckro, director of the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection, on the Safe Environment Program and the educational component of the program. We also will continue our discussion on these diocesan priorities: re-garnering resources; reaching out to the littlest and weakest among us; support for marriage and family life; handing on the faith; and strengthening pastoral outreach to the Hispanic Catholic Community.

Also during today's meeting, I will discuss with the vicars forane how we might better coordinate pro-life activities in our Diocese. I have been exploring with Joanne Welter, director of our Catholic Social Mission Office, the possibility of restructuring that office into an office for pro-life and pro-justice activities that would work with a coordinating council to organize our efforts on behalf of all life issues. I also have asked Joanne to plan a meeting that would include representatives from our parishes who are involved in pro-life and pro-justice issues to discuss how we might enhance our efforts on behalf of life. We will also look at how this is being done in other dioceses. I look forward to the insights of our Vicars about these possibilities.
 
In addition to that discussion, I will explore with the vicars forane a first step in trying to implement the recent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' document, "Ministry to Catholics with a Homosexual Inclination." For some time, I have been struggling to find a way for our Diocese to reach out to Catholics with a gay or lesbian orientation, as well as to parents whose children have disclosed to them their orientation.
 
Ministry to Catholics with a gay or lesbian orientation is challenging. The Church teaches first that every person, regardless of orientation, is a child of God to be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, the Church also teaches that sexual behavior outside marriage is not permissible.

6. Vocations -- Father Miguel Mariano, our Vocation Director, and I will be at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Benson tomorrow evening for the Cochise and Graham-Greenlee Vicariates' Andrew and Miryam Dinner and Evening of Reflection on Vocations.
 
The evening gives men and women who might be considering a possible vocation as a priest, deacon, brother or woman religious an opportunity to gather with those whom have heard and responded to God's call, to listen to their discernment stories, to ask questions and to pray about taking the first step to active discernment of their vocation.
 
If your parish or school would be interested in hosting an Andrew and Miryam Dinner and Evening of Reflection on Vocations or if you know of someone who might like to attend one of the dinners, please contact the Vocations Office at 520-838-2531.

7. "Media, Creativity and the Public Good"
-- I will be participating in the second Roundtable on Leadership and the Media this Wednesday in Santa Barbara, California. This roundtable, focusing on "Media, Creativity and the Public Good," is sponsored by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program in association with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
The overall goal of the Communications and Society Program is to promote integrated, thoughtful, values-based decision making in the fields of communications, media and information policy. The program convenes leaders in the areas of information and communication for roundtable discussions to explore the political, economic and societal impact of communications and information infrastructures.

8. 2007 Archdiocese of Los Angeles RECongress -- One of the largest and most anticipated of diocesan-sponsored events for those in the ministry of religious education is the Archdiocese of Los Angeles RECongress. The Congress, which is being held this week from Friday through Sunday, attracts more than 40,000 participants and offers more than 200 workshops.

I will be one of the presenters for this year's Congress. My presentations will be on "Co-workers in the Vineyard," the foundational document on the formation of Lay Ecclesial Minister, and "Collaboration in Ministry."

There is more information about the Congress at www.recongress.org.

9. Preaching Preparation Seminar -- I am looking forward to being with our candidates for the permanent diaconate this Saturday at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Tucson for the first of four seminars on preaching preparation.

Preparing our deacons to preach is a major component of their formation. Good preaching is critical to our Eucharistic celebration, for the homily opens up the Scriptures for us and relates the Gospel to our lives here and now.
 
During the seminar, deacon candidates will practice public speaking and proclaiming the Gospel. They will discuss what goes into an effective homily and listen to preachers on how they go about planning their homilies each week. They will have an opportunity to tell stories, to give homilies and to get feedback on their homiletic style.

There is no one best way to be an effective homilist. Each person's style is different. The deacon candidates will be able to learn from one another as they prepare for two of their most important ministries as a deacon, to proclaim the Word of God and to preach.

10. Mass with Italian Catholic Federation
-- I will be celebrating Mass this Sunday at 9 a.m. at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Green Valley with the parish community and with members of the Italian Catholic Federation, Branch 425, which was established in 1999 at Our Lady of the Valley. This branch of the national organization seeks fellowship with other Catholics and their families and provides assistance to the parish and to needy causes. Membership is open to all Catholics.

11. 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal
-- Last Thursday was "Commitment Thursday" for all of us here at the Pastoral Center. Tom Smith, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, gave a fine presentation to us during our monthly staff meeting, during which he asked us to make our commitment to this year's campaign. Tom also gave us some numbers that made us very proud: there was 100 percent participation by our staff of 47 in last year's ACA; we made pledges of $21,500 last year, exceeding our goal of $20,000. The average gift to the ACA last year by staff members was $450.

This year so far, we here at the Pastoral Center have pledged $5,500 towards our goal of $22,000. All our pledges are credited to our individual parishes.

We are anticipating the first parish reports for this year's ACA campaign within the next two weeks.

12. Welcome to the Pastoral Center -- We are very happy to welcome two new co-workers here at the Pastoral Center.

Huong Tee Tran has joined the Diocese of Tucson Charity and Ministry Fund as Administrative Coordinator for the Annual Catholic Appeal. Originally from Vietnam, Tee is retired from the U.S. Navy and is a member of Our Lady of La Vang Parish where she volunteers as the parish secretary, catechist teacher and assistant director and teacher of language studies. She also is a member of the choir.

David Miller has joined the Property and Insurance Services Department as Real Estate Specialist. A real estate broker, David owned a real estate company in Green Valley. He and his wife Dale live in Green Valley and are active in Our Lady of the Valley Parish. David is very active in the Knights of Columbus.

13. "Proud to be an American" -- I recently received a letter from Robert Kash of AmVet Auxiliary Post 770 in Tucson in which he told me how the Post had asked St. John the Evangelist School to participate in their essay contest on "Why I Am Proud To Be an American." There were 30 essays submitted, and he included the copy of the winning essay, from St. John student Pablo Monreal, that I am happy share with you:
 
My name is Pablo Monreal, and I am a proud American. I am a proud American because we get to live where we want to live, be who we want to be, and get to make our own decisions. We get to live the American dream in America. This is the greatest place to live.
 
What it means to be a proud American is that we have many rights in our country. One of those rights is freedom. Another right is to vote for the President of the United States, decide if our laws are fair, and be treated with respect and dignity. To be a proud American is to treat our flag with respect, to love our State and Country, and to be proud of being an American citizen.
 
We are proud Americans because American soldiers are sacrificing their lives daily for our freedom. Also being a proud American is living the American dreams and becoming the person that God wants us to become.
 
In America, I would like to live the American dream by becoming a veterinarian. In order to become a veterinarian, you have to go to college, and in the United States there is no excuse to not receive a good education. There are many different ways of obtaining a good education. The only thing that holds us back is ourselves. I thank God that I live in the United States of America. May God bless America.

Congratulations to Pablo on this honor.