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Wednesday Update

A new year
We are at the beginning of a new year. As in previous years, the major media sites have listed the closing year’s economic successes and failures, political wins and losses and the catastrophic weather, shootings, and the sufferings of many people. The media gives equal attention to the past year’s highlights in sports, fashion, the lives of celebrities, etc. While I’m not much concerned about who won the Stanley Cup or who is marrying into Britain’s royal family, there is much about the year behind us that causes me to rejoice, while other issues leave me deeply troubled.

I must admit that I am moved by the year-end message of Pope Francis. He remarked that 2017 had been marred by war, lies and injustice. In his characteristically direct and prophetic manner, he urged people everywhere to take responsibility for their actions.  While I find the Holy Father’s assessment accurate and sober, I also find that it comes from a man whose life is a constant witness to boundless joy. Indeed, I believe it is that joy that has endeared him to most all the world. I suspect his words have great power as they flow from one who lives as he preaches, spending his days as a prophetic witness to peace, mercy, service of the poor and reconciliation among all peoples. Pope Francis is indeed a man who sees the world’s sufferings, but his witness is to the light of Christ — a light burning brightly which no darkness can ever overwhelm.

Pope Francis urges us not only to see the world, but also to accept some personal responsibility for how our individual lives impact the world community. His words are not without significance as the people of western society are perhaps less inclined than ever before to accept personal responsibility for our sins and failures. We tend more to blame others, point fingers, claim the status of “victim,” and absolve our conscience of its annoying warnings. 

From this perspective, I conclude that a critical message for me is that I need to meet the year not so much as a passive spectator — watching it unfold around me — but rather as an active participant in what unfolds. Surely this is true of every human being. My hope is that a year from now I can look back on 2018 with as much gratitude as I have for 2017, but also with the knowledge that in perhaps some small but Spirit-inspired way I was a part of what blessed others.  Along with Pope Francis and each of you, I want to be a part of what leads to peace, to reconciliation, to healing and to Gospel-inspired joy.

Keeping our vision on the “big issues” is essential. No one can hide from the rumbling of wars, unspeakable poverty, mass migrations, the desecration of human life, fractured politics or other catastrophic events. At the same time, not one of us should fail to see the hand of God in our lives, the beauty in creation, the incredible good achieved by people of faith, or the heroes in our midst.  For indeed, the light of Christ continues to burn in the darkness, and the darkness will not overwhelm it. This alone will bring us the joy we see so wonderfully in our Holy Father.

For those reading these humble words, I kindly invite you to join with me in looking honestly at our world and looking honestly within ourselves. Take an honest look the sufferings of Christ as they are found in so many in our world today even as you take stock of the undeserved blessings of your own life. Consider the year behind us and join with me in answering Pope Francis’ call for the year ahead —accepting responsibility for our world, perhaps most especially by working to be part of someone else’s blessings in 2018.

An invitation
Each year, the Msgr. Don Hughes Assembly of the Knights of Columbus hosts a Dinner with Bishop, a fundraiser event to benefit Seminary Education and the Priests’ Retirement Fund.  The dinner features one or more honorees

This year’s honoree is Msgr. Al Schifano, our past Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General, who now serves in our Vocations Department.  Monsignor’s work for our diocese is legendary, as he worked alongside others during the diocese’s financial reorganization and healing from past priest abuses.

I encourage you to join us at this dinner.  Reservations are required and can be made online through our diocesetucson.org website at https://diocesetucson.org/General/indexpage/registration.pdf

The dinner on Sunday, Jan. 14 begins with Mass at 4 p.m. With a no-host social hour and dinner immediately following.

Recap of recent events
- I celebrated Christmas Eve Mass with men and women at the Pima County Jail in two separate Masses. On Dec. 26, I visited those in the Federal Detention Center in Eloy where migrants stay until their immigration issues are decided.

-Jan. 4: I visited the Sr. Jose Women’s Center at the invitation of Msgr. Tom Cahalane. The Monsignor, who is pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Tucson, was an early supporter of the center that was founded by Jean Fedigan, a parishioner at Our Mother of Sorrows.  The center began in a small residence and after several years, the needs of homeless women “outgrew” the small space.  Last summer, the center moved to a much larger building, and has been thriving. The visit was very moving. I encourage you to visit the Sr. Jose website at http://srjosewomensshelter.org/  to learn more about the work being done there.

Several members of the Pastoral  Center staff participated in the 5K walk for Vocations.  -Jan. 6:  More than 300 people participated in the third annual 5K run to raise awareness for religious vocations.  My thanks to Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas for his enthusiastic encouragement of participants and for celebrating Mass following the run/walk.

-I said the invocation at the Arizona Governor’s State of the State Address in Tucson yesterday. It was my first introduction to Gov. Doug Ducey, but I will meet with him again during a visit of the Arizona Conference of Catholic Bishops in the future.

-Parishes should have received new Bishop photos.  If not, please contact Steff Koeneman at
520- 838-2561. The diocese is covering the cost of an 8 x 10 image, if a larger photo is needed please call Steff for pricing and ordering information.

-This week, I am enjoying retreat at the Redemptorist Renewal Center with my brother bishops from Region XIII, which includes the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Denver that includes the dioceses of Cheyenne, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, as well as the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and the dioceses of Gallup, Las Cruces, Phoenix and Tucson.

Other news:
-Bishop Emeritus Gerald F. Kicanas has been appointed as the Chairman of the National Catholic Education Association. As you know, Bishop Kicanas earlier work included an extensive career in education in Chicago, such as his work as rector of Mundelein Seminary.

-Welcome to Andrea Baldenegro who joined the Pastoral Center staff this week as the Executive Assistant for Corporate Matters. Andrea also works in youth ministry for St. Mark’s Parish in Oro Valley,

-The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration will share a Mass of Thanksgiving with the Tucson community on Friday, Jan. 19, as they prepare to leave the much-loved Benedictine Monastery on Country Club Road in Tucson. This Mass will be among the final public liturgies at the Monastery, which has been home to the sisters since they arrived in the late1930s. The sisters first occupied the Steinfeld home at 300 North Main St. Construction of the permanent monastery we know today began in 1939 and the sisters moved there in December 1940.

I will be the celebrant at the Mass along with Bishop Emeritus Kicanas.

-Congratulations to Lourdes Catholic High School Senior, Ana Maria Gonzalez, who was chosen as one of 350 “finalists” in the first round of selection for the Sullivan Leadership Award offered by Seattle University.  She, along with the others selected, will travel to Seattle to write a timed essay on this year's chosen topic. From that group, 75 students will be chosen to compete for the award.  Ultimately, nine recipients are awarded the scholarship annually.

Televised Mass
Beginning in February, Catholic Extension will broadcast weekly Sunday Masses for the homebound on KOLD, Channel 13.

Catholic Extension selected the Tucson area to launch this new and exciting initiative, a partnership with the Diocese of Tucson and Tucson’s local CBS affiliate, KOLD. Broadcast decisions were made by the Extension Society.

The Sunday Masses will air both at 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Catholic Extension is an American papal society that builds up vibrant Catholic faith communities in poor regions of the United States. It supports the Diocese of Tucson, along with 89 other U.S. mission dioceses, by raising and distributing funds for church buildings, leadership development, and ministries.

Since 1906, Catholic Extension has given assistance to the Tucson diocese totaling more than $18 million in today’s dollars. Over the last five years, Catholic Extension has provided almost $2.4 million to the diocese, including for seminarian education, leadership development, youth ministry and Native American ministry.

In addition to the Masses, Extension will broadcast various programs on KOLD.  The first, to be televised Jan.14, is “Catholic Extension—Works of Mercy” highlights the Church’s corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Jan. 21 program, “Catholic Extension—The Church at the Border” introduces viewers to vibrant Catholic communities that are living the Gospel at the U.S.-Mexico border. And, on Jan. 28, “Catholic Extension—The Light of Christ” tells the stories of inspiring priests, sisters and laypeople who have been recipients and finalists of Catholic Extension’s “Lumen Christi Award.” Among others, it features Father Alfonso “Ponchie” Vásquez, O.F.M., of the San Solano Missions.