Series on the Eucharist #3 – Feeding the five thousand

By Father Ryan Stenger.

The only one of the miracles of Jesus that is included in all four of the Gospel accounts is his feeding of the crowd of 5,000 with miraculously multiplied bread and fish. Obviously this event greatly affected the first Christians and was influential in forming their understanding of the Lord’s identity and mission.

In the Gospel according to John, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is reported at the beginning of the sixth chapter and is followed by the Lord’s famous Bread of Life discourse, in which Christ explains to the crowd his teaching on the Eucharist, thus drawing a strong connection between the miraculous feeding of the crowd and the sacrament of his Body and Blood that he would institute at the Last Supper. The evangelist also emphasizes this connection in his description of the time and place of the miracle. St. John writes, “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples” (John 6:3). So often throughout the Bible the mountaintop is where God and man come together most profoundly. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the prophet Elijah spoke to God in the silent whisper on Mt. Horeb, Christ himself was transfigured in glory on Mt. Tabor, and crucified on Calvary. According to the ancient imagination, the mountain was the place where heaven and earth meet, the symbol of God reaching down to us as we reach up to him.

And St. John also writes, “The Jewish feast of Passover was near” (John 6:4). It was on Passover that the sacrificial lambs were put to death in remembrance of God’s liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Of course, Christ would die on the Cross at Passover time, as the true Lamb of God whose sacrifice saves us from death and liberates us from slavery to sin. And so, with these details, St. John is showing that the miracle that Christ performed in feeding this massive crowd was not simply a matter of providing ordinary food, but that it was symbolic of something much more, that the bread he gave them prefigured the Bread of Life about which he would go on to teach them, the Eucharist — the place where heaven and earth meet, the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross, the Lord’s sacred Body offered up and his precious Blood poured out.

It’s easy to imagine that enormous crowd of five thousand following the Lord across the Sea of Galilee and up the mountain. They surely must have been hungry and weary and maybe even lost and confused. How many times throughout their lives had they sought for a way to satisfy their hunger, for a place to find rest, for a source of guidance and direction, but been left unfulfilled in the end? But now they have come to Christ. And after they have been fed by him, St. John tells us that they “had their fill” and still there were twelve baskets of bread left over (John 6:12). That crowd stands for all of mankind, because we all have a profound spiritual hunger, a longing for more than what the world can give. Our hearts reach out towards the infinite, the transcendent, the divine, because God has made us for himself. Only in him are we able to have our fill, so to speak.

And it is in the Eucharist that he gives himself to us as food to sustain us on our journey towards him, as the only food that is able to satisfy that most fundamental longing of our hearts. If it were merely a symbol, it would not be enough, but the Lord gives himself to us truly in the Eucharist — his Body and Blood, his soul and divinity. And he gives himself to us not simply in a momentary way during the liturgy, but he remains with us always in the Tabernacle. His presence abides in our midst; he lives within his Church, so that we always have access to him, so that we’re always able to find our sustenance in communion with him.

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life (“Lumen Gentium,” n. 11). It is in the Eucharist that God lives among us — from him do our lives come and to him are our lives directed. He must indeed be the source and summit of our lives, as a Church, as a diocese, as parishes, as families, as individuals. But sometimes we lose sight of that. It seems so common to hear the Church spoken of as a sort of social service agency, which exists to run hospitals, and schools, and soup kitchens, but then for it to be forgotten that her primary purpose, the reason for all of her activity, is the worship of God. A parish, for example, can do all sorts of great things, but if it doesn’t draw its people closer to Christ in the Eucharist, then it has completely failed in its mission. And it is the same way in our individual lives. We can become so consumed with activity and busy-ness, even good and important and necessary things, that we lose sight of God living in our midst, that we sometimes even tell ourselves that we don’t have time to spend with him and worship him. Sometimes we look for our sustenance and satisfaction in other places; sometimes we direct our lives to other ends.

But the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand reminds us that only he can truly feed us, only he can satisfy the restlessness of our hearts. May we never look for our happiness apart from him who lives with us always in the Eucharist, so that we might live at all times with him as the source and summit of all that we do.

Father Ryan Stenger, J.C.L., is pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Camp Springs; judge, Diocesan Tribunal Office; and chaplain, Covington Latin School.

Pope: Abuse victims’ outcry more powerful than efforts to silence them

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.

VATICAN CITY — “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up,” Pope Francis said in a letter addressed “to the people of God.”

“I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons,” the pope wrote in the letter dated and released Aug. 20.

The letter was published less than a week after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups in six dioceses. The report spoke of credible allegations against 301 priests in cases involving more than 1,000 children.

“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced,” Pope Francis said. “But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence them.”

“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain,” he said, “and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

In his letter, Pope Francis insisted all Catholics must be involved in the effort to accompany victims, to strengthen safeguarding measures and to end a culture where abuse is covered up.

While the letter called all Catholics to prayer and fasting, it does not change any current policies or offer specific new norms.

It did, however, insist that “clericalism” has been a key part of the problem and said the involvement of the laity will be crucial to addressing the crime and scandal.

Change, he said, will require “the active participation of all the members of God’s people.”

“Many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred,” he said, are groups where there has been an effort to “reduce the people of God to small elites.”

“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to a split in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today,” Pope Francis said. “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”

In his letter, Pope Francis acknowledged the church’s failure.

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” he wrote.

“We showed no care for the little ones,” Pope Francis said. “We abandoned them.”

“Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” he said. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Recognizing the safeguarding policies that have been adopted in various parts of the world as well as pledges of “zero tolerance” for abusive clerics, Pope Francis also acknowledged that “we have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.”

As members of the church, he said, all Catholics should “beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”

Pope Francis also asked Catholics to pray and to fast so that they would be able to hear “the hushed pain” of abuse survivors.

He called for “a fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.”

You can read Pope Francis’ letter in its entirety here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2018/8/20/lettera-popolodidio.html

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 2) – From Exodus to the second Exodus

By Alma Burnette.

This week Dr. Alma Burnette continues her exploration of some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament.

Moses is a type of Christ. Both were born at a time when oppressors were killing Hebrew babies. Both had unusual first cribs. Both of them were raised by a man who was not their natural father. Both were God’s appointed delivers. Both were intercessors. Both offered their own lives to save the people. Both fasted 40 days and nights. Both gave up great riches to serve. Both, at their first appearance, were rejected by their own people. Both proclaimed commandments. Both provided food and drink. The list could go on and on.

Now for the Eucharist connections:

Moses’ first public miracle was changing water to blood. Jesus’ first public miracle was changing water to wine, a forerunner of the greater miracle of changing wine to his own blood. Moses was the first priest to represent all the people. In this new position, he proclaims the Torah to the people. Jesus, the High Priest, proclaims and also fulfilled the Torah during his three-year ministry — the same number of years it takes to read through the Torah reading cycle in synagogues. After proclaiming the Torah, Moses threw the blood of the sacrifice on the people saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made for you.” The priest during the Mass lifts the consecrated host and wine and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world … ”

Moses publicly consecrates Aaron, which began the priesthood (Kohanim succession) that continues to this day. All Kohens must trace their authority back to Aaron’s consecration. Only these men and the other Levites were permitted to offer sacrifices and other priestly duties for the people. This is what Jesus did with the institution of the Twelve for apostolic succession. Only they and those they ordain have the authority to offer the Mass, announce forgiveness, etc.

The Levitical men, while serving as priests, though most were married, had to be celibate for the weeks they served as priests (five non-consecutive weeks per year, see I Samuel 21:1-5; Leviticus 15:18, 22:4). Priests ordained in the New Testament serve year-round. Peter, a married Jew, probably abstained (I Corinthians 7:5-7) before offering the sacrifice of the Mass. The lay priesthood does not have to be celibate because they are the receivers of the sacrifice, not the ones who offer.

The manna in the wilderness is explained in John 6. The manna is related to the unleavened “Bread of the Presence,” also translated the “Bread of the Faces” (plural), which was commanded to be on a table in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle (and the future Temple) perpetually. It foreshadowed Christ’s presence as the bread, the visible yet invisible face of God (Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-7; Numbers 4:7; John 14:9).

The Passover feast is a monumental foreshadowing of the Eucharist. In this article, I will only touch on details normally not covered elsewhere. For instance, the way the blood of the lamb was strategically smeared on the doors: they poured the blood, not in a basin as translated, but in a dugout hole in the threshold of the door. They dipped the hyssop into the blood, applied it to the two side posts and on the lintel (top) of each door. By observation, one could see the result of the smearing as an upright version of the Paleo Hebrew letter TAV. This letter means: the finish, the covenant, the mark, the sign and the signature (Exodus 12:13). The Hebrew letter looks like two crossed sticks — a cross, a cross with blood on it in the same location as the blood on Jesus’ cross.

The Last Supper Jesus had with his disciple was probably not the Passover meal itself. The reason: the Passover lambs had not yet been sacrificed; Jesus had to die with the Passover lambs to fulfill the typology, which began with his birth (all Passover lambs during the second temple period had to be born in Bethlehem). The meal celebrated the evening before the Passover lambs were sacrificed was probably the Todah sacrificial meal (Leviticus 7:12-15, 22). “Todah” in Hebrew means “thanksgiving”; in Greek the word is “Eucharistia.” It could be any time of the year as often as desired and was often eaten on the evenings surrounding the actual Passover night. The Todah meal was to give thanks for individual or family deliverance from peril or death. The Passover meal was a collective Todah meal designated for all Israel to eat together on one specific night, once a year, to celebrate a national deliverance.

The Todah meals had lamb, unleavened bread, cups of wine, prayers and hymns (the Hallel psalms are Todah psalms). The Todah sacrifice is considered the greatest of the animal sacrifices because it added suffering of one’s own life (see Psalm 69:30). The Todah is a subcategory of the peace offerings (Leviticus 7:12-15), the only sacrifice non-priests are permitted to share in its sacrificial meal. The Todah offering was listed in the passage about the seventy-four being called to go up the mountain with Moses (Exodus 24:1-11). While there, they beheld God as they ate and drank. So too, on the night before the official Passover, the Twelve Apostles were called to go up with Jesus to an upper room. There they beheld God (Jesus) as they ate and drank. From that night on his body, blood, soul and divinity sacrifice would be called the Eucharist — Todah in Hebrew.

If the Lord’s Supper was the Todah meal and not the yearly Passover meal, we have an explanation as to why the first Christians, who were Jews, immediately began celebrating this sacrificial meal weekly, and sometimes daily, instead of once a year. The ancient rabbis believed that after the Messiah comes all sacrifices except the Todah would cease. They were correct! Today, at the end of the Mass, the congregation exclaims, “Thanks be to God” — in Hebrew, “Todah laEl.”

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #2 (part 1) – In the Beginning …

By Alma Burnette.

This second article in the Messenger’s series on the Eucharist features Dr. Alma Burnette exploring some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament. It will be published in three parts in three consecutive issues.

“In beginning created Elohim (…) the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1”

In the center of this verse, in Hebrew, is an untranslatable word, which is two Hebrew letters — the “aleph” and the “tav” — the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In Greek the letters are the Alpha and the Omega. It serves the grammatical purpose of being the direct object pointer. These two letters form a concept rather than an actual word. They represent all the words of God by which all things were spoken into existence, including Eucharist. These two letters are peppered throughout the Old Testament, seasoning its meaning. The rabbis teach:

When Messiah comes he will explain the meaning of the aleph and the tav … AND HE DID! He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 22:12) The same concept is in John 1:1.

When God made man, he made him out of the earth’s pre-created dust and breathed life into the lifeless form, bringing man into being by his previously spoken words, “Let us make man in our image.”

During the Mass the priest says, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. … Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”

The priest is exercising his ordained authority to bring life to the lifeless bread and wine, previously made by human hands, fulfilling Christ’s previous words, “This is my body. … This is my blood.”

Just as the lifeless form of the first Adam, became a living soul so the lifeless form of the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the last Adam, Christ.

In Genesis 2 God causes a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and from his side comes forth Eve. Adam exclaims, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God allowed Christ to die, a deep sleep for his body, and his side, too, was opened (pierced) for the Church to come forth. St. Paul writes, “Because we are members of his body we are of his flesh and of his bone.” (Eph 5:30) How so? By the Eucharist being consumed at the Mass, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

In Genesis 2 and 3 the two trees planted in the middle of the garden foreshadow the Eucharist. During a heated debate with an Orthodox Jew, I was asked, “Do you know what the fruit on the two trees in the garden were?” Taken aback, I replied, “No one knows for sure.”

“AHA!!!” He shouts in victory, “It was manna. The tree of life had unleavened manna and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had leavened manna, both heavenly bread.” I was shocked and demanded, “Your words are not sufficient, present your evidence.” And he did. Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread … ”

He continued, the word “fruit” means more than apples, oranges or figs. It means “the product of,” like “fruit of the womb.” Adam and Eve never prepared food before disobeying God. The couple only ate from the trees, not from anything that grew from the ground, such as grain. Now, after the disobedience, Adam would work to obtain bread, and since, it did not require work before, it had to be a product of a tree — the tree of life.

I suddenly recalled, in the Middle Ages, during the feast of Adam and Eve, the churches held Paradise plays and decorated the tree of life with wafers symbolizing the Eucharistic host.

Now John 6:5 became even more real and Romans 5 more clear on how death came into the world by the first Adam eating outside of the will of God, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the Law) and how life comes into the world by eating according to the will of God, Christ’s flesh and blood — the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of life we call the Cross. Both are heavenly bread. The Jews refer to the wooden rollers the scrolls are attached to as “atzei chaim,” trees of life (the scrolls are the Word of God, written on kosher animal skin sewed together by the thread of its veins).

My debater continued, “When Messiah comes he will elevate the meaning of the manna. Now we meditate on it and celebrate it by eating it during the eight days of the Passover season.”

I responded, “The Messiah has come and did elevate it as being his body. We too celebrate by eating at a meal called the Mass. We too meditate; we call it ‘Adoration.’”

He was stunned and said, “You are a teacher.” I responded, “Without you and your people I would have nothing to teach, Jesus, after all, is a Jew.”

Now, the rest of Genesis: the blood of Able “cries out” … fulfilled in Hebrews 12:24 where Jesus’s blood speaks; Noah planting a vineyard and grain after the flood and being permitted to eat clean animals … animals originally only for sacrifice now allowed by eating to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; Abraham receiving from Melchizedek bread and wine; Jacob clothes himself in Esau’s clothes (Incarnation) and receiving the inheritance which included grain for bread and plenty of wine, that Esau, the first son (Adam) sold; Joseph depending on Pharaoh’s bread maker and cupbearer for deliverance. One died, one lived — death and resurrection in the Eucharist. Later Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after placing a cup into the grain. This led to their confession, reconciliation and the salvation of the world through grain for bread distribution.

Next comes Exodus.

Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.

Messenger series on the Eucharist #1 — Real Presence of Christ

By Msgr. William Neuhaus.

I enjoyed watching recently an interesting and even somewhat charming British documentary in which Queen Elizabeth II (who even managed a rare joke) handled, examined and talked about the St. Edward Crown, with which she was crowned 65 years ago and which she apparently has not seen since (I suppose she doesn’t keep these things in a dresser drawer), and the newer Imperial State Crown, which she dons on a regular basis to open the British Parliament. She spoke with some knowledge of the history of the great Cullinan “Star of Africa” diamond which adorns the latter crown, and the program featured commentary on the circumstances of its discovery, cutting and placement in the crown (the priceless gem was sent years ago from South Africa to London by regular mail!), as well as a lengthy discussion on the stone’s characteristics, colors, flaws and so forth, which was all news to me and rather beyond anything I know (which is more or less nothing) about diamonds

In teaching about the Eucharist, I have all the same often found myself mentioning diamonds: They are proverbial for being (pun intended) multi-faceted, a term which comes to mind when one reads this beautiful quote on the Eucharist from the Second Vatican Council, to be found (n. 1323) in the wonderfully comprehensible and accessible “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” which should have a place in the home of every committed Catholic:

At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet “in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”

Sacrifice, memorial, sacrament, bond, banquet … how wonderfully bright is this shining “source and summit,” as the Council calls it, of the Christian life.

The Catechism with great clarity references the centuries of Scriptural and Church teaching on the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, including that “summary” which was presented in the 16th century by the Council of Trent:

Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God … that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. (n. 1376)

It sometimes happens that faithful Catholics encounter people objecting to what we believe about the Real Presence by claiming that the Church’s use of that medieval, philosophical term, “transubstantiation,” as well as the development over the centuries of how the Church has sought to honor that Presence, means that what we believe about the Real Presence is some kind of a medieval innovation or exaggeration remote from what the early Church believed about how Christ is present in the Eucharist.

In 1968, in his beautiful yet relatively brief “Credo of the People of God,” and like his successors in many subsequent papal teaching documents, Blessed Paul VI tried to address that and other modern errors concerning the Eucharist, and perhaps especially concerning adoration of the Eucharist, by describing the use of “transubstantiation” as appropriate while, at the same time, emphasizing that whatever kind of language we may use in describing the change which occurs on the altar, we must always understand that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body. … And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament, which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

“Our very sweet duty.” Pope Paul appreciated and loved the Catholic impulse quietly and reverently to express our wonder and gratitude for what happens before us at Mass, and for what — for whom — we receive in holy Communion. And so we have, among many other hopeful things in the life of the Church, and shiningly standing out in a troubled and confused world, the phenomenon of parish programs of Eucharistic adoration, including here in our own diocese. It’s always a great and often a moving pleasure, and a reaffirming one, to see how such expressions of our belief in the Real Presence strike converts to our faith.

Msgr. Ronald Knox (preacher, apologist, Bible translator and mystery writer) was a 20th-century English convert, and in a powerful Corpus Christi homily recalled the epitaph of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the great 19th-century convert (himself very frequently cited in the Catechism), “Out of Shadows and Appearances into the Truth”:

When death brings us into another world, the experience will not be that of one who falls asleep and dreams, but that of one who wakes from a dream into the full light of day. Here, we are so surrounded by the things of sense that we take them for the full reality. Only sometimes we have a glimpse which corrects that wrong perspective. And above all when we see the Blessed Sacrament enthroned we should look up towards that white disc which shines in the monstrance as towards a [crack] through which, just for a moment, the light of the other world shines through. (“Pastoral and Occasional Sermons,” 304)

Msgr. William Neuhaus is a retired priest of the Diocese of Covington.

2018 DPAA ‘unites us as a diocese in faith and service’

By David Cooley.

Casey Guilfoyle, general chair of 2018 Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal (DPAA), and Matthew Zeck, leadership gifts chair, hope to keep the momentum going after a very successful start to this year’s DPAA. The first phase of the appeal, the leadership gifts phase, brought in $375,900 from 81 donors. That number was announced at two kick-off dinners, one in Cynthiana and the other in Erlanger, on Feb. 20 and 22, respectively, which began the public phase of the appeal. Last weekend, March 3–4, the DPAA video, which featured individuals giving testimonies on how ministries in the diocese have helped them in their time of need, was shown in parishes throughout the Diocese of Covington. Next weekend, March 17–18, is commitment weekend, or the “in-pew” phase of the DPAA, where parishioners will have the opportunity to make their gift or pledge to the DPAA at Mass. The theme for this year’s appeal is “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17), and the goal is $2.5 million.

According to Mr. Zeck, what makes the DPAA so special is how it helps so many different people in so many different ways.

“Each of these ministries [served by the DPAA] are catering to or trying to solve the need that they focus on, but if we only focused on one thing there would be so many other folks not being served,” said Mr. Zeck. “What I think is really special about the DPAA is the wide variety of ministries that it supports, ministries that are trying to help, collectively, a lot of the different situations that our people are in.”

Mr. Zeck believes that this year’s theme is very fitting.

“In Scripture, the word ‘zeal’ spoke about Jesus’ passion for the House of the Lord, but it can also be used for the passion we have for all these ministries and all the work that has to be done to take care of God’s people,” he said.

Mrs. Guilfoyle agreed.

“The theme has been awesome to work with. I think Bishop [Roger] Foys truly captured the depth of the zeal Jesus felt for the Lord’s house. In short, we are called to have the same sort of zeal, the same energy and whole hearted enthusiasm, for the ‘community of believers’ — the House of God in our day, right here in the Diocese of Covington. Supporting this year’s appeal is a clear opportunity for us to all to show our own zeal,” she said.

“Since I have been involved with this year’s appeal and have the benefit of working as leadership gifts chair on the 2016-2017 appeal, I’ve realized how much the DPAA supports our diocese. I’ve also had a chance to see up close and personal all the awesome work done in our diocese,” she said. “It truly unites us as a diocese in faith and service. It helps us all ‘keep the faith’ and also keep our service ministries so strong. … In short the DPAA gives us an opportunity to support the heart of our mission as ‘church’ with one appeal that sustains so many good works.”

A popular aspect of the annual appeal is the parish rebate program. One hundred percent of all gifts collected over a parish’s goal are returned as rebates to that parish for projects and ministry. This has been a very successful incentive for parishes. The Office of Stewardship and Mission Services reported that, as of February 2018, $778,965 has been returned to parishes through the 2017 DPAA rebate program. That number will continue to rise as donors fulfill their pledges.

One of the different aspects of the 2018 appeal has to do with gifts given by credit card. The Diocese of Covington is working with a third-party vendor to take credit card gifts. This is done through a safe and secure website that can be accessed through the “donate button” on the diocesan website, www.covdio.org.

According to Michael Murray, director, Office of Stewardship and Mission Services, this will be a safer procedure but also beneficial to benefactors of the DPAA.

“Once our diocesan faithful register one time through the third-party vendor, a company called VanCo, they will be able to conveniently give online whenever they wish, not just for the DPAA but for other collections, as well,” Mr. Murray said.

As the appeal moves forward Mr. Zeck said that the leadership gifts phase of the appeal went very well and that they are “ahead of the game.”

“One of the general ideas behind the leadership gifts phase is to give us great momentum going into the kick-off dinners. From that standpoint it feels like we are doing really, really well,” said Mr. Zeck.

“Most importantly, I would like to give an incredible expression of gratitude to those who have already given and to those who are considering it. … The generosity of our diocese has been fantastic in the past and we are relying on them to help support us again this year,” he said.

Mrs. Guilfoyle is hoping that everyone in the diocese will contribute something — no matter how large or small.

“Because the DPAA is an opportunity to unite us all as a community of faith to support the work of the diocese, I’d like to encourage everyone to give this year even if they haven’t given regularly in the past,” she said. “Even a small pledge and sacrifice, if given with the spirit and intention of supporting all the great things that make us Catholic here in the diocese, will be returned in abundance. It will be a way for you to connect with the entirety of God’s people here. The great works being done now will continue and grow and thrive and you will be a part of that.”

Bishop Foys announces Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations

By: David Cooley.

Bishop Roger Foys has announced that he has designated the coming year as the “Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations.” The year will officially begin with solemn vespers at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, on the solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 26, and conclude on the same solemnity in 2018.

Bishop Roger Foys is asking the faithful to continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life, but especially to the priesthood during this special year.

While a primary focus throughout the year will be prayer within family life there will also be a strong emphasis on prayer for vocations within the diocesan schools.

Bishop Foys, Father Andrew Young, vocations promoter, and other diocesan priests will visit every one of the high schools, celebrate Mass, and spend an extended amount of time with the students, focusing on vocations. These events will be called “Vocations Day.” Father Young will also be visiting the diocesan grade schools.

In each of the five deaneries, throughout the year, there will be “Deanery Discernment Events” that will include Holy Hours, presentations, dinner, social time and other group activities. Throughout the year, there will also be special articles featured in the Messenger, giving readers insight to the vocations of many of the priests currently serving in the diocese. The same prayer for priestly vocations will be prayed at every parish during each weekend Mass. This prayer will be prayed either as a conclusion to the Prayer of the Faithful or at the end of the Mass.

“The whole year has a dual purpose,” said Bishop Foys in an interview with the Messenger. “First, the purpose is to pray for vocations; and, second, to raise the consciousness of our people about vocations and the need for vocations in order for them to make that vocation culture a part of their life.”

Bishop Foys said that he is very excited about this upcoming year. What’s great about it is that everyone can pray for vocations and raise awareness of the need for priests and vocations, he said.

“The faithful can begin by praying as a family for vocations and they can also encourage, not only their children and grandchildren, but also the people in their parish whom they might believe have a vocation to the priesthood, religious life or the diaconate. Encouragement is sometimes all these young people need,” he said. “It is important to also support the seminarians we have now. Our people are very generous with their financial support, and our hope is that they are also generous with their prayers. A parish that has a seminarian stationed at their church should also do their best to encourage him.”

Bishop Foys said that when he goes on school visits and talks with the students or when he talks to the confirmandi and asks the young men if they have ever thought about being a priest, more often than not they’ll say, “Yes.” Moreover, when he asks the children before their confirmation if there is anyone in their class who would make a good priest they all, invariably, point to one or two young men.

“So, these things are in their thoughts and consciousness,” he said.

Bishop Foys has been heard to say, often, that God, of course, is still calling but people aren’t listening and God’s voice is drowned out by many other things.

“It is our culture in general — the secular society has become so engrained in people,” he said. “The Church at one time was the center of people’s lives. Now, we live in a different time. In this age, the priority of priesthood and religious life doesn’t often rise to the top.”

Bishop Foys said that another issue is that the visibility of the numerous priests and women religious at the schools interacting with the children has extremely declined.

“I look at the history of our schools here and, at one time, they were staffed by almost all priests and religious sisters and brothers,” he said. “It was unusual to have a lay teacher.”

Bishop Foys said that he believes the Year for Prayer for Priestly Vocations is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

“Prayer,” said Bishop Foys, “should be the first step, when it is time to make a decision or if there is some kind of need. It is the first step, not the last step — we should put whatever it is in God’s hands first.”

Aware that, these days, people are very busy, Bishop Foys said that the faithful should take at least 10 minutes a day to pray.

“Go off by yourself somewhere; read the Scriptures,” he said. “The hope that goes along with that is if you take that small amount of time, eventually you will want to do more.”

Bishop Foys said that the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is a time to reflect on the importance of priests in society and in the lives of God’s people.

“A priest is another Christ,” he said. “The priest is called to minister to God’s people. The priesthood is a life of serving. The priest, through the Mass and the sacraments, brings the Lord to people and the people to the Lord. He is a conduit.

“If someone asked me at the end of my life, how would I determine if it was a success or not, I would say that if I brought just one person to Christ, for me, that would be a success.”