It’s been hard to be a Catholic these past couple weeks. That’s the truth. As a convert who has had to defend her faith and has always done so proudly – I can’t exactly say I am ‘proud’ right now. I have been frustrated – no scratch that – infuriated with what has come out. I have been heartbroken. I have been downright livid at some of our leadership’s lack of 100% condemnation (Exhibit A). I have literally wept – not that this has come to light, but because this ever happened. I have read every. single. word. of that 1,000+ page grand jury report. I felt I owed it to the victims to at least hear their stories that went untold for so long.
If they were brave enough to tell their stories, I can certainly be brave enough to hear them.
No summary can do justice to describe the heinous, appalling, and corrupt nature of the stories, testimonies, letters, and concealed records contained within that report. To say that it wasn’t easy to stomach would be an understatement. I lost sleep over the stories I read. My stomach turned in knots as I read ‘concealed’ documents describing heinous crimes on diocese letterhead. I was enraged as I read about known predators being transferred around the country with the approval of PRESENT DAY Cardinals (“40th Statewide Grand Jury Report 1–Interim Redacted,” 2018, p. 223). Yeah, I am looking at you Cardinal Wuerl. I wept as I read the testimonies about the life-altering trauma that victims have had to endure.
I can honestly tell you, since reading it… I am forever changed. I am not the same person as before. I don’t know how you read something like that and it not change you. I will tell you, I am not filled with bitterness (although I would be lying if I said I never considered that route), but rather I am consumed with unrelenting resolve. I know that I can’t recommend a perfect solution. However, I do know that doing nothing is not an option. Change MUST occur. Reform MUST happen. We all MUST say, NEVER AGAIN. In order for any of these to happen, I realized two things are necessary:
IN with the righteous, courageous, and truly holy
OUT with the corrupt, sick, cowardly, and evil
I believe both are equally important in order to begin the healing that our Church so desperately needs. This is for everyone who needs to be reminded that evil does not stain the holiness of millions of others. While at the same time, recognizing that the holiness of a majority does not erase or ‘make-up for’ the evils by a minority – as much as I wish it could. This project started out as a way to make a difference, even if it is a small one. For all of those who have needed to hear it, this is for you.
To Everyone Who Needs to Hear it:
To the victims who came forward,
I don’t have adequate words to express my sorrow. I am so deeply, immensely, and profoundly sorry. I am so sorry that those who you were told to turn to for comfort, for love, for safety, only met you with betrayal and unspeakable suffering. My heart aches as I know my words are powerless to undo the past. I am so sorry you have had to live with this for so long. Please know that I heard your stories, every one of them. I heard your pleas for the protection of other children. I heard your cries for justice. I heard your hurt. I heard your courage. You are so valued. You are so loved. I am so sorry that our corrupt leaders put the reputation of our Church above your welfare. You are worth so much more than that. I am forever indebted to you for your incredible courage and for bringing this to light. Please know that you are my brother and sister in Christ and I will fight for you as such. While nothing I can say or do will erase the unspeakable trauma you had to endure, I can promise that I will do all in my power to not let your bravery be in vain. Thank you from the bottom of my shattered heart for speaking up.
I promise to pick up where you left off.
To my fellow Catholics,
I grieve with you. I hurt with you. I fight alongside you. I ask you, whatever you do – please, dear goodness, DO something. SAY something. I don’t have a perfect solution but I do know silence is complacency. It is complacent attitudes that have allowed for atrocities to continue behind closed doors. This is OUR church. This is CHRIST’S church. Those victims are your brothers and sisters! You should be more outraged than ANYONE else! You shouldn’t have to ask for a subpoena from your government to reveal that your leaders, clothed in HOLY vestments, have been known for raping children! You shouldn’t have to ask for a subpoena to know that a PRESENT DAY Cardinal (hi again, Cardinal Wuerl) gave Church money to a known pedophile for recanting his statement that he had knowledge of a RING OF PEDOPHILE PRIESTS (p. 233)!
If there is anything this report shows us it’s that your priests, your bishops, your cardinals, even your Pope (learn what papal infallibility applies to), can be WRONG. Any study of Church history can clearly tell you that. Learn to discern them from your holy ones and, I beg of you, CONFRONT IT! If a priest, a bishop, or cardinal is doing something blatantly illegal… TELL. THE. POLICE. If the Church refuses to hold its own leaders accountable, let the district attorney’s office do it. One more victim is too many. Don’t you DARE attempt to protect the ‘reputation’ of this institution, or its leaders, over the protection of its children. I would have 100,000 more ‘scandals’ if it meant protecting ONE innocent life from a heinous crimes. If you don’t feel that way, we have a difference of opinion on what the ‘sanctity of life’ means.
Don’t let anyone delegitimize your righteous anger.
There is nothing more righteous than standing up for the vulnerable and innocent. Use your anger productively – don’t let it turn to bitterness. Don’t ask for change. DEMAND IT. Empower the righteous to speak up. Love others unceasingly. Pray relentlessly. Advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Condemn corruption. Fast. Look for the good, absolutely. Have hope in Jesus because, absolutely, there is always hope in Him BUT do NOT ignore blatant evil for the sake of finding the good or to make your own self feel better. Feeling anger and hurt right now is appropriate – you SHOULD feel that way. I promise Jesus has been weeping for His Church, for His children, for decades.
No, this is NOT behind us. One diocese in Pennsylvania intentionally destroyed records during the investigation – I honestly shutter to think what could have been on those (p. 230). Monsignor Thomas Benestad (yeah, I’ll use your name) sexually abused a nine year old boy, confirmed by the DA office as credible and the diocese provided emails proving their knowledge, but is a retired priest in Florida right now and ASSISTS WITH A PARISH (p. 321-322). I could go on and on. Don’t believe me? Go read for yourself. Do not wait another 20 years for the next set of abused children to get the courage to speak up! For the love of your Church and every innocent in it, do not just sit by! Do not stick your head in the sand because it makes you uncomfortable. SAINTS ARE NOT MADE ON THE SIDELINES. Jesus would be flipping tables and so should you.
To those who were planning on joining the Church or Catholics whose faith has been shaken,
My heart aches for you. It takes courage to publicly claim being Catholic, particularly in a culture so opposed to it or in a family that condemns it. What has come out makes that claim 1000xs harder. I am here to tell you that I have not forgotten about you and you are not alone. Please know that the Church has a long history, and throughout it, there have been some men and women in it who have committed sickening atrocities. From the selling of indulgences to corruption of the highest levels, you name it. To gloss over this I think does a disservice to YOU most of all because it does an injustice to understanding what the Church truly IS and what it means to be Catholic.
Men who have failed at their vocation do not get to define what it means to be Catholic nor do they get to represent this faith.
My Catholicity has never, and will never, rest on the righteousness of others. Don’t let evil, sick, corrupt men, who have perverted the name of the priesthood, win by allowing them to warp what it means to be Catholic. They do not have that power and don’t give it to them. Please know that what it means to be Catholic transcends sinful men, even our leaders, and sinful men do not get to stain the holiness of this institution, the Eucharist that it possesses, and the truth that it teaches.
To our evil, corrupt, and/or cowardly leadership (past and present),
There is no way I could go through this post without telling you something. As someone who has read every cover up, every ‘confidential’ Church document, every atrocity committed in that grand jury report, excuse me while I tell you how I REALLY feel. I am ashamed that you were ever permitted to wear (or still are wearing) the holy vestments. I am revolted that you twisted your trusted, sacred position as leverage to prey on precious children. You do not deserve to be called, ‘Father’. I am disgusted that you ever represented my faith in any capacity (or still do) – because you do NOT. You have betrayed the priesthood and you have stripped innocents of their dignity, of their life, and of their faith. Your silence is consent and does not deem you worthy of your sacred title. Protecting your personal reputation above the protection of the innocent… how DARE you EVER call yourself “Pro-Life”. The world is watching Christ’s bride and it makes me sick that YOU are what they get to see. There is no place for you among our shepherds. If you do not feel up to the task of actively and aggressively protecting your flock, please feel free to walk out the door (let it hit you on the way out) and leave those vestments behind so we can give them to courageous holy men that deserve them.
That felt good.
To the good, holy, righteous, courageous, selfless, tirelessly working priests,
This post was inspired for you. We NEED you. We need you more than ever. We need you to continue being courageous and fight for what is holy, righteous, and JUST within our Church leadership in the ways we cannot.
I beg of you, please speak up.
Please keep speaking up. Advocate for your flock and I promise we will advocate for you. I am so sorry for the betrayal of your priestly brothers who have poisoned the name of your vocation. I am so sorry that you have had to take on the evils of others. As badly as we need the cowardly and corrupt out of our Church, we equally need you in it. I know it isn’t easy to be a priest right now and trust me, you have been in my prayers. Please know that your dedication and devotion to your vocation has not gone unnoticed and has not been in a vain. You make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis and I want to remind you of that.
In with the Good
Over the past week, I have gathered letters and stories from Catholics around the world (From Kenya, to Ireland, to the Philippines, to Australia, to India, to Canada, to coast to coast across the United States, you name it). These are stories and letters about men like you who have made a positive impact, who have spoken out against corruption, who have changed lives, and who have lived their vocation day in and day out. Making a difference. I will tell you, I didn’t have to beg for these stories. They poured in. Amazing, holy, and courageous priests are all over the world – and trust me, your flock knows it. If you have ever questioned, ‘is this worth it?’ I hope this answers it for you.
Bishop Morlino and whoever this incredible priest is:
I personally wanted to start with a letter to you both. I wanted to tell you both how deeply and sincerely grateful I am for your courage and speaking out in defense of your flock. You have given so many hope in our leadership. I had a young woman approach me, absolutely deflated because her leadership failed to address these issues. She said she felt so lost and frustrated as she was always told to look to her priests and Bishops for guidance and they gave her none. Well, I sent her your letter (Bishop Morlino) and your video (Anonymous Incredible Priest)… you made a world of difference for this girl and I know you already making difference in this world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have given so many hope. You have given so many confidence. It is men like you both that remind me that the world is full of those ready to stand up to evil and I will tell you, I am always ready to stand with you. Hatred of wickedness is not the opposite of love, indifference is.
I just got off the phone with my parish priest. I sent a passionate email yesterday, and he asked if he could call to hear my thoughts. I’m amazed. He asked what he could preach about regarding the scandals and how he could make his homily better. He listened when I told him not to use fluff words like “saddened” or “disappointed” but “appalling” and “heinous.” Just the fact that he was so willing to seek out my thoughts, to set aside his time to listen to me rant, was amazing and gives me so much hope. His name is Fr. Bower.
I wanted to let you know about Father Anthony. Four years ago our little boy Nicky became unexpectedly and gravely ill; herequired 8 brain surgeries between Albany Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital. Our lives were turned upside down and it was through our faith and family alone that we were able to get through that time. Father Anthony was there whenever we needed him not just physically but through prayer. Thinking about it makes me fill up everytime because I know with all of my being that prayer and the good Lord are what saved our little boy’s life. Our son turned 8 on Wednesday and is as healthy and happy as could be and will live a long, wonderful life thanks to those prayers. Our daughter Camilla as just beginning kindergarten at St. Jude school at the time and the way that she was taken care of by our church and school community was incredible as well. Father Anthony helps lead all of the people who lifted us up during the most troubling time of our lives and we will be forever grateful for him and what’s he’s done in our lives.
This made me think of my old pastor, Fr. Neil. He wrote a letter to his current parish this situation and as someone who has read the first 200 pages of the grand jury document & is confused & outraged, it was what needed to said.
To share- I met the Priest of my parish when I was searching for a church for our wedding. My husband is Episcopalian and was not looking to co Bert but was willing to get married in a Catholic Church because of its importance to me. Father Luke was our saving grace and the reason my husband attends church with me.
He graciously and non-pretentiously spoke of how misunderstood Catholicism is and helped my husband feel at ease. Father Luke is down-to-earth and willing to dispel common misconceptions and bring people closer to the church and God. He shares his weaknesses with our parish so we know he is ‘human’ too. He has a natural gift of connecting those who are lost with God. He is fully and clearly devoted to the sacredness of our church. And for all of that, I am forever Indebted and full of respect and admiration for the man.
Fr. Joseph gave a very powerful homily. He spoke of course about our Blessed Mother and how she is such a model for us, but then addressed the news… he said how important it is to be praying our rosaries, that as members of the Body of Christ it is our duty to pray for our priests, bishops, our parishes… to pray for the leaders of our Church, to pray and to fast for OUR Church. He said that we should be outraged, and I think he even said “pissed off”… and that he was too. He said that there are Holy priests, and to please not forget that, but to pray for them (as well as to of course pray for healing of all those hurt), but to not let this discourage our sons, nephews, friends etc from entering the priesthood because we need more good and holy priests. He said if they don’t become priests, they may become teachers or politicians … and that these abuses happen there too, demonstrating that his sort of thing is happening in many fields, sadly.
I have gone to mass twice since this has happened, and to hear a priest so passionately speak about this… it was like, finally they are talking about it! It was refreshing, empowering… the urge for prayer and purification in our lives and our Church.
I wish I could have recorded it, because my little description doesn’t quite do it justice (I was holding my six month old and trying to keep my two year old from having a melt down while listening haha).
Father Shora is the most humble, inspirational priest that exists, attend his mass and you will understand, just what the young generation need.
I’d like to submit Father Richard as a wonderful priest who has made an impact in my life. He was the priest who prepared my husband and I for marriage and helped us work through so many issues. We have only been married for a year and one month but I can attribute so many marriage successes to his guidance and wisdom. He is a priest that openly teaches the truths of the church and does it in an eloquent and“no-frills” way.
I’m a cradle Catholic. I absolutely love my faith and the intimate relationship it’s given me with Jesus through the Eucharist, the mass, adoration, confession-all of it- more than anything in this world. It’s dear to my heart. I didn’t know about all that’s happened until I was sitting in mass celebrating the feast of the Assumption when our Parish Pastor got up to give the homily and couldn’t make it though sentences without having to stop to compose himself from crying. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced. I remember being on a retreat this past summer and everyone was playing volleyball, but I was sitting down and a little boy asked him if he was married and he responded with, “No I’m a priest so can’t get married or have kids,” then he turned to all of us, pointed, and said “BUT, these are all my kids.” He’s worked so hard to devote every minute of his adult life to the priesthood and helping the Catholic Church to be a welcoming place to ALL people. To see someone who I know loves Jesus above any human desire, enough to give up marriage and children, betrayed by his brothers, broke my heart. The priests at my parish are both young and the impact they’ve had on my life exceeds that of any other human. I used to feel as though the last place I wanted to be was at church, and I planned on leaving it after I turned 18, but through their testimonies and them sharing bits of their hearts, I’ve found a place and a home where I feel welcome and I feel Jesus and His mercy every time I come in contact with them, even though I’m still young. Because of them reaching out to me I’m now leading a bible study for other teenagers, I go to Adoration once a week, I feel comfortable in confession, I feel as though I understand my faith infinitely better, I want to pursue a line of work in the church, and I never want to leave- despite what it’s being faced with today. This problem hit home for me, because a lot of the girls, and guys, were my age when they experienced the sexual abuse. I’m disgusted. I feel betrayed, hurt, and mad. But from the Priests I’ve been able to come in contact with, I’ve never felt anything less than welcome and safe and my heart breaks for those who haven’t experienced that. I have never met two men who have made me laugh so hard or made me feel comfortable enough to share all that’s happened in my life. Out of all of this, one thing I do know is that both of the priests at my parish will both work day and night to reform the Catholic Church and to help people see how BEAUTIFUL and holy it’s meant to be. I have so much faith in them and the church to overcome this and make a change.
Father John and Father Keith
This is Father John homily from the 20th Sunday in Ordinary time. He is an incredible priest, and faithful to the Gospel and tradition. He is such an inspiration of what it means to strive for holiness and I’m so thankful for the Diocese that has many holy priests like Father John.
Another faithful priest is Father Keith. He is a true Father of his flock, faithful to the Gospel and tradition, and a very kind soul.
Father Matt, Father Will, and Father Dan
Fr. Matt from is an incredibly inspiring priest and has been/is creating huge catholic community. He is on fire for the Lord, and has some of the best homilies I have ever heard. He was a huge part in my conversion story with seeing someone so in love with the Lord and relatable to today’s upcoming catholic generation. I believe he leads people to holiness.
Fr. Will is another priest. He is on fire for Christ and I look up to him for his homilies which are incredibly inspiring and truthful, and his reverence with the Eucharist.
Finally, Fr Dan (the town has a powerful trifecta, I’m sad that I moved from it just 6 months ago!). Fr Dan has been a huge power in the Newman Center and on campus, showing people that Catholicism isn’t about “being cool” or “fitting in,” its about knowing who you are in the Lord and growing in relationship with Him because it is fulfilling. He is witty, and his homilies are memorable. I think he is just getting started in his ministry (he’s been a priest for 3 yes)
I would also like to add that Fr Matt is also extremely gifted in the sacrament of reconciliation, and I have never had such important, moving, and spiritually healthy confessions as I have had with him.
So sorry, if I could also add that Fr Will is particularly special to me because I have seen multiple times during mass and when I am speaking with him the Holy Spirit take over and speak through him, and it’s very powerful. (Hope that makes sense???)
I’m not a Catholic yet, but I’m in the process. A deacon at my parish has been a huge influence on me. He’s understanding and extremely intelligent. He also tells it like it is. He’s a breath of fresh air when I’m confused, and the evil one is after me. Which seems like a lot lately. His name is Dcn Dale.
Seminarians Darren, Daniel, and Joseph
Dear Darren, Daniel and Joseph,
What a tough couple of weeks this must have been for all three of you. When one of us is hurting, we all hurt, but your very vocation is under attack. I want to take a minute to remind you of a few things.
First of all, you three represent to me our hope for the future. The number one solution to all of this filth, in my opinion, is good, holy men of character. While no one is perfect, you three strive to be. We need shepherds who can lead us to Christ. You are those men.
Secondly, I want to encourage you. I love the quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that reads, “We pray that the Lord may help us to produce His light in ourselves, even in dark days, so that we might be light for others, illuminating the world.” These are some dark days dear friends, but also, days of opportunity. While the Church will grow smaller during this time, we have the chance to help build it back up in a way worthy of the Bride of Christ. In your vocation particularly, you have the chance to be a light that illuminates our world. Keep studying, keep praying, keep growing in holiness
Third, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being such good friends. For blessing my life with humor, memories, fun and holiness. Daniel, thank you for helping shape the person I am today, and instilling in me a love of the rosary, and a strong opposition to the Steelers 😉 Darren, remember how we went to Rome and I’m pretty sure none of our lives were ever the same? Keep on keepin on with your ridiculous analogies, because they stick, and you make your point. Joseph, thank you for being one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. You have a true heart for all people, and it is a blessing to everyone you meet. God bless y’all!
I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by people (friends, family, and church community) that did not view Catholics as Christian. In fact, many of our church leaders had very anti-Catholic beliefs. So much so, that when our youth minister and Sunday school teachers found out my boyfriend (and now husband) was Catholic, they told me I had two options: 1) break up with him immediately as he was not a Christian or 2) continue to date him but with the intent of converting him to Christianity.
Junior year of high school came around though and I seriously began considering the Catholic faith. I dove head-first into research. By the end of high school I knew I was going to become Catholic (whether my family was okay with it or not). At the start of Sophomore year of College, I joined RCIA. It was here that I met Fr. Ryan. Were it not for him, I would not know Jesus the way I do today. He introduced me to the Eucharist – the body and blood of my Savior. He embodies Christ with every word and every action of every single moment of every single day.
You see, I used to live in a community that believed that Catholics were not Christian and that they did not know Jesus. I was told by several of those people that I wouldn’t be able to go to heaven if I became a Catholic.
Because of Fr. Ryan, I do know Jesus and I was able to fall in love with Jesus in a way I never knew was possible. He teaches me to strive for holiness. He teaches me to trust and have faith even when it felt like the world was against me. He welcomed me into the Church as a father welcoming his daughter home. He encouraged and consoled me during my first reconciliation. He rejoiced with me at Easter Vigil mass when I cried through the entirety of the mass as I was so overwhelmed with joy. He celebrated with me at my first communion (and every other time I received the Eucharist). He was with me the day I joined the Church and he was the priest that presided over my wedding.
Fr. Ryan is humble, kind, incredibly smart, witty, passionate, and holy. He brings the Church to life and he walks us straight to the feet of Jesus.
There are a lot of good priests out there, I know. But Fr. Ryan is among the best of the best. I pray that one day I can be even a fraction of the person that he is.
It’s so important to acknowledge that some priests are following the call of Jesus faithfully and we do not take it for granted. As for me in the year 2007 I was going through a rough patch in my life and it was affecting my spiritual life. In fact several times I was suicidal. My mum realized that I may be having a problem and took me to a priest called Fr Kago. So I talked to him and from there he was a call away. Whenever I would feel I don’t understand what is going on in my life I would call him and he would be ready to listen. After a year I was different I stopped being suicidal I realized how much God loves me and how much my family loves me all with his help. He was transferred from our parish and we lost touch but I always remember him in prayer that the good Lord will continue to use him to restore souls.
I attended Mass today, with my family, determined to pray for our clergy and entire body of Christ. Upon hearing a letter (read by a visiting priest) from our Bishop to the congregation, I could not help but be overwhelmed. We all are. However, we should not be taken by our shock and grief, but rather remain steadfast and become diligent and aware of how evil works – to destroy.
You cannot be an informed and devout Catholic, read victim statements or official Church statements, and not know that we are in the midst of battle. We Catholics possess and have access to the most precious and powerful source of life – the Eucharist! Of course, evil is trying to undermine the Church!
I am not always moved or feel encouraged my by priest’s homilies. But, the Eucharist. However, he stands humble before our (small and somewhat aged & very privileged) congregation after having survived being shot several times in his homeland and nearly losing his life because he is a priest! Because, the Eucharist. He struggles to relate to a foreign community, but continues faithfully & joyfully to serve us. Because, the Eucharist. I am not always pleased by the progress of the Church. BUT God’s ways will remain higher than our own. We must advance. Because, the Eucharist.
I have never met a priest I didn’t love. The church I grew up in and the one on my college campus have had nothing but amazing, comforting, supportive, and joyous priests. In particular I want to mention Monsignor Franco. Monsignor Franco embodies everything a priest should be and the Roman Catholic Church represents. As head of the church he was known as a leader and the congregation grew every week just to hear his homilies. He was known for being blunt and stern while letting us know what we could do or avoid to be better Catholics such as staying until the end of mass as opposed to leaving immediately after communion however, he was down to earth, truthful, wise and empathetic. He had such a strong presence that he was taken away from our parish to work for another archdiocese where he is directly impacting the efforts of our leadership and can be seen on local and national news segments spreading the message of love, tolerance, respect, and compassion. He is fighting the good fight to keep the Catholic Church strong and faithful.
Father Vernon of the Diocese of Cheyenne. Hes super kind, smiley, serious about the eucharist. He is orthodox and has been a great mentor to me, helping me to advance in the spiritual life. I love my priest!
Too many to name
This weekend, I was planning on going to 8:00 Sunday Mass, but found myself driving to the church Saturday night. The parish was hosting a BBQ and a Blessing for students going back to school. I didn’t want to go. Not because I was tired, but because I didn’t want to see the church. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve never not wanted to go to something at my parish. I live in northwest Indiana. To my knowledge, there has never been a scandal at my parish. I knew I was safe. But I found myself driving and dreading.
Before I got in the car, I was looking through Instagram and kept seeing people posting their thoughts and feelings. One thing I kept reading over and over was “I’m not Catholic because of priests.” I read that and at first I agreed. But then I stopped. I am Catholic because of priests. A priest baptized me (Monsignor Timothy). Another priest heard my first confession and gave me my first Communion (Fr. Tom), My father is a deacon in the church and is one of the best role models for being a merciful Catholic I know (Deacon Bill). A priest said I was ready to be confirmed (Fr. Peter). A bishop anointed me at Confirmation (Bishop Dale). When I was a little girl, priests answered my questions and encouraged me to learn how to pray. As a high school student, priests gave me opportunities to be a leader in my parish. In college, I met a few friends who are now amazing priests (espeically Fr. James). Now, in my young adulthood, my parish priest, Fr. Rick Holy, has trusted me with so many things (helping with youth ministry, religious education, parish planning implementation, a seat on the diocesan pastoral council). He’s given me opportunities to learn how to best serve the church and keeps letting me use my gifts. My bishop, Bishop Donald, has also been so gentile walking with me on my faith journey. He’s invited me to sit on diocesan committees. He asked me for my opinions. He went on a pilgrimage with me. He prayed for me when I’ve asked (and probably when I don’t).
My diocese, is very small geographically, and since I go to a lot of diocesan events, I know a lot of priests. Some even know me even though I don’t know them. Since my dad is a deacon, I also know a lot of the deacons. Last year, our diocese had a Synod. For the closing Mass, everyone in the diocese was invited to attend. All of the priests and deacons were going to be there. Since I was on the planning committee, I was running around doing this and that. At one point, I was told to give a message to the Bishop. He was in the staging room where the priests and deacons were getting vested for the Mass. When I walked in, it was a little strange since I was the only woman in the room. But as I made my way through the crowds, I kept getting stopped by almost all of the deacons (“Hey Vick! How are you?”) and some of the priests. When I finally found the Bishop, he was talking with the oldest priest in our diocese. I just had a lovely, safe, familiar feeling being in that room. I felt loved.
A few weeks ago, we had a diocesan service retreat in Gary, Indiana for teens. During the retreat, we had reconciliation. My job during reconciliation, was to be the line director. I pointed the teens in the direction of the next available priest. Right before the teens came in to start reconciliation, I looked around the room and was so thankful for the priests who were there. One was a priest who holds a monthly adoration night for young adults (Fr. David). Another was a Franciscan with a heart for service (Fr. Michael). Another was a guy I went to World Youth Day with in high school. (Fr. Chris). Another was just ordained a few months earlier (Fr.Jeff). One was my current priest (Fr. Rick). Another was a priest who used to be at my parish (Fr. Tom). Another was a veteran priest (Fr. Ed Moszur). I was so thankful that these men gave up their evening to be present with these young people. While I was doing my job as line director, one of the teens in line said that she was happy that Bishop Don wasn’t here for reconciliation. I asked her why she said that. She replied “Cause he knows me. When he were here at the start of the week, he asked me how softball was going. It would be weird going to someone who knows me.” I smiled, thanking God that our bishop knows the name of that teen and that he’s given his life to walk with us in our humble little diocese.
All of this was running through my head during the 20 minute car ride to the church on Saturday. When I got to the church, I was quiet. I didn’t want to go up to barbecue. I found my dad and finally got a hot dog with him. Then Father came over, and I was still quiet. I’m ashamed to admit. I think I was (and still am) so mad at those…those wolves, that I didn’t want to say anything for fear of crying in public. But then he started the blessing, and my walls came down. I needed to see that. I needed to see Father be the kind, thoughtful, caring person, priest he is and always has been. I needed to see him make the kids smile when he gave them an extra big blessing with the holy water. I needed to see him talking as he always does with the parishioners. I needed to see what I’ve always seen. During the event, a parishioner pulled me aside. I think she had read a facebook post I made this week about my feelings regarding the sexual abuse. She told me that before she came to the parish, she went to another parish within the diocese. She later found out that the priest who had married her and her husband was accused of sexual misconduct towards a minor. She said that after she found that out, her and her husband had always had an “icky” feeling. She asked if she should ask Father for a blessing or something to give them some peace and to take away the little bit of darkness that they have felt has always tainted their memories of their wedding day. I said, of course I think that would be a good idea. It would be like a renewal of their marriage vows. I needed to hear that, too. Instead of turning away from the Church because of this feeling, she and her husband felt a call to go deeper into the sacraments. After the barbecue, I left and returned home feeling reassured.
This morning, father used his homily to talk about the sexual abuse. He talked about being a seminarian when the Boston sexual abuse came out and how it has shaped his priesthood. He wanted to be there for young people, but because of fear, felt like he had to stay a comfortable distance away. His first memory of a child hugging him as a priest was of wanting to take a step back and keep the child at a distance. How sad. He went on to talk about what we do at the diocese and at the parish. He encouraged everyone to take the save environment training at the parish (and not to give my dad, the save environment trainer, a hard time when he says you have to be trained). He called for justice to be done. He even said what I have been grappling with since Tuesday: we need to pray for those who have sinned. I am thankful that he addressed it.
So yes. Technically, I’m Catholic because it’s the one true faith and because God keeps calling me back to her and to serve her people. But I stay Catholic because since I was a baby, I’ve been prayed for and with priests who have given their lives to serve God and his people. I stay Catholic because bishops and priests and deacons (including my dad) have pushed me to be who God was calling me to be. Their encouragement has helped me become who I am today.
Thank you for giving me this prompt to write. I wrote a letter on Thursday to my bishop and while writing it (and this letter), I started crying and weeping. On Thursday, it was tears of grief, pain and sorrow. Today, my tears were still full of grief, pain and sorry, but they were also flowing with tears of gratitude for the people in my life who have helped me become me, the Catholic young woman I am today.
Too many to title
I have worked in Catholic Youth Ministry for over 12 years and have encountered so many good and faithful priests! Just to name a few… Fr. Ted, Fr. Thomas, Fr. John, Fr. Derek, Deacon Bill, Fr. Anthony, Fr. Christian, Fr. Jonathan, Fr. Rick, Fr. Pat. We had 4 of the priests listed and a deacon at our wedding four years ago. Each one of them had a specific role: principle celebrant, witnessing our vows, homilist, giving us communion, and Deacon Bill read the gospel and the Prayer of the Faithful. We have been blessed by their witness of faith and Love!
We are also blessed to call many of them good friends and what a blessing their friendship has been. Since I work for the Church, my son is growing up around some pretty great role models and prays for his priest friends on a regular basis…having priests close to our family is something that is normal for him and I am so thankful for that!
I guess I really want them to know how thankful we are for their witness, their friendship, and their YES to their vocation!
His homilys and spirit are a testament to the greater good. He sees and knows what this world is and just how fallible a man can be. Though he can lift us up with what the Holy Spirit guides up with in word and action.
Monsignor James was a wonderful priest. His homilies were full of humor and wisdom. He was saddened with the knowledge that some priests did things that were sinful and hurt innocent children. He brought the Word of God and his message of love outside of the church in to the community. I know he’s watching over all of us until we can be reunited with him in Heaven.
I want to share the story of one of the priests at our parish, Fr. Bashar.
Over a year ago, Fr. Bashar was in a tragic car accident that nearly took his life. He was on the highway when someone crashed into him, sending his car in turns. It had been quite a while when many of us parishioners figured he wasn’t on a regular leave or retreat. The whole church was devastated when we heard the news. Everyone at some point wanted to visit him, and to surround him with the love he always gives us; but we knew he needed time to recover before we could do so.
After the incident, Fr. Bashar had to stay at his mothers home to be cared for. He was in a neck brace and out of the parish for many months. Each holiday or feast day, we hoped he’d surprise us at mass with his presence or a testimony of what happened that day. But many passed before we could see his loving face back on the altar.
Finally, he made an appearance one day! If I had to explain to you whom he resembles most, I would say Padre Pio (Fr. Bashar is also my spiritual director, so I can tell you he LOVES Padre Pio, and they share the same birthday). He was still in his brace. Many of us wanted to hug him but didn’t for fear of hurting him; others did hug him, which did end up hurting him. It was a pain for all of us. When your parish priest is so loving and heroic, you cannot help but show your love and gratitude to him, but we couldn’t, and it hurt us too.
When Fr. Bashar gave his first homily after his long absence, he shared with us his story and how the Light shined even in his darkest times. He told us, “I died 3 or 4 times on that operating table. I had no clue. When it was all over, the doctor came to me and said, ‘You, my friend, are a fighter! We lost you several times.’ Fr. Bashar, replied, “No, I am far too weak too fight. My parish was fighting for me. Their prayers sustained me. Our Lady + Jesus sustained me. I had no strength in me to fight.”
Most of the church was in tears. None of us realized how severe the whole incident was. I cried too. I was thankful Jesus spared my spiritual director, my friend. The world would have been far less brighter without him in it, and I was glad to see him smiling again upon the altar.
I thought about what would have happened had he not made it. It made me uneasy. But I knew God was loving and compassionate, and Fr. Bashar’s mission was not nearly over. I knew Our Lady would remember his great devotion to her and would intercede for her son unceasingly. I knew Fr. Bashar was always in good hands.
I write this to thank Fr. Bashar for not giving up his faith in such a difficult time; for offering up his pain; for returning to the church even after his accident; for smiling as if he’d lost nothing and gained everything; for risking being around so many people he knew would want to hug him, even if that would delay his progress.
I write this to show you not only the importance of the priest to the parish, but the importance of the parish to the priest. Whether our priests are doing well or are ill, it is our responsibility to pray for them. As their spiritual children, we are called to carry them along life on a blanket of prayers. We are called to love them.
Let’s face it, Priests don’t have to interact with the parish, they don’t have to crack jokes with us, they don’t have to drink coffee with us, they don’t have to know our names or faces, but many of them still make an effort to do so—because they are the face of Christ. And as the face of Christ, we need to pray for them endlessly, because at the end of the day, they are human, too. They need our prayers and we need their love and presence. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “Do not judge the Catholic Church by those who barely live by its spirit, but by those who live closest to it.”
Here’s to this beautiful soul who always lives closest to the spirit of the Catholic Church! Thank you for serving God in our parish, and for being so joyful all the while. I love you, Fr. Bashar. ❤️
Father Gerry has brought us closer to the loving arms of our Lord Jesus by his presence, work, efforts to reach out by his daily columns in the newspaper and social and officiating masses. He is one of the best priest that celebrates masses concentrated on sharing the good news of the Lord Jesus.
I want to thank Fr Jacob who was saintly priest (literaly he had powerful spiritual gifts)..He was like john maria vienny for us. He really changed our life. Each sunday was like feast days for us..Fridays special adoration with healing session…His sermons were powerful. The impact he had on my spiritual life is wow. He passed away but I am extremely thankful for him and to lord who gifted our church with amazing priests.
He is an amazing person. Where he goes, God’s word flourishes. He is always organizing things that being people together. He has Holy Hour all the time, even when nobody shows up. He doesn’t care. He stays in the church to be with Jesus. A holy, holy man.
Dear Fr. Bill,
You aren’t down here with me anymore. I don’t know how to tell you how much I need your guidance and wisdom right now. Our Church needs you. While I can’t know this, I believe you are in Heaven, or at least on your way there. If you are, care to help us out a little down here? Our Church is hurting, and all the people who are a part of her. You dedicated your life to taking care of the least of these, the orphans, and the homeless. In fact, you worked to save the very people that have been preyed upon by evil, evil men.
I know you can’t exactly read this, but I have a feeling that you’ll know somehow. So thank you. Thank you for being a grandpa to me. I still have a piece of paper that you wrote your name on, because I never want to forget your handwriting, or the way you called me Bitty, or how you didn’t make us wear our seat belts and gave my poor mama a heart attack 😉
But more importantly than all of that, thank you for building up the Kingdom of God here on Earth. You were truly the holiest man I’ve ever known, and you held strong to what you knew to be true, even when it was uncomfortable. You were the real deal, and you called it like you saw it…and you suffered for it. There are about to be a whole lot of good, holy priests suffering through this cleansing of the Church. If you will, send some strength and courage their way. They’re going to need it.
I love you Fr. Bill. I miss you every day. Pray for us down here!