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'Lord, to Whom Else Shall We Go?'

June 4, 2009

'Lord, to Whom Else Shall We Go?'

Problems...tensions...headaches. This Church we love seems to have a wheelbarrow full of them...

...The polls tell us people are leaving the Church, skipping Sunday Mass and upset with the Church; we haven't enough priests, sisters, brothers or deacons; bills abound to redefine marriage or extend the abortion license; we struggle to find the resources to keep our parishes, schools, programs and charities vibrant...

...It can start to get to you...and then God blesses me with a wonderful weekend like last Saturday and Sunday!

I'm eager to tell you about it.

It began Saturday morning up at Maryknoll, where I had the joy of ordaining young Stephen Taluja a priest. Father Stephen's own story was an inspiration in itself: a convert to our faith of only a decade, he credits his call to accept Christ and His Church to being spiritually overpowered by the crucifix in a Catholic Church where he was singing at the Easter Vigil.

The climate at Maryknoll was bracing, too, with scores of priests, women religious and lay associates, all devoted members of the Maryknoll family, our country's first homegrown missionary congregation.

I left there on a high.

Then on to Archbishop Stepinac High School (to be met by friendly students itching to tell me about their champion baseball team, drama club and, of course, counting the days to summer vacation). Gathered there were a thousand enthusiastic people on the road to sanctity, for a day of prayer, listening and learning, sponsored by our Center for Spiritual Development. The acclaimed theologian, Father Ronald Rolheiser, was there to speak, as well as our own Dr. Ann Marie Wallace, and the unsinkable Father Benedict Groeschel. No doubt about a sense of electricity in the air, sparked by sincere women and men longing to deepen their love for Jesus and His Church.

By then I was hungry, so on to St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, where I enjoyed a picnic with more than 100 of our faithful deacons, men quietly yet effectively on the front lines of service to Christ and His Church in parishes, prisons, hospitals, classrooms, nursing homes, altars and pulpits throughout the Archdiocese. Their generosity, fidelity, humility and zeal left me in awe.

One more stop. It was the Vigil of Pentecost, remember, and more than 2,000 of our Hispanic faithful, led by our own renowned Bishop Josu Iriondo, packed St. Patrick's Cathedral from 7 p.m. until midnight. Their exuberance, fervor and prayer was awesome! This indeed was Pentecost all over again, as disciples of today united with Mary and the apostles awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Bring on Sunday, Pentecost itself. Most Holy Name of Mary in Croton-on-Hudson welcomed me for a splendid Mass, during which I consecrated their new altar and confirmed three young adults. I felt at home with wonderful people as we visited afterwards.

A beautiful ride along the Hudson brought me to Sacred Heart parish in Newburgh, where I joined his family, friends and parishioners in a Mass of Thanksgiving on Bishop Dominick Lagonegro's 40th anniversary of priestly ordination. To see how deeply that jammed Church loved their pastor and auxiliary bishop choked me up.

On the way home we stopped to visit Msgr. John Keaveney for his 50th anniversary. This loyal, beloved priest is in fragile health, now in a nursing care facility, but his faith and his priestly vocation are undimmed. I thanked him for his example and his priestly vocation, still powerful as he is united with Christ on the altar of the cross, his sickbed.

It was a grand Pentecost weekend, the birthday of the Church, a Church with problems and difficulties galore, but a Church with graces, gifts, growth and life in abundance!

What happened in Jerusalem that first Pentecost is still going on here in this Archdiocese of New York!