Tuesday, May 30, 2023

From Fr. Frank

I am writing this on the Vigil of Pentecost, praying the Mass for the People of St. Teresa of Avila, praying the Spirit to fill me as I write these words. In John’s Gospel, on Easter Sunday, Jesus is about to leave the apostles; there is no Ascension event in John. Before he leaves them, just after the Resurrection,  aJesus “breathes” the Spirit upon them, sending them into the world, speaking words of mercy and peace, freeing people from the constraints of sin. Filled with the Spirit, we are filled with Christ and are given the means to gather people from numerous cultures and languages into one family united in the one language of Love. This language speaks the gospel Truth in ways people can gradually grow to embrace.

The Spirit must guide the Church in its various expressions to continue to “speak” the  Gospel of Christ is ways that are creative and speak to the heart. The Church’s institutional structures are necessary or organize and connect the various ministries and to create administrative bodies meant to serve the Mission of the Church. Unfortunately, the structures can become the focus and center of Church life, rather than the Mission being it’s focus, and the Mission must be at the heart of the Church. Christ gave us seeds of the institution so that the Mission is served.

As a Church, we have been facing the painful and tragic reality of the sexual abuse of children and minors. Since 1993, the archdiocese of Chicago has done so much to acknowledge this horrible reality, a dark underbelly of deceit and cover up by many in positions of leadership. All employees and volunteers who have any contact with children must go through yearly background checks, participate in monthly online educational bulletins, and be a part of a yearly parish audit to make certain information is up to date and new volunteers trained in the protection of children.

As the Attorney General of the state of Illinois released a state-wide summary of all the abuses that have occurred in the various dioceses across the state, this report is sobering and deeply sad. This report covers all abuses in the past five to six decades throughout the state of Illinois. While nothing new seems to be revealed, just seeing the numbers of children who were betrayed by the very people called to protect their innocence is staggering. Our vigilance in protecting children must ALWAYS be maintained and strengthened.

While I am grateful that our archdiocese has been a beacon of hope, bringing to light this  painful reality and reaching out to the individuals who were abused, offering them necessary resources, I am so sad for the victims. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through and how wounded they are. As a priest and leader in the Church, I promise to keep them in my heart. And I can assure the people of St. Teresa’s that I will do everything I can to make certain our children and young people are safe and loved and respected. Each of the children abused has had their innocence horribly stolen from them. All of us  only want the best for our children, and we are called to create for them beautiful memories that strengthen their innocence.

But we live in a very imperfect world where bad things do happen. The response must be to acknowledge what has happened, get help and assistance and remove the threat IMMEDIATELY, no matter who it is. Our children must be safe. Sexual abuse is a crime; covering up the abuse, allowing it to fester and harm more children, is criminal. Transparency is paramount.

I am grateful to the leaders of the archdiocese for developing and safeguarding sound procedures and measures in facing this crisis of abuse. Cardinal Cupich well states his absolute resolve to make certain children are safe in every aspect of church ministry and life. The Cardinal’s response can be viewed through a link on the website and in the bulletin, to a video; his letter is in the bulletin.

On this Feast of Pentecost, as I prepare the bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, I pray for you all, especially the victims of abuse. I pray that the the Spirit may be allowed to breathe freely through our church, renewing and gathering people from many nations, cultures and languages. I pray that our structures and institutions will better serve us, the People, empowering us to change and reform the institution of the Church to be at the service of the gospel.
I pray that the laity will take up the mantle that has been entrusted to them at their baptism: KNOW the gospel, live the gospel, teach the truths of the gospel, preach the gospel in your married life, single life, careers.

I pray that we who are priests may be filled the Spirit as we gather our people around the Eucharist. May we be leaders of welcome, compassion, and humility. May we acknowledge our sinfulness in the sacrament of Reconciliation, being filled with the Spirit of mercy. May we see in every face: in the wounded, the outcast, the doubter, the questioner, those on the fringes, the refugee, the prisoner, the stranger, in everyone we meet, particularly the ones we don’t like or who don’t like us, the Face of Christ.
I’m sorry for the ways I have failed to see the Face of Christ in the “other.” I pray that the Spirit will help
me to be a better pastor.