As many of you know, I just got back from India after making my annual visit to my family. Even though I was away for two weeks, the time was short because two days went in travel. Returning from India I was in airplanes and airports for over 27 hours before I reached my home here. While I was in line to board the plane at Frankfurt airport, I ran into one of our parishioners. What are the odds that someone would recognize me on another continent! I learned my lesson that I cannot get into trouble even across the ocean.
During my stay at home, I noticed how India has changed over the last fifteen years or so. Because of the IT industry and out-sourcing, millions of Indians have migrated into the middle class. In my own city, four huge shopping malls have sprung up and those are the favorite places my nieces frequent. These malls are stacked with upscale stores that we find anywhere here in the US or in Europe. I was surprised by the ease with which people spend money. At the same time a huge section of the population – between 50 and 60 percent – remains abjectly poor. Almost 600 million Indians live on less than a dollar a day. This dire statistic left me speechless.
Just as in India, these kinds of disparities exist within the Church. Even within our archdiocese while we are blessed to be financially strong, many schools and parishes struggle to keep their doors open. Many parishes cannot afford to repair buildings or to fix their heating and cooling systems for want of funds. Many ministries cannot survive without the help of stronger parishes. This is where the diocesan appeal comes in.
Every year when the Annual Catholic Appeal comes around we are reminded that we are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is that time of the year again. The Cardinal, our shepherd, approaches us on behalf of many parishes, schools and communities that lack the resources that we here at St Paul’s can take for granted. The archdiocesan leadership has taken steps to trim the bureaucracy and reduce spending. Whether it is the department of canonical services or the legal department or the office for Catholic schools, we could not function without their help. The central offices have been particularly helpful over the last couple of years as we finished one capital project after the other.
We will be taking pledges to the Annual Catholic Appeal the weekend of February 18/19 and I encourage you to be as generous as possible. I am sure you give to many causes and organizations. As we say, however, charity begins at home. We try to help our own family and everyone in our diocese is family to us. The theme of this year’s appeal is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Following these words of the Master, let us give of our resources to help those who have so little.
In the past we have been a very generous parish in this regard. We have always exceeded our goal. I am encouraging you to continue to do what you have done in the past. I would invite those of you who have not given in the past to consider giving this year. The needs are many but worthy of our support.
I do have a selfish motive in encouraging your generosity. As you know, whenever a parish exceeds its set goal, the surplus money comes back to the parish. Thanks to your bounty, using the surplus we have been able to take care of certain needs and complete certain projects in the last few years.
Believe me, when I was in the seminary I hoped that I would not have to ask my parishioners for money. And yet, once I became pastor I realized that we do need money. St Theresa of Avila who was a wise woman said: “I alone can do nothing. Jesus and I can do many things. Jesus, I and money can do everything.” She is a doctor of the Church. She should know what she is talking about.
I leave you with the words of our shepherd, Blase Cardinal Cupich:
All of us in the Church need to be grateful for the ways that God is renewing the Church in our time. The leadership of Pope Francis and our own local efforts promise to reinvigorate our life together as God’s people and our mission in the world. Ultimately, the energy for this renewal stems from love, the same love echoed in the theme of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. With love, the Annual Catholic Appeal enables us to connect with each other and take responsibility for each other. The Annual Catholic Appeal makes our love of neighbor real and close. The Appeal helps to sustain Catholic schools and parishes, support programs of religious education, ministerial formation and the many initiatives for the protection of life and the promotion of peace and justice. Through Catholic Relief Services, the Appeal also funds loving help to neighbors who are far away but who are our neighbors in need. Join me and many others across the Archdiocese to express our love, our connection and our responsibility for one another.
May the God who knows the heart reward you abundantly for your gift to the Appeal! The prayers of the cardinal and of our parish will sustain you.
On January 31st we celebrate the feast of a great saint who is known as “Don Bosco” or “St John Bosco.” I write fondly about him because he is the founder of the religious order to which I belonged for many years before I joined the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was born near Turin in Northern Italy in 1815 and his family was rather poor. His father died when he was about two and he was raised by his pious and determined mother, Mamma Margaret. From an early age John Bosco knew that God had called him to a special mission to the young. After he became a priest in 1841 he discovered the negative effects of the industrial revolution that was sweeping through Europe at that time. Young boys were leaving their homes in the countryside with a dream in their pockets that they would find a better life in the big cities. Often they were exploited by ruthless employers who made them work long hours with little pay. These boys had nowhere to go and eventually fell into lives of crime on the streets.
Over the thirty-two years that I have lived in this country, I don’t think I have witnessed a more divisive and acrimonious presidential election than this one. The accusations and the claims on both sides of the political spectrum have plunged the already-polarized nation into a deeper crater of suspicion bordering on hate. As a new president is sworn into office – irrespective of whom we voted for – we cannot afford to perpetuate the divisions of the campaign. As a nation, we need to come together and engage in deep soul-searching. Politicians on both sides of the aisle should call for calm and a more civil political discourse. Hopefully out of this puzzling period in our history, there will emerge an America where the citizens and the leaders will engage in the democratic process without condemning each other or trying to get rid of each other.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...