Moments of Grace

The second half of January was a busy time for me, as it was for many of you. In addition to the usual tasks and meetings on my own calendar, I had the flu and it has seemed to linger for some time, leaving me with a nagging cough and a weak voice. With the help of many kind people, I have been able to make it through my schedule, while I try to recover.

The annual March for Life was held in Washington. This year, instead of having two arenas for the young people to gather in and celebrate Mass together, only one arena was made available and our kids did not win the lottery on these tickets. When I heard this, I wanted to ensure that they had a good experience of the Mass before they began the march and so, with the help of Mr. Robert Perron and Deacon David Galvin, I was able to get the chapel in the St. John Paul II Shrine, across the street from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This turned out to be the perfect space for our young people, coming from many parts of our Diocese and joining together in public proclamation of the Gospel of Life. This year’s March was a really wonderful moment, and I was grateful to be part of it. The weather cooperated, with an interlude in the desperately cold temperatures. But, I have a feeling that winter is far from over. I returned to a week of very important meetings regarding our parishes and our priests. It may seem odd, but the process of planning for new priestly assignments in June has already begun and there are many factors that have to be considered. I am grateful to all of our priests who are working so hard in their assignments and I am especially grateful to our international priests, whose presence helps me to ensure that Mass is being said and the sacraments are being celebrated in all of our parishes.

On Saturday evening, January 27, 2018, we hosted Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, for the Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. This annual Mass is a wonderful moment of prayer for our lawyers, judges, and legislators, as well as many civil servants. It is also a time to give thanks to God and to each of them for the important work they do on behalf of so many and for the common good. Bishop Senior gave a very well prepared homily on the challenges those officials and all of us as Christians face while in contemporary society and the questions we all must address and respond to in a conscientious manner. In particular, Bishop Senior acknowledged the difficulties attorneys and civil officials have in their professions, especially the legal community, which he said faces evil every day: “I am certain many of you look evil in the face. … Facing evil is frightening. We pray you have the courage not to shrink in the face of evil and proclaim God’s truth.” It was a special treat for me to have Bishop Senior serve as the homilist for this Mass: I taught him in high school, before he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. I am very proud of my former student who went on to be rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. I recall Bishop Senior as an intelligent and inquisitive student; indeed, I had in his high school classes at times asked him not to raise his hand so that I could encourage other students to answer. I have watched with pride and thanksgiving to God as he committed his life first, to priestly service and, then, as he answered the call to serve the Church in Philadelphia as one of its auxiliary bishops. In his wonderful homily, Bishop Senior told our guests from the legal profession that they are called to be leaders in the world and to use their voices to further God’s love and mercy: “You know very well the power of the spoken word.

As Christians, never shy away from difficulties and always speak the truth.” I was pleased to hear Bishop Senior speaking directly to our attorneys and the other members of the legal community; he offered such wonderful words of encouragement to those who have given their lives serving our local community in its quest for justice and mercy. Following the Red Mass, there was a reception where many of our guests were able to meet and talk to Bishop Senior. He enjoyed going from table to table at the reception and meeting so many of the invited guests from the legal and judicial community and they enjoyed talking with him. It was a pleasure to see the faces of so many light up as the Bishop approached them for conversation. The next day it was televised as our Sunday Mass in the Northern Panhandle. I am truly grateful to all those who work so hard in our Diocese to make events like this possible. As I write to you, Catholic Schools Week is getting underway and I marked this wonderful annual event by celebrating Mass with the students of St. Joseph the Worker School and Weirton Madonna. I thank all those who work in our Catholic Schools and those who support our Catholic Schools. These schools are an important part of providing for the educational and formation of our young people and I am grateful for the Catholic school education I received and grateful for your help in ensuring that this wonderful educational experience is available to others. I wish our schools and the parishes and communities which support them a very happy Catholic Schools Week.