Moral courage and the story of the White Rose

By David Cooley.

“Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go …”

Those were among the last words spoken — 77 years ago —by a 21-year-old German girl named Sophie Scholl before she was executed by her own government in the dark times of the Nazi regime. Sophie was a loving, spunky, young girl full of life and laughter. So, what was the “crime” that brought about her demise?

Sophie, along with her older brother, Hans, and some of their friends at Munich University, formed a secret group called “The White Rose,” which covertly produced and distributed leaflets all over Germany that exhorted the people of good will to “wake up” and take action against the Nazis, who were committing atrocities in the name of the German people. The crime was “High Treason.” A total of three were killed that day, Feb. 22, 1943 — Sophie, Hans and their friend Christoph Probst, who was married and had three young children — the rest of the group was hunted down and killed not long after that.

The atrocities the White Rose spoke out against were not only the obvious crimes against humanity — which included killing anyone deemed “unworthy of life,” especially Jewish people, “useless eaters,” and enemies of the all-powerful state — but also the offences that the Nazis committed against the God-given freedom of the people. The rule of the day was conform and obey or suffer the dire consequences. I once thought that George Orwell’s novel “1984” was just an incredibly imaginative vision of a dystopian future that, while very frightening, seemed almost impossible. In reality Orwell was just taking notes from recent history. Living in Germany in the 1930s, if you happened to be someone who wasn’t brainwashed or completely apathetic to other people, was a nightmare. One of the hardest parts was not being able to trust anyone, even those you loved. Make a wrong move and they might turn you in to the authorities — and life was over.

The White Rose produced a total of six leaflets that, using beautiful and powerful language, interpreted the sign of the times and spoke the truth about what was happening all around Europe. The Gestapo (Nazi state police) spent the better part of a year trying to figure out where these leaflets were coming from so that they could track down and silence the authors. The first line on Leaflet 1 set the tone for the subsequent writings: “Nothing is more dishonorable for a civilized people than to let itself be ‘governed’ without resistance by an irresponsible clique of rulers devoted to dark instincts.” Another line demonstrated the wisdom the students had beyond their years: “If everyone waits for his neighbor to take the first step, the messengers of the vengeful nemesis will come ever closer, and the very last victim will senselessly be thrown into the throat of the insatiable demon.” The leaflets of the White Rose offered practical advice for how every-day people could defy Hitler and the Nazi Party in small but effective ways. The goal was to bring down the tyrants and restore dignity to Germany.

One of the reasons why I am inspired by this particular group of young adults is that they were compelled to act even when the easiest and safest choice was to not do anything. They ended up losing their lives even though they could have easily survived the war and lived out their dreams. Truthfully, they looked like members of the so-called “Aryan race” and they had a deep love for their country; and yet, they had an unwavering dedication to the simple difference between right and wrong, an unstoppable urge to seek the truth and the steadfast desire to invest the precious little time they were given in things that really mattered.

Among the many things that motivated the siblings that led the peaceful resistance of the White Rose were the Bible and the writings of St. Augustine. These two things formed their worldview more than anything else. In addition, Sophie also studied Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman’s writings on conscience. She and her brother both lived their lives always with an eye on eternity and finding consolation in Christ.

The catalyst of the White Rose movement came about when Sophie and Hans read an anti-Nazi sermon of the Catholic Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen in August 1941. In it the bishop openly attacked the Nazi euthanasia program. He wrote: “There are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfil even if it costs us our lives.” They were thrilled someone was finally speaking out and Hans came up with the idea of finding an old duplicating machine.

But, on Feb. 18, after close to a year of building up a silent rebellion, they were caught distributing fliers by a man at the university and turned in to the authorities. They were interrogated, imprisoned and given a very speedy trial. They stood before their Nazi judge and jurors in the notorious People’s Court and demonstrated great courage. After just a few days they were sentenced to die … immediately, by way of the guillotine.

They kept their faith to the end, even in the face of death. During her trial Sophie said, “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?” Up to the last minute Sophie was given a chance to recant her stance and keep her life, but she just couldn’t do it. She would stick with her brother and her friends and not compromise what really mattered to her. It cost her her head.

Many times in life we are faced with hard decisions. Being Catholic in this day and age is not easy. The way of life we are called to is not hard because we can’t tell right from wrong; it’s hard because often times making the right choice results in our losing something very precious to us. What we lose might be our popularity, our security, or even our life as we know it.  Life is not fair; innocent people sometimes suffer the most. We need to look no further than Christ on the Cross for evidence of that. As Catholics we are always called to stand up for what is right, what is good, and what is holy — no matter what the cost. If those young students, in Germany, in 1943, could exemplify such moral courage in the face of grave evil and danger, can’t we find the courage to speak of and live out our Christian convictions today? While Sophie was willing to die for her worldview, are we able to live for ours?

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Diocese responds to COVID-19

Laura Keener, Editor.

Last week, information and recommendations concerning COVID-19 (coronavirus) have been changing and spreading, it seems, as quickly as the pandemic itself. Governor Andy Beshear is taking a dynamic approach to stop the spread of the disease, which, as of this writing, has claimed the life of one Kentuckian who died, the governor said March 16, from complications of the illness due to several underlying medical conditions.

Here is a timeline (from latest to earliest) of instructions issued and actions taken by Bishop Roger Foys, and other diocesan leaders, in efforts to protect the faithful of the Diocese of Covington. It is important to note that diocesan staff is continually monitoring the changing conditions and updates are frequently made. For the latest diocesan communications, click here.

On Friday, March 13, Bishop Foys instructs that, effective immediately, any nonessential meetings, events or gatherings scheduled to be held from now through April 3 at any parishes, Catholic schools, diocesan offices, religious houses and other diocesan institutions are to be postponed or canceled.

This action, he said, is being made “In the interest of the health and safety of our faithful and to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

That instruction was part of a document that includes preventative measures and operational responses for parishes, schools and the Curia that were developed and recommended to Bishop Foys by the newly created Coronavirus Task Force.

The 16-member task force, operating under the direction of Father Ryan Maher, vicar general, includes three pastors, Curia directors and the directors of St. Anne Retreat Center and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Covington. The report was sent via e-mail to all members of the Curia and to all priests, deacons, principals and religious houses of the diocese and includes information on what parishes, schools and Curia personnel could expect in the event of closing as well as preventative measures to be taken.

“In light of the coronavirus situation in the Commonwealth and the Governor declaring a state of emergency, it is necessary for us to be prepared with a plan of action,” Bishop Foys instructed the task force via e-mail.

On Thursday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m., Michael Clines, superintendent of Catholic schools, sent a letter to principals announcing that Catholic schools will cease in-person instruction beginning Monday, March 16 through March 27. Additionally, all school extracurricular activities are suspended through March 27.

Earlier that day, Mr. Clines had sent a letter to parents urging them to prepare for extended school closures and encouraging them during this time of uncertainty.

“Our Catholic schools are such wonderful places to grow spiritually, educationally, emotionally, physically and socially,” Mr. Clines wrote. “It is at times like this that the foundation of our Catholic faith … will provide us with the wisdom and courage to meet any challenge.”

On Wednesday, March 11, Bishop Foys and the other three bishops of Kentucky, respond to Governor Beshear’s recommendation to cancel worship services. Noting the liturgical guidelines that were put in place earlier in the month, the four bishops, based on the information they had at the time, did not call for diocesan-wide cancellation of Masses.

“The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the center of the life of the Church. Perhaps especially in difficult times, liturgical gatherings are a source of comfort and hope for the faithful, as well as an opportunity to offer our prayers to God for those who are suffering or who cannot be with us,” the response read.

The bishops reiterate — and implore pastors to remind the faithful — that anyone who is ill, has symptoms or has an underlying health condition are not obligated to attend Sunday Mass.

Bishop Foys’ first communication to priests, deacons, religious houses and diocesan institutions (including the NKU Catholic Newman Club and Thomas More University) detailed guidelines for celebrating the Mass and liturgies.

These guidelines include refraining from the use of holy water fonts, distribution of holy Communion from the chalice, reception of holy Communion on the tongue and physical contact at the sign of peace. It also instructs that priests, deacons, altar servers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must use an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing holy Communion.

This first communication also reminds priests to encourage the faithful who are sick or who are experiencing symptoms to stay home; they are not obliged to attend Mass, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2181 allows for serious reasons such as illness.

Additionally, on March 12, President Joe Chillo, Thomas More University, sent a message to University and community members advising that he was extending spring break for most students through Sunday, March 22. After the break, the university would shift to remote learning using Canvass for all classes beginning Monday, March 23. Classes that are already online and for 8-week courses that began on Monday, March 16, will continue as scheduled and will be exclusively online. All University sponsored events are canceled through April 13. Mass will continue as scheduled but will be limited to no more than 75 guests.

“As we address how best to handle this situation, our main priority is to protect the well-being of our students, faculty, staff and the community,” President Chillo wrote. “Thomas More University is committed to finishing the spring semester and providing our students the academic instruction necessary to fulfill their degree requirements.”

And, on Sunday, March 15, in an e-mail to members, Donna Heim, campus minister, NKU Newman Club said that there are to be no meetings or gatherings (or hanging out) in the Newman Center for at least the next two weeks. This is in response to Bishop Foys’ and NKU’s instruction to cancel such meetings and gatherings.

“Blessings come from obedience,” wrote Mrs. Heim. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder and hopefully resolves the coronavirus quickly. Hope you make the best of this Lenten sacrifice.”

For all of these communications and any updates, which can happen quickly, visit the Public Health Concerns page.


Catholic schools to adopt non-traditional instruction

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

As concerns about COVID-19 continue to rise, Governor Andy Beshear mandated, March 13, that public and private schools in the state of Kentucky close for two weeks, effective March 16.

In cooperation with the directive, Michael Clines, superintendent of Catholic schools, issued a statement March 13: “Catholic schools will cease in-person instruction beginning Monday, March 16 through March 27.” All school extracurricular activities will also be suspended through March 27.

Education will continue during this time by at-home instruction, which is to be determined individually by schools according to resources and locale.

According to Mr. Clines, this Non-Traditional Instructional approach will employ both digital and printed materials, and students are expected to complete their tasks for academic credit in the same way as if they were physically present at school.

Students at most schools are receiving a daily e-mail with the day’s work, which includes lessons from paper packets they receive weekly from the school as well as online classes using Google Classroom, Schoology, ExploreMore! Gifted and other resources. These sites include a multitude of resources for students and their parents to foster continual learning while physical schools are closed.

Each school determines what its students need based on available resources. St. Joseph School, Cold Spring, for example, has e-mailed a recommended daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including how much time should be allotted for studying, breaks and exercise. This works in accordance with the number of subjects St. Joseph students are currently taking and how much time they should dedicate to each.

During normal school hours, teachers will be online to correspond with students and answer questions by means of e-mail. Most teachers are working from home rather than in school buildings.

Mr. Clines said that the School Lunch Program offered by the diocese will not be any serving lunches from March 16–20. Mr. Clines and his staff will reevaluate as the situation progresses and make a determination on a week-by-week basis.

“I hope you can respect our efforts and decisions as we strive to provide the best non-traditional learning experience for your child during this very trying time for our region, country and world,” said Mr. Clines to parents.

Tips for living in quarantine with faith

Messenger staff report

With children at home all day and evening events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s very easy to go stir-crazy. How can you continue to live out your faith with few sacraments and a different daily routine?

The Messenger sat down with David Cooley, co-director and office manager, diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization to gather some suggestions.

Be conscious that you’re a role model and be careful to set an example of how you treat each other within the family.
Assess your own family situation and understand what each member needs. For most families, it’s essential to make sure everyone has a place to be alone at some point in the day. Then take the opportunity to integrate your faith into the mandated life at home and show your children what’s important to you.

“As parents, you’re the primary catechists and teachers are just support,”said Mr. Cooley. “Maybe this is a wake-up call that you need to brush up on your own catechesis so you can lead your family to grow in faith.”

Have specific times you pray as a family.
Without the typical schedule, including the morning rush, things can get off to a bad start. Cultivate your own schedule. This can include:
— Prayer before meals;
— Praying the angelus at noon;
— Praying vespers in the evening;
— Praying the rosary.
“Talk about the mysteries of the life of Christ with your children,” said Mr. Cooley. “Talk about how the Church is universal and everyone is praying the Mass and the liturgy of the hours around the world at the same time.”

Use your resources.
Did your children bring home their religion textbooks? Do a review of what they’ve learned so far this year — maybe even try making them teach it to you.

Watch some good Catholic movies, like the lives of the saints or Old Testament stories.

A simple Google search reveals thousands of Catholic online resources. Some of these include:
— — free books, CDs, booklets, Catholic commentary, streamed talks, daily Mass readings
— — movies, programs, audio, books — everything from sacramental prep to streaming Catholic media and talk series providing apologetics
— Catholic Answers at — an extensive database with answers about Catholic practices

Read good Catholic books you might already have in your home, like:
— The Great Adventure Catholic Bible
— The Life of Jesus: A Graphic Novel
— The Lego Catechism of the Seven Sacraments

Fight the temptation to be on screens.
“The world is already isolated enough. Use your time intentionally and make it quality,” said Mr. Cooley.
Here are some suggestions:
— Analyze media for Catholic themes. Listen to a Catholic podcast together and discuss it. Listen to secular music and talk about the Catholic themes you may find in it. “It might not be the reason they wrote the song, but you see the longing. Everyone is searching for the same thing… through (the musician’s) lyrics, what do you see in that story? It teaches children to start thinking about things in that way.”
— Create a sacred space for family prayer. “Bring some objects together from around the house and make it your prayer space,” Mr. Cooley suggested, whether it’s group prayer or a place where your children can go during the day to get away from everything and just be with Christ.
— Go outside. “Connect nature to God,” said Mr. Cooley. “Slow down and have your children take notice of what we miss in the normal fast-paced life.”

“Perhaps this is a time, when the family is forced to be away from everyone else, that families can learn to appreciate each other and being together,” he said.

These are just a few suggestions — there are countless more ways for the family to thrive amid quarantine conditions.

Two pro-life bills put on hold as General Assembly pauses session

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The Kentucky General Assembly suspended its session March 13 and 16 in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize social interaction. Here are some updates to some of the bills the Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK) is watching this session. All information is up-to-date as of this print.

Two pro-life bills have passed the Kentucky House of Representatives and are headed to the Senate, though further action might depend on the progression of the coronavirus.

House Bill 67 and House Bill 451, both upholding further regulation regarding the right to life, should be voted on before the end of the General Assembly session in two weeks. The Assembly cancelled session for a four-day weekend and determined to reconvene as normal on March 17.

CCK executive director Jason Hall said it’s possible that all bills that are non-essential will get de-railed just because of the crisis with the virus. However, he is hopeful that these bills will be passed soon.

House Bill 67, the Abortion Neutrality Constitutional Amendment, would amend the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion in the Kentucky Constitution. It passed 71-21 and is headed to the Senate.

Andrew Vandiver, CCK assistant director, said it’s a necessity because with the Supreme Court in flux, “…we don’t know if Roe v. Wade is going to be upheld at the federal level. If it’s not, these issues are going to be kicked down to the states more often and there are other states where the state supreme court has found the right to an abortion.”

Mr. Hall said he was very excited to see the bill move forward.

“We’ve received conflicting signals over the course of the session so we were very relieved that it moved through the House,” he said. “Of course we still have to get it down to the Senate. … I think this is one they’d definitely be interested in putting on the ballot as a House proposal.”

He explained that HB 67 and Senate Bill 9 were priority pro-life bills this session.

Senate Bill 9 has already passed the Senate in January, is out of committee and is ready to be voted on with a House amendment. It only remains to be cleared by the Senate and then will go to the governor for approval.

The Born Alive Infant Protection Act, as it’s also named, is backed by Senator Whitney Westerfield and has been introduced for a few years in the Kentucky courts.

“It’s at the last step of the House process,” said Mr. Hall. He said the bill’s clear language is well-drafted.
Representatives Damon Thayer and John Schickel co-sponsored the bill. Mr. Hall said these two bills are essential because they “keep a focus on a very meaningful legislation that will have a real legal impact on the situation.”

“The General Assembly has passed a lot of pro-life legislation in recent years,” he said. “These bills aren’t for show, they really have a legal importance to them.”

House Bill 451, the other pro-life bill from this week, passed by a 70-23 vote and is heading to the Senate.
It would expand the power of Kentucky’s attorney general to regulate abortion facilities, including bringing civil or criminal penalties for violations beyond just seeking injunctive relief.

Essentially, it applies to regulation of abortion clinics and making sure they’re complying with the law has typically been the governor’s responsibility – this would transfer more of that to the power of the attorney general.

House Bill 350 — the bill that would establish scholarship tax credits — has stalled. In recent days a group of House Republicans are fighting hard to prevent HB 350 from getting a vote in 2020, said Mr. Vandiver.

Particularly concerning is that two Northern Kentucky representatives have told constituents who have called in support of the bill that Catholic schools in Northern Kentucky are not prepared to accept the students that qualify for scholarships — because of poverty or special needs — and would be mandated to take them. Both of these concerns are unfounded.

“The mission and ministry of Catholic schools has always been to educate children so as to break the cycle of poverty for families,” said Kendra McGuire, associate superintendent of Catholic schools.

In the Diocese of Covington three schools qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program. This means that a majority of students qualify for free and reduced lunches and therefore the entire school community receives free breakfasts and lunches. Additionally 30 other schools also have students that qualify for the school lunch program.

Catholic schools in the diocese already educate over 1,000 students with diagnosed learning disabilities. “The majority of our schools have teachers dedicated to students with special needs. Many are certified in special education or have training related to various learning needs such as autism or ADHD,” Mrs. McGuire said.

Every parent — regardless of income or address — should be able to choose the school that meets their child’s educational needs, said Mr. Vandiver. And while no member of the General Assembly would accept sending their own child to a school that did not meet their needs, “certain members expect other families to watch their children fall through the cracks,” he said.

Polls show that 62 percent of Kentuckians support Scholarship Tax Credits. It is time to know where members of the General Assembly stand, said Mr. Vandiver.

“Contact your senator and representative today, even if you have already done so, and demand that they put Scholarship Tax Credits to a vote. If they are going to oppose educational freedom for Kentucky families, they should at least be willing to do so in the light of day by voting on the bill.”

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Hall said, the public would see results from all these bills fairly quickly. With the closure of most public events, however, it will be a longer wait until these bills receive a vote. Updates will be posted in the <> as legislation makes further progress.

DPAA kickoff dinners testify to hope

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Two 2020 Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal (DPAA) kickoff dinners were held last week, March 3 and 5, at The Prizing House, Cynthiana and Receptions, Erlanger, respectively.

The DPAA is a chance for members of the Diocese of Covington to support the many ministries and services under the umbrella of the Church, such as care for priests, Catholic Charities, school grants, food pantries and more. The kickoff dinners transition the appeal from its leadership phase into Phase II, where leaders take the appeal into their parishes.

Last year, the appeal goal was $2.55 million, which was surpassed and the money collected over goal was returned to parishes. This year, the goal is $2.6 million and Mary Paula Schuh, 2020 DPAA General Chair, promised that the same rebate program applies this year.

The dinners also host the first viewing of the DPAA video, featuring taped remarks from Bishop Roger Foys and many individuals who have been helped by the appeal.

This year’s theme is “Hope does not disappoint … The love of God has been poured out into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).

Mrs. Schuh spoke on the theme and the difference made by each donation: “The DPAA is one of those life-changing things … Each one of you can make a difference in our larger community. So let us be known in the Diocese of Covington as a community of love, as a community that gives from the heart.”

She also commented on the timeliness of the events. “It is special that the DPAA happened at what, in my opinion, is the most introspective time of the liturgical year — Lent,” she said.

Bishop Foys also addressed the crowd following dinner. He praised the help that the DPAA gives to the parishes and priests of the diocese, beyond the larger organizations.

“This campaign can also be a real help to parishes that need money to carry on the mission. Your generosity has enabled us to do that,” he said.

He spoke to the significance of hope in today’s society. “People have been faithful and that is a testament to your faith, and that brings hope. The world around us is never hopeless as long as we have faith. … Thank you for giving hope to so many people who, without your generosity, without your caring and your compassion, might feel hopeless and live in a hopeless way.”

Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general, Father Ryan Maher, vicar general and Father Joey Shelton, administrative assistant to the bishop led attendees in prayers during the evenings.

The second night officially closed the leadership gifts phase, ending with an appeal from Randy Rawe, 2020 Leadership Gifts Chair, to donate to this year’s cause.

“You never know where the check you’re going to write tonight, the person you help, where that’s going to lead,” said Mr. Rawe. He said he departed from his script after being so moved by the video that he had to speak from the heart.

“You’re here for one reason. You’re the leadership in our parishes,” he said. “I look at this video tonight … these are the faces of your generosity … these are the folks that you’re helping,” he said.

DPAA pledges can be made online at A pledge can be paid over 10 months, running from June 2020–March 2021. One hundred percent of all gifts collected over a parish’s goal will be returned as rebates to the parish for projects and ministries.

‘Bill’s Kids’ carries on legacy of Special Forces soldier with heart for children

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

“I don’t believe in coincidence anymore,” said Ray Rechtin. That’s the reason he and his wife founded “Bill’s Kids,” in memory of their late son and soldier Bill.

Bill Rechtin always had a heart for service and kindness, according to his grade school classmate, Father Michael Hennigen. During his deployment in Iraq in 2008, he told his parents he only wanted one thing in his care package from home — paper and pencils for the Iraqi children.

The Rechtin family, after Bill’s death in a house fire in the summer of 2014, established an organization that provides school supplies for ACUE (Alliance for Catholic Urban Education) schools in the Diocese of Covington.

Why ACUE? Mr. Rechtin said that a mere four days after their son’s death, he and his wife were looking for a way to honor his memory when a representative from ACUE schools spoke after Mass at their parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Burlington.

“The first round of school supplies and donations was in lieu of flowers or donations for the funeral,” explained Mr. Rechtin. It expanded from there. The Rechtins hope to preserve Bill’s passion for service and education of the young. Father Hennigen celebrated Bill’s funeral at their request in the Rechtin’s home parish.

The Rechtins chose the ACUE schools because their spirit reminded them of their son. ACUE schools exist in the diocese’s urban core, which has been identified as mission territory of the diocese. The teachers and students at ACUE schools face many challenges, and it is with determination that they succeed. Similarly, Bill Rechtin wasn’t always the admired National Guard and United States Special Force member that he became.

Mr. Rechtin shared that Bill was picked on and bullied as a child, but “it didn’t matter. He’d always fight for the little guy.” He could be tremendously patient when working toward a goal, even if it didn’t seem achievable.

Because he was picked on, he cracked a vertebra in his neck and was told he would never be able to play contact sports or join the military. Mr. Rechtin said this was devastating for Bill because he always wanted to join the Special Forces. “He always came back to that goal,” said Mr. Rechtin.

Bill finally found his way to serve others in active duty. During his junior year of high school, a recruiter advised him not to tell anyone about the injury if it wasn’t causing him pain and wouldn’t be a hindrance.

From that point on, he developed a workout plan and a diet — he went from barely being able to lift 100 pounds to working out with 300 pounds. Through ROTC, he joined the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2008.

It was during this time that he asked for paper, pencils and coloring books from his parents that he gave to the local children.

Several years later, Bill finally accomplished his dream of qualifying for the Special Forces. Mr. Rechtin shared that 75 percent of the people who try out for Special Forces don’t pass the qualifying course for physical, mental or emotional capability.

During the running portion of the test, Bill twisted his ankle but refused to give up and still finished in the top 10. He walked on the ankle for a week without betraying a limp because he refused to be dismissed.

“His story reveals that you can overcome difficulty with determination. If you want to do it, you can do it,” said Mr. Rechtin. “If you look at the success rates of these (ACUE) schools, it shows that there’s a determination about them. They have what it takes to not give up.”

Mr. Rechtin also said Bill never wanted publicity for his service or his accomplishments. “He was incredibly humble,” he said.

On Feb. 25, Mr. Rechtin made the latest delivery of school supplies to Holy Cross School in Covington. Mr. Rechtin believes Bill’s Kids carries on Bill’s legacy of pursuing goals with deep-seated care for others.

“I hope that teachers know someone cares about what they’re doing,” he said. “I hope that kids learn that someone cares because I think that the greatest gift you can give someone is the heart, the personal touch.”

“Bill’s memory tells the kids to never give up, no matter what. Be an everyday hero.”

CCK urges strong push for votes on scholarship tax credits

Messenger staff report

As the Kentucky General Assembly passes the midway point of its 2020 session, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky is asking constituents to make a strong push for Scholarship Tax Credit legislation.

“A group of House Republicans are fighting hard to prevent HB 350 from even getting a vote in 2020,” said Andrew Vandiver, associate director, CCK. “There is still plenty of time left to pass the bill with a veto proof majority, but the path forward is narrowing as the clock ticks towards the end of the legislative session on April 15.”

HB 350 would establish a separate income tax credit for tuition assistance based on contributions made to a qualified scholarship-granting organization. The tax credit would be available to businesses as well as individuals. Qualified scholarship-granting organizations are non-profit organizations that provide financial aid, or scholarships, to lower income families who wish to send their children to non-public schools. An example is ACUE (the Alliance for Catholic Urban Education) in the Diocese of Covington, but if passed, Scholarship Tax Credits would help thousands of families across Northern Kentucky and the entire state.

The issue, he said, is stalling not because of a lack of support. Polls show that 62 percent of Kentuckians support Scholarship Tax Credits. Hundreds of supporters have taken time to visit the Capitol to meet with legislators. Thousands have e-mailed or called their legislators. Why is the bill not moving?

“The answer is simple: a group of House Republican legislators have decided that they would prefer to avoid taking a vote on the issue at all,” said Mr. Vandiver.

The CCK and EdChoice Kentucky, a coalition focused on bringing a scholarship tax credit program to the Commonwealth, say that every parent —regardless of income or address — should be able to choose the school that would provide their child with his or her best opportunity for success, a school that meets their child’s educational needs.

“For some families, the stakes are even higher,” said Mr. Vandiver. “We have heard from multiple families this session whose children are facing severe bullying and are in desperate need of an alternative. These are situations that no member of the General Assembly would accept for their own children. Yet, certain members expect other families to watch their children fall through the cracks.”

Mr. Vandiver said that the bill has many “champions” in the General Assembly — like Rep. Chad McCoy, Rep. Jerry Miller, Rep. Walker Thomas and Senator Ralph Alvarado — and encourages Kentuckians to contact their legislators to find out where they stand on Scholarship Tax Credits.

“It is time to know where everyone else stands,” said Mr. Vandiver. “Contact your senator and representative today, even if you have already done so, and demand that they put Scholarship Tax Credits to a vote. If they are going to oppose educational freedom for Kentucky families, they should at least be willing to do so in the light of day by voting on the bill.”

To contact legislators call 1-800-372-7181 or visit

Over 200 catechumens and candidates presented to Bishop Foys in two ceremonies at the Cathedral Basilica

Laura Keener, Editor.

In two separate ceremonies, March 1, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, 92 catechumens and 128 candidates from the parishes and missions of the Diocese of Covington were presented to Bishop Roger Foys as this year’s elect. Catechumens are unbaptized persons converting to Catholicism. Candidates are Christians who have already been baptized and are seeking full communion with the Church through confirmation and/or first Communion. The Rite of Election takes place on the first Sunday of Lent each year. The word “election” refers to a name being formally announced among God’s chosen people. The elect will enter into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil, April 11.

In his homily Bishop Foys said that the first Sunday of Lent is known as Temptation Sunday. The first reading recounts the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Gospel focuses on Jesus’ 40 days in the desert where he is tempted by the devil.

“Everyone is tempted,” Bishop Foys said. “We are tempted not because we are bad — we are tempted because we are human. Temptation is not a sin, giving into the temptation is a sin.”

Jesus’ time in the desert — in the silence of the desert — actually drew him closer to God, Bishop Foys said.

“Nothing and no one could dissuade him from his trust in his Father,” Bishop Foys said. “The devil is alive and is well and is working and would keep us from our mission; keep us from laying claim to eternal life. This is what makes today and our gathering here today in this church so significant. The devil would keep people from the Church — the Church founded by Jesus Christ — in which and through which we work on our salvation as individuals and as a community. Our faith must make us strong. Our faith must make us see that which is good, that which is holy, that which is wholesome. We work together to make the Church what it is called to be; to repent of its sinfulness and of its sinners.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily welcoming the candidates and catechumens and thanking the pastors and all those who are working to bring people to God.

Ash Wednesday: ‘Return to the Lord with your whole heart’

Laura Keener, Editor.

A large crowd attended Ash Wednesday Mass, Feb. 26, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Bishop Roger Foys was the main celebrant. Concelebrating and distributing ashes were Father Ryan Maher, rector and vicar general; Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general; Father Michael Norton, vocations promoter; and Father Joseph Shelton, administrative assistant to the Bishop.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penance and prayer. During the Mass, ashes — symbolizing the dust from which God created man — are placed in the form of a cross on the foreheads of the faithful. The priest says the words, “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or a new form, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

In his homily, Bishop Foys said that the words of the prophet Joel proclaimed in the day’s first reading summarize the season of Lent, “Even now return to the Lord with your whole heart.” (2:12)

“Repent means to turn from,” Bishop Foys said. “We turn from something so we can turn to something. In Lent we turn from anything and everything that is a distraction from our relationship with the Lord and we turn to the Lord.”

Bishop Foys shared a list of 15GreatWaysToFastDuringLent that someone had shared with him. Some included: fast from anger and hatred, give your family extra love; fast from division, strive to be in unity with everyone; fast from low self-esteem, pessimism and negativity, be positive in your outlook on life.

On the 14th Great Way to Fast, “fast from too much of the world, give extra time to Jesus,” Bishop Foys affirmed Pope Francis’ recommendation for Lent given at his general audience that day.

“Pope Francis … told people to turn off their television and open their Bible. Spend less time on social media and more time in prayer or with others — fast from the world,” he said.

Bishop Foys acknowledged that he, too, is distracted by modern technology, especially his iPhone. He shared that when his first Screen Time notification reported the number of hours he had spent on his phone that week he was “embarrassed.”

“I thought this has to be for someone else, I don’t spend that much time on my phone,” he said. “I was horrified at that, to think all that time I could have been doing something productive. I could have been praying, I could have been visiting someone who is ill or just having a conversation — an uninterrupted conversation — with someone else.

“It’s a distraction. I would echo what the Holy Father said at his audience — put it (cell phone) aside.”
Bishop Foys said that he hoped the 15 Great Ways to Fast for Lent would inspire others like it has inspired him.

“It spoke to me and talked to me about things I need to set straight, things that would really make a difference in my life and in the lives of others,” he said. “Joel hit the nail on the head, ‘Return to the Lord with your whole heart.’ To return to one thing you have to put other things aside. What could be more important than turning to the Lord?”

St. Cecilia completes Parish Center

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

A dream has finally come true for parishioners at St. Cecilia Parish, Independence. Under the leadership of Father Mario Tizziani, the parish recently completed a $6 million dollar building project for a Parish Center and addition to the parish school.

The community gathered, Feb. 23, to formally dedicate the new facility. The dedication included a ribbon cutting and a formal blessing by Father Ryan Maher, vicar general, who represented Bishop Roger Foys. Bishop Foys had planned to attend, but was unexpectedly called away for a family funeral out of state.

“The project at St. Cecilia School has been a long time in coming to fruition but it is obvious that the wait was well worth it,” said Bishop Foys. “What a tremendous boost the completion of this project is to both the school and parish community. I congratulate Father Tizziani and all those who have worked so hard to bring this project to fruition.”

Father Maher extended Bishop Foys’ greetings along with his own remarks. “What we have here, we’re celebrating a work of love,” said Father Maher. “So many hands were a part of bringing this together. … We are building for the future.”

The building contains a high school-size gymnasium with a walking track and lobby and concession stand, a large media center, STEAM lab, a parish meeting room, classrooms, an art/music facility and an early childhood learning center.

Father Tizziani approached the finance council about the project in 2011, but the idea has been in the minds of the community since the 1980s. The enlarged and improved facility will sustain growth in the 21st century.
Kenneth Collopy, principal, expressed his gratitude to a thriving community who was willing to put in the work for its children. “This space is going to make a dramatic impact on our children’s education here … it puts a roof over the three values our community is founded on — faith, academics and community.”

“It is perfect that we are celebrating today as one community,” said Kendra McGuire, associate superintendent of Catholic Schools and former principal of St. Cecilia School. “A community that came together and donated its time, its talents and its treasures seeking to build a facility that would meet the needs of its current and its future members.”


Bishop Foys also looked to the future. “It will serve the St. Cecilia community for many, many years into the future,” he said. “None of us does what we do only for ourselves and for our own well-being. We look to future generations to build on what we have done. May future generations of parishioners and students of St. Cecilia parish and school face the challenges of their time and look with gratitude on what is being given them to build upon.”

Father Tizziani explained that he first proposed the idea after the parish paid off its debt in 2011. He formed the Parent Teacher Organization in 2012, which has since contributed about $60,000 toward the building project.
Initial discussion began in 2014 regarding what the parish and school needed. Father Tizziani and the finance committee then launched a building fund campaign 2014–2018, and ground was broken July 10, 2017. Century Construction was the primary contractor.

While the building stage lasted longer than expected, parts of the building became available for use in September 2019. The project was officially finished in time for the February dedication.

Mrs. McGuire, principal 2011–2016, explained that the planning committee was established to discuss the dreams for the school. They looked at similar facilities and calculated what they needed for St. Cecilia School.

They ended up with two valuable new assets — expanded room for the community as well as a daycare.

“Having the gym facility and the media center, as well as the meeting space, its added spaces that will bring the families and community together for more fellowship activities,” said Mrs. McGuire. The colorful media center includes a library, accessible technology and a history center.

The daycare has double the room, which means double the capacity to meet the parishioners’ needs. “It’s good for parents to know that they can have their children all at one place from a young age through eighth grade, and it’s faith based, that’s what a church is supposed to be,” said Mrs. McGuire. “We don’t just go to Church there on Sunday and drop our kids off for school, we’re there at other times and that develops faith because it’s more than just sitting in church pews, it’s our interactions with each other.”

Margaret Hoffman, member of the planning committee, echoed these thoughts. She said the committee thought students were at a handicap without a gym for practices and games. “It grew from a need to expand,” she said about the project.

“If you help the children, that is building community and all the functions that surround the children bring in the parents and the community to watch sports and support their education … it all goes together.”

Father Tizziani said that there has already been an uptake in enrollment at the school because of the gymnasium and a safe, local place for practices and games.

“We hear that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,” he said. “Teaching children to grow in knowledge as they grow physically… I think our new facility really adds to that ability.”

Ms. Hoffman said the most impressive part of the project, however, hasn’t been the physical structure but the people who have made it possible.

“People have been very patient,” she said. “The fact that so much money was raised is a testament to the commitment of the members of the parish to actually fulfill this pledge over five years. That’s a long time to be fully committed to this project and I think the parishioners are to be commended for their diligence.”

Father Tizziani agreed. “Where we are now, this is St. Cecilia,” he said. Thank you for giving so that this dream is a reality.”

He also insisted that “this is not just Father Mario’s vision, this is Father (Robert) Urlage’s vision.” Father Urlage was pastor of St. Cecilia 1982–1992 when the new church was built, and was present at the ceremony. “We started this project on the coattails of a great pastor and a great man.”

Father Tizziani especially expressed gratitude for the restored crucifix in the center of the back wall from St. Matthew Parish, Kenton. It hangs as a reminder of the reason for the building, the same purpose as the prominent images of Jesus and St. Cecilia on the building’s entrance. The two stone friezes were crafted from carrara marble in memory of a generous parishioner’s husband. They were crafted in Italy and brought over to adorn the front entrance to the Parish Center.

Brian Harvey, associate director of buildings and properties for the Diocese of Covington and overseer of the project, said through the long production time, the end result is truly rewarding.

“To see the kids running around the gym today… that’s what makes it worth it,” he said.

“I’m satisfied and relieved that we’re finally in the building,” said Father Tizziani. “I give thanks to the Lord that it turned out so beautiful.”