DCCH Center celebrates 150 adoptions, reflects on 20 years

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

When the DCCH Center for Children and Families became officially licensed as an adoption agency in 2001, they knew very few of the 150 children who would find forever homes thanks to their help.

Ron Bertsch, director, therapeutic foster care, adoption and independent living, said he started as the only staff person for what was then a residential program in 1999, and finalized the first adoption in 2002. What drove him was the need for permanence for the children.

“We realized a lot of our foster families had children that now were not able to safely go back home, and the families were interested in adopting … that’s what spurred us to go and get our adoption license,” he said. “We want to help see these families and children all the way to the end, not turn the case back over to the state agency.”

The first 100 adoptions were from 2002 to 2018, but the last two years have seen 50 more. Mr. Bertsch said it’s because DCCH has grown and improved.

The DCCH is unique in that the children are older and usually have histories of severe neglect and abuse. The prospect of fostering and eventually adopting through the therapeutic foster care program can be daunting. “It’s not a calling that probably everyone can do, so I think it takes somebody special to answer this ministry call and foster and adopt an older child,” said Mr. Bertsch.

However, said Mr. Bertsch, many families have shared that while it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done, it’s also the most rewarding. “A lot of people have this fear that it’s going to be harder than they can manage and I’m not saying it’s not going to challenge you — it requires sacrifice and extra time and work on your part as a parent, but to know that you helped a child who has had a rough start in life to turn that around.”

He connects foster care and adoption work to the pro-life movement. “To me, it’s not just helping stop an unplanned pregnancy from termination — yes, we want to work to support the birth mother and father in those situations — but also, being pro-life means to help children who have not been aborted who are in our world, who are being abused and neglected and abandoned … just because they’re 10 years old or 15 years old doesn’t mean they don’t need help from our Catholic and pro-life community.”

To celebrate National Adoption Month, the DCCH reaches out and recognizes all of its past adopted children and families. This year, they created a logo with the numbers “150” surrounded by a heart, formed from the first names of all 150 children who have been adopted.

“It’s an emotional moment because to me it marks 150 lives that we’ve had a small part in helping them find permanency, in finding them forever homes,” said Mr. Bertsch. “It’s humbling and yet very inspirational to be able to see that and look back on my career to know that I was part of every one of those kids’ lives during that time. I helped train a lot of the parents, held their hand during the rough journey through that, through the triumphs and stepping stones during the healing process.”

One of the greatest moments from this year, he shared, was getting back in touch with Corey, the very first child that DCCH placed for adoption. “I had lost contact with him in his young adult life, but someone else ran into him and I was able to reach out to him and meet for lunch … To sit down and hear his life story, from 12 years old when I first met him, to now he’s 31. It pulled it all together for me. I was so proud of him and it was so fun to talk to him.”

Most of the children, if they were old enough to remember the DCCH, have kept in touch. They like to reach out and every once in a while Mr. Bertsch gets an update from the family.

Julia and Dakota Geiman, for example, are fostering a 15- and 11-year-old girl and boy. Julia and her siblings were fostered through DCCH and adopted in 2004. Julia knew DCCH was a big part of their life for more than 9 years, and her older sister kept in contact with staff from DCCH into her adult life.

“I knew DCCH, trusted them and had a history with them. It was natural for me to call DCCH to explore becoming a foster/adoptive family,” she said.

Julia and Dakota have found fostering to be very rewarding for them. Julia’s biological siblings are and have always been very close to her. They love that she and Dakota have opened up their home to other children, who like themselves once upon a time needed this kind, generous and loving home life. Even Dakota’s family have embraced the idea and all are very supportive of the new members of their family.

Retired Mike Fury and his wife Peggy Fury adopted Destine, who just turned 18 this year. “We married late in life but wanted to have a child to love. We’re a long, long ways from perfect, but we knew we could offer a child a safe environment, and that might be enough to save a life,” they said. “We would say to approach it not from the perspective of ‘What might happen to us if we adopt,’ but rather from the perspective of ‘What might happen to this child if we don’t?’ It’s not always sunny skies, but it is very rewarding, and we believe it is Kingdom work.”

Mr. Bertsch and the DCCH are always looking to find more foster or adoptive families, mentors and donors.

“Some people think they’re too old, but we love empty nesters in their 40s or 50s — before they get too accustomed to empty nesters, when they still are fresh on raising teenagers, I want those folks to call me,” he said. “They certainly can help by saying a prayer for healing of the children and for more families to step up and answer that call. This is a different type of vocation, but I know there are people who can do it.”

Anyone who is interested in fostering, adopting, mentoring, donating or spreading the word can call the DCCH at 331-2040.

Heartfelt gratitude for support as virtual Seminary Ball premieres

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The 11th annual Seminary Ball is making history as the first time the event, which funds a significant part of the diocesan seminarians’ education, is taking place virtually. Though making a ball go virtual sounds like a daunting task, the Office of Stewardship has taken it on with enthusiasm.

This year’s event will be a virtual premiere of an exciting video about the Diocese of Covington’s seminarians on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Registration is online at covdio.org/seminaryball, and donors have a plethora of options from which to choose. All money goes to Seminarian Education Fund to support education of future priests.

The deadline for the event was initially Nov. 18 but has been extended to Dec. 6 before the release of the video. As a thank you, donors will receive gift boxes full of commemorative keepsake items, hand delivered the week before the event. They can sit back and enjoy the video with some help from the gift box.

Donors can register for simple registration for the event, or include a larger donation: The Ordination Society for $10,000, the Acolyte Society for $5,000, the Candidacy Society for $2,500, a Virtual Table Scholarship for $1,000 or the Friend of Seminary Education Scholarship for up to $1,000. More details about each opportunity can be found on the website.

Mike Murray, director, Office of Stewardship, said, “When it was decided we would go to a virtual event, I was a little hesitant at first that we would be able to pull this off, but everyone has worked together — the generous benefactors from the community, the event committee, the Curia staff — so I’m really excited right now to have this virtual event and get into our benefactors’ hands these wonderful gift boxes.”

The estimated diocesan cost for providing our seminarians with tuition, books, room and board, health insurance, living allowances and retreats for the coming year will amount to more than $56,000 per seminarian. All donations make a significant impact in the lives of the young men in formation.

The Seminary Ball began as the Seminary Guild Ball in 1955, instituted by Bishop William Mulloy as a fundraiser for the Seminary of St. Pius X, Erlanger. Eleven years ago under Bishop Roger Foys, it expanded to fund the education and formation of the seminarians, and the name was changed to the Seminary Ball. Last October, approximately 560 people attended the ball.

In previous years, during the week prior to the collection for the Seminarian Education Fund, the seminarians would speak at various parishes throughout the Diocese. Unfortunately, this year the seminarians will not be available to speak at the parishes to inform or thank the donors for their generosity in the past due to COVID-19. They will, however, be online watching the video at the same time as the guests.

Deacon Joseph Rielage, a fourth-year seminarian at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Penn., expressed his thanks for the sacrifices that the people of the diocese make on their behalf.

“The people who donate to the ball and the Seminarian Education Fund … it might be challenging for some people financially to do that, but I admire and respect the fact that they’re willing to give their hard-earned money out of love and trust of the people who are in formation,” he said. “I have so much gratitude for the people because without their support, I would not be able to follow the vocation I’ve been called to follow so that I can, in turn, be of service to them … be a shepherd to help guide them along their journey to live the life everyone is called to live. I hope to help them reach their ultimate goal of meeting the Lord someday.”

The seminarians currently studying for the Diocese of Covington at St. Vincent Seminary and the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, are Michael Elmlinger, Bradley Whittle, John Tarvin, Henry “Hank” Bischoff, Michael Schulte, Joshua “Josh” Heskamp, John Baumann, Justin Schwarz, Deacon Joseph Rielage, Andrew Joseph “A.J.” Gedney and Zacharias Schoen.

Mr. Murray is pleased that the community can still show their support, even from the safety of their homes, and he knows that people will step up like they always do.

“It’s a unique way in these challenging times to support seminarian education, which is the future of our Church,” said Mr. Murray.

For registration or donation, visit covdio.org/seminaryball.

‘Seek God’s grace and wisdom’ as Catholic schools are mandated to transition to virtual learning

Laura Keener, Editor.

With the surge of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear announced at his Nov. 18 daily briefing that he had signed an executive order that all Kentucky schools — public and private — transition to virtual learning. High schools and middle schools will need to continue with virtual learning until Jan. 4; elementary schools can return to classrooms after Dec. 7 in counties that are not in the “red zone.” The red zone is the fourth and most critical level of COVID activity in the community, meaning there are more than 25 cases per 100,000 population. On the day the executive order was signed, 112 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were in the red zone.

In the order, Gov. Beshear indicated that: “Kentucky is now experiencing a potentially catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases, which threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system and cause thousands of preventable deaths.”

The unexpected order gave diocesan educators two school days for the diocese’s nine high schools and 28 elementary schools to transition 8,500 students to at-home instruction. While many local public schools began the school year with virtual learning and in many cases continued with some form of virtual learning, diocesan schools began the school year August 17 with in-person instruction and had sustained in-person learning up through the date of the mandate.

On Monday, Nov. 23, the Messenger interviewed Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Catholic Schools, to find out how schools managed during those 14 weeks of in-person instruction and what students and parents can expect during at-home learning.

How were schools doing during those weeks of in-person instruction?
I think our schools were doing very well with managing their cases. When the mandate came through, we reviewed where our schools were and we had 24 schools who did not have any active COVID cases among students and staff. The majority of our schools were not seeing an issue with COVID positives within their school building. We did see a number of students impacted, but it was mainly from family contacts. At that time we did have four schools that had transitioned to at-home learning due to cases; a larger number of cases either among teachers or because we had a large number of students out due to self-quarantine.

In the instances where the schools did seem to have a lot more COVID activity we took the steps to mitigate the spread, whether that was by class or team quarantines or all the way up to school closure when that was necessary.

How were principals managing the COVID cases at their school?
After 14 weeks, all of the principals had become really good at monitoring their cases and knowing what their school was able to handle. When they needed to take the next step —something beyond just putting a few students in quarantine — they were ready to make that transition when necessary. Their top priority is safety and I think that comes through in all of their decision making. They were onboard for doing what is best for the overall school community and in reviewing individual cases.

What can schools continue to provide?
The schools right now are looking at what they can still provide within the “targeted services” guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education. The targeted services guidance allows students to be brought in for evaluation, necessary hands on experiences, and mental or academic counseling. These may include academic assessments to determine needs, high school lab experiences, or opportunities for students to meet with the school counselors. These services can only be provided individually or in small groups and must be less than two hours daily.

We have a few schools that partner with public schools for speech therapy and if the public school staff is still willing to come in, that service can still be provided. Schools can also bring students in to work with them academically if a student needs extra assistance, whether that’s for remediation or ongoing tutoring.

Pre-schools were not included in the executive order. Since we were not planning to close schools and we were monitoring COVID activity on a school-by-school basis, we decided to keep pre-schools open since they were not impacted by the order and we did not have any ongoing concerns. The pre-schools will continue to be monitored, just like the our K-12 schools, so if we have cases, closures or short term quarantines will still occur when necessary.

Will parents still need to report to their school when their child or someone in the family tests positive for COVID?

The more we can stay on top of cases and what COVID activity is going on in our school communities the better equipped we’ll be when we return to class in January. Anything the parents can do to keep us informed is going to be helpful. According to the CDC there is a certain period of immunity (for someone who has recovered from COVID). For students who do test positive during this time away from school, it would be important to know that because they would be exempt from quarantine when we resume in-person classes. (Documentation showing the positive diagnosis would need to be provided to the principal.)

What does non-traditional instruction or NTI look like in our schools?
NTI will look different at each of the schools in the diocese. One of the challenges that our schools experienced with being fully prepared for NTI was in obtaining Cares Act Funding, which for our schools ended up being very limited or none at all. The schools have taken the steps they could, with the resources available, to prepare for NTI. Many schools at the elementary level were unable to purchase devices for students. For those schools, NTI may look more like a packet and paper-type work which needs to be done each day and teachers check-in with the student. Our high schools are equipped to provide virtual classes all day, just as if the students were in school; students will just tune in online.

What are your recommendations to parents during NTI?
As a parent myself of children first grade through high school, my advice is to be patient both with your child and with your child’s teachers. NTI puts a lot of pressure on families, especially at the younger levels because parents have to have a more involved role in their students education. This can put added stress on the parent/student relationship which in turn can lead to more stress between the school and home. We need to approach this situation with understanding and when there are challenges, that we communicate those in the most understanding and respectful way possible. As Catholics, we should also rely on our faith in these trying times. Starting with prayer and seeking God’s grace and wisdom in our daily activities will help all of us better manage these upcoming weeks.

Virus spikes in hot spots causing disruptions at more schools and parishes

Messenger Staff Report

As the Thanksgiving Day holiday approaches, the coronavirus is continuing to spread in the Diocese of Covington. This week, Holy Cross District High School, Notre Dame Academy and Newport Central Catholic High School have transitioned to remote learning. NCCHS plans to reconvene in-person instruction on Nov. 20, while NDA will resume Nov. 23 and HCDHS will stay remote until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Curia office saw its first positive case and several quarantines this week.

Also this week, two priests have tested positive for COVID-19 and two priests are quarantined because they were determined to be close contacts to a case. Additionally, three deacons have tested positive for COVID-19. Due to these cases and quarantines, weekday Mass and all services and activities have been suspended at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell; St. Barbara Parish, Erlanger; St. John Mission, Dividing Ridge; St. Timothy Parish, Union and St. William Parish, Williamstown. Weekend Masses will be celebrated as scheduled.

Based on the details of each of the parish cases, parishioners are not determined to be close contacts, according to Laura Keener, diocesan COVID coordinator. Parishioners have been advised of the exposure at the parish and are encouraged to monitor for symptoms.

The diocese is reporting its highest number — 71 — of COVID positive cases in its schools. An additional 1,280 students are in quarantine because they are determined to be close contacts to a COVID case either at school, an activity outside of school or at home.

“With the increase of COVID-19 cases in the community the spike in cases and quarantines in the Curia, schools and parishes was expected,” said Mrs. Keener.

Despite the rise in quarantines many of the diocese’s nine high schools and 32 elementary schools are faring well. Of the cases and quarantines reported, 65 percent are from five of the hardest hit schools — Holy Cross District High School, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, St. Mary School, St. Pius X School and Villa Madonna Academy. At those schools, most of the quarantines are close contacts and not positive cases of COVID-19. For example: HCDHS has 109 students in quarantine, with nine positive cases of COVID-19. All but one of HCDHS’ positive cases could trace exposure to the virus to a family member or friend outside of school.

“It’s not uncommon for one positive case of COVID-19 in the school to affect dozens of students. Our goal is to mitigate the spread of the virus whenever a case is reported and our schools are quarantining all students who are close contacts,” Mrs. Keener said.

A high point for the week came Monday, November 16, when Holy Trinity School, Bellevue, resumed in-person instruction. All students, faculty and staff who were cleared to return that day, did make it back to the classroom.

“We want to remind parishioners — especially our school families — that in order to sustain in-person instruction in our schools and uninterrupted celebration of Mass at our parishes, everyone needs to make the necessary sacrifice of staying home to the greatest extent possible. Even during the Thanksgiving holiday families are encouraged to meet and say a prayer of thanksgiving together virtually,” Mrs. Keener said.

Turkeyfoot Trot adds fun challenge to include local businesses

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The 13th annual Turkeyfoot Trot 5K Run/Walk from St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky is, like many events this year, going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The running and walking is still happening, however, with a scavenger hunt along the way.

Karen Zengel, executive director, said she and her team have created 5K routes throughout Northern Kentucky that pass by the event’s business sponsors. Participants can walk or run the 5K anytime between Nov. 12 and 22.

The scavenger hunt challenges participants to find the local businesses along the different routes and take pictures with the Turkeyfoot Trot sign placed at each sponsor to earn prizes that are normally awarded at the event after party. For every picture taken with St. Vincent de Paul tagged on social media, the person will be entered to win a prize. Ms. Zengel also said that finishing the 5K route also makes you eligible to win a prize.

“We wanted to make it a virtual event but still preserve some of the parts of the event that set us apart from others,” said Ms. Zengel. The local business focus keeps the community-oriented aspect of the event that an after-party would have provided.

Ms. Zengel said, “I’m excited about seeing people get out in the community in a safe way and supporting our ministry but also supporting local businesses, who are showing compassion by being part of this event with us.”

The event is presented by Commonwealth Bank and Trust and Payroll Partners. All funds raised are given back to individual parish conferences of St. Vincent de Paul.

Registration is available online only through the svdpnky.org home page. The price to register is $30 for adults and $25 for children 14 years or younger. For more information or to donate, contact Lou Settle at 446-7727 or [email protected]

‘My Body … given up for you’

By David Cooley.

The celebration of the Eucharist goes back to the Last Supper that Jesus had with his Apostles. However, the memorial of the Eucharist is more than just a remembrance of that Last Supper event. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of our redemption becomes present. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium” (1963), states: “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again” (n. 47). In his encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” Pope John Paul II wrote that the Mass makes the sacrifice of the Cross present, “which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time” (EE, n. 12).

In his “Summa Theologiae,” Thomas Aquinas makes the point that the Eucharist is at once a “sacrament” and a “sacrifice.” He wrote, “In this sacrament is included the whole mystery of our salvation” (“Summa Theologiae,” III, q. 83, a. 4, c). While St. Thomas notes the close connection between sacrament and sacrifice in the mystery of the Eucharist, he nevertheless sees them as irreducibly distinct from one another, being different concepts and having different effects.

The Eucharist satisfies the concept of a sacrament, Aquinas observed, insofar as it is received and consumed, while it satisfies the concept of sacrifice insofar as it is offered (cf. III, q. 79, a. 5, c). The sacramental effects, graces, are therefore limited to those who are actually present to taste it, while its sacrificial effects may extend to all those for whom it is offered.

St. Thomas Aquinas’ predecessor, Peter Lombard — theologian and bishop of Paris (d. 1160) —recognized that it was important to note that Christ’s saving sacrifice on Calvary is a “once for all” action, unique and unrepeatable; but at the same time the Church’s daily Eucharist action is a genuine sacrifice, in which Christ is truly offered. The offering takes place in one way on Calvary and in another way on the altar. St. John Paul II, referring back to the Council of Trent, said that “the Mass makes present the sacrifice on the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it” (EE, n. 12). He concludes, “The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.”

In the 21st century, perhaps it strikes us as strange to speak of a “sacrifice” in the first place. The word harkens back to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament — complete with blood sprinkled on the altar — and, in the context of the Mass, refers to the death of God’s only Son for the reparation of sins. In other words, death to the innocent to save the guilty. Why would a God (a Father) of mercy demand such a thing? This is often a point of contention that popular atheists use when pointing out what they deem a major flaw in the Gospel narrative. “What kind of a blood-thirsty god would demand the death of his son to pay for the world’s crimes?” And yet it is St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians connects the crucifixion to the paschal sacrifice, calling Christ “our paschal lamb” who “has been sacrificed” (5:7).

In his book, “My Body Given for You,” recently published in English, Helmut Hoping, German professor of dogmatics and liturgy, writes that the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross must be understood in terms of the life laid down for us “not in terms of the Crucified as the victim of violence” (“My Body Given for You,” Ignatius Press, 2019). Eucharistic Prayer II reminds us that Christ “entered willingly into his Passion” first and foremost as a gift, out of the greatest possible love for the Father and for us. Christ is the true sacrificial lamb and, at the same time, the true high priest who makes the offering on the people’s behalf. The Cross, then, is the true altar.

The Church is called to participate in the sacrifice of Christ. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium,” teaches that the faithful, “taking part in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the whole of Christian life, offer the divine [sacrifice] to God, and offer themselves along with it.” (LG, n. 11) In this way, Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible for us to, in the right disposition, willingly offer ourselves back to God and unite our sufferings to the Cross.

In his first encyclical, “Redemptor Hominis,” Pope John Paul II wrote that the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ, “giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who ‘became obedient unto death’ (Phil 2:8), his own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection.” (RH, n. 20). The Eucharistic sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of Christ’s passion and death, but also the mystery which crowned that sacrifice — the Resurrection. Christ risen has become for us the “Bread of life” and partaking in the Eucharist applies the event of the Resurrection to our lives.

Later, in his reflection “On the Eucharist and the Mass,” John Paul II wrote, “the Lord unites us with Himself through the Eucharist — Sacrament and Sacrifice — and He unites us with Himself and with one another by a bond stronger than any natural union. Thus united, He sends us into the whole world to bear witness, through faith and works, to God’s love.”

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

The Eucharist — The font of the Holy Spirit

By Father Ryan Maher.

“I will be with until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Our Blessed Lord spoke these words to his disciples before he ascended to his Father in heaven. Our Lord fulfills this promise through his Real Presence in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist. In the holy sacrifice of the Mass the Lord Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist as nourishment for our pilgrim journey and as a pledge of eternal life. Through the words of consecration spoken by the priest at Mass the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But before these words are spoken, the priest says the prayer of epiclesis (from the ancient Greek meaning, “calling down from on high” or “invocation”). The epiclesis is essential to the Eucharistic sacrifice because it is the calling down of Holy Spirit upon the simple gifts of bread and wine so that they can be changed and transformed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion.” (n. 1375) A work of the Holy Spirit is always the process of conversion.

At Mass the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine during the epiclesis and calls down the Holy Spirit upon them using the words provided for each one of the Eucharistic prayers. For example, the epiclesis for Eucharistic Prayer III reads, “Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration”. The priest then makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine saying, “that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit.” (n. 1553)

The priest implores the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine, to transform these simple elements into the Body and Blood of Christ. As revealed in sacred Scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give new life by way of transformation, true change and conversion.

In the Nicene Creed the Church gives voice to belief in the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, with the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” The Holy Spirit is in fact the giver of life! It was by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived the Christ child in her womb (cf. Luke 1:35).

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is received at baptism giving each person a share in the divine Life. In confirmation a person is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In baptism and confirmation a person is truly changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit and by the sacramental grace that is bestowed upon the person receiving the sacrament.

The Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles at Pentecost. After receiving the Holy Spirit they were changed and transformed. No longer were they afraid! Filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room, they became different men who had the courage to preach the Gospel to all nations, to carry out the works of Jesus Christ in the world and to reconcile sinners.

The prayer of epiclesis and the prayer of consecration is an immersion into the life and love of the Blessed Trinity. The Son freely and willingly offered himself to the Father on the cross for our salvation. The Father and the Son sent the Spirit so that we would never be left abandoned.

We participate in Mass to give glory to God, to worship and praise the Blessed Trinity, and to be sanctified. Never should it happen that we participate in Mass and remain unchanged. In some way the graces of the Mass we receive should change us. Receiving the proclaimed Word of God into our hearts and receiving holy Communion into our very body — how can we not be changed in some way through our participation at Mass? This is a work of the Holy Spirit — to change us; to transform us; to give us life.

Let us lift up our minds and hearts to the Lord at Mass and call down the Holy Spirit in the many ordinary moments of our daily lives so that we can be changed and transformed and, with the help of God’s grace, become saints.

Father Ryan Maher is a vicar general for the Diocese of Covington and rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.

Lifted out of time into eternity

By Msgr. William Cleves.

In his excellent book, “The Gates of the Forest,” Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, having told a story, remarked that God made us because God loves stories. The image has remained with me since I read that book decades ago. It must have been with me when I first paged through the translation of the Roman Missal that was promulgated in 2011. As I leafed through its pages, I was struck by the number of times that God was addressed or described as “author.” This word is derived from the Latin verb augeo, augere, auxi, auctus. It has a number of meanings in English: to increase, to promote, to honor, to exalt and to spread. The Latin word auctor, derived from the last principal part of the verb, refers to one who increases, promotes, exalts. It is from auctor that we have the English noun author. What follows is not an exhaustive list of the ways in which God is described as author. In the new missal God is described or addressed as:

  • author of our salvation
  • author of divine generation
  • author of all that is good
  • author of all life
  • author of our freedom and salvation
  • author of love and peace

Every story we write is a share in the aboriginal authorship that properly belongs to God. So let us consider the stories that we write, and begin with the language in which I am writing, namely English. With the exception of the infinitive, every English verb carries some marker of tense (e.g., I see, I saw, I will see). We tend to think in terms of past, present, future. But this view of time and history is not the only way of conceiving these matters. It is possible to regard stories as timeless objects, standing outside any particular temporal period. In such a view, to tell a story is to step outside our time, to let the timeless wisdom of the story lift us up. The ancient Hebrews believed that, if one told the sacred story and engaged in sacred ritual, one entered the story, making it flesh for the group of people gathered for the occasion.

Consider our celebration of the Eucharist. We gather in a sacred space to tell sacred stories. We reflect on our part in these stories, realizing that they are our story, becoming flesh among us. This is the Liturgy of the Word. We engage also in sacred ritual, presenting and then offering bread and wine to be transformed, so that we who eat and drink are ourselves transformed. We are then sent forth to announce the Gospel of the Lord or to glorify God in our lives. In the Eucharist, whose author is God, we are lifted up (is this not the meaning of the verb augeo?). God lifts us from this moment of time, to taste the gifts that are to come. We do, after all, refer to the Eucharistic celebration as the foretaste and promise of the paschal feast of heaven.

One of the stories in the final chapter of the Gospel according to Luke is what happened on the road to Emmaus. It is not merely a story of what happened then, but of what happens now. Two disciples walk on a road, sharing recent events. True to his promise (“where two or three are gathered in my name … “), Jesus appears and walks with them. He opens them to the understanding of the Scriptures. He then eats and drinks with them, and their eyes are opened in the breaking of bread.

Realizing whom they have seen, the disciples rush forth to tell everyone. This is our story. We bring to the Eucharistic celebration the events of our lives. Jesus joins us, true to his promise, and opens our eyes to the meaning of God’s Word. We eat and drink with him, and we are transformed; our eyes are opened, and we recognize him in the breaking of bread. We are then sent forth to tell everyone.

In writing the story of creation, God has exalted us, honored us, promoted us, and increased our faith. God made us because God loves stories.

 Msgr. William Cleves is pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Newport.

The Cross and the Eucharist

By Msgr. Gerald Twaddell.

Day in and day out, from morning to evening, hundreds of people — some true pilgrims, others merely tourists — make their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. They climb the steep stairway not far to the right inside the main door to reach Calvary. The line slowly moves past the altar commemorating the place where Jesus was stripped of his garments, then where he was nailed to the cross. At the altar in the Chapel of the Crucifixion they kneel, one by one, to reach under the altar to put a hand down into the shaft where the Cross once stood. Some are so moved that they remain there as time passes, delaying the opportunity for the next person who will follow their example; others, conscious of the crowd waiting behind them, move on more quickly. What is the attraction of this ritual?

Surely whatever else might have brought these people to the Holy City, at least one reason for them to be there is to connect with something very ancient, very sacred. How many other sites in the world offer such a tactile, intimate encounter as the one that can be experienced in this holiest of places? There are so many sites in the Holy Land where one is allowed to touch, with little or no barrier, a place where Jesus stood, or sat or knelt. How many more recent historical sites offer a visitor that? But here, the gentle, awed caress of the devout pilgrims is unlikely to wear down these millennial stones too rapidly. The monks who guard the sites watch mainly to ensure that decorum is preserved.

So the history of the place, its accessibility, its profound significance for the story of the human race, its salvation, all draw people. And yet, what they find is but a memory of a past event. All that remains are the relics of a distant past. The reality is not there, however sacred the artifacts may be. The Cross of Christ is gone, splintered among myriad relics spread across the world. What remains is what it once touched. And that, in the end, is all we can touch here at Calvary. So, however moving that experience, there could be something more.

What if we could have been there on the day of the Crucifixion? Perhaps we might have been part of the crowd on the road into Jerusalem just a few days earlier chanting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But that crowd didn’t follow him to Calvary. Do we think we would have been any different? Jesus knew how people, even his closest followers, would flee, leaving him to stand trial for sedition against the Roman Empire without a single witness on his side. On the very eve of all that, he warned them that all would be scandalized: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” (Mt 26:31) Maybe we would not have wanted to be there either, but if we had had the courage of John, of his Mother Mary, of his aunt and the other Mary we might have stood there with them at the foot of the Cross, risking not only the ridicule of the officials, but the danger of being accused of a crime ourselves.

What is more, had we known then what we know now about the Resurrection to come, we would not have been scandalized at all. We would have understood the ghastly scene as the price Jesus was willing to pay to redeem the whole human race. We would have known the truth of what St. Paul would write later: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Such thoughts, though, are sad “what ifs” aren’t they? None of that was possible, not least of all because we have come into the world twenty centuries too late.

If the sword of Mary’s sorrow beside her dying Son could prick our hard hearts though, would we not really want to be there? Not just at the place where it happened once so long ago in history, but right there, right then as it all unfolds, hearing Jesus pronounce his triumphant judgment on the sins of the world: “It is finished.” Yes, there could never be a better place, a better time to be than at that central moment in salvation history.

And the awe-inspiring truth is that we actually can do just that: be at the Cross, as Jesus redeems the world. How you ask? Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical “Mediator Dei” (§3) explains: “the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the Cross is represented and, with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed.”

Our celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy draws us into the depths of the Mystery of Christ, the mystery of salvation. When we enter the liturgy we step out of time and into the reality of eternity. Time fades away, leaving us standing about the Altar of the Lamb where we share in the Heavenly Liturgy. As the Second Council of the Vatican taught: “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” §8)

Our liturgy and the liturgy of heaven are made one: we are made present at the eternal offering of the sacrifice of Calvary to the heavenly Father and joined with all the saints at the banquet of heaven. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.” (CCC 1326) This is as close to heaven as we can get and still be in this world. Just think: we are really present in the heavenly liturgy. As the Catechism teaches, reaching back to the words of the Council of Trent (Cf. DS 1743): “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: the victim is one and the same: the same now offered through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.” (CCC 1367)

The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is what the Eucharist simply is. Jesus is really present in all his reality, dying to redeem us, rising to bring us eternal life. To participate in the celebration of Mass transports us really and truly to the altar of the Cross. To understand this truth should thrill us to our depths. Heaven joined with earth, and we can be there! How could we ever imagine a substitute for that? Could an hour in nature compare? Could sitting at home reading the newspaper, sipping coffee, have anything near the value of this encounter with Christ Crucified? Shouldn’t we all burst into a joyful song of Christ’s victory (and ours): “Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred name” ? (“Lift High the Cross” © 1978, Hope Publishing Co.)

Msgr. Gerald E. Twaddell, KHS, is prior of the Covington section of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; chaplain of the Monastery of the Sacred Passion, Erlanger; professor of philosophy and rector of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Thomas More University.

Veterans Day

The role of a military chaplain a year marked by COVID-19

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

While the world hunkered down and waited out the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, the members of military were doing what they always do — sacrificing their time and energy to be ready to defend the United States.

Father Bill Appel, chaplain with the Archdiocese for the Military Services who calls the Diocese of Covington home, has served in three branches of the military and witnessed to what kind of year it’s been for the sailors in the U.S. Navy.

A military chaplain since 2017, Father Appel was an active duty marine officer, with experience as a helicopter pilot and a special forces officer, before being ordained to the priesthood. After serving the required three years in the Diocese of Covington, he offered himself for the service of the military and has served the Navy and the Coast Guard.

“A lot of the priestly call is akin to the military: selflessness, giving yourself for a higher cause, obedience…” Father Appel said. “You’re at your best when you’ve died to yourself in both cases.”

Father Appel said the military uses Catholic chaplains very heavily because they’re rare, so he gets scant time between assignments. This year, however, it’s been even less than usual. After a month of intensive training and seven months deployed in 2019, he and the sailors spent six months on the waterfront of Paris, prepared to answer needs. Then after a deployment overseas, they had to pick up for another ship.

“It was taxing in terms of always being up and ready to go,” he said. “We had just come back from a deployment to the Middle East, we were tasked with a very rigorous schedule, and then just when we were looking at a break, they tasked us with a five month deployment because a member of another ship had caught COVID-19 and spread it to the ship.”

In the Navy, said Father Appel, the sacrifice is really day to day, behind the scenes. “What you see on the outside is a ship at sea that’s floating, and they might not appear to be doing anything, but inside that ship people are getting very little sleep, some guys were getting three hours of sleep for three weeks straight, there’s a lot of inspections to keep the ship up running, qualifications… it’s a force in readiness. Whether we see something or not, we always have to be ready.”

Amid the strain of constant preparation, the pandemic brought a new kind of worry for the sailors about their families at home. “For us, it meant taking our time that we were going to spend home with our families and absolutely erasing that,” said Father Appel. “It stressed out the sailors because their family was at home and they had to consider their family.”

The operation of the ship remained largely the same, he said, in regard to the rhythm of daily life. In the midst of it all, his presence was able to bring some peace to the sailors.

“It’s more of a witness than I thought it was. As a priest, you’re always a priest and you never expect a break. So when I got on board, I’m just being a priest to the people. I bring with me some prior service (to the military) so I can (get) through a little bit (better)… but in terms of being a priest I don’t feel like I’m doing a whole lot above that and I don’t always see how good that is. Then after the deployment, so many people come up to me, — atheists, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims — who have said, ‘I don’t think I could have made it without you.’ So really we’re just out there being a priest like we do every day, and to us it’s just that, but to them it’s extraordinary, and it IS extraordinary, the priesthood itself. But even we need the reminder. It’s what we were ordained to do.”

Since Father Appel came home from his last Navy deployment in September, he’s been with the Coast Guard. Here, he’s found yet another group of dedicated men and women to serve. He compared it once again to his own work because of the incredibly rich mission of service of the future officers.

“I’m blown away by the future officers,” he said. “They’re young, they’re searching, they’re excited about their faith, they’re questioning their faith, they’re prepared to do something extraordinary and they’re interested in service. It has been an incredibly rich environment. It’s draining but in a very good way.”

During this month of thanksgiving, the United States celebrated Veterans Day Nov. 11, a day to honor the men and women who have served and continue to serve, protecting the nation and its families. God bless the soldiers, their families and the United States.