The origins of the Bambinelli blessing

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

A recent, but beloved, annual tradition, the blessing of the Bambinelli, also called Bambinelli Sunday, was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1969. In Rome, the tradition falls on the Third Sunday of Advent, and children and their families are invited to bring with them their baby Jesus (Bambinelli) from their home nativity scene. The pope then blesses the Bambinellis following his Sunday Angelus address.

Pope Francis continues this tradition to this day, and parishes worldwide have also adapted the Bambinelli blessing into their Advent season, reinforcing the birth of Christ as the true meaning of the Christmas season.

This year, the Diocese of Covington will host a Bambinelli blessing of its own, Dec. 10, 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s Park, Cathedral Square, Covington. Children of the Diocese of Covington and their families are invited to bring the baby Jesus from their family nativity scene for Bishop John Iffert to bless.

The diocesan Christmas Tree will also be blessed and lit celebrating the joy of the third week of Advent as the Church approaches Christmas. Adding to the festivities, school choirs will sing traditional Christmas hymns and homemade cookies by the Curia staff will be served along with hot chocolate. Everyone is welcome. An RSVP is not necessary but is appreciated.

Image: St. Mary’s Park and the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, are reflected on a gold Christmas tree ornament in this “Messenger” file photo.

 

Serving at the altar grows youths’ relationship to the Eucharist

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

St. Tarcisius, a Roman martyr celebrated as the patron saint of altar servers and as one of the first recorded instance of a youth fulfilling that role in the Church, held the special responsibility of carrying the Eucharist to the people.

As the story goes, St. Tarcisius was a young acolyte charged to deliver the Blessed Sacrament to imprisoned Christians during the reign of Emperor Valerian — a period in the Roman Empire during which Christians were heavily persecuted. While delivering the sacrament, St. Tarcisius was attacked by a mob and allowed himself to be beaten to death, rather than hand the Blessed Sacrament over to his assailants. 

Today, altar servers, usually lay youth, fulfill a similar role in the Mass— assisting the priest celebrant with various tasks, including carrying the cross and processional candles, holding the book for the priest and presenting the gifts during the preparation of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Lindsay Powers is a student at Covington Latin School, Covington, and a pontifical server, a server for Masses at which the Bishop presides, for the Diocese of Covington. She has been serving for seven years, the past four as a pontifical server. Miss Powers, who enjoys and honors the “responsibility and duty” of serving at the Mass, believes that her experience as a server helped to strengthen her relationship with the Mass and with the Eucharist.

“Serving grows your relationship with the Mass because it puts you right in the middle of it. You are able to understand each part of the Mass a little better as you go. You get to see how each of your actions throughout the Mass affects the liturgy and how each action is important. Your relationship with the Eucharist grows as a result of your focus and attentiveness to what is happening,” she said, concluding that serving has “absolutely” grown her relationship to both.

For young people who may find their mind wandering at Mass, or find themselves growing distant from the Eucharist, consider being an altar server. The experience may help strengthen that bond and reignite love for the Mass.

 

People of the Diocese of Covington help seminarians to ‘persevere,’ says Deacon Michael Elmlinger at the 2022 Seminary Ball

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

 Supporters of seminarian education gathered the evening of Oct. 21 for the 2022 Seminary Ball. Since its resurgence 13 years ago by Bishop Emeritus Roger Foys, the Seminary Ball has become the Diocese of Covington’s biggest fundraising event for seminarian education. The ball is hosted by the diocesan Office for Stewardship and Mission in conjunction with the Seminary Ball Committee. 

A record crowd of over 630 attended the ball, which included a reception and drinks, dinner and dancing, with speeches from Bishop John Iffert of the Diocese of Covington, and seminarian Deacon Michael Elmlinger. Father Gregory Bach, assistant director of seminarians, was the master of ceremonies. 

“Throughout seminary there’s a lot of peaks, a lot of doubts,” said Deacon Elmlinger. “First you have the peaks. Those are the greatest moments, the moments when you say I absolutely love everything I’m doing. You’re growing in your love of God, you grow in your love of the people of God, we just always grow in that love of the ministry that we’re training to undertake,” he said. 

“Those are the peaks but with every peak there is a valley, and those valleys can be very low,” Deacon Elmlinger continued. “In those valleys, there were three things that helped all of us to persevere, that helped all of the seminarians get through. First, ultimately and supremely is God. He constantly calls us to grow in that love of him and to go deeper into our relationship with him, and he gives us the grace to persevere,” he said, citing his family and all the people of the Diocese of Covington as the other two inspirations for perseverance. “It’s you who helps us to persevere,” he said, “whether it’s your prayers, whether it’s the ways that you support us, whether it’s just sending a card or just taking a few minutes a day just thinking about us.” 

In his address, Bishop Iffert reflected on his time as a seminarian. “I came home and let them (his parents) know that I was going to be leaving my job and that I was going to be going away to seminary. I was very nervous about telling my parents this because when I decided that I would go to seminary, I hadn’t yet decided that I was going to be a priest. I thought God might be calling me to be a priest. I had a sense that this was something I might have gifts to be able to do, and I was willing to spend some time thinking and praying,” he said. 

“My parents were amazing,” said Bishop Iffert. “My dad said, John, we’re proud of you and your grandparents would be proud of you. I’m just proud that I have a son who is willing to think about this, who’s willing to consider whether God might be calling them to do something like this. I want every seminarian to have that kind of support.” 

Bishop Iffert, whose mother had passed away days before the ball, finished his speech thanking the people of the Diocese and those attending the ball, saying, “Thank you for your support tonight … this week I buried my mother and I was surrounded by four brother bishops and about 30-35 priests who came together to help me and my family through that time, along with many other folks from the diocese who actually surprised me and made that trip,” he said. 

“It was a great gift to me. And, what we’re doing here tonight is to try to do everything we can to continue to provide the Church with these priestly leaders who will be there for you when you need them. Thank you again. God bless you for your generosity.” 

Image: The diocese’s seminarians sang for attendees of the 2022 Seminary Ball.

Meet Blessed Carlo Acutis — a witness of Christ for all

Mike Krokos, Catholic News Service

Italian teenager Carlo Acutis was beatified Oct. 10, 2020, in Assisi, Italy. He is the first millennial to be declared “blessed.” His feast is celebrated Oct. 12. 

Carlo used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist, which he called his “highway to heaven.” On the website he created, Carlo told people that “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.” 

Although he grew up in Milan, Carlo requested to be buried in Assisi, because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. 

Carlo’s faith was evident early in life. At age 7, he wrote, “To be always united with Jesus, this is my life program.” 

Before his death from leukemia at age 15 in 2006, Carlo was an average teen with an above-average knack for computers. He put that knowledge to use by creating an online database of Eucharistic miracles around the world. (http://www.miracolieucaristici.org) 

Carlo’s life centered around his faith: He attended daily Mass, prayed the rosary each day, received the sacrament of reconciliation weekly and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. 

In his apostolic exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”), Pope Francis said Carlo was a role model for young people today who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.” 

“Carlo was well-aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity,” the pope wrote. 

“Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty,” the pope added (#105). 

There was fruit born from Carlo’s devotion. His witness of faith led to a deep conversion in his mom, because, according to the priest promoting his cause for sainthood, he “managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily.” 

Carlo also was known for defending kids at school who were picked on, especially students with disabilities. 

Pope Francis called Blessed Carlo a witness of Christ for younger generations. But Carlo’s words and actions are worth all people emulating. 

“The only thing we have to ask God for, in prayer, is the desire to be holy,” Blessed Carlo once said. 

As we celebrate his life and continue our journey of faith, together we say: Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us. 

Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. 

Going deeper 

Carlo Acutis used his talents in digital media and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist to create a website dedicated to sharing Eucharistic miracles that have occurred around the world. The website offers an especially useful digital “museum” where all of the Eucharistic miracles are beautifully organized and displayed. Visit his website at http://www.miracolieucaristici.org. 

St. Henry Parish, Elsmere, has created 41 Eucharistic Miracle panels, including two panels that introduce Carlo Acutis and his miracles project, that schools and parishes are welcome to borrow. Contact St. Henry Parish, (859) 727-2035.

Thomas Murrin ordained to the Order of Deacon

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

 A congregation of family and friends gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Oct. 15, for the ordination of Deacon Thomas (Tom) John Murrin to the Order of Deacon for the Diocese of Covington. Bishop John Iffert was the celebrant and ordaining prelate. Concelebrating were Father Mark Keene, vicar general and pastor of St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright, and Father David Sunberg, director of the Permanent Deacon Formation Program at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. 

While expected to be ordained with the rest of his class in April, an injury as result of a fall and subsequential months of recovery led to a delay of Tom Murrin’s ordination, which was celebrated last weekend. In attendance to this celebration was much of Deacon Murrin’s family, including his wife, Mary Murrin, and children, who spent “long hours in the hospital and long hours in Also attending the ordination Mass were many of the diocese’s deacons, including those who were ordained from Deacon Murrin’s class earlier this year and from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and members of Deacon Murrin’s home parish, St. Philip, Melbourne. 

During his homily, Bishop Iffert recalled the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, describing the formation of the Order of Deacon. In this reading, the minority population, Greek-speaking Jews, believed their widows were being treated unfairly. As a solution, the apostles “call upon the assembled Church to select the leaders who will attend to the collection and distribution of food so that the apostles can attend to the prayer and ministry of the world,” said Bishop Iffert. “Notice that the community and the apostles are generous in their solution. All the men, all seven of them chosen for this diaconal ministry, all seven of them have Greek names. Presumably, they’re all from among the minority, who have raised this complaint. There’s no bickering about representation or fairness, these men are chosen from among the minority community that feels aggrieved, and they are entrusted to share the authority of the apostles.” 

Bishop Iffert then addresses Deacon Murrin directly, saying, “This is an extraordinary example for us. You can’t help but be struck by the generosity of this sharing of authority. There is no self interest in the call of these men, who we will come to think of as the first deacons … the only ambition that is properly Christian is the ambition to serve, to serve after the example of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

Following the homily, Bishop Iffert prays the Prayer of Ordination and lays his hands over top Deacon Murrin’s head, conferring the Holy Spirit to him and officially ordaining him as a deacon. Following, Deacon Murrin is vested for the first time by his brother, Deacon Kevin Murrin of the Diocese of Columbus. 

Following Mass, Bishop Iffert announced Deacon Murrin’s first official assignment — to his home parish of St. Philip, Melbourne.prayer accompanying Tom through those dark days,” said Bishop Iffert during his homily, thanking the family for their generosity of supporting Deacon Murrin and his pursuit of his “ordained ministry in the Church.” 

Image: Laying his hands over the head of Deacon Murrin, Bishop Iffert confers to him the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Let the ‘Soul of Christ’ lead you on the Eucharistic Revival

Laura Keener, Editor

On the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 2022, the Diocese of Covington, along with dioceses across the United States and in collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, launched a three-year Eucharistic Revival. The mission of the revival is to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The key to achieving that mission is to restore understanding and devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic. 

The revival will be implemented in three phases. Year 1 — June 2022 thru June 2023, is the Year of Diocesan Revival. Each Diocese is tasked to encourage the faithful to grow in their understanding and devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. 

In the Diocese of Covington, Father Daniel Schomaker, director, Office of Worship and Liturgy, will be leading the diocese’s efforts. To start, the diocese will be including Eucharistic adoration and benediction as a part of already scheduled diocesan celebrations. An example was the most recent Pro-Life Mass, which ended with a few minutes of adoration and benediction. 

In collaboration with the Messenger, the Office of Worship and Liturgy begins with this edition a yearlong, weekly series of brief articles to engage “the head and the heart;” to increase the understanding of and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. The series will introduce or re-introduce Eucharistic prayers; Eucharistic art and music, which are seen and heard in parish churches; praying the Mass, the source and summit of our Eucharistic life; and sharing personal witnesses, both local and historical. 

The series begins by introducing a prayer — the “Anima Christi” (“Soul of Christ”). The Anima Christi is an ancient prayer. It is typically referred to as the prayer After Communion, since many people pray the Anima Christi after receiving holy Communion. It is often associated with 16th century St. Ignatius of Loyola, although historians have found the prayer in documents dating back to the 14th century. St. Ignatius uses the prayer as an opening to his Spiritual Exercises. 

Adding the Anima Christi to your prayer toolbox, especially after receiving holy Communion, is a blessed way to start a personal Eucharistic revival. 

Anima Christi 

Soul of Christ, sanctify me. 

Body of Christ, save me. 

Blood of Christ, inebriate me. 

Water from the side of Christ, wash me. 

Passion of Christ, strengthen me. 

O good Jesus, hear me. 

Within your wounds, hide me. 

Let me never be separated from you. 

From the malignant enemy, defend me. 

In the hour of my death, call me, 

And bid me come to you, 

That with your saints I may praise you 

Forever and ever. Amen. 

Digging deeper: 

Franciscan Media offers a line-by-line breakdown of the Anima Christi: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/anima-christi-a-mystical-prayer 

Ignatian Spirituality offers “An Ignatian Prayer Adventure,” an online, eight-week, modified version of the St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure/ 

Eucharistic Revival Timeline 

The Year of Diocesan Revival — June 2022 thru June 2023. Each Diocese will encourage the faithful to grow in their understanding and devotion to Christ in the Eucharist, to raise up Eucharistic missionaries at all levels of the Church. 

The Year of Parish Revival — June 2023 thru June 2024. During this year parishes are tasked to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening liturgical life through Eucharistic adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit. 

The National Eucharistic Congress — July 17–21, 2024. This five-day historic event will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, where over 80,000 Catholics are expected to gather and be reconsecrated to the Catholic faith as missionary disciples. 

The National Year of Mission— July 2024 thru July 2025. The entire American Church will be sent on mission to share the gift of the Eucharistic Lord with their local communities and beyond.

Like pieces on a chess board, the cause for life is ‘a symphony’

Laura Keener, Editor

 Respect Life month kicked off in prayer, Oct. 4, with the celebration of the annual diocesan Pro-Life Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Bishop John Iffert was the celebrant and Father Conor Kunath the homilist. Over 300 people attended the Mass, which began with praying the rosary, included a moment of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction and ended with the distribution of “Vote Yes on 2” yard signs outside of the church. 

Vote Yes on 2 refers to amendment 2, which will be on the ballot this Nov. 8. The amendment is clear, concise and would amend the Bill of Rights of the Kentucky Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution protects or secures a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion. Voting “Yes” is a vote for life. 

In his closing remarks, Bishop Iffert encouraged everyone to vote this November and in particular, vote “yes” on amendment 2 and to “do it joyfully and to do it with thanksgiving to God for giving us this opportunity,” he said. The trick, he said, is that amendment 2 will be the last item on the ballot and that some voters may have to turn over their ballot to see the amendment. Also, anyone voting a straight party ticket will need to be sure that they also mark their vote for amendment 2. Amendment 2 is a non-partisan piece of legislation, and like all non-partisan seats (for example judges, city council members and others) is not automatically picked up in a straight party vote. Each non-partisan item must be marked individually. 

“It begins with this phrase, ‘For the protection of human life…’ If you are for the protection of human life, then vote yes on that amendment. Encourage your neighbors and your friends to do the same,” said Bishop Iffert. “It’s very, very important. Please become a little group of recruiters that will go out into the world to recruit other people to vote yes on amendment 2. It’s an important thing that we can do to help assure the protection life from the moment of conception.” 

In his homily, Father Kunath used the great 1972 World Chess Championship between Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer of the United States as an analogy for the pro-life movement. 

“The date is July 23, 1972. After five back and forth games with a surprising forfeit in the second, the match is equaled up. People don’t quite know what to expect at this point. There’s already been a lot of history made up to this point and in just the last five days, things that had never happened before have happened. The world is on edge because this is one of those great confrontations between the two great powers of the Cold War — the United States and Russia,” Father Kunath said. 

The sixth game, a seminal game that would break the tie and determine the momentum of the match, begins with an open that plays to the strengths of the grandmaster. Yet, Mr. Fischer dominates his opponent in way that not only impresses those watching the game, but also the grandmaster himself. In an interview, a friend of Mr. Fischer described the game as “a symphony of classic beauty.” 

“That phrase always struck me,” said Father Kunath. “What exactly is he seeing that we are not seeing? What exactly is going on over those 64 squares that the rest of us don’t see?” By understanding the foundations of chess, a person begins to understand the achievements of that day and what Bobby Fischer accomplished, Father Kunath said. 

To be able to see so deeply into the game of chess to be able to describe it as a symphony of classic beauty, “I think that this sort of sentiment, this fact, is something we, especially as pro-lifers, have to be very keen to observe for ourselves, because while certainly our life, our mission, as pro-lifers is primarily and rightly centered on abortion, our cause as pro-lifers encompasses a great deal more than that,” Father Kunath said. “Our cause as pro-lifers encompasses all that is good, true and beautiful. Our cause as pro-lifers encompasses everything that is.” 

Father Kunath encouraged those in the pro-life movement to understand more deeply what is the cause for life. 

“You and I aren’t just standing here praising God this evening in hopes that he will give us an abundant victory,” Father Kunath said. “You and I are here tonight celebrating the very fact of our existence. We’re not just fighting against a terrible scourge on our culture. We’re not just fighting against abortion and its attendant vices. You and I are arguing by the way we live our life, that life is fundamentally good. That life is beautiful. That everything that is around us is in one sentence or another a love letter from God himself.” 

The annual diocesan Pro-Life Mass is organized by the diocesan Pro-Life Office. For more information on the pro-life efforts in the Diocese of Covington and how you or your parish can get involved visit www.covdio.org/pro-life.

Image: Vote “Yes on 2” yard signs were distributed after Mass. Raising their sign, from left, are: Father Mark Keene, vicar general and pastor, St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright; Addia Wuchner, executive director, Kentucky Right to Life; Bishop Iffert; Peggy Piccola, assistant director, diocesan Pro-Life Office and Julie Gallenstein, parishioner, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington. 

Through the Eucharist, we are ‘free to proclaim the word of God,’ Bishop Iffert preaches at SUMMIT22 Mass

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

Youth in the Diocese of Covington, age 13-22, attended SUMMIT22, a youth retreat, at Covington Catholic High School, Oct. 7–9. Following the model of World Youth Day, the weekend-long retreat engages youth in daily Mass, rosary, Eucharistic adoration and “dynamic catechesis.” Saturday, Oct. 8, Bishop John Iffert joined attendees of the weekend retreat to celebrate Mass. 

In his homily, Bishop Iffert draws parallels between the story of the lepers in Luke’s Gospel with the Eucharist. “Jesus sends them (the lepers) to the priest to be healed. He says to the priests, to pronounce them clean,” he said, “The priest examines the one who has been healed of leprosy. And if he finds no blotch on them, he might separate them out for seven days, and then examine them again. And if he still finds no blotch on them, then there’s a sacrifice that is prescribed… the person who has been declared healed of leprosy is to go procure two birds, perfect birds, without any blotch or scar.” Bishop Iffert then goes on to describe the process of this sacrifice as written in Leviticus 14, including the two “perfect birds” and a “pot of living water,” water from a flowing stream. 

“He takes one of the birds and he kills the bird, and he drains the blood from the bird into that pot of water that has been taken from a living source. And then, now with this pot of blood from the sacrifice bird, he takes the other bird, the one that is still live. He binds it to Cedar wood with scarlet thread. And then, the priest takes the living bird, the one who has been offered for sacrifice but is still alive… He takes the living bird and he dips that living bird into the blood of the bird that has been sacrificed, into that clay pot of blood and living water,” he said. After sprinkling the blood and living water with the bird seven times over the leper that has been declared clean, the living bird is then set free to “fly across the countryside.” 

Bishop Iffert goes on to compare the parallels of the sacrificial rites of the two birds to Jesus in the crucifixion, “What flows from Jesus’ side? When Jesus is pierced — blood, and living water,” he said, referencing the moment of the crucifixion when a Roman soldier pierces Jesus’s side with a lance. “We are washed in that. And, then like that bird, set free for a purpose, to proclaim the mercy and the glory of God.” 

Bishop Iffert then challenged those gathered to be “amazed at the hugeness of mercy” offered in the Eucharist, “and respond with hearts that respond well to graciousness. Hearts that are thankful. Can we do that? Are we determined?” He concludes by once again referencing and comparing us, the Church, to the “bird that was set free,” to proclaim the word of God. 

The annual Eucharistic retreat for youth and young adults is organized and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Evangelization and the Covington Retreat Committee. This year the retreat was led by the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland, Ohio.

Image: Bishop John Iffert addresses attendees of SUMMIT22 during his homily at the retreat’s Saturday Mass service, October 8. 

Like family, ‘With One Heart’ launches

Laura Keener, Editor

 Blue skies, cooler temperatures and a mostly gentle breeze made for a relaxed and enjoyable celebration and launch party, Sept. 30, at the Curia’s St. Mary Park, Covington. The celebration was for Bishop John Iffert’s one year — to-the-day — anniversary. The launch party was for the diocese’s strategic pastoral planning and leadership development initiative “With One Heart” (WOH). 

Organized by Deacon Jim Fortner, chief operating officer and Jamie Schroeder, chancellor, with assistance from the WOH Core Team and Planning Commission and members of the Curia staff, the event resembled a backyard family cookout. Hamburgers were donated by JTM Food Group and hotdogs by Bluegrass Meats. Local Catholic organizations and groups provided the sides — potato salad, broccoli salad, fruit salad, baked beans and desserts. These groups included the Catholic Order of Foresters, Cursillo, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights of St. John, Mustard Seed Community, Parish Kitchen, Regnum Christi, Serra Club of Northern Kentucky, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, That Man Is You! and Walking with Purpose. Dan Walsh, parishioner, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington, provided musical entertainment; Pam Schneider, parishioner, Divine Mercy Parish, Bellevue, made the cake and members of the Knights of Columbus manned the grill. 

“They asked me what kind of event I wanted to celebrate my first year anniversary and I said I want hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad. I hope that you like that cuisine as well because it’s my favorite,” said Bishop Iffert as he began leading attendees in the prayer before meals. 

Nearly 300 people attended the event, including Bishop Emeritus Roger Foys, to celebrate Bishop Iffert and to hear his vision for WOH. Bishop Iffert began by sharing some of his many “firsts” as Bishop of Covington — confirmations, ordinations, Masses, classroom visits, parish festivals, etc. (A pictorial exhibit of some of his first year highlights is on display at St. Mary Park through the month of October.) He also recalled that, at the press conference “Weeks after that, I thought I really should have given a better answer than that,” said Bishop Iffert. “What I would like to have said was that there’s no way that I can enunciate for you on that first day a vision or pastoral plan. Because I really believe that God gifts every people with genius … I believe the Diocese of Covington has a genius and that you contain that hope, you have the answer, the ability and the gifts to address every difficulty that the Church faces here in Northern Kentucky today. You all contain all of the resources, have all of the wisdom, all of the knowledge, to address all of those critical problems that we face to carry on the mission of Jesus in the life of the Church. I believe that with my whole heart.” 

After being here a year, Bishop Iffert said, he is ready to announce his vision. “My vision is that God has given us together the gifts that we need to be his living mission. My vision is that we would work together to develop a vision that is in service to the entire body of the Church. That we would step outside of ourselves and our own little preferences and our own special interests and we would think about what is best for this group, this Church, this body that lives here in Northern Kentucky and that we would act and decide together.” 

Because pastors — the way they preach, the way they welcome, the way they interact with their parishioners — are instrumental to creating a parish that others would recommend to their family and friends, Bishop Iffert said, “I am unapologetic about saying, the first group of people we need to focus on are our priests, who put themselves out there to be leaders, to help embolden them, to invest in our priests the skills for leadership. Our priests are excellent priests. Our presbyterate is filled with good and holy and talented men. And to give them the support to be the leaders that they want to be and that we all know they can be, this is the first and centerpiece of the vision that I want to annunciate here.” 

Bishop Iffert said he also wants to empower the laity, to invite the laity to bring the skills that they have developed in all the areas of their life into the life of the Church to assist their priests. 

“That’s part of the vision … I want us to be set free from fear …I want a vision of Church that unleashes that potential; that priests and religious and deacons and laity respond free from fear,” he said. 

The content of that vision, Bishop Iffert said, “that’s up to us to develop together and that’s what this With One Heart initiative is all about. It’s all about assessing the situation together. Planning together. Accompanying one another with leadership formation together, and working to implement those plans, thanking God for them, reviewing them and then doing it again.” 

In closing, Bishop Iffert recognized and praised Bishop Foys for his over 40 years as an administrator both in the Diocese of Steubenville as vicar general for 22 years and as Bishop of Covington for 20 years. 

“I want to appreciate Bishop Foys in a very special way,” Bishop Iffert said. “He told me when I got here that he was going to step back for that first year and let me have some time on my own. Now we’re at the end of that year. I hope now that we can invite you back into the active life of the Church. Thank you, thank you so much.”announcing his appointment, a reporter had asked what his vision and pastoral plan was for the diocese and how he had quipped that he had only been here for 12 minutes. 

Image: Bishop John Iffert announces his vision for the With One Heart strategic pastoral plan and leadership development initiative, Sept. 30, at St. Mary’s Park, Covington. Nearly 300 people attended the event, which included a celebration of Bishop Iffert’s first year in Covington. 

At Walk for Life and Yes for Life Rally ‘life or death is on the ballot’ — ‘choose life’

Laura Keener, Editor

The second annual Walk for Life at the Kentucky state capital in Frankfort, Oct. 1, had a singular, focused and urgent mission — the passing of the Kentucky Constitutional Amendment #2 in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. 

“As we consider the challenge before Kentucky voters,” coming this election in November, said Dr. Albert Mohler, “we recognize that nothing less than life or death is on the ballot, it is represented in what is known as amendment two. Amendment two is one of the most clear, one of the most concise, one of the most necessary amendments, because what it would do is, with very clean and efficient language, simply state that there is no right to abortion within the Kentucky constitution.” 

Dr. Mohler, president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the lead speaker at the Vote Yes for Life Rally, which was held just before the Walk for Life. Bishop John Iffert of the Diocese of Covington was also a keynote speaker, with Pastor Jeff Fugate, Clays Mill Road Baptist Church offering the opening prayer. The rally and the Walk for Life is organized by Addia Wuchner, executive director, Kentucky Right to Life and the Yes for Life Alliance, of which the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and the Diocese of Covington Pro-Life Office are members. 

Despite what Dr. Mohler described as “the howls” from a small but vocal group of protestors, the spirit of the rally was joyful and uplifting with The Jason Lovins Band leading the crowd with Christian rock music. 

Acknowledging the increasingly loud chants from protesters, Bishop Iffert began his talk by encouraging those present to always respond with joy and shared a Dominican spiritual exercise. 

“I want you to remember that Jesus Christ on the cross came to take the anger of the world, came to take the bitterness of the world, came to take the violence of the world, came to take the death of the world, came to take the vehement opposition of the world and to take it to himself. Not responding in kind but in his own body, transforming it and creating in that great act of love, a path to life, a path to salvation,” Bishop Iffert said. 

“(Saint) Dominic gives us different ways to pray with our body. One of the ways he invites us to pray is to form our body into the form of the cross of Jesus Christ, and to hold ourselves there just as long as we can … and to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come and be with us, to transform us, to give us the gift of mercy that he witnessed in His incarnation, and in His death on the cross,” Bishop Iffert said. “I invite you to do that at some point today … to make yourself into the shape of the cross of Christ Jesus the Lord and to take all the bitterness, all the anger, all the violence, all the vehemence, all the fear that you hear in the voices of those who stand opposed to us today and pray, God, in you and your gentle witness to transform it for the salvation of babies, for the salvation of those whose voices we hear, for their conversion, for their recognizing that they make themselves servants of a culture of death. That we might win this debate, not just with votes at the ballot box, but that we might come to do what Christ calls us to do — to be instruments of the Holy Spirit of God that can lead to conversion.” 

Bishop Iffert acknowledged that one of the biggest concerns that is being spread as a mistruths by those protesting and other proponents of abortion is that “we are only concerned with unborn life and not with them, not with the mothers of these babies.” 

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Bishop Iffert said as he referred to the U.S. bishop’s “Walking With Moms in Need” initiative. With Walking With Moms in Need parishes and lay faithful are encouraged to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to all mothers and their children. 

Bishop Iffert explained what Amendment 2 would do and dispelled mistruths he’s been hearing about Amendment 2. “Legal scholars for a long time have been telling us that this amendment that is proposed for the Kentucky Constitution is the most important legal action that we can take to protect life,” by stating that nothing in the Kentucky constitution guarantees a right to abortion or state funding of abortion. With this amendment, no one judge or court, or individual could decide unilaterally to enforce abortions rights or the funding of abortion on the citizens of Kentucky. 

“It will return this matter to the people, so that the people, through their elected representatives, can have the conversation about how we are to treat the question of abortion in our society,” said Bishop Iffert. “That’s what this amendment will do. That’s all it will do. It will not create a new abortion ban. It will not create any new abortion laws. It will not create any new abortion restrictions.” Concluding, Bishop Iffert said about voting Yes on Amendment 2, “This is important because this is the one opportunity in our lifetime for the citizens of Kentucky to register your opinion on abortion and on life. Please, dear God, choose life. Please choose life.” 

Also during the program, Mr. Lovins shared a personal life-affirming witness. Mr. Lovins was conceived in rape when his mother was only 15 years old. 

“I’m very thankful to tell you that for my grandma and her 15-year-old daughter abortion was just not going to be an option,” said Mr. Lovins. “You see, for her it was that simple … My grandma very much understood how big God is. She believed that he’s so big that he wasn’t surprised by me. We think that when bad things happen, we think, ‘Oh Lord,’ as if he didn’t know what was gonna happen. She just knew that’s not how it works, y’all. These things that we read in the Bible, that he formed me in my mother’s womb and that he had plans for me — she believed that with all of her heart.” 

Originally his mother and “maw maw” were planning to have a family member adopt him. That was until his mother heard his heartbeat, then she told her mom that she wanted to keep her baby. 

“Listen, I know my 15-year-old mom had no idea what she was getting herself into. But my grandma did. And she said okay,” Mr. Lovins said. “My grandma very much understood that God is constant. That he doesn’t change even when you’re walking in your deepest, darkest valley or on your mountain top — he’s the same. She believed it with all her heart.” 

Mr. Lovins said that he never knew his dad, his mother and grandmother didn’t even know who he was. And that even today when he shares that he was conceived in rape and was raised without a father, the initial reaction is “Oh, you poor kid. But that’s just not how the story goes,” he said. 

“My family made it very clear to me at a young age that you know what, you don’t have an earthly father … but you have a heavenly Father who loves you, who loves you more than you’ll ever know. And would just continue to remind me of that over and over and over. And it’s always been enough. That’s the best way I know to explain it to people. It’s always been enough.” 

Recognizing that other women do not always have the support his mother had, Mr. Lovins said, “We need more ‘maw maws.’ We need more people to step up and say, ‘Hey, I got you. I’m going to walk alongside you even in your deepest darkest valley because God is so great and he doesn’t change — he’s great either way.’” 

Image: Bishop Iffert demonstrates a Dominican spiritual exercise of standing in the form of a cross and asking Jesus to transform us for the salvation of others.