After 19 years of faithful service, Bishop Foys to retire; announces Father John Iffert has been appointed next bishop

Laura Keener, Editor.

Bishop-elect John Iffert

The Diocese of Covington Curia was buzzing with excitement, July 13, as Bishop Roger Foys announced that, after 342 days, Pope Francis has accepted his letter of resignation and has appointed as the diocese’s 11th bishop Father John C. Iffert, a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Bishop-elect Iffert currently serves as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on July 13, 2021, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Additionally, Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Foys apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Covington to oversee its operations until the installation of Bishop-elect Iffert. The consecration and installation is scheduled for Sept. 30, 3 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.

Last year, on July 27, 2020, Bishop Foys celebrated his 75th birthday — the retire-

ment age of bishops — and, as required, submitted his letter of resignation to the Holy Father. In his 19 years as Bishop of Covington, Bishop Foys has ordained 42 priests for the Diocese of Covington and has revitalized Covington’s Cathedral Square. He has been a faithful

and resolute proponent of Catholic school education, especially for vulnerable families in the urban core.

“It is with gratitude to Almighty God that I welcome Very Rev. John C. Iffert as my successor as the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “I am grateful also to our Holy Father Pope Francis for providing for the pastoral care of our diocese by this appointment. Bishop-elect Iffert brings a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience to his episcopal ministry. He comes well-prepared to provide for the needs of our diocese as a pastor with the heart of a shepherd.”

Father Iffert was born Nov. 23, 1967. He received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois (1988). He attended Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Il., where he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1996 and a Master of Divinity in 1997. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Belleville on June 7, 1997.

Bishop-elect Iffert’s assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville (1997-2000); administrator and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia (2000-2003). During that time, he served as a member of the diocesan personnel board, Defender of the Bond for the Tribunal, Spiritual Moderator for both the Belleville deanery CYO and the Diocesan Teens Encounter Christ movement. In August 2003, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great, USA (Dominican, Central Province). He professed simple vows as a Dominican in 2004 which he renewed in 2006. From 2007-2008, he served as parochial vicar of St. Thomas Catholic Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Father Iffert left the Dominicans in 2008 and returned to the Diocese of Belleville.

Father Iffert has served as administrator of St. Mary Parish in Mount Vernon (2008-2010); administrator of St. Theresa Parish in Salem and at St. Elizabeth in Kinmundy (2009-2010); pastor of St. Mary Parish (2010-2020); and pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Scheller (2014-2020). He has served as vicar forane of the North Central Vicarate (2013-2020); diocesan co-vicar for priests (2014-2020); member of the Diocesan Finance Council (2010-present); and as a member of the College of Consultors (2016-present). Since 2020, Father Iffert has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Belleville, and since January 2021 he has served as pastor of St. Stephen in Caseyville.

“Bishop-elect Iffert has been an excellent priest and a dedicated pastor, and he is widely respected in our diocese,” said Bishop McGovern, Diocese of Belleville. “With his strong faith and many talents, I believe Bishop-elect Iffert will be an excellent shepherd for the people of Northern Kentucky.”

At a press conference, July 13 at Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium at the Diocese of Covington Curia building, Bishop Foys introduced Bishop-elect Iffert to the Curia staff and the local community. Also attending the press conference were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville; Bishop William Medley, Diocese of Owensboro; and Bishop John Stowe, Diocese of Lexington.

“This is an announcement we have been waiting for a long time,” said Bishop Foys acknowledging that together he and the staff have been waiting almost a year for the Holy Father to accept his retirement.

Reflecting on his thoughts after Archbishop Pierre

called with the news as he was about to call to congratulate Bishop-elect Iffert, Bishop Foys said, “I felt sort of like John the Baptist, when he was waiting, like everyone else, for the Messiah who would set him free. I was reminded of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 3, ‘Are you who is to come or do we have to wait for another?’ Well, he is the one who is to come,” Bishop Foys said to the laughter of the staff.

“Knowing Father Iffert these last several days, I am confident that he will make a wonderful shepherd — he is a pastor with the heart of a shepherd,” Bishop Foys said. “I know that you, along with me, will not only welcome him but also pledge him our support and most importantly our prayers as he begins to take the reins of the diocese.”

At the press conference, Bishop-elect Iffert received a standing ovation as he approached the podium to address the staff and people of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am astounded and deeply grateful that Pope Francis has elected me to serve as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky, and called me to share in apostolic ministry,” Bishop-elect Iffert said. “I thank the Holy Father with all my heart for this election and call. I am inspired by his vision of a Church so deeply rooted in relationship with Christ that we accompany the outcast, tend the wounded, mourn with the brokenhearted, rejoice and give thanks in every

circumstance, and so carry out Jesus’ mission of evangelization. It is with joy that I dedicate myself anew to this happy labor, now with you in the Diocese of Covington.”

Bishop-elect Iffert praised and thanked Bishop Foys for his 19 years as shepherd of the Diocese of Covington.

“I am also grateful to Bishop Roger Foys. For 19 years he has served the people of the Diocese of Covington faithfully, diligently, and with a pastor’s heart for those who are hurting,” he said. “Since my election, he has been most

welcoming and gracious — a true Christian gentlemen. I look forward to the opportunity to know Bishop Foys, to be his brother bishop and friend in Christ.”

Bishop-elect Iffert gave heartfelt and tender words of gratitude to his parents, John and Mary Iffert, and his two sisters, Kim and Kathy, six nieces and nephews and 14 great nieces and nephews.

“The only lottery in this world that counts is the family that you are born into, and I am a winner in that lottery. I am most grateful,” Bishop-elect Iffert said.

Bishop-elect Iffert indicated that he has only three agenda items as he comes to lead the Diocese of Covington — to get to know its priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful, to invite young men to consider priestly vocations and to beg for prayers.

“To the priests, deacons, lay faithful of the Diocese of Covington, I can’t wait to get to know you and pray with you,” he said. “From the moment that I learned that I would be the bishop-elect, I have been praying for you. Every time I pause and turn toward God you are the people who come to my mind the most. My agenda as I come to the Diocese of Covington is just that, to get to know you. I want to visit with you in our parishes and schools, to celebrate Mass with you, to hear from you why you love our faith and what burdens you carry … You, and being Church with you, are the stuff of my hopes, prayers and dreams these days. Please — once I am consecrated and on the ground here in Covington — invite me. I want to be asked.”

About priestly vocations, Bishop-elect Iffert made a plea to the young men of the diocese.

“I want to take this moment to invite every active, prayerful, Catholic young man to spend some significant time — maybe six months — learning about the life of a priest and discerning whether God might be calling you to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. … Let me witness to you today, this is a joyful and fulfilling life in the midst of loving and dedicated people in community. If God is offering you life as a priest or religious, you do not want to miss this. It is an adventure and it is a joy. So please, please every Catholic young man consider life as a priest and if God is calling you.”

Bishop-elect Iffert said he is begging the people of the diocese to pray for him, as he is praying for them, sharing a prayer he has prayed most every day of his life since his confirmation when he was 12 years old.

“There is a little prayer that I have always attributed to my confirmation patron, St. Isaac Jogues. I have moved into that prayer, stretched it a bit, and made it my own. I offer it this way: ‘Wherever I go from here, Lord, let me be strong in faith and poor in spirit. Make me a man after your own heart.’ I have always prayed it for myself, my parishioners, my coworkers, my bishop, our pope and now I will pray it for the people of the Diocese of Covington.

“The Rite of Ordination and Installation of a Bishop is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at 3 p.m., in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington. At that hour, please pray that prayer with me and for me. Pray that I can be strong when strength is needed and weak when I am tempted to be full of myself. Know that I will be carrying you in my heart that day, and asking God to make us all men and women after his own heart.”

Archbishop Kurtz congratulated both Bishop Foys and Bishop-elect Iffert.

“It is with great joy that I welcome the news that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed Father John Iffert as the next bishop of the Diocese of Covington. He is known to have a great pastoral heart as well as excellent pastoral experience in his more than two decades of service in the Diocese of Belleville,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Bishop-elect

Iffert is succeeding my friend and brother bishop, Bishop Roger Foys. Bishop Foys has served Northern Kentucky with great distinction, and I join with the bishops of the province in thanking him for his leadership and collaboration. The bishops of the Province of Louisville have a great fraternity and together we welcome Bishop-elect Iffert. We promise him and Bishop Foys our prayerful support.”

The 2021–22 school year opens to in-person instruction with protocols and prayer

Laura Keener, Editor.

Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools

Before the last school bell rang, closing the 2020–21 school year, teachers, parents and even news reporters were already asking, “What are the COVID-19 protocols going to be for next year?”
It has taken awhile for the necessary information to come forward so that Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools and the diocesan COVID Task Force could answer that question. First, in May, nobody could readily predict how, in August, the virus might be moving in communities. Also, information on how effective vaccines would be, especially against variants of the virus, was just beginning to be collected and continues to develop. Most importantly, guidance from the Kentucky Department of Health (KDH) and the Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKHD) had not yet been released for the upcoming school year.
But now August is upon us, schools are about to open and protocols have been developed. In a letter to parents, that was emailed to principals July 27, Mrs. McGuire released the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements 2021–2022. These protocols were developed based on the guidance released July 14 from the KDH and after communication with the NKHD.
“We have put in place safety protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as this virus continues to be present in our local community,” Mrs. McGuire said in the letter. “All our school operations and activities will return to normal with these safety protocols in place.”
The new protocols also incorporate the diocese’s own experience from providing in-person instruction throughout the entire school year last year — when COVID cases were high, vaccines were a hope and the entire world was learning together how to maintain those things in life which are a priority while mitigating the spread of the virus.
“While we are again starting the year with some uncertainties, we remain confident with what we have learned so far in mitigating the spread of the virus,” Mrs. McGuire said.
Highlights from this year’s protocols include:
— Non-traditional instruction or remote learning will only be available to students that are in quarantine. All other students will return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
“What we learned last year is that the best we can do virtually is not really good enough; it’s not the best we could offer,” Mrs. McGuire said in an interview about the 2020–2021 school year. “So the goal had to be getting the students in school; it had to be in person. School is so much more than just studying by yourself and reading a book or completing a paper online — there’s so much more in the interactions in school, which are all part of that big educational piece.”
— Masks will be optional, except on buses where the state of Kentucky requires masks to be worn. Those who choose to wear a mask will be supported and encouraged to do so.
— Families are encouraged to discuss with their doctor if getting the COVID-19 vaccine is best for them and their child(ren); the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required for students, faculty or staff.
It’s important to note that, in collaborating with St. Elizabeth Healthcare in February 2021, it is estimated that over 90 percent of the administration, faculty and staff in diocesan schools are fully vaccinated. Additionally, unlike unvaccinated persons, vaccinated persons are not required to quarantine when exposed to the virus and are determined to be a close contact if they are symptom-free.
— Three-feet spacing between students is recommended in classrooms and the cafeteria.
— High schools and high school athletes must follow the KHSAA guidelines.
— Employees, students and volunteers should complete a daily personal health assessment before leaving for school each day. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to school and should contact their doctor.
“As parents, your support will be one of the most important factors in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses in our schools,” Mrs. McGuire said in the letter to parents. “If your child is exhibiting illness symptoms, you must keep them home and work with your doctor to determine what the illness is and when it will be safe to return to school.”
Mrs. McGuire said that schools will continue to track COVID-19 cases and principals will report cases to the diocese. Right now, the NKHD and KDH are not requiring that schools or the diocese report individual cases. Cases of five or more that are linked by interaction or an event are required to be reported to the NKHD.
“This will help us to determine whether or not additional measures need to be taken to further prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Mrs. McGuire. “In order to do this, parents must report COVID-19 positive cases to the school immediately.”
A large part of last year’s success in keeping children in school while also mitigating the spread of the virus can be attributed to the overwhelming cooperation of parents, even when it meant that their child would miss out on important personal milestones.
“Throughout the 2020–21 school year, we made changes to procedures based on our data,” Mrs. McGuire said. “We will continue to monitor this again and make changes as necessary to maintain inperson learning.”
As the school year begins, “In all things we place our trust in God,” Mrs. McGuire said. “I ask you to pray for another successful school year and ask God’s protection for the health and safety of our students, staff, families and volunteers who will be part of our school communities this year.”
Mrs. McGuire’s letter and the COVID-19 Return to School Requirements 2021–2022 School Year are available online at www.covdio.org.

At Memorial Day Mass — remember and pray for those who sacrificed their lives for freedom

Laura Keener, Editor.

On a beautiful Monday morning Bishop Roger Foys celebrated the annual Memorial Day Mass, May 31, at St. Stephen Cemetery, Ft. Thomas. As usual, Mass was held on Calvary Hill beneath the large stone crucifix. Special this year, Brood X (the 17-year cicadas) provided Cicadian chant, adding to the natural landscape and to the praise and glory of God.

“Today is Memorial Day, it’s a day to remember,” said Bishop Foys as he began his homily. “We say that we ought to be remembering those who died for us, those who died to preserve our freedom, those who died to preserve our way of life. Even though this is a day to remember, I think it is pretty safe to say that a large part of the population in this country have forgotten what we are to remember”

Drawing on the Gospel passage — the raising of Lazarus from the tomb — and the Biblical account of the Last Supper, Bishop Foys elaborated on the importance of remembering and how faith is foundational to remembering.

“Memories are important, remembering people and events is important,” Bishop Foys said. “At the Last Supper Jesus said to his apostles, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Every time we celebrate Mass we are called to remember that Last Supper and the words that Jesus spoke to the apostles and the message that he had entrusted to them.”

In the Gospel passage, Bishop Foys said, that Martha had “temporarily forgotten that Jesus was the Lord,” when she chastises Jesus for not being there to prevent her brother’s death and cautions Jesus not to roll away the tomb stone for fear of a stench.

“She takes him to task for not being there when her brother died. She forgot what he told her, ‘I am the resurrection and I am the life,’” Bishop Foys said.

Bishop Foys shared a Chinese proverb: as long as someone remembers you, you will never really be dead.

“There’s something to that,” said Bishop Foys. “There’s a connection to what went before, what is now and what will be — we pass on those memories and traditions.”

Also important, Bishop Foys, is to remember what so many men and women sacrificed their lives for — to preserve our freedoms, especially religious freedom.

“It is important for us to pray for those who gave their very lives so that we could be here, so that we can worship, so that we could profess and live our faith,” Bishop Foys said. “We must not forget. For almost 200 years the state — the government — did not encroach on the Church, it respected our religious freedom, for which so many have died. But in the recent past — not so. Now we have governments telling us how we can live, what we can do and can’t do, even as it pertains to our faith — our beliefs. That’s frightening. What will the future be when we lose those freedoms? That’s why it is so very important for us to gather and to remember and to pray.”

As he ended his homily, Bishop Foys said, “As we continue Mass let us keep in our minds and hearts, first of all, those who gave their very lives so that we might have freedom. Let us also remember our family and friends who have gone before us, commend them to the Lord, pray for them, that one day where they have gone we will follow.”

 

For a limited time — exhibits on Cathedral campus celebrate façade dedication

Curated by Father Jordan Hainsey

In celebration of the dedication of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica façade on Sunday, June 6, two temporary exhibits entitled “Speaking for Centuries” and “Maes: The Builder” will open on the Cathedral campus and remain on view through June 30. Additionally, following the façade dedication Stephen Enzweiler, Cathedral historian, will lead a guided tour of the Cathedral including the newly added statues and tympana.

“Speaking for Centuries” — St. Mary’s Park
A series of images and accompanying narrative will transform St. Mary’s Park into an outdoor gallery where visitors can journey through the construction of the Cathedral Basilica.

Using archival photos in vivid detail, visitors will be able to see the original 1845 Cathedral, the building process of the 1894 Cathedral and façade begun by Bishop Camillus Paul Maes, and the 1901 Cathedral interior.

Visitors will also be able to learn about the impetus for the completion of the façade by Bishop Roger J. Foys and the 24 statues and two tympana that now grace the exterior. A series of images will highlight the design phase and work of the new statues and tympana by Cathedral façade statuary artist Neilson Carlin. From gestural drawings, to sketches, to the clay model, and finally stone, visitors will be able to explore the artist’s creative process from start to finish.

Self-guide tour. St. Mary’s Park is located on Madison Ave., Covington, across the street from the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and is open dawn to dusk.

“Maes: The Builder” — Cathedral Basilica
Displayed at the Maes Chapel inside the Cathedral Basilica, visitors will be able to view a collection of personal effects that belonged to Bishop Camillus Paul Maes.

From vesture, to his pectoral cross, ring and eye glasses, the awe-inspiring display will work to bring the cathedral visionary to life.

Visitors may also view the trowel used at the Cathedral’s cornerstone laying ceremony in 1910, and the formal wear of the young trainbearer to Bishop Maes worn during liturgical ceremonies.

For Cathedral hours and liturgy times, visit: covcathedral.com.

Pentecost is a defining moment in the Church and the lives of all Christ’s followers

Laura Keener, Editor:
Bishop Roger Foys conferred the sacrament of confirmation on 21 candidates from parishes across the Diocese of Covington, May 23, the solemnity of Pentecost, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. The solemnity of Pentecost celebrates the time that, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles filling them with the gifts of the Spirit.
“Today we are celebrating the solemnity of Pentecost which is known and celebrated as the birthday of the Church,” said Bishop Foys as he began his homily.
Bishop Foys encouraged those present to think about “defining moments” in their life.
“In all our lives we have defining moments, something or someone impresses us so that it makes a difference in our lives, for the rest of our lives,” Bishop Foys said. “It can be something positive and joyful or unfortunately it can be something difficult or sad. It can also be something as simple as a sunrise or a sunset. It can be meeting someone, being married, answering a call to a religious vocation, getting a job you have always dreamed of — defining moments that changed our lives.”
In Jesus, Bishop Foys said, the apostles experienced many defining moments.
“Certainly a defining a moment in their lives was when Jesus called them to be his followers — he handpicked them, he called them by name — so much so they left everything behind and embarked on a whole new life.”
The apostles experienced unfortunate defining moments too: when Jesus was arrested, beaten, bloodied, crucified and died on the cross and buried.
“Buried with him were their hopes and their dreams, everything came to a crashing halt. Jesus was no more,” said Bishop Foys. “Then another defining moment, Jesus appears to them in his glorified, risen body three days after his death. They were overjoyed but not quite sure. Even though they saw him they, were still, St. Luke says in his Gospel, ‘incredulous.’”
Jesus’ ascension to heaven was another defining moment for the apostles. Jesus told them that he had to go back to the Father, but promised that he and the Father would send them the Spirit, “and the Spirit is going to be with you until the end of the world; and there is nothing, no one, not even the gates of hell, that will prevail against you.”
“How did the apostles react to these defining moments?” Bishop Foys said. “They went and hid. They were afraid and didn’t know what to do. They didn’t quite understand who Jesus was and the message that Jesus entrusted to them. That’s significant, he entrusted his Father’s message to them — to carry that message to the ends of the world.”
When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, “That was the ultimate defining moment in the lives of the apostles,” said Bishop Foys. “Once they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit they finally understood the message that Jesus had entrusted to them and they carried that message out unto the ends of the earth. They go out and begin to preach and teach to the very same people they were hiding from … Nothing would stop them from proclaiming Christ and bringing the message that God loves us with a love that we do not have to earn and a love that we can never lose. And the Church was born on Pentecost.”
“Today I will administer the sacrament of confirmation and the Holy Spirit will come down and fill the hearts of those to be confirmed with the seven gifts that the Holy Spirit possesses and that he distributes among God’s people … Every gift, every talent he gives us, is to build up the kingdom of God. We, in our own time, are called to be apostles — to carry this message to the ends of the world by what we say, yes, but more importantly by what we do and how we live. We are entrusted, all of us, with that message that Jesus entrusted to the apostles and to make that message known.”

Transitional diaconate ordination of A.J. Gedney

By the laying on of hands and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Roger Foys ordained A.J. Gedney a deacon for the Diocese of Covington.

Laura Keener, Editor.

Compared to last year’s ordinations with no congregation, the reduced capacity congregation at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, March 28, felt like a full house as Bishop Roger Foys ordained Alexander (A.J.) Gedney to the transitional diaconate.

Family and friends, including educators from Deacon Gedney’s alma mater, St. Henry District High School, showed their prayerful support as he made the diaconate promises of celibacy, prayer and obedience. Deacon Gedney is a seminarian for the Diocese of Covington and his diaconate ordination is a step on his formation to the priesthood.

In his homily, Bishop Foys reminded the congregation that even during those early days of the pandemic, when the public celebration of the Mass was suspended — the life of the Church continued.

“We still celebrated Mass and live-streamed it on the internet. We still celebrated the Eucharist. We still baptize, we still anoint people who are near death, couples still get married, I still confirm and administer the sacrament of confirmation and I still ordain,” Bishop Foys said. “The essence of our faith and the sacramental life of the Church has not changed; that should give us great comfort and consolation, that there is something in our life that does not change, that is constant upon which we can rely.”

The readings for today’s ordination Mass, Bishop Foys said, were chosen specifically for the celebration. The first reading is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 61:1–3)

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … to bring glad tidings to the lowly and to heal the broken hearted.’ The minister of God’s word is to bring glad tidings and to heal the brokenhearted,” Bishop Foys said.

The second reading, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 4:1–7), instructs God’s ministers not to be discouraged.

“During this year there was more than enough discouragement to go around, but Paul says this ministry is given to us through the mercy of God and so we are not discouraged,” said Bishop Foys. “The ministry we have, the ministry into which A.J. will be ordained today, is given to us through the mercy of God, he is its author and therefore we are not to be discouraged. ‘For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.’ That is key. Every minister indeed preaches Jesus Christ as Lord and master of us all, then the words he says are the words of the Lord.”

St. Paul also talks about the paradox of ministry, that “this treasure is held in earthen vessels.”

“Earthen vessels — I think that’s a wonderful image that Paul uses,” said Bishop Foys. “This treasure that we preach and teach in Jesus’ name … the Gospel message, the good news … we hold it in earthen vessels and so we must be so careful … it can shatter. We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, why? So that the surpassing power may be from God, not from us, it’s not about us … it’s all about Jesus and bringing the message of Jesus to his people.”

In the Gospel reading from St. Matthew, Jesus tells his apostles that they are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” (Matt 5:13–16)

“Then Jesus says, and this is very dear to me because it is the motto I chose, ‘your light must shine before others,’ he said, ‘that they might see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.’ Again, not for oneself, no, but so that others may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. It is all about giving the Lord the glory, giving the Lord the praise,” Bishop Foys said.

These readings, Bishop Foys said, offer good meditations for every ordained minister. “Today, it is for A. J. Gedney to thing about and to pray about.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily with words of congratulations and gratitude.

“We give thanks to God that A.J. heard the Lord’s call and then answered it … I can safely say that we are all here to pledge to you our prayers and our support, that you live day by day, year by year, decade by decade, the ministry entrusted to you.”

On the solemnity of St. Joseph, bishop encourages all to be ‘doers’ of God’s will

On the solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Roger Foys incenses the newly erected St. Joseph altar at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. This statue of St. Joseph is significant to the Cathedral and the Diocese of Covington because it stood in the diocese’s first Cathedral, built by the diocese’s first bishop, Bishop George Carrell, S.J., in 1854.

Laura Keener, Editor.

This year’s solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, carried a particularly celebratory tone in the Diocese of Covington as the Year of St. Joseph begins to unfold like an Easter lily — a common symbol for the saint. With his apostolic letter “Patris corde” (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis declared Dec. 8, 2020 through Dec. 8, 2021 the Year of St. Joseph, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaring St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church. Pope Pius IX also has a special tie to the diocese — he established the Diocese of Covington in 1853.

“St. Joseph is an interesting personage in our salvation history and in the establishment of the Church,” Bishop Roger Foys said in his homily during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption on the solemnity.

St. Joseph is mentioned in only two of the four Gospels — Matthew and Luke — and not one word is recorded in all of Scriptures attributed to St. Joseph, Bishop Foys noted.

“Where do we find a place for St. Joseph? He wasn’t a prophet or a patriarch or an apostle or the Blessed Mother. Where is his place?” Bishop Foys asked.

To find the answer, Bishop Foys said, one needs to look at what Scripture says St. Joseph does.

“St. Joseph was, we are told, a just man, a humble man, a compassionate man and deeply religious man. He was obedient to God’s will for him,” said Bishop Foys, highlighting the three times that an angel instructed St. Joseph in his dreams to care for the Holy Family.

The first was to assure Joseph of Mary’s chastity, instructing him to take Mary and the baby she was carrying into his home. In a second dream, the angel instructs Joseph to take Mary and the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Harrod. In the third dream, the angel assures Joseph that King Harrod has died and it is now safe to return to Nazareth. On all three occasions, Joseph does as he is instructed.

“Joseph is always in the background but he is there,” Bishop Foys said, “Two thousand years later we celebrate in a solemn way this man who was chosen to be the foster father of Jesus, who was chosen to care for the Holy Family, to look after their needs, to protect them.”

In addition to patron of the Universal Church, St. Joseph is also patron of many circumstances and causes. One of those titles, highlighted in a jeweled glass window in the Cathedral Basilica, is patron of a Happy Death.

“We have a window here with Mary and Jesus standing at his death bed. Joseph is therefore referred to as the patron of a Happy Death — to have died with Jesus and the Mother of God at his side,” Bishop Foys said.

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis said that his desire to declare a year honoring St. Joseph grew during this time of pandemic. Bishop Foys read an excerpt from “Patris corde”: “My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone … How many people, daily, exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all. Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

“That’s how our Holy Father introduces this year of St. Joseph, a man who led a hidden life but who was so much a part of the lives of Mary and Jesus and who is so much a part of our life,” Bishop Foys said. “It also tells us that no one — no one — is insignificant … God gives each of us our own role to play in this world, in this Church, in our community. We don’t have to have our name up in lights, or be on the front cover of a tabloid or the lead story on a news show — no! St. Joseph led a hidden life, most of us will lead hidden lives — it is what we are called to do.

“Do – ahah!” exclaimed Bishop Foys. “Joseph … he wasn’t a talker, he was a doer. So we celebrate today the Solemnity of St. Joseph, we thank God for giving us the gift of St. Joseph who took care of the Blessed Mother and the Son of God and who takes care of us.”

 

Local sisters offer challenge to end hunger for Catholic Sisters Week

Laura Keener, Editor.
As part of Catholic Sisters Week, March 8 – 12, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery, Notre Dame Sisters U.S.A. and Sisters of Divine Providence, Melbourne, are teaming up to bring awareness to food insecurity and a challenge to end hunger. They are inviting everyone to join them.
The three religious communities are challenging its members, parishes and friends to make a donation to end hunger and to share their generosity and support by posting on social media as a way to honor Catholic Sisters Week. The monetary donation can be made to any food bank, meal center, food pantry or organization that serves the hungry.
“We don’t want to spotlight any particular organization because we would then leave out so many others,” said Divine Providence Sister Barbara Rohe, provincial superior. “We just want to be aware of the great hunger and food insecurity that so many people in the world experience, but also in the U.S. Right now, the need seems overwhelming when you hear the news and see people in long lines to get food.”
While the sisters are not designating any particular organization, they are certainly supportive of the local service agencies and food pantries sisters are presently or formerly involved. Some of those include Catholic Charities, Diocese of Covington’s Parish Kitchen, Covington; Mary Rose Mission, Florence; Holy Spirit Outreach, Newport; and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Northern Kentucky.
This year, Governor Andy Beshear signed a proclamation declaring Jan. 28, 2021 “Hunger Free Day” in Kentucky. During the signing, he said 600,000 Kentuckians rely on food from charitable organizations. Additionally, he said that one in six Kentucky households with children experiences food insecurity. Kentucky also has the highest rate of food insecurity among adults ages 50 to 59.
“Food insecurity is more rampant than people would believe,” said Cindy Carris, director, Mary Rose Mission. “More and more people are living on the edge of food insecurity — maybe even people that you know.”
The Mary Rose Mission serves a hot dinner to anyone who shows up at its kitchen. Typically the Mission offers a sit down dinner but has transitioned to drive-thru service during the pandemic. Mrs. Carris said that it is good that the no-contact service has allowed them to continue its ministry but volunteers and guests are missing the social interaction. Guests are especially missing Benedictine Sister Andrea Collopy. Sister Andrea and two other Benedictine Sisters would regularly volunteer but had to suspend their activities when the pandemic struck. Sister Andrea was in charge of “working the exit” and would collect prayer intentions from the guests.
“Everybody loved her. There would be a line all the way through the dining room waiting to talk to her,” Mrs. Carris said. “It was such an honor to have the sisters here, their presence adds a holiness to the service that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”
As Karen Zengel, executive director, finished this year’s annual report for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Northern Kentucky, she noticed what she describes as “a modern day miracle.” In 2020, the Society provided $70,000 more in groceries than the previous year. The large spike was due to the first months of the pandemic and the lockdown. During that time people were uncertain about the economy and their personal income. Wisely, they began to hold on to any cash they had on hand for use to pay mortgages, rent and utilities and began seeking assistance for food.
“We had no idea how we were going to provide for the demand and God provided for us. It was terrible and awesome at the same time,” Mrs. Zengel said. “Our Vincentians are an awesome, committed group of people who just continued to answer the call when people reached out in need.”
Notre Dame Sister Judith Niewahner fills an integral role in the Society’s food outreach. She is the Conference Relations Manager and Food Pantry Manager, overseeing the Society’s 26 food pantries. Two pantries are operated by the diocesan council with stores located in Erlanger and Falmouth. A third SVDP Food Pantry is scheduled to open March 3 in Cold Spring. The other 24 food pantries are operated at parishes by parish conferences.
“Having Sister Judith on the team, I feel like she is this beacon of hope all the time,” said Mrs. Zengel. “She’s always up for a challenge and an exciting project. She figures out how to make things happen. She’s a shining example of how we can do all things with God.”
Sister Judith and Notre Dame Sister Michelyn Beckerich also volunteer at their parish food pantry, Holy Spirit Outreach, Newport. The small, neighborhood pantry served 1,400 people since last April, said Msgr. William Cleves, pastor. People can also get assistance for rent and utilities if they register at the center.
“Everyone who comes in gets multiple bags of groceries; we never ask for money or donations,” Msgr. Cleves said. Instead, the pantry receives food from government agencies and is funded by the generosity of Holy Spirit parishioners. In addition to monetary donations, each month, parishioners are asked to provide a specific, needed pantry item. This month it’s Mac ’n Cheese. During the summer, the parish cultivates a community garden located prominently on the space between the church and the parish convent.
“We have a very generous parish; we have a great little community here,” Msgr. Cleves said.
At the Parish Kitchen, Maria Meyer, manager, said that not only have they seen an increase in the number of guests — about 200 lunches per day this year, versus 150 lunches last year — but the demographics have also changed.
During the pandemic, the Parish Kitchen moved from its historic location on Pike Street to a more prominent location on Madison Ave., Covington. Before the move, the guests of the Parish Kitchen were predominately male. And while they still see many familiar faces, now, more women and families are being served. It’s difficult, Ms. Meyer said, to gauge whether or not the changes are due to the pandemic or the location change.
Since last March, due to the pandemic, the Parish Kitchen has had to transition from sit-down lunches to grab-n-go lunches. But neither challenge — the move nor the virus — has shut down the Parish Kitchen down.
“We haven’t missed a day and we have been able to keep our guests, volunteers and staff safe through the pandemic,” Ms. Meyer said.
Before the pandemic hit, Divine Providence Sister Joan Boberg regularly volunteered at the Parish Kitchen. In 1987, when she was executive director of Catholic Charities, Sister Joan began volunteering there once a month. In a 2018 interview for the “Breaking Bread” newsletter, Sister Joan said she began volunteering so that she could have hands on experience of the ministry; being with the guests was a part of the ministry she loved.
Ms. Meyer understands and misses that connection, noting that it is harder to connect with people when they are not being served in the dining room. She said, talking about life’s struggles and successes is a big part of what the Parish Kitchen offers its guests, noting the economic diversity of the people who experience hunger.
“Not all of our guests are homeless, some have a place to stay but still struggle to make ends meet. Some people have a job and some have a car but they are food insecure,” she said.
“The pandemic has left a cloud of depression because it’s harder to connect with people. At the Parish Kitchen see people first, not second. Hearing about what’s going on in their life is a big part of our mission that we are missing.”
To join the Catholic Sisters Week challenge to end hunger follow the Sisters on Facebook: CDPKentucky and SNDKy.

Candidates and catechumens ‘chosen by God … elected for a new life’

Laura Keener, Editor

“The sign of an active parish, that the parish is indeed alive with Jesus Christ, is bringing in new members, assisting people to hear God’s voice,” said Bishop Roger Foys at this year’s Rite of Election. “COVID-19 has affected the lives of everyone and every institution, including our parishes, but despite this pandemic you are here. My congratulations to the parish priests and all the people in the parishes you represent, for not only keeping the faith but sharing the faith.”

In two services at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Feb. 21, 46 candidates and 32 catechumens from 23 parishes were presented to Bishop Foys for the Rite of Election. Candidates are baptized Christians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. Catechumens are unbaptized persons converting to Catholicism. During the Rite of Election Catechumens are accepted as this year’s “elect” — God’s chosen people — and are enrolled in the Book of the Elect. Both the elect and the candidates will enter into full communion with the Church during the Easter Vigil, April 3, at their parish.

During his homily, Bishop Foys explained that the word “election” as it is used in the Church, is quite different from what is familiar in the United States and politics.

“When we hear ‘election’ we think of opposing candidates vying for the same position. One will be a winner. That is not how we mean election in the context of what we do,” he said. “You have been chosen by God, you have been elected for a new a life.”

Bishop Foys acknowledged that on this day, in cathedral churches all over the world , the chosen come together with their sponsors and pastors to “answer God’s call and be enrolled in the body of believers.”

“Each of you has your own story about what it was that you recognized as the call from God — what it was that has led you to this time, to this place, on this day, to answer that call to join the community of believers in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Foys said. “We thank God you are being chosen and for you answering God’s embrace now for a new life.”