Candidates for permanent diaconate installed as acolytes at cathedral

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Bishop Roger Foys installed 16 candidates for the permanent diaconate to the ministry of acolyte Feb 7 at the 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Three candidates were from parishes in the Diocese of Covington and the remaining 13 from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The candidates for the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Covington are Kevin Cranley, St. Timothy Parish, Union; Adam Feinauer, St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright; Eric Ritchie, Holy Cross Parish, Latonia; and Tom Murrin, St. Philip Parish, Melbourne, who was unable to attend.

During Mass, the candidates were presented to Bishop Foys. He urged them to be faithful to the call they have received: “In performing your ministry, bear in mind that as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them, show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, especially the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his apostles at the Last Supper: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”

Bishop Foys presented each candidate with a ciborium containing bread. As each candidate knelt, clasping the ciborium Bishop Foys said, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”

Eric Ritchie prepares to kneel before Bishop Foys.

The ministry of acolyte, Bishop Foys shared, was decreed by Pope St. Paul VI in 1973 for lay ministers such as those preparing for the permanent diaconate as well as its traditional office as a step toward ordination to the priesthood. The acolyte assists bishops, priests and deacons at the altar, performing the ministry of deacon when the deacon isn’t present. He also serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Bishop Foys praised the great service permanent deacons perform for the Diocese of Covington, calling them “indispensable.” He asked the faithful, as beneficiaries of their ministry, to pray for them, “that the Lord will reward them for responding to his call.”

In his homily, he reflected on the story of Job and his inexhaustible faith, suggesting that everyone look to Job during times of suffering as an example of faith and love of God.

“Job loses everything,” he said. “He’s brought down as low as anyone could possibly be brought down. (And yet) He refuses to curse God.”

He reflected on how many people have suffered in the last 11 months due to the pandemic “turning life upside down,” but suggested that it has been an opportunity for growth in faith. “So we can say with Job: ‘I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled night have been allotted to me. … My days come to an end without hope. I shall never see happiness again.’ We can feel that way. Job felt that way. But what saved him? His faith. His faith in God, even though his friends and his wife pushed him to strike out at God.”

Adam Feinauer is presented to Bishop Foys.

It was Job’s love of God and his relationship with God that enabled him to suffer without turning on God, said Bishop Foys. That should also be our response when faced with difficulties. He alluded to the Sunday Gospel, in which Jesus goes alone to pray in the early morning after a long and hard day.

“We cannot on our own solve every problem. We need the Lord,” he said. “So in stressful times, in difficult times when we can’t find the answers, we do what we should be doing every day anyway: we seek out the Lord. Jesus teaches us how to live. If it was good enough for him, to go and seek the Father in prayer, how important is that for us? When we take things to the Lord, and when we listen, we will be amazed what the Lord will speak to us in our hearts.”

Staying connected to the Lord is crucial, Bishop Foys said. “Take a lesson from Job and from Jesus to never let our faith in God waiver, no matter what. Pray, spend time with him. And listen.”

During times of crisis the mission, ministry and celebration of Catholic Schools is unchanged

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

On the feast of St. Blaise, patron of throat illnesses, and in the midst of a week filled with gratitude and fun, Bishop Roger Foys celebrated an all-schools Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington in honor of the 47th annual Catholic Schools Week. Each of the diocesan schools celebrates the week with different festivities, including crazy socks, dressing like teachers and rock-paper-scissors tournaments. They all came together in the middle of the week to recognize the most important aspect of their schools — the Catholic faith.

The theme for Catholic Schools week is “Faith. Excellence. Service.” Bishop Foys, in his homily, emphasized faith as the primary foundation for education. “This week was established as a time to promote Catholic schools, but also, and maybe more importantly, to celebrate Catholic schools and what Catholic schools mean to us — to us as the Church, but also to the wider community,” he said.
“Catholic schools were founded in this country for the basic purpose of transmitting the faith. That’s something that we can never lose sight of. Number one, always number one, is faith.”

He addressed the students watching from their classrooms with a call for open hearts so that the faith can take root. “Faith is the primary purpose for our schools. All those watching who are sitting in a classroom now, that is what the primary purpose of your being there is, to transmit the faith to you, so that you will transmit that faith to your family, and their family and their family.”

The Gospel reading, Bishop Foys said, focused on the importance of faith and its transformative effect. Jesus, he said, had been to many cities, performing many miracles and attracting many followers. When he came back to his hometown, he was amazed by the lack of faith the people there had.

Bishop Roger Foys delivers his homily during the Catholic Schools Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington on Feb. 3.

“He went home and they had no faith in him. Their faith was so weak, or nonexistent, that Jesus could not even work any miracles there. Faith is so important. Parents, administrators, faculty, staff and students need to be open to the faith so that it can take root and produce excellence — which leads to service.”

“Service,” Bishop Foys said, “is the giving of ourselves, freely, willingly, generously. Faith. Excellence. Service. The hallmarks of a Catholic school education.”

To the students, Bishop Foys said, “Your parents, because they love you, want to impart the faith to you. You are the future; you are also the present. Your role in the present is to be open to the faith, the faith that you heard about first of all by the example of others … You will be also called to be that example, to be that witness to others by sharing what you learn, by sharing your faith, by your excellence and your service.”

The pandemic, Bishop Foys said, has required many changes this school year. Teachers and students have had to teach and learn not only in the classroom but also remotely via live stream. Parents have had to make the additional sacrifice of assisting their child during times of remote learning. Everyone has had to monitor their health and many endure quarantines to keep the school community and each other safe and healthy. But, through it all, the mission and ministry of Catholic schools has not changed.

“Our Catholic schools have not changed because the faith has not changed,” Bishop Foys said. “If we are rooted in the faith, crisis such as this will make us even stronger in the faith because they will bring us together. It is only our faith that can sustain us in any crisis. It is in looking to the Lord and holding onto our faith that we can make a difference; that we can accept whatever comes.”

“The faith,” Bishop Foys said, “is what sustains us. The faith is what keeps us safe. The faith is what gives us hope.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily in gratitude for all those whose sacrifices make a Catholic school education a reality for families — benefactors, teachers, staff and administrators — offering a special word of thanks to Kendra McGuire, superintendent, Catholic Schools, for her leadership during this unprecedented time.

“Your leadership, especially during this pandemic, has been more than exemplary. It has been remarkable,” he said.

To the parents, he offered profound gratitude and admiration for providing their children “the great gift” of a Catholic school education and encouraged students to appreciate that gift.

“Thank you for loving your sons and daughters enough to provide them with a Catholic school education … Thank you for sharing your faith, for passing it on to the next generation,” he said. “To all our students, appreciate the great gift you have — to be a student in a Catholic school, and use this time profitably … because what you learn now will sustain you the rest of your life. Hold on especially to the faith — trust in the Lord.”

Kendra McGuire, superintendent, Office of Catholic Schools, addresses the school community with gratitude for everyone’s hard work and an exhortation to stay focused on Jesus Christ.

Bishop Foys concluded Mass with the blessing of St. Blaise and a blessing with a relic of St. Rocco, protector against pandemics.

Mrs. McGuire addressed those gathered and those watching on the live stream after Mass. She said: “It is so important to stop and really think about this gift of Catholic education. Giving thanks is often one of the first things we do during this week. We are so appreciative of … all those who support our schools, as they are truly a blessing and we need them in order to thrive.”

She encouraged everyone listening to think of why Catholic schools exist. “It is because of Jesus,” she said. “Jesus is the first teacher of the faith and through faithful service to him, we as his disciples carry on this ministry of educating others.”

To the students, Mrs. McGuire said, “You are learning to be Jesus’ disciples, who will one day graduate and hopefully continue spreading this message to the world in your adult lives. This is the mission of Catholic education. It is such a special gift to each and every one of us.”

New St. Vincent de Paul facility in Campbell County

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Residents of Campbell County are set to have even greater resources available soon. The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Northern Kentucky is opening a new facility at 3970-3972 Alexandria Pike in Cold Spring, featuring a food pantry and thrift store.

The new location will make resources for neighbors in need, and anyone looking for a great deal or environmentally-friendly way to purchase goods, more easily accessible. Centrally located in the county, the store will offer gently used clothing, household goods and furniture. The store will also accept donations. All purchases at the store help support St. Vincent de Paul programs.

According to Karen Zengel, executive director, the facility is part of a larger plan for their services Northern Kentucky. “Our whole objective is to be more accessible for those we serve in Campbell County,” she said. “People don’t have to travel far to be able to receive the support that we provide for them.”

The idea of opening a Campbell County location has been in the strategic plan for the last two years, but it took time to get in a position to do so, then actually look for the ideal location. This specific location has been in the works since spring 2020.

“This location is unique in that it’s centrally located in Campbell County,” said Ms. Zengel. “Our previous location was in Newport, and that space was not quite as large as the space we have the opportunity to occupy now, so it wasn’t able to have as much inventory. With this space, it’s right on the bus line and it’s 10,000 square feet — to offer a large inventory of choice and variety for anyone who would like to shop with us.”

Ms. Zengel will be hiring a new team to run the stores, with a new food pantry coordinator specific to the location and a retail team for the thrift store.

The food pantry will open March 1 and will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. and Wednesday evenings 4-6 p.m. The thrift store is set to open mid-April.

“The key for us is accessibility, and we are so excited and so grateful to the city of Cold Spring so that we can continue to serve in the most convenient way possible for those who are in need,” said Ms. Zengel.

Beginning now, and through Lent, work to enter more fully into prayer with Father Comer

Laura Keener, Editor.

In May 2020 Pope Francis began a series of general audience talks on prayer. That series is still ongoing with talk number 23 last week. Pope Francis introduced the series focusing on the “mystery of prayer,” saying, “Prayer is the breath of faith, it is its most proper expression. Like a cry that comes from the heart of those who believe and trust in God.”

It isn’t uncommon to turn to God in prayer during the highs and lows in life. But how does a person make prayer “the breath of faith,” something that is an ongoing and life sustaining part of faith?
Father Michael Comer, pastor, Mother of God Parish, Covington, began his own series on prayer, Feb. 3, titled “Beginning to Pray.” The series, however, is not only a tutorial for persons learning to pray for the first time.

Father Michael Comer

“My premise is we are all beginners — everybody is a beginner — in terms of prayer,” said Father Comer, noting that he includes himself in the beginner group. “There are no experts when it comes to prayer. I am just somebody who has tried to learn how to pray over the last 50 years or so and will share some insights and things I have learned.”

The series will last eight weeks with a different prayer focus each week, ending the week before Holy Week. Father Comer will record and live-stream himself on Wednesdays with a recording of each talk available on the Mother of God Parish website and Facebook page on Thursdays.

“This first week I introduced prayer and entering into the presence of God,” said Father Comer. “That’s how we need to begin, by learning how to enter into the presence of God and becoming conscious and aware of the presence of God.”

In part two of the series, Father Comer talks about different types of prayer — prayer of gratitude, prayer of praise, prayer of intercession, prayer of petition and even expressing anger toward God.
“I use a number of the Psalms to illustrate the different ways people have prayed to God,” Father Comer said. “The point of it is we have to pray what is real — whatever we are really feeling and experiencing, that’s what we want to pray, not just pretty words to God but a real heart-to-heart, letting God know exactly what’s going on with us.”

Upcoming topics include: Lectio Divina (sacred reading), praying the Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, praying the rosary, the Jesus Prayer and, finally, praying Holy Week.

“Prayer is about spending time with God every day,” said Father Comer. “I hope that people, if they are truly beginners and never had a prayer life in any kind of ongoing way, they will experiment with prayer and begin to have a personal relationship with God.”

And for those who already pray every day, Father Comer said, “I hope that they get some ideas that will help them to enter more fully into prayer.”

Beginning to Pray
An eight-week video series with Father Michael Comer
Week 1 — Introduction: Entering into the presence of God
Week 2 — Different types of prayer
Week 3 — Lectio Divina (sacred reading)
Week 4 — Liturgical prayer 1: Praying the Mass
Week 5 — Liturgical prayer 2: Praying the Liturgy of the Hours
Week 6 — Praying the rosary
Week 7 — The Jesus Prayer
Week 8 — Praying Holy Week
Available online here.

School personnel in the Diocese of Covington grateful to receive first dose of vaccine

Laura Keener, Editor.

All Catholic school personnel in the Diocese of Covington that wanted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received their first dose. Administrators, staff and faculty at St. Edward School in Harrison County received the COVID-19 vaccination Feb. 20. In Mason County, St. Patrick School personnel received their vaccines Feb. 21. And over the weekend, Jan. 30–31, all of the priests, administrators, staff and faculty working in Catholic schools in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties also received the vaccine.

“Things really went well. Kudos to Kendra McGuire and the Diocese for having things very organized for us in getting the schools scheduled,” said Suzi Francis, PharmD., pharmacist and supervisor of Ambulatory Clinical Pharmacy for St. Elizabeth Healthcare, about the weekend.

Mrs. Francis and her staff administered the vaccines at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare COVID vaccine clinic at its training center in Erlanger. She said that educators of various local school districts have been receiving vaccines the last several Saturdays and Sundays. This weekend approximately 1,500 Diocese of Covington school personnel — about 94 percent — received their first dose of the two-dose regimen. Diocese of Covington educators will receive their second dose or “booster,” as it is popularly referred to, in three weeks.

Vaccinating school personnel is Phase 1B of Governor Andy Beshear’s plan to distribute vaccines to Kentuckians and an important effort to safely maintain in-person instruction at the 30 primary and nine Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Covington.

“The schools have worked so hard to be in school and it really was a positive atmosphere this weekend with the teachers,” said Mrs. Francis.

Mrs. McGuire agreed and expressed gratitude to all those who have made the vaccine available.
“I am thankful to the governor for including Catholic schools as essential,” Mrs. McGuire said. “St. Elizabeth Healthcare was fantastic to work with through this whole process. Things just went so smoothly. I’ve heard from so many of our schools who are so thankful for what they have done and it worked well together. It was definitely a good feeling at the end of the weekend to know that the school personnel who wanted the vaccine were able to get it.”

Daine Roll, kindergarten teacher, St. Joseph School, Crescent Springs, smiles beneath her mask while she receives the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pam McQueen, principal, Villa Madonna Academy, Villa Hills, expressed the feelings of hope she and her faculty and staff felt after being vaccinated.

“During the vaccine administration, everyone was so very happy — and emotional,” Mrs. McQueen said. “We are always so hopeful, but there it was before us — the vaccine. Words cannot express the joy and relief held in our hearts.”

Bishop Roger Foys also expressed his gratitude for all those working together to mitigate the spread of the virus and to help keep the school communities healthy.

“I am so grateful that our school personnel and those associated with our schools were able to receive the much-anticipated vaccine,” said Bishop Foys. “I am likewise grateful to our St. Elizabeth Hospital for making the experience so positive and for their professionalism. We are so blessed to have a healthcare facility like St. Elizabeth. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to our superintendent of our Catholic School system, Mrs. Kendra McGuire and to our COVID-19 coordinator, Mrs. Laura Keener for their untiring work and attention to detail in their efforts to keep our students safe and in school. These are trying times, but working together and observing all the necessary protocols will keep us safe and healthy.”

Mrs. Francis offered encouragement for those who are anxiously awaiting their turn to get the vaccine.

“Vaccine supply continues to get better and better and our goal is to use over 90 percent of what we receive within seven days. We are working around the clock to make that happen,” she said. “As soon as we get the vaccine in, we get it to our community.”

In addition to school personnel, health care workers, first responders and persons age 70 or older can schedule their vaccination. Next is Phase 1C, which will include persons age 60 and older, persons age 16–64 with high-risk medical conditions and CDC-defined “essential workers.”

Mrs. Francis said Kentuckians should check the Northern Kentucky Health Department and St. Elizabeth Healthcare website for scheduling updates.

“As we are able to expand to other tiers and get the vaccine in, we will make sure that website is updated,” she said.

Newly ordained Father Rielage has a compassionate heart and is of one mind with Church

Laura Keener, Editor.

The magnitude of the transformative event that had taken place for newly ordained Father Joseph Rielage and the Diocese of Covington was encapsulated by Msgr. William Cleves in his homily, Jan. 30, at the Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Henry Church, Elsmere.

“Authority is the ability to help people grow, to make their hearts larger, to broaden their vision, to deepen their faith, hope and love,” Monsignor Cleves said. “Father Joseph, as an ordained minister, is given the gift of that authority to speak in a special way. Your words Father, through the sacrament of the sick, through the sacrament of reconciliation, in your everyday ministry — the counseling you will do, the spiritual direction you will give — you are going to help people grow. This is God’s gift to you through the Church. How you live it is going to be your gift to God.”

Bishop Roger Foys ordained Father Rielage a priest for the Diocese of Covington the evening of Jan. 29, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. He is the 42nd priest Bishop Foys has ordained for the diocese. Father Rielage has been studying at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Penn. When he is in the diocese, he has been assigned to St. Henry Church.

As Bishop Foys began his homily, he welcomed the limited number of guests who were invited to attend in-person and all those watching via livestream.

“We are pleased that you are here this evening to celebrate this significant day in the life of our brother Joseph and in the life of the local Church. It’s been a wild ride this last year. We do things now that we never thought of doing before March of last year and we don’t do things we did a year ago,” Bishop Foys said referring to the limited capacity and safety protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he said, while some things are different, some things never change.

“Some things don’t change because they can never change — our faith, the truths and the dogmas of the Church, the sacraments,” he said. “And we still ordain priests, that hasn’t changed, nor has the ordination, because the Church still needs priests — shepherds after the heart of Jesus — the Good Shepherd.

“One thing that will change tonight, during this liturgy, is the change in Deacon Joseph. He will be forever changed,” Bishop Foys said. “When I impose hands on his head and call down the Holy Spirit, when I anoint his hands with sacred Chrism, when I say the prayer of ordination over him — he will be changed. He will dedicate himself wholly and unconditionally and forever to the Lord and to his Church. He will make promises here tonight, promises to care for the people of God — to shepherd them — promises to provide them with the sacraments and sacramentals, promises to pray with and for them, a promise to live a celibate life and a promise of obedience to his bishop and to any of his successors.”

As a seminarian for the Diocese of Covington, Bishop Foys said that he knows Father Rielage well, as he has observed his formation.

“I have found him to be very compassionate, very caring, looking out always for the good of others, very attuned and in tune with the mind and the heart of the Church, very thoughtful,” Bishop Foys said.

When Bishop Foys began the third Thursday Holy Hours for the priests of the diocese in Oct. 2018, praying for the victims of sexual abuse of children by priests and for the sanctification of priests and now for an end to the pandemic, Deacon Rielage gathered the seminarians at St. Vincent Seminary for a Holy Hour. It was an act of solidarity with his Bishop and the priests of the diocese.

“That tells me a great deal about him and about his witness and his example,” Bishop Foys said. “I think I know that tonight, when he is ordained and becomes a member of our presbyterate, it won’t be difficult for him because he has already been of one mind and one heart with us. For our part we must pray for Deacon Joseph and support him.”

Bishop Foys confided that on difficult days it helps priests to know that others are praying and caring for them.

“All gathered here tonight need to pray for Father Joseph as he embarks on this ministry. Pray for all our priests and pray that other men will hear and answer God’s call.”

Father Rielage will return to St. Vincent Seminary later this month to complete his studies and will receive his first assignment when he returns.

Events surrounding 48th annual March for Life held virtually amplify priority of protecting life

Laura Keener, Editor.

“I set before you today good and evil, a blessing or a curse, life or death. Choose life.”

“We just heard those words from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy,” said Bishop Roger Foys as he began his homily, Jan. 29.

The Mass, celebrated by Bishop Foys at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and live streamed for Catholic school students in the Diocese of Covington, was for the legal protection of life in the womb. Typically at this time, Bishop Foys would celebrate this Mass with hundreds of high school students in Washington, D.C., just moments before the March for Life.

This year, due to the pandemic and civil and political unrest, organizers of the 48th annual March for Life transitioned the events surrounding the March to a virtual platform and encouraged demonstrators to pray and witness at home. About 50 people representating the thousands of would-be marchers, marched peacefully in Washington, demanding the reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, essentially on demand, in the United States.

Acknowledging the changes that have taken place in the lives of everyone, especially teachers and students as they have navigated online learning this past year, Bishop Foys reminded students that not everything has changed.

“Our faith is one of those things and the right to life is another,” he said. “The right to be born and the right to live, that has not changed — at least it should not. For the last 48 years people have been battling for the right to life — for the right to be born.”

Bishop Foys shared a 20-year-old commentary about a news article describing the slaughter of 30 range horses. In the article, investigators rightly expressed shock and outrage at the killing of the innocent animals. He then shared some statistics. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, over 60 million babies have been killed in the womb in the United States. For every three children born, one child is aborted.

“The names of those 60 million children would fill the Veterans Memorial Wall over 1,400 times,” Bishop Foys said. “Where is the national outpouring of shock, of anger, for these slaughtered innocents in the womb?”

Referencing the Gospel reading from St. Luke, Bishop Foys said that the apostles were arguing over who would be first in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus called over a child, who in those times had no stature or standing or rights.

“Jesus told his apostles, unless you become like one of these — a precious child — you won’t even enter the kingdom of God,” Bishop Foys said. “Jesus held children in great esteem; not because they were smart or had any talent or special degrees or special heritage, but because they were innocent. They had not yet been corrupted by the values, or lack thereof, of the world. What do we do in our country? We legalize their death.”

The pandemic, Bishop Foys said, has offered a unique time for everyone to reflect and prioritize what and who is most important in life.

“Abortion of course has to be first,” he said. “How can we talk about priorities and what is most important if we snuff out life itself? That is why it must be our priority. God gives us life and God decides when to take it back. God is the creator.”

Bishop Foys said that the pandemic, itself, is another pro-life issue. People are being asked to do simple things — wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, not having non-essential meetings and groups and events, not traveling — in order to protect themselves and others — in order to protect life, most often the elderly and those with frail health.

“Being pro-life is more than just being against abortion, it is doing something positive to respect life at all its stages,” Bishop Foys said. “So we gather here, in this magnificent church, to pray for an end to the scourge of abortion, but also to pray for the courage to protect life at every stage of life, to do those things that protect the life of everyone. We pray that almighty God will have mercy on us and on all those who have led us to this dreadful time in our country, where for nearly a half century now, 60 million innocent lives have been snuffed out. If a life of a baby in his mother’s womb is not precious to us, then no life is.”

As Deanery Pastoral Council discuss annual plan, Bishop Foys encourages patience and unity

Laura Keener, Editor.

At the annual diocesan Deanery Pastoral Council convocation, Jan. 23, Bishop Roger Foys encouraged the Curia staff and DPC members to embrace the times we are living in and to strive for unity during this challenging year.

“These have been strange months, these last 11 months,” Bishop Foys said as he began to address the 143 attendees, 103 of whom were joining the meeting virtually. “I hear a lot about getting back to normal. Normal is relative. What we are doing here, this morning, is normal for a pandemic.”

The DPC convocation is held each year so that Curia directors can present their offices plan for the upcoming fiscal year, July 1, 2021 — June 30, 2022. Jamie Schroeder, chancellor, organizes and leads the convocation. She and diocesan directors were meeting in Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium while the rest of the Curia staff and DPC members logged in from home.

In her opening remarks Mrs. Schroeder reminded the DPC that while the Curia staff meets three times a year to discuss the annual plan, this convocation is, “the one meeting that we bring everyone together to discuss the plan … today’s meeting is truly a unique opportunity for the DPC to interact with the Curia staff.”

Sometime between Jan. 24 through March 21, each DPC member will meet with his or her Parish Council to discuss the diocesan annual plan and to gather feedback. Mrs. Schroeder acknowledged that with the ongoing COVID-19 protocols, meetings will be more of a challenge this year but that each parish’s feedback is needed and appreciated.

“Get in touch with your pastor and talk to him about the best way for you to communicate with your Parish Council and generate feedback,” she said.

Also before March 21, the dean of each deanery will meet with the DPC members in his deanery to gather each parish’s commentary. That feedback will be sent to the diocese in one document.

As diocesan staff and DPC members meet the challenges of this year, Bishop Foys encouraged them to live in the present moment and to take comfort and peace in those things which have not changed.

“We have to put ourselves in the times in which we live — to live in the present moment. If we keep trying to live the way things were before March 2020, we will get very frustrated and anxious and angry,” he said. “What we have to do now is what is normal for living during a pandemic — wearing a mask, safe distancing, washing hands, not gathering in groups — that’s all normal for now. And remembering that not everything has changed — our faith has not changed, God has not changed, the sacraments have not changed, the love we have for our friends and family has not changed.”

Bishop Foys said that he is often reminded of Pope Francis’ March 2020 comments about the pandemic. Addressing an empty piazza as Italy and most Europe was shuttered due to the pandemic, Pope Francis said, “This is not a punishment from God; but it is God telling us we have to live differently.”

“I keep going back to this because, I think it was a profound moment in the life of the Church and the life of this pandemic,” said Bishop Foys. “God is telling us we have to live differently. I believe that — I believe that with all my heart. God is telling us to live differently, not only spiritually but also practically.”

Bishop Foys also encouraged patience and wisdom as vaccinations against the coronavirus begin to be administered in the diocese, ushering in what is hoped to be the end of the pandemic.

“The pandemic is going to end eventually, but it’s not going to be a like a light switch going off,” he said. “Anyone who thinks the vaccine is a magic bullet, that I will be completely immune and I can do whatever I want once I’m vaccinated — that’s not what’s going to happen. We use the time we have now to do the best we can, certainly to protect our own lives but also the lives of those around us. The Holy Father also said, ‘This is a time when people need to come together and to emphasize the things that unite us not the things that divide us.’”

In his closing remarks, Bishop Foys thanked the Curia staff and DPC members for coming to gather virtually.

“It is only by working together that we can make a difference,” he said. “Remember Jesus’ prayer that all may be one. Jesus’ prayer was not for division or disunity or dissent but that all may be one.”

Prayer and penance for life to be celebrated locally

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

As 2021 opens and events continue to be canceled or postponed, the annual Day of Prayer and Penance for Life will continue to champion the pro-life cause. On Jan. 29, in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Covington will pray and offer acts of penance for an end to abortion. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one from the diocese will be traveling from the schools or parishes to Washington, but the diocese will still support the pro-life cause locally.

Now, more than ever, Bishop Roger Foys asks the faithful to set aside time for prayer and penance. There will be no holy hours this year; however, Bishop Foys will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. He asks for the faithful’s participation at the Mass, which will also be live-streamed and recorded on the cathedral website.

“The cause for life is no less important, but we want to be responsible with the protocols for COVID-19,” said Bishop Foys. He emphasized that keeping the established protocols is one way of being pro-life: “Certainly on this day we recall the horrific Supreme Court decision in 1973 of legalizing abortion, but also, life at all stages is important and the protocols have been issued as a way of protecting life also. We can’t take it any less seriously.”

New this year, diocesan schools will involve all students in the Day of Prayer and Penance by watching the Mass during school. While in the past, some students traveled and some remained behind, now all can be united in prayer simultaneously. Parents and others can also join by streaming Mass online. Additionally, anyone can watch it afterwards on the cathedral website.

One week prior to the March for Life, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. With the recent elections, the Democratic party has taken control of both the House and the Senate. For many in the pro-life movement the change in political leadership is unsettling as the stated Democratic platform seeks to protect and expand access to abortion.

Bishop Foys encourages those in the pro-life movement to persevere in their peaceful efforts to protect the unborn and to focus not only on changing laws but also on changing hearts and minds. Much of that work is done in schools, homes and the sidewalks outside of abortion of clinics.

“We have been fighting this fight for 48 years this year,” he said. “And in all that time, we still have not seen the Roe v. Wade decision overturned. No matter who is in office, we must be vigilant in our cause for life. No matter who is in office, we have to work no less seriously for the right to life in all its stages.”

Ultimately, he said, “… the life of an unborn child is not a political football. This is a life issue and a moral issue, not a political issue. It’s the difference between right and wrong. Abortion is morally wrong; to take anyone’s life is wrong, period.”

It is up to the individual, Bishop Foys emphasized, to act and speak from the heart for this issue. “What have we done in the last 48 years to change hearts and to change minds, by our own witness and our own example?” he said. “We continue the fight.”

Deacon Rielage looks forward to bringing others to Christ in his priesthood

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Joe Rielage had few inklings growing up that he would one day be a priest. As Deacon Rielage prepares for his ordination Jan. 29, he reflects on the fact that most of the significant events in his life involved priests from the Diocese of Covington.

“Even before I moved to the Diocese of Covington from Cincinnati, Ohio, there was such a connection between me and the presbyterate,” said Deacon Rielage. Before his parents met, his mother took a tour in Europe in the 1960s, led by a group of priests from the Diocese of Covington. Upon befriending several, Deacon Rielage’s mother asked one to officiate her wedding. His sister followed suit, and eventually his parents completed their legacy with funeral Masses celebrated by priests of the diocese as well.

Deacon Joseph Rielage“I feel like there’s a connection, this is where I need to be because all these events in my life … It feels natural for me to be here because I have such a close connection,” he said. After growing up in Cincinnati and attending Elder High School, he achieved a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Cincinnati, and eventually moved to Northern Kentucky while working at the CVG Airport.

Upon the passing of his father, Deacon Rielage began to more seriously consider the priesthood, and entered seminary in 2015.

“I felt like something was missing in my life and I prayed about it, and the thought of seminary came to mind again. I knew in my heart at that time that it was the right time to do it because of the signs I received, like the peacefulness and the fire that was burning inside of me, when I received the call on Pentecost Sunday of 2014,” he said.

Over the course of his time in seminary, Deacon Rielage has come to know and appreciate the value of serving others and being present with them. “It gives me comfort, but also enjoyment even in the hardest of situations, that I can be there to share sad times, to share good times with people, to bring comfort, to bring joy and hope as needed,” he said. “Although it’s not an easy time, it’s a fulfilling time that’s worthwhile. It gives me the energy and stamina to go forward, to be like Christ to other people, to be an example of Christ in the world.”

He has also enjoyed his summer assignments during seminary, particularly the last two summers at St. Henry Parish, Elsmere. The support from Father Gregory Bach and Carmelite Father Aby Thampi, he said, was unparalleled. “They made me feel welcome, they made me feel like I was a part of the presbyterate,” he said.

Deacon Rielage also credits Father Kevin Kahmann, pastor at Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, Erlanger during his pre-seminary days, with having an incredible influence on his decision to pursue priesthood. Father Kahmann will vest Deacon Rielage at the ordination.

What he’s most excited for, he said, is confecting the Eucharist and bringing Christ to people in the Mass on a daily basis. If he can help people along their journeys and bring them to Christ and their eternal reward, he’ll be happy.

He’s looking to two saints for assistance in this endeavor. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., was a porter in the monastery in the 16th century who is an example of humility. “He just did (his work) with such joy, such happiness, and to me that just shows that even in the most mundane tasks, you can find joy in serving other people,” said Deacon Rielage.

He’s also turning to Blessed Carlo Acutis as an example of Eucharistic devotion. “Especially in the time of the pandemic, I understand that people are not always comfortable coming to church,” said Deacon Rielage. “But we need to get young people to come back to church. Through his example of devotion to the Church, the Eucharist and the rosary, hopefully the young people can look upon him and get encouragement that God is the center and giver of all.”

Deacon Rielage was ordained to the transitional diaconate April 8, 2020 in an empty cathedral in Covington. His last year in seminary hasn’t gone as he anticipated due to COVID-19, but Deacon Rielage has made the most of it. Last spring when classes went virtual only, he realized in a new way that “anything can happen at any time.”

“We may have everything planned out in our minds, but God works in mysterious ways to make us realize that we’re not in control,” he said. “Going back in the fall, with the guidelines at the seminary, there was less time for fraternity with the other seminarians, but in a way that was full of grace because it was able to make me focus more on prayer time since there were no special events. I found myself praying more and it increased my love for God, and my peace and comfort.”

In prayer, Deacon Rielage has been sustained during the pandemic by Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.”

“We all get worn out, we all become so focused on the pandemic, and it’s exhausting on everyone, but at the same point, nothing is stronger than God. If we put our trust in God, he will give us the strength, the encouragement and the rest we need to continue.”

In his free time, Deacon Rielage enjoys traveling (when there isn’t a pandemic), taking walks, especially in nature, spending time with friends and family, reading and is hoping to take up photography. He has one older sister who will attend the ordination, with her family, his extended family and close friends.

Deacon Rielage will be ordained to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood Jan. 29, 2021 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, on what would have been his mother’s 85th birthday. He’s convinced it’s not a coincidence. He will then celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Henry Parish, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. Both events are by invitation only and will be live-streamed.