A Word From Rev. Msgr. Richard Hanneke


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dear Friends,

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family that began in Rome October 5  has received some recent media coverage generating quite a bit of comment, concern, delight and confusion. An Associated Press headline read, “Report Seen as Seismic Shift in Vatican Thinking.” Another declared in a statement, “an earthquake, the big one that hit after months of smaller tremors.” Still others say this is the “silliest document ever issued by the Catholic Church.” What are we supposed to do or think?

First of all, go slowly. The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is not an official teaching of the Church. It is the first step in raising issues facing people today and, in this case, the many challenges facing families throughout the world. The purpose of the Synod is to address those issues, themes and trends prevalent in our world. All of this work then goes into study and debate over the next year, and an Ordinary Synod is convened in October 2015. A report is given to the Pope, and eventually the Pope will issue an exhortation that sums up all of this work offering a definitive teaching. So let’s go slowly. We have a long way to go.

Pope Francis, in opening the Synod, encouraged all of the participating bishops to speak openly, frankly and fearlessly.  This is the first step in affirming the goodness of God in all of humanity. Obviously, it also raises issues that are confusing and maybe even messy. He is asking that all trust in the power, presence and patience of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the work that lies ahead. Maybe we can do the same.

The link to Vatican News Service where the whole mid-term report can be read is www.news.va/en/news/synodon-family-midterm-report-presented-2015-synod. It is worth reading as it outlines the scope of this Extraordinary Synod.

Please keep the upcoming Day of Service on Saturday, October 25 in your prayers. We pray that all those served and those serving see the face of Christ in one another, that each finds the joy of Jesus’ love in serving another, and that someone’s life be made a little bit easier. Praise God for your generous response.


Msgr. REH

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My dear friends in Christ:
The following is a letter written by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. and well worth passing on:

Pope Francis has captivated the world with his humility, warmth and compassion for each person. Vivid accounts of his tenderness for “the least of these”—the elderly, the imprisoned, those with disfiguring disabilities, the unborn and many more—seize our attention. Why? At the heart of each of these interactions is a truth which resonates in our hearts, revealing to us something essential to understanding ourselves and our purpose. We are loved.

In his 2013 Day for Life Greeting, Pope Francis conveyed that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” We see Pope Francis living out the truth of these words in his actions. We want to be part of a society that makes affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. Yet to women faced with an unexpected pregnancy, abortion is often presented as their only “choice.” A large percentage of children pre-diagnosed as having Down syndrome are never given the chance to live outside their mothers’ wombs. Elderly members of our families fear they will become burdensome and seek physician-assisted suicide. We see these and many more of our brothers and sisters pushed to the periphery. These tragedies go directly against respect for life, and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. Rather than societies of “people living together,” our cities risk becoming societies of people who are marginalized, uprooted and oppressed.

What can be done to prevent this? We must draw close to Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments. We must ask the Lord for the grace to see ourselves and others as he sees us—as masterpieces of his creation. When God created each of us, he did so with precision and purpose, and he looks on each of us with love that cannot be outdone in intensity or tenderness. We must look at ourselves and at others in light of this truth and treat all people with the reverence and respect which is due. The Church’s antidote to an individualism which threatens the respect for human dignity is community and solidarity. Are we moved by the suffering of those without shelter? Do we seek to alleviate the fear, confusion and panic that women facing unexpected pregnancies may be experiencing? Do our hearts ache for elderly patients in nursing homes who feel abandoned and unwanted, having no one to visit them?

Our mission is to show each person the love of Christ. As uniquely created individuals, we each have unique gifts which we are called to use to share Christ’s love. We are continually given opportunities to do so in our interactions with the cashier at the grocery store, our spouses, children, friends and even the people we encounter in traffic. Each of these moments is valuable beyond our realization. We may never know how much a simple gesture of compassion may affect someone’s life.

As the 2014 Respect Life Month begins, let us take a moment to reflect on  the theme, “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation,” and how this truth affects both our understanding of ourselves and others and the way we live. www.usccb.org/respectlife. Although we set aside October to particularly pray for respect for all human life, let us never cease this urgent work. I’m grateful to the many parishes and schools nationwide which participate in the program during October, Respect Life Month, and throughout the year. Love and justice must motivate each of us to work for a transformation of our own hearts so that we can transform the world around us. This is the message of Pope Francis. May the Risen Lord put the Gospel of joy in our hearts so that we may bear witness to the greatest love story ever told. www.usccb.org/respectlife.