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January 9, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 5






– Necrology


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The following letter from Bishop DiLorenzo was sent to all priests, deacons, campus ministers and parish staff regarding the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

As many of you know, in early December I spent a weekend in Waynesboro discussing the commitments and means for developing the LARCUM covenant with bishops from the Lutheran, Episcopal, and United Methodist churches.

Ecumenism has been changing in many ways since the LARCUM covenant was forged, but after a great deal of discussion among the bishops, ecumenical officers, and state committee members, a number of ways in which these different churches could demonstrate a unified witness was agreed upon. You will see some of these efforts as the year progresses.

In order to encourage all of you to assist me in meeting the obligations as a member of this agreement, I ask you to consider adding prayers during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to your liturgies that reflect our commitment to ecumenism and perhaps particularly the LARCUM covenant.

The week of prayer for Christian Unity falls between January 18 and January 25.

Ecumenism, when done properly, is an essential facet of being Catholic. As the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) notes, prayer for other Christians is an instrumental aspect of our movement toward unity along with solid honest dialogue.

The document states: “Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them.”

During the liturgies between January 18 and January 25 general prayers for hope for full visible unity are appropriate. Dr. Dominick Hankle, our Ecumenical Officer, has previously shared resources published by the Vatican that can be useful in planning these prayers and is available to assist you in any ecumenical efforts.

I trust all of you to help me fulfill our commitments to our LARCUM partners and pray that our Catholic witness to unity may be a beacon to all Christians to fulfill the prayer of Christ that “all may be one.” I thank you in advance as leaders of the faithful for all your efforts in this area.

With every best wish for God’s blessing on you in the New Year, I remain

Sincerely yours in Our Lord,

Francis X. DiLorenzo
Bishop of Richmond

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Adult faith formation seeks to help parents

Our Diocesan Christian Formation Staff read with interest the column by Mary Hood Hart entitled “Parents Often Feel Inadequate in Passing on the Faith” in the Dec. 26 issue.

We, too, have discovered that while many adults are committed to passing along their faith to their children, many feel ill-equipped to do so.

That is why our office is pleased to introduce some exciting new developments to help catechetical leaders bring adult faith formation programs to their parishes. Largely through the generous funding from the 2011 Annual Diocesan Appeal, we will now be able to subsidize the cost of programs and events for Adult Faith Formation.

  • Media Lending Library — will make resources more affordable and accessible

  • The Catholicism Project, Father Robert Barron — subsidized cost for materials

  • Adult Facilitation Workshops — develop facilitation skills & confidence for leading adult faith discussion groups

  • Adult Faith Formation Planning Guide — “The Gift” for developing relevant adult faith formation programs in your parish

These new opportunities to support parish adult faith formation resonate with the insight of Ms. Hart that while not fully knowledgeable about their faith, most parents have a “strong spirituality and are committed to passing along their faith to their children.”

With affordable and accessible Bible study programs, speakers and events for understanding what it means to be Catholic, parents can grow in their knowledge of their Catholic faith, strengthen their spirituality and pass it on to their children.

Providing each parish family with the Parent Pages of the new Diocesan Catechetical Curriculum for Pre-School — 8th Grade is another tool that helps parents identify the “holiness already present in their daily lives.”

These moments of holiness are opportunities to teach the faith to our children with Catholic prayers, Bible stories, and topics from the catechism that are appropriate for each age level.

We are excited to join efforts with parish catechetical leaders to engage all parish adults who desire to deepen their relationship with God and their community through meaningful adult faith formation and learning opportunities.

read the column »

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Former executioner against death penalty

My name is Jerry Givens and I’ve lived in Richmond my whole life — 59 years.

During a 17-year span I killed 62 men for the Department of Corrections. I never got any extra pay for doing it. I thought that it was the right thing to do.

I thought then that this was what these people deserve for the heinous crimes they committed. These guys went out and did something that caused them to lose their life.

We’d join hands (at the execution) and I would pray with them. And if they didn’t want to pray, when I shaved their head I put my palm on there and I prayed silently for them.

graphic: rules for sending letter to editorSome of them were hard. It made you get home and think about it. I made up my mind that if someone was innocent, then I wouldn’t want to be a part of that. So I asked myself and started praying over it and said, “God, if I killed an innocent person, forgive me.”

I look at it now and I can trace back where things started to go wrong in their lives. Instead of passing laws to increase the death penalty, why not put them toward schools, which is where these problems start? Then you can save money.

The death penalty is expensive. It takes millions to kill somebody. You can take 2-3 million dollars just to take a life, or you can take a half a million to save a life. What is more important?

The state of Virginia looks at death as a form of punishment. A lot of people look at it as revenge. But death is something that we all have to face. We should be more advanced about life because Jesus was executed and we’re still executing people today.

But you don’t have to kill them. You can let them die there in prison. The judge can even call the sentence “death in prison.”

The thing is the killing, that’s the thing. Virginia kills people. And who are we? The executioner.

I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I didn’t enjoy killing and I wouldn’t wish that burden on anybody.

I believe the death penalty is wrong and I support VADP (Virginians Against the Death Penalty) because they are working hard to end it in Virginia.

(Editor: Mr. Givens was the chief executioner of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1982 to 1999, during which he administered the death penalty.)

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Writer’s sarcasm noted by reader

While I can appreciate to some degree the sentiments of Peter O’Connor (Letters, Dec. 26 issue), clearly his sarcasm shows a lack of appreciation of the greater importance of this work (English translation of the Roman Missal).

Changing ‘thee to thou’ and ‘happy to glad’ is a gross characterization and simplification of what was accomplished. Correcting bad translations from the Latin carries with it meanings which were significantly different.

All of this builds a strong case for incorporating Latin for many parts of the Mass without resorting to the ‘full blown’ Latin Mass. Decades ago on those rare occasions when Catholic travelers visited different countries, everyone felt at home at Mass. It was truly universal.

Today international travel is commonplace and having a common language unique to The Church would make a lot of sense.

In terms of a better use of the money spent, that is a very Protestant view focusing on the value of ‘works’ while ignoring the supreme importance of the Sacred Mass, celebrated with the greatest of reverence, for the salvation of souls.

read the letter »

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Deathbed confessions need to be allowed

Both my parents, of advanced age, died in hospitals unconscious at best, in a coma at worst.

The “protocol” I am told, is to give patients enough drugs to make them “comfortable.” This comfort, however, seems to be more for the benefit of the patients’ visitors, usually family, and the staff who don’t have much to do for these patients. There is nothing illicit or illegal about this process, but it is fully immoral.

Death, the punishment due to Adam’s sin, is not meant to be easy — it is meant to be an agony, the final agony. Many recorded instances of people who finally confessed past sins on their deathbed — some have converted to the Faith — show that some of us need to be pushed into a corner before we will admit our sins.

There is nothing as joyous on earth or in Heaven as one sinner who repents.

Why do we as a society, especially Catholics, rob people of this last opportunity? It is reasonable to believe, like the good thief at Calvary, that for those who are truly sorry for their sins and accept the pains of death may well pay all the temporal punishment due to sin.

Conversely, those who have not made a good confession before they are drugged will have missed an opportunity, perhaps their last, to receive forgiveness and avoid the pains of hell.

We know that Purgatory is made up of saints, not quite purified enough to enter Heaven, but saints nonetheless. Purgation is not pleasant but it is temporary with the final goal already known.

Hell is final, no more choices, no more second chances; it is eternal.

With this knowledge, why would we allow our loved ones to pass into the next life unconscious and unable to receive the Last Rites of the Church?

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Retired parish worker grateful to others

With the retirement of Msgr. Thomas Shreve, I realized that many of the people who had opened the door to my ministry in the Diocese of Richmond were now part of the AARP generation.

As a lay person in this diocese for more than 40 years, I wanted to offer my gratitude to those people who guided me over the years and offered various ways to help me grow as a lay catechist and later as a parish staff member.

When I began as a lay catechist, Vatican II was in full swing and Father Tom Shreve was pastor at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. He and Sister Katherine Rowan (now deceased) opened the door to a new adventure for me that I will forever cherish.

I learned through a Master Catechist Program, through the wonderful Religious Education Conferences at the John Marshall (Hotel in Richmond) and with the help of the leadership of the Christian Education Ministry at the diocesan level. During my time at St. Bridget’s, I enjoyed watching the newly ordained Father Tom Miller, Father Fred Feusahrens, and Father Bill Carr begin their priestly ministry at St. Bridget’s.

A new parish, formed on the documents of Vatican II, was Church of the Epiphany and its pastor John Leonard hired me as a Pastoral Assistant...what a journey those 12 years were at this wonderful parish of people who truly understood the concept of “the presence of the Risen Christ was present in Word, Sacrament and the gathered community.”

John Leonard allowed me to grow and find my gifts. It was during this time, that I began to work and know some of the staff at the Diocesan Offices like John Barrett (I must say I was quite frightened of John.) He was a whiz with the figures, but he kept me on the right path - after a while, I realized he was a good man just intent on his job.

It was Joan Pardue who introduced many of us to the age of Computers and the Parish Data System. I don’t know that I ever learned it correctly. It was a great honor to serve on the board to review our policies on issues of salaries and benefits with Etta Shepherd who was so devoted to helping make sure we received good benefits.

Then I worked again with a new parish in the west end of Richmond at St. Michael Catholic Church. This parish also embraced the Vatican II documents and would open their hearts and arms to the needs of so many over the years.

There are others who helped me on this journey that have moved on or have gone to their heavenly rewards. I was grateful for my time with all the people who walked with me and taught me so much.

This year is my “year of gratitude” and these people not only served me, but so many others in this diocese and we owe them so much. No, I didn’t forget Bishop Sullivan — he was our leader. God bless each of you and enjoy the rest of your lives — you have earned that right.

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