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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Where are we now? Where are we going?
 

A blessed New Year to all! As we move into 2009, I ask you to pray for the church and our diocese. The coming year is fraught with challenges and opportunities. As your bishop, I want to bring you up-to-date on some of the important issues facing our country, our church and our diocese.

• Our new president We celebrate this month the great progress in racial relations our nation has made in the inauguration of our new president. He will certainly need our prayers. “[T]here should be prayers offered for everyone … and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet” (I Timothy 2:1-2). In particular,  we pray that the government will not do harm.

• FOCA One grave danger we fear is the passage of any law like the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This Federal Legislation aims to eliminate all the state laws which have been enacted to limit the evil of abortion. Instead, abortions (even the vile infanticide of partial-birth abortion) would never be able to be banned. Please, make sure that your United States senator and representative know that this does not represent your views.

• HIV/AIDS The December issue of Ethics and Medics, published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center (www.ncbcenter.org), had two short articles on HIV/AIDS. Particularly, looking at the Philippines and at Africa, the authors point to studies that demonstrate abstinence and fidelity instruction have had a more profound effect on the reduction in the rate of transmission than has the distribution of condoms, which merely encourages promiscuity with false promises of “safe sex.” They noted that one columnist attacked Pope John Paul II for being a contributor to the spread of AIDS because of Catholic teaching; yet studies are now demonstrating the truth he preached. Still, the industry which promotes the sexual revolution and the profits to be made from it will continue to strike out at Catholic moral teachings.

• Safe Environment As we reported in FAITH’s last issue, audit report will be published next month, showing how well each diocese is implementing the Safe Environment programs to protect our children and vulnerable adults. The report will show that the Diocese of Lansing was compliant with 12 of the 13 articles. The 12th article mandates the training of any parish volunteer who works with young people. As of June 30, 2008, we had some significant lacks in that area, with 467 out of 4761 volunteers not being trained. However, as of December 1, 2008, all of these volunteers were trained except for a few who were no longer volunteering. We of this diocese have a right to be very proud of the fine work being done in all our parishes to provide a safe environment for our young people.

• The Economic Crisis I know that many of you are suffering through the difficult economic times we are all facing. Please be assured that you are in my prayers. I now ask for your prayers. We experienced a shortfall in last year’s DSA and are concerned about this year’s appeal. As a result, we are in the process of finding ways to cut the diocesan budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, by 10 percent or more. Sadly, this will involve lay-offs and/or reduction of hours for diocesan employees and a corresponding reduction in diocesan services. Please, pray for all those affected as we adjust to these challenges. And, as always, thanks for your generosity to the DSA and also to your local St. Vincent de Paul societies and food banks. Our brothers and sisters in need do rely upon all of us.

• Catholic Education January is Catholic Schools Month all across the country. We celebrate the fine work done by the dedicated educators in our Catholic schools, and we encourage parents to consider Catholic education for their children.  I know that Catholic school tuition can be a real challenge, so we are trying to create a plan to give parents some financial assistance.  Money issues should not prevent our sons and daughters from having access to our schools. We are looking at a number of options: Other dioceses have conducted major campaigns or encouraged tithing  to support parish schools at a higher level. We are also exploring means of conserving and sharing resources by consolidating some of our school programs. Clearly, we all have a responsibility to educate our youth in the faith and thus hand on what we ourselves received. Pray also for the success of this planning.

• Vocations We have made a real push for vocations, especially to the priesthood, and we of the Diocese of Lansing count ourselves very blessed with some fine young men in seminary training. Pray for their perseverance and joy.

I have now been your bishop for nine months. The priests, deacons, pastoral coordinators, consecrated men and women, lay ecclesial ministers, and all of you, my sisters and brothers, have been a real blessing. While the tasks to be done have been continuous, they have never seemed oppressive. I have had only one actual headache so far! Rather, these tasks have all been means to meet so many of you. As always, the greatest joy comes to me in celebrating the sacred Mass for you. As always, at the beginning of a New Year, I beg pardon for my sins and the hurt which I have caused anyone, and I give thanks to Almighty God for the graces he has given me through you.