VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1, SPRING 2014
PUBLISHED BY THE REDEMPTORISTS
‘God has given a gift to the Church’ In this issue v Four Redemptorists are ordained to the priesthood
Mission to Cuba: a Church that does not forget v Confreres respond to disaster in the Philippines v Vocation voice: why one young man entered seminary v
Dear friends: The Redemptorists are called to serve the most abandoned, especially the poor. That is our particular charism, but it is one I believe all Christians share. A perfect example of this is the recent call from Pope Francis, asking all bishops, priests, religious, and, in fact, all Catholics to reach out to the poor and unchurched, to youth and young adults, and to our brothers and sisters who have fallen away from the faith. This year we, the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, are blessed to have five young men ordained to the priesthood. This is truly a great blessing. On
Plentiful Redemption © 2014 Plentiful Redemption is distributed quarterly to friends and collaborators of the Redemptorists. We aim to tell the story of God’s bountiful love and inspire our readers to partner with us to continue spreading the Good News to all people, especially the poor and most spiritually abandoned. Redemptorist Office for Mission Advancement 107 Duke of Gloucester Street Annapolis, MD 21401-2526 Toll free: 877-876-7662 redemptorists.net Editor: Mary C. Weaver email@example.com
Executive Director: James C. Link firstname.lastname@example.org
February 15, 2014, four Vietnamese confreres received the sacrament of ordination. (See the story on page 6.) Two of these young men will serve the Church here in the United States. The other two will return to Vietnam to teach in a Redemptorist seminary to form future priests and religious for the Church in Vietnam. In May 2014 another confrere will be ordained to the priesthood. Please keep all of them in your prayers. In addition, we Redemptorists have decided to begin an outreach to help the Church in the southeastern United States. This is an area where there are few priests but many poor Spanish-speaking Catholics. We have already begun a dialogue with several local bishops and hope to assign three Redemptorist priests
to help in this region by 2015. We want all of you, our dear friends, to know that we are most grateful for the help you give us through your daily prayers and financial support. Each of us serves in our own way. Please know it would be impossible to do this apostolic work without your help. Thank you for your kindness, goodness, generosity, and love. May the Lord bless each and every one of you abundantly! Sincerely in Christ,
Father Kevin Moley, C.Ss.R. Provincial Superior
Fire and ice By Rev. Richard Bennett, C.Ss.R.
I was fascinated. These elements—water and flame—don’t belong together, I thought. It was like seeing a fireplace in the middle of an active fountain. I was visiting one of the famous old New Orleans watering holes where the Civil War drink known as “the hurricane” traces its origin, and the fountain’s combination of colored lights, water, and fire all created a magnificently meditative glow in the late summer evening. One day my phone rang, and a young man named Brian wanted to talk with me. I agreed to take the train from New York City and meet with him in Washington, D.C. He was coming directly from work and met me in the food court of one of the many government buildings in our nation’s capital. Before me was a 36-year-old man who was well-dressed and certainly seemed well-educated and professional. He had told me over the phone that he was exploring the possibility of priesthood and/or religious life. That afternoon he spoke passionately about his recur-
ring desire to examine whether God was calling him to serve Him and His church as an ordained Redemptorist. Brian Vaccaro Part of my ministry as a vocation director is to accompany the vocation candidate and be a resource for him, to encourage and support him, and learn as much as I can about him and his background so as to best direct him along the path of discernment. In the course of our conversation, Brian told me that after graduating from college he had gone to work for the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). His role was to make sure that the agency and its officers were following proper legislative and administrative procedures. In that way, he helped safeguard the integrity of the federal department and protect the human dignity of the immigrant population with whom they worked. As Brian shared some of the things that plucked at his heart and drew him more deeply into his faith, I too was See Fire and ice on page 12
ADVANCING THE MISSION
ent is an important time of preparation for Christians—a season of second chances for sinners like us. As winter darkness gives way to springtime brilliance, we’re drawn by the Son’s warmth. Inclining our hearts to the Lord, we seek to be transformed by God’s love and mercy. The Church teaches that sacrifice, repentance, and conversion lead to rebirth. Scripture calls us to renew our faith through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Exemplified by Our Lord, these acts lead to true happiness. By performing them, we grow in strength and holiness. The Lenten practice of giving alms enables us to fulfill God’s command to serve the less fortunate while unburdening ourselves of unhealthy attachments. Like the rich young man in Matthew’s Gospel, we’re invited to sell what we have, give to the poor, and follow Christ unreservedly. Sadly, the rich young man was possessed by his possessions. His desire for security prevented him from giving his heart to God. How often have we made the same mistake— placing greater value on comfort and convenience than on Christ? And how often must we “go away sad” because we lack the courage to believe Jesus when He said that freedom comes from giving rather than grasping? Unlike the rich young man who finds little happiness in power, prestige, and possessions, Redemptorists are exceedingly joyful. Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps it’s because they take Christ at His word and empty themselves to follow Him. Brilliant, winsome men, they could have pursued worldly success and enjoyed comfortable lives. Instead they surrendered everything to Christ. Leaving family and friends, they also abandoned any dreams they had, save one—offering their complete and total selves to the Lord. Unfettered, they conform their wills to God’s. The result? True freedom, converted hearts, unbridled joy, eternal salvation. This Lent, let’s try to follow their example of unselfish service. Please consider supporting the ministry of these holy men—who joyfully serve Christ in the poor and abandoned. Thanks to your generosity, a young woman will attend Catholic school in the South Bronx. A homeless man in Boston will be invited in from the cold. Migrant workers will learn how to speak English in the Hudson Valley. Refugees in Brooklyn will become American citizens. A hungry family in Appalachia will enjoy a home-cooked meal. An elderly Cuban will be comforted as she passes from this life to the next. A single mother who lost her home to typhoon Haiyan will be sheltered. Thanks to your generous support, thousands will experience the love of God. Giving alms improves the lives of the poor and abandoned. It also sanctifies those who give. Wishing you a Lenten journey rich with prayer and penitence.
James C. Link Executive Director
Spring 2014 3
A Church that does not forget Missions to rural Cuba feed the people’s ‘hunger for God’ Over the 15 years Father Ruskin Pi edra, C.Ss.R., has been making regular visits to rural Cuba, he’s seen hunger, the sufferings of sick people whom the government ignores, and steadily declining supplies of food, clothing, and medicine. But he’s also seen great courage, deep faith, and signs of hope. Father Piedra, now 80, is an associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Brooklyn and the founder and director of the Juan Neumann Center, which helps immigrants and asylum seekers with low and no-cost legal services. One of 11 children of Cuban-born parents, Father Piedra says he’s following in the footsteps of his mother, “who lived to be 96 and did not give up.” He makes mission trips to the rural town of Martí, Cuba, because close friends invited him and “because it’s so absolutely poor and desolate.” During his most recent trip, from November 15 through 20, 2013, he was accompanied by his cousin William Piedra, co-missioner Rosario Bergouignan, and immigration lawyer Neil Bernstein. “Life in Cuba is hand-to-mouth, and every year it’s gotten a little worse as the supply of food, clothing, and other essentials has lessened,” he said. “The people beg us to please send them a coat or a blanket. They are so very poor. “I remember a girl who came to the mission one year, wearing the same clothes every day, and when I inquired how come she didn’t change, she said she had no other clothes. So we immediately got her sets of clothes. That’s how it is down there.” When people do have the money to buy food, they may not be able to find it. “The scarcity is incredible,” he said, and shoppers might have to go to four different stores to get five items. Visiting sick and bedridden people is 4 Plentiful Redemption
William Piedra (4)
By Mary C. Weaver
A home visit helps sick and lonely people realize they haven’t been forgotten.
a major focus of Father Piedra’s visits. Health care is available for those who live in Cuba’s cities, he said, but people in remote rural areas can wait years for treatment. “A professor we visit every year was very highly respected in the government, but once he got sick, they had no use for him. They terminated him, and I wish you could see him now: it would bring tears to your eyes. “I never lived under communism, but I’m beginning to taste the truth of it,” he said. “The state is the important element, not the human being. “We try to communicate the presence of a Church that cares for them, that loves them, that will extend a hand to them, that does not forget them—which is what they’re feeling.” Because Father Piedra isn’t responsible for the ongoing care of a parish, he can visit many sick people during his trips. Those he visits have been eagerly anticipating him, he said, “and all of them light up.” “In the scheme of things, it’s a drop in the ocean,” he said. “But it’s a nice drop.” About four times a year Father Piedra sends supplies such as medication, vita-
mins, and children’s vitamins. Even the smallest things make a big difference. He tells of being with a friend who was repeatedly wringing her hands, and when he asked what was going on, she said her hands were hurting from arthritis. “I said, ‘Couldn’t you get some Tylenol?’ She told me there is none. Can you believe that? So they’re very happy when we can send them supplies.” The children are ecstatic when they receive gifts as simple as a notebook and crayons, he said. “They’re so grateful that they have something to color with.” Parish missions in Cuba are a little different from those in the States, which would have “all kinds of bells and whistles and religious processions and so on.” The parishioners are “very, very simple people,” said Father Piedra, and the core elements of the mission are the rosary, Mass, preaching on the theme of the day, and confessions, as well as a children’s mission. “Very few people come to begin with because of fear. They’ve been educated that there is nothing to believe in, so their faith level is way, way down. “We really are dealing with a mission situation in a country that has known
Adriano directed an underground church choir for decades because officials wouldn’t allow them to rehearse openly.
The rural town of Martí, Cuba, is “absolutely poor and desolate,” with severe shortages of food and material goods.
very little of Christ.” Most people have been baptized, he said, “but they don’t know what that means.” Under communism, those who profess their faith could lose their jobs or be blackballed. People feel they need to watch what they say, lest informers be taking note of their comments. Despite these extreme challenges, Father Piedra sees concrete signs of hope. One is the creation of a dining room for the elderly. “Many more are being fed, and many more are being Thanks to a new dining room for the elderly, many fed better,” he said. Elderly people now more people are being fed. have food two or three times a week, with food to take home and make two or they’re so separated from the mainthree more meals during the week. stream that he could do that and get And the people show “a hunger for away with it. Well, the church was full.” God, a hunger to learn more about the The boy, Nestor Morales, has now faith.” entered the seminary in Havana. When he first began his trips, he said, “He went to the Dominican Fathers there was a 7-year-old boy who told his because we weren’t a strong enough school principal he wanted to make an presence to get him for the Redemptorannouncement over the megaphone. ists,” Father Piedra said, laughing. “He told all the kids, ‘We want you in Every year, he said, “I’m just so church at 4 o’clock for the mission.’ amazed at the beautiful faith of the “This was a communist school, but people.”
As an example, he told the story of an elderly friend, Adriano, who had started the church choir in 1959 and then had to take it underground because they weren’t allowed to practice. On a visit to Adriano, he noticed that the man’s hands trembled, and he thought perhaps his friend had developed Alzheimer’s disease. His daughter quietly told Father Piedra that her father’s hands trembled on account of hunger. “I’m amazed at a man like that, with such beautiful faith, who is still in the Church. You might think he would have given up. No. “It’s people like that who give me hope. Their faith is so strong. So as we missionaries are wont to say, we get more than we give. “That certainly is true for me when I visit these people.” v Read more about Father Piedra’s latest mission trip online at bit.ly/ cuba-mission.
Spring 2014 5
During the litany of the saints, all pray for those about to be ordained while they lie prostrate.
‘A gift to the Church’ Four new Redemptorist priests will ‘lift up Jesus’ to the world By Mary C. Weaver
Four Redemptorists were ordained to the priesthood on February 15 in a two-and-a-half-hour Mass at Boston’s Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indi anapolis—himself a Redemptorist—was the celebrant, joined by nearly 60 priests and a packed church of about a thousand of the faithful. The new priests are Fathers Joseph Thang Nhat Nguyen, 32; Francis Xavier Quang Van Tran, 33; Peter Linh Ba Quoc Nguyen, 35; and Joseph Hung Duc Tran, 36, all of Vietnam. 6 Plentiful Redemption
In July Fathers Hung and Linh will take assignments with the Redemptorists in the eastern United States after some further study. Fathers Quang and Thang are continuing their studies in philosophy and theology at Boston College and in two years will return to Vietnam to assist the Redemptorists there. “I wanted to steal all four of them,” said Provincial Superior Father Kevin Moley in remarks near the end of Mass. “But the Province of Vietnam gave us two for our province, and I’m sure they’re going to give us many more,” he said, generating chuckles
from the congregation. Father Moley recalled the first time he met the four brand-new priests, saying, “The first thing I noticed about them was that they were cheerful. They were joyful. “They were devotional. They were spiritual men. They were simple, they were affectionate, they were reverent to the elderly, and they had great respect for authority.” Father Moley added that according to a certain psychiatrist, anyone who wants to feel all right in life needs four hugs a day. To be “really well,” he said, you
Near the end of Mass, the newly ordained priests give their first blessing to Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
need eight. “And to be really, really well, you need 16 hugs a day.” The new priests, he said, “have gotten enough for a whole week at this Mass.” Father Moley said that in order to understand why these young men are so outstanding, “all you have to do is look at their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their relatives.” Hundreds of family members were in attendance, many of whom traveled from Vietnam. After Mass, those who wanted blessings from the new priests formed lines stretching to the back of the church. Archbishop Tobin, a former Superior General, began his homily for the Mass by telling two stories that highlight the importance of the Redemptorist charism. The first, he said, happened many times during his visits to Redemptorist communities in 70 of the 78 countries where the confreres serve. Often he’d also visit the local bishop,
The new priests are (from left) Fathers Joseph Thang Nhat Nguyen, Francis Xa vier Quang Van Tran, Peter Linh Ba Quoc Nguyen, and Joseph Hung Duc Tran.
and it wasn’t unusual for the ordinary to tell him, “Father Joe, your brothers are no problem. They behave very well. In fact, if I do not think about it, they are like my diocesan priests. I cannot tell the difference.” That may be good for a bishop, he said, but “it’s not always good news for a Superior General.” The second story took place in Cuenca, Spain, at St. Philip Neri Church. As Archbishop Tobin explained, the Redemptorists no longer have a community in Cuenca, but they once did. In fact, five Redemptorist priests and one brother who served in Cuenca were martyred for the faith during the Spanish Civil War and beatified last October 13. He and the priests and brothers in Spain with him decided not to tell the pastor who they were because “he would feel obliged to have a big welcome, and he might feel a little insulted that we didn’t tell him we were coming.” The pastor told his visitors, “If you
want to understand this church, you must know that years ago there was a community here famous for holiness. Some of them shed their blood for holiness.” “He pointed to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and he said, ‘That is the sign of those priests.’ We could not help crying, thinking that without the knowledge that we were Redemptorists, this priest remembered us for that.” Redemptorists don’t seek to be different for the sake of being different, “like teenagers who insist on looking or acting different so they might be recognized as someone special,” said Archbishop Tobin. But everyone in the Church has a gift that must be given for the good of the Church, he said. “And in the charism of our congregation, God has given a gift to the Church—a gift that my fellow brothers will live in the priesthood they receive today.” St. Paul presents the problem of the Spring 2014 7
For the first time the ordinands celebrate as priests at the eucharistic table.
Through the laying on of hands, Archbishop Tobin ordains Peter Linh, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit.
Father Phil Cabasino, age 93, the third-oldest member of the Province, blesses the newly ordained men.
Church in every age, the archbishop said, in the letter to the Romans:
their lives. To lift up Jesus so that He may attract all people to Himself. “In doing so, we are willing to lose our lives, like those six Redemptorists in Cuenca, like so many who have suffered in Vietnam, to be witnesses that in losing our life, we find it,” he said. Wherever they minister, through their witness, Fathers Hung, Linh, Quang, and Thang will “help the Church lose her life in order to find it.” “Through their devotion to the abandoned and the poor, whom Jesus Himself made the preferential audience for the Good News, our four brothers go
But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Romans 10:14) “Redemptorists in every age have been given to the Church to preach Jesus Christ, to lift Him up by their words, through their celebration of the sacraments, and by the witness of 8 Plentiful Redemption
forth today under the special protection of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, whom all Redemptorists look to as our mother and our model in faith.” v Visit our website at redemptorists.net/ boston.cfm to view a slide show from the ordination, listen to or download Archbishop Tobin’s homily, and view video of the entire Mass. To learn more about these newly ordained Redemptorists, watch for the summer issue of Plentiful Redemption.
Grace in the midst of tragedy When typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, the Redemptorists became first responders
Spring 2014 9
© IOM 2013; Joe Lowry
Every Redemptorist missionary is a hero. But sometimes the mission calls for extraheroic efforts. That’s what happened in the Philippines when super typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) struck on November 8. Father Edwin Bacaltos, C.Ss.R., pastor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church in hard-hit Tacloban City, spent the day after the disaster blessing hundreds of the dead whose bodies lay strewn among the debris. In interviews with CNN, Father Bacaltos said the task was emotionally shattering. “I broke down because of all the suffering I had seen,” he said. Tacloban City bore the worst of the typhoon, largely because of storm surges three stories high and 195-mile-per-hour Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, greets parishioners following Mass on February 6 at the Redemptorist parish of Our Mother of winds. An estimated 10,000 people were Perpetual Help in Tacloban. The Redemptorist church was home to thousands of survivors for feared dead in the city of 200,000. weeks after super typhoon Haiyan hit on November 8. Compounding the people’s suffering was the national government’s slow response and red tape. So Redemptorists in Tacloban, Cebu, and Ilongos went to work, immediately reaching out to those in greatest need. About 2,000 survivors were given refuge in OMPH Church, which had withstood the storm intact. For months it became a temporary home and hospital for the displaced and grieving. It was even the birthplace of an infant girl, whose mother, Lourdes Hermilda, went into labor on November 8 and found the local hospital closed. The baby girl’s name? Yolanda. To meet the survivors’ needs, Redemptorists in the region themselves drove trucks packed with relief goods, medicine, and water. “They were armed by their sotanas [cassocks], holy rosary beads, and prayers, An injured woman and her child found safety at OMPH after the typhoon. and they reached Tacloban unmolested and unharmed,” said Father Ariel Lubi, C.Ss.R., Archbishop Kurtz, the ordinary of Louisville and president Vice Provincial of the Manila Vice Province, in an interview of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, visited the Philipwith the Manila Standard Today. pines with a Catholic Relief Services delegation from February Now, months after the disaster, survivors have moved out of 2 through 7. OMPH, and many are participating in a cash-for-work program “When we got to Leyte, there was destruction all around—beto provide them income—about 500 pesos per day—as well as ginning with the airport itself. The terminal was without walls, stimulate the local economy and advance the cleanup operation. and the roof was only partly repaired,” said Archbishop Kurtz. Through this program, citizens are removing rubble and “No structure was spared. I was told that Tacloban had been helping to build shelters, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in a very clean city before the typhoon. Now it was strewn with an interview with Plentiful Redemption. debris.”
By Mary C. Weaver
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Most churches, with the exception of OMPH, were also devastated by the storm. The roof of the newly restored Transfiguration of Our Lord Cathedral in Palo had been torn off, the archbishop said, and he “celebrated Mass in Santo Niño Church in Tacloban with rain pouring into the main aisles.” He celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. February 6 in OMPH Church with “a standing-room-only crowd of the faithful—more than 1,000 people.” Clearly, the church continues to be a center of the people’s lives. Despite the devastation the Filipino people have endured, he said, they are “resilient and hopeful.” “Faith is obviously the engine for the hope of the people,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “The priests with whom we spoke asked for help with the rebuilding of churches and made a point that the return to normalcy is tied to the ability of the faithful to worship God and celebrate the Holy Eucharist.” Archbishop Kurtz said he was “very impressed” by the unselfish spirit and the serenity of Father Bacaltos, who for the past several months “has been the source of spiritual and material help for thousands.” The rebuilding effort will continue for years, with help from the Redemptorists, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, Oxfam International, and numerous other aid agencies. U.S. Catholics should know, said Archbishop Kurtz, “the 10 Plentiful Redemption
In mid-December young girls from Tacloban stand in front of the debris and damage left by the typhoon.
Children in Candahug—now called “the village of widows”—wait for their serving of congee, a kind of rice porridge.
gratitude of the Filipino faithful for their generosity, of the good stewardship of funds so that the most vulnerable are being helped, and of the great unity within the Church as we reach out as true partners in the work of rebuilding.” “Most importantly, we need to learn from the deep faith and trust in God that is a heritage of the people of the Philippines and the grace that abounds, even in the midst of tragedy.” v
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Touching lives with the Gospel message Fire and ice continued from page 2
moved. He told me how he used to volunteer at a food pantry, and although that was good work, he said, “It left me a little unfulfilled. We delivered food to people’s houses, and they said ‘thank you,’ but that was the extent of it. I was looking for something more meaningful.” Brian also worked as a volunteer delivering furniture for needy individuals and families. He was often disturbed when he visited homes or apartments that were sectioned off with bedsheets for multifamily use. “I never knew people lived like this,” he told me. “It was a real eye opener.” This was good ministry too, but it still left him a little flat. There must be, should be something more. Brian liked the direct-service aspect the soup kitchen allowed and where he had more of an opportunity to converse with the folks who came in seeking food and shelter. One day he was supposed to meet a friend at a U-Haul rental center. Once he pulled into the parking lot, his car was surrounded by a plenitude of undocumented day workers. He had seen them
there and in other parking lots from sun up to sun down, hoping someone would have work for them that day. Brian had worked with another volunteer group that gave out coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and sweatshirts to those men who stood waiting for work in the frigid cold. Brian learned that even if someone hired them for the day, they worked outside more than half of the time. So the clothing was practical. Yet again, as in the Gospels, Brian’s heart was “moved with pity.” Although we help people by meeting their physical needs, there must be more we can do. From his work with ICE and listening to people’s experiences when he volunteered, Brian knew they were very often exploited by others yet were fearful of reporting anything because that might make matters worse, given their lack of legal status. Brian quickly recognized that these immigrants needed so much more: job training, interview skills, seminars in basic financial management, parenting skills, English language and grammar courses, and academic opportunities for higher education and a better life
for their families. Brian told me, “Folks didn’t have some of the most basic things and opportunities that I took for granted every day.” Now as a Catholic seminarian for the Redemptorists, Brian will have much more contact with the immigrant population than ever before. Last December, Pope Francis sent Christmas gifts to 2,000 immigrants living in a shelter near the Vatican. The packages, containing prepaid international calling cards, stamps, and a metro pass, were a thoughtful gift for people who may be estranged from their families and lack the means to connect with them. Being an effective religious today means touching people’s lives with the Gospel message in a practical, incarnational way. Making the Gospel come alive is part of the New Evangelization. I always assumed that fire and ice were polar opposites that could never mix. But now, having come to know the tremendous compassion and commitment of Brian’s heart, I’m not so sure! v Father Bennett is vocation director for the Baltimore Province.