Dear Fellow Parishioners:
I am writing this to summarize and bring you up-to-date on our parish’s response to the horrible clergy sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church. It has been going on now since at least 2002, and there seems to be no end in sight. Some are justly upset and angry over the ongoing revelations, and some are worn out, having lived with this for close to 16 years. It has been a long time and looks to be around a lot longer.
How do we at St. Austin respond to this crisis? Our Parish Pasto-ral Council has discussed this briefly at their retreat on September 8 and more fully at our recent PPC meeting on October 2. While we cannot change the structure of the Catholic Church, we do have ways that we can seek healing and promote justice. To list several of them, I wrote a letter to the parish that appeared online and in the bulletin. You can find it at www.staustin.org under NEWS at the bottom of the page. On the weekend of September 16, I issued a statement of concern about a Paulist priest that was stationed here in the past and personally announced that at each Mass. You can also find the statement on our website under NEWS. And we will continue to strive to be as open and forth-coming as we can be (respecting the rights of others) if we be-come aware of other situations.
We already had scheduled Fr. Steven Bell for a parish mission here on October 22-24. We subsequently asked him to emphasize healing and hope in his mission to help respond to this awful situ-ation. I hope you will be able to join us.
We joined with the University Catholic Center in the Bishop’s call to participate in a Mass of Reparation on Tues., Oct. 9. We thought it better for us to join together in solidarity, rather than duplicate smaller Masses. Some questioned the purpose of this, and many Catholics don’t fully understand the difference between penance (for doing something you did wrong) and reparation (an attempt to heal a wound caused by others). It is a spiritual solu-tion, which is necessary, but does not replace the need to remove from ministry anyone credibly accused of a crime like this, nor other appropriate actions to protect vulnerable adults and chil-dren.
We continue to encourage all parishioners to become EIM (Ethics and Integrity in Ministry) certified, while we REQUIRE all min-isters in the parish, both paid and volunteers, to do so. This pro-gram gives me the most hope for moving forward in a positive way, certainly in the Church, but also in society at large. We all need to know the signs of abuse and know how and to whom we should report our suspicions.
On October 2, at the Priest’s Convocation for the Diocese, we heard a very good presentation by an expert on the topic of sexual abuse. She gave the priests a context and framework to look at this by providing a historical overview and understanding of the developing approach to this problem and some context on its prevalence. We are scheduling the same presentation here for the benefit of our parishioners, after Fr. Steven Bell’s Mission. I will keep you posted on the date and time.
And of course, we continue to pray.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
This weekend’s readings are about men and women, marriage and divorce. Therefore, it seems appropriate to speak a little about marriage.
While the Catholic Church in this country has had many problems with sex, one of our unsung accomplishments has been marriage preparation programs. Almost every diocese in this country requires couples to go through some form of marriage prep before celebrating the sacrament of marriage. Many years ago when I was a new priest, young couples often were resistant to this requirement. They thought they were going to get lots of boring talks from celibate priests about the Sacrament of Marriage, talking about stuff they knew nothing about first-hand. But in fact these programs brought in many dedicated lay people, especially couples, who researched topics like budgeting, practical advice on dealing with in-laws, and generally were (and still are) pretty good. Soon word got around, and now, instead of being resistant to this requirement of marriage prep, young couples come looking for and asking for marriage prep. They have learned through word-of-mouth that it was actually useful and helpful. People are so busy these days that they appreciate the requirement to take time out of their busy schedules to focus on their relationship rather than work, the reception, bridesmaids’ dresses, or a thousand other details of preparing for a wedding. The wedding takes over, and the marriage gets little attention. These marriage prep programs play an important role and are now anticipated and desired. And that is a great success! But, they are a lot of work and require couples to present them and make them work.
Here at St. Austin and the University Catholic Center, we have a LOT of young people preparing for marriage. That is good. But what we don’t have are enough married couples willing and able to help present the marriage preparation programs. We need people – new couples, middle-aged couples, well-experienced couples, to help in this important and vital ministry.
Volunteers are needed for the biannual marriage prep program at the UCC. It is a weekend program and very good. We hope to get THREE couples to coordinate the event. Plus, we need couples or singles to help cook, set up, or give talks.
We also have a different marriage prep program operating out of St. Austin Church, the Couple-to-Couple program. A married couple meets privately with an engaged couple over a period of time. This usually works better than meeting for an entire Saturday. We need both a couple to serve as Coordinators of this program, as well as married couples to meet with engaged couples.
If you think you might be interested in helping in this important ministry, please contact either Deacon Billy Atkins, Fr. Rich Andre, Pat Lucksinger, or myself at the church office. Many thanks!
As we move into October, this coming week has several things going on. From noon on Mon., Oct. 1, through Thurs., Oct. 4, the priests of the Diocese of Austin will gather at the Marriott in Round Rock for the annual Priests’ Convocation. Ostensibly billed as an opportunity for continuing education, it also serves as a much-needed opportunity for the diocesan priests to relax and reconnect with each other. Spread out over the 26 counties that make up the Diocese of Austin, this is an important event for the priests to renew their friendships, and have time to relax with their brother priests. Frankly, I have not found the educational part all that worthwhile. But the Paulists do like to attend these types of events both to show our commitment to the Diocese, and to support our brother diocesan priests. This year the convocation will start early for an open discussion with the Bishop about the impact of the current clergy sexual abuse scandal. A trained and gifted facilitator will be on hand to shape the discussion and encourage open participation. Please keep the priests of the Diocese in your prayers this week, especially on Monday when this discussion about clergy sexual abuse is scheduled.
Tuesday is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. I know I give my guardian angel quite a workout. Guardian angels are an imaginative representation of God’s individual and particular care for each one of us. So be sure to thank your guardian angel on Tuesday.
Thursday is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. I don’t know of any Franciscans in our immediate neighborhood, but if you do come across a Franciscan this week, be sure to wish them a happy St. Francis Day. St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology and concern for creation. It would be a most fitting time to review Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. It is available on the Vatican website at www.vatican.va.
Finally, this past weekend Paulist Fr. Dat Tran was with us to preach at all Masses. He is the Paulist Director of Vocations, and he spoke, of course, on vocations. If we hope that the Paulists will remain at St Austin’s, the University Catholic Center, and St. Paul the Apostle parish in Horseshoe Bay, then we need vocations to Paulist priesthood. If you know of someone who would make a good Paulist priest, I encourage you to pray for that person and then to ask them if they have ever considered priesthood. An invitation from someone who thinks you would make a good priest, and a Paulist to boot, is very powerful. All of us are responsible for fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.