Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Centennial of Birth of Blessed Albert Marvelli

Centennial of the Birth
of Blessed Albert Marvelli

Member of the Salesian Youth Center at Rimini

by Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, SDB,
Postulator General of the Causes of Saints of the Salesian Family

(ANS – Rome – March 19) Blessed Albert Marvelli, exemplary Salesian past pupil, was born on March 21, 1918, in Ferrara, Italy. 100 years have passed, and many in the world know his life and his educational, charitable, social, and political commitments.

As a member of the Salesian youth center in Rimini, he followed the example of Dominic Savio and matured in his faith by making a decisive choice: “My program is summed up in one word: saint.” In just 28 years he achieved a “full measure” of life by spending himself totally in love of God and neighbor.

When his life was tragically interrupted [by a traffic accident] on October 5, 1946, many believed they had lost him forever and that his commitment, support, and example would be lost.

But saints have a “posthumous” life. Today, more than ever, Albert is alive and active: the good he has worked upon the earth has expanded in time and space. His exemplary holiness has become a model for laity committed in works across the globe, in search of Christian identity and of lives consistent with their faith. He opened a new road, which can be traveled by everyone. The diffusion of his witness in the world, the many young people who have taken him as a model, are the sure signs that he remains a living and working person among us all.

Celebrating his centennial, in this special year that the Church is dedicating to young people with the Synod of Bishops, means not just commemorating, but acknowledging this presence, as St. John Paul II indicated on the day of his beatification, September 5, 2004: “It is up to you lay persons to bear witness to faith through the virtues specific to you: fidelity and tenderness in the family, competence in work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in undertaking works useful for evangelization and human promotion. It is up to you to show – in close communion with your pastors – that the Gospel is current, contemporary, and that faith does not take believers away from history, but immerses them more profoundly in history.”

Homily for Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent

Homily for Tuesday
5th Week of Lent

March 20, 2018
John 8: 21-31

I actually wrote out this homily for our little daily Mass at DBCR but didn’t get to deliver it because an accident on New Hampshire Ave. caused a traffic delay, and I couldn’t get to school in time.  So I post a current homily, for a change, but one that wasn’t actually used.

I don’t know about you, but I usually find John a lot more of a challenge to grasp than Matthew, Mark, or Luke.

Jesus’ opponents among the Jewish leadership don’t grasp the story either.  He tells the Pharisees he’s going away (8:21), meaning that he’s going to the Father (13:1).  They’ve refused to believe that he came from the Father (8:18,26), speaks the Father’s message (8:26,28), does the Father’s will (5:30; 8:29), leads all who are willing to the Father (14:4-6).  So his opponents are doomed:  “You will die in your sin” (8:21,24)—not because God isn’t merciful but because they can’t see and don’t want to see who Jesus is (9:41), can’t see and don’t want to see beyond “this world” that they belong to (8:23).

When they ask, “Who are you?” (8:25), they don’t do so honestly, seeking truth—any more than Pilate will be interested in truth (18:38).  That, of course, is a test for us:  do we really care who Jesus is?  Do we behold him “lifted up” (8:28) and recognize the one who came from the Father and is now exalted with the Father (cf. 12:28; 13:31-32; 17:1)?  Will we try to imitate him in doing only what we hear from the Father (8:26)?  Will we let him lead us to the Father?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fr. Rossano Sala Advocates for Church Attentive to Youth

Fr. Rossano Sala Advocates for a Church Attentive to the YoungFeatured

(ANS – Madrid – March 13) - The School of Theology of Salamanca, Spain, celebrated the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas with a Mass presided over by Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila and an address by Fr. Rossano Sala, SDB, special secretary of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Fr. Sala’s topic was “Youth of the Church and hopes of the young: what can we expect from the next synod?”

Fr. Sala presented his conference “starting from the Church’s commitment to collaborating toward the joy of the young, rather than trying to take possession of their faith.”

On secularization in the European context, the Salesian priest referred to pastoral care understood as the link between the recipients of the message and the action of God through his Church. He continued by identifying four aspects that characterize our times: spiritual nostalgia, because “the search for the meaning of life on a spiritual level is alive, and faith can be an authentic response to this nostalgia”; a paralysis in the decision-making process, since “it seems that we can make only decisions of minor import”; the uncertainty facing what is or is not true, “for which only contemplation can survive the communications bombardment”; and disenchantment with institutions “from which nothing more is expected than the preservation of individual rights.”

“Many young people ask nothing of the Church,” Fr. Sala explained, except “that they be left in peace and not be disturbed.” He also referred to young people’s opinion of the Church: “an institution that should shine for its honesty.”

Another critical point is “the passivity of the young in the Church because they often feel used and not appreciated.” Likewise, they criticize “the Church’s inability to follow the rhythm of the contemporary world.” Young people ask for a Church that listens and pays attention, “that moves from humiliation to humility, from individualism to communion, and from exteriority to interiority; a less institutional and more relational Church, where one listens without judging.”

The special secretary for the Synod on Youth also thinks that a presence on social networks is important. He concluded his speech by emphasizing that a challenge for the Church is “the need to acquire a renewed, youthful dynamism.”

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Lent

March 17, 1991
John 12: 20-33
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

As is the case far too often, our community in Silver Spring, Md., had no requests to celebrate a weekend Mass in a parish or religious house—altho we have had requests to hear children’s confessions this weekend.  Here’s an old, short homily on today’s readings.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John 12: 24).

In the burial chambers of the kings of Egypt, deep inside the pyramids, their subjects left them everything they might need in their future lives:  river barges, gold, clothing, weapons, food.  Much of this treasure has been discovered intact in the last hundred years.

Imagine finding grain 3,200 to 4,000 years old.  Some scientists wondered whether it would still germinate after 3 or 4 millennia.  Egypt’s hot, dry climate, they figured, should have acted as a preservative.  They planted some of the grain and, sure enuf, it sprouted—4,000-year-old wheat!

Left in the tombs, the seed contained the germ of life, but it remained just grains of wheat.  Cast into the ground, it died but gave birth to new life, abundant fruit, even after 40 centuries.

Jesus uses the image of grains of wheat to portray himself and his followers.  If we wish to be life-giving, fruitful people, we must fall to the earth and die.  We must humble ourselves, die to ourselves, if we really want to live.

Husbands and wives experience this all the time.  Their marriage thrives only by mutual sacrifice, yielding to the wishes, hopes, needs of the beloved.  Proud, self-centered people don’t make it in marriage or in the kingdom of heaven.

Parents experience life thru death.  Rearing children is repeated death to oneself, to convenience, to plans, to free time, sometimes to sanity—but the fruit of all this sacrifice is priceless and worth all the pain, the worry, and the trouble.

Students and workers have to die repeatedly—all the sacrifices of research, study, classroom, office, or factory monotony—to achieve knowledge, skills, advancement, the satisfaction of creativity, recognition.

To thrive as followers of Jesus, to advance to eternal life, we must fall to the earth and die.  We all know how it kills us to forgive; to restrain a tendency to gossip; to turn off the TV and do something constructive; to eat less or to stop smoking so as to have some alms for the poor; to spend time with someone who’s lonely; to stop nagging or putting down a certain someone in our lives; to give time to prayer and Scripture.

Kindness begets kindness; patience begets patience; generosity begets generosity.  The good seed that falls to the earth bears abundant fruit.  People not only admire virtue.  They want to imitate it.  So we Christians have to live virtue and be imitable—dying to ourselves in the process.

The Greeks who came to Philip said, “Sir, we’d like to see Jesus” (John 12:21).  Jesus told them, “Where I am, there will my servant be” (12:26).  If we are truly Jesus’ servants—by dying to ourselves and living for him—then people will indeed see Jesus—when they see us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Homily for Monday, 4th Week of Lent

Homily for Monday
4th Week of Lent

March 12, 2018
John 4: 43-54
Nativity, Washington, D.C.

You know that in our 3 Sunday cycles of readings we follow the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  In this year, for instance, called Year B, we read from Mark.

There’s no cycle for John’s Gospel.  Instead, he gets, 5 consecutive Sundays in the middle of Mark’s year, during which we hear his 6th chapter, Jesus’ teaching on his saving word and on the Eucharist.  John is also featured on the later Sundays of Lent.  And, starting today, the 2d half of Lent belongs to John in our weekday readings.  He also owns most of the Easter season.

I just noted that John 6 teaches about the saving word of Jesus.  That’s actually a theme in John’s Gospel, and it’s the focus of today’s passage, the final verses of John 4.  The preceding part of this chapter tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well and the conversion of many of her fellow villagers upon their hearing the preaching of Jesus.

(source unknown)
By contrast, now Jesus returns to Galilee, where “people will not believe unless they see signs and wonders” (4:48).  I.e., they’re not really interested in his word and its saving power:  “A prophet has no honor in his native place” (4:44), a point made also by the other gospels.

Jesus comes back to Cana, where he’s met by an official from King Herod’s court.  This story seems to be a variant of the one told by Mark and Luke, in which the suppliant is a Roman centurion, a pagan presumably.  The royal official would be a Jew.  In either case, the man coming to Jesus would be from outside his normal society.  He’s not a disciple, not peasant farmer or fisherman; he’s from the world of the elite.

Jesus is reluctant to respond to the man’s request.  He basically refuses his plea to “come down and heal his son,” who’s dying (4:47).  But the man persists, and when Jesus dismisses him with only an assurance that his son will live (4:50)—without Jesus’ going in person—the man believes just as the centurion does in the other version of the story.  He departs, his son is indeed cured, and “he and his whole household came to believe” (4:53), just as earlier Jesus’ disciples began to believe in him at Cana when he worked the 1st of this signs, changing water into wine (2:11), to which John alluded at the beginning of this passage (4:46), marking a connection between the 1st and 2d of Jesus’ signs and their influence on faith.

But the royal official demonstrated faith as soon as he accepted Jesus’ promise:  “The man believed what Jesus said to him and left” (4:50).  He wasn’t like Thomas after the resurrection, who insisted on seeing Jesus and putting his fingers into his wounds before he would believe.  The official doesn’t insist that Jesus come down and heal his son right in front of his eyes.  Jesus’ word is enuf.

Jesus is the living Word of God, the Word that became flesh (John 1:14).  As Peter will profess at the end of ch. 6, he has the words of eternal life (6:68).  He is the Word of eternal life.  He speaks the saving word; he is the saving Word.  We don’t follow him because he changes water into wine, walks on water, or heals the sick.  We haven’t seen any of that.  We follow him because of who he is:  the way, the truth, and the life.  We listen to him, we walk with him, we believe that he takes away our sins and restores us to a saving relationship with his Father in heaven.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Prayer Vigil to Remember Parkland Victims

Prayer Vigil to Remember Parkland Victims, Speak Against Gun Violence
Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., was one of several Salesian schools that participated in a nationwide "student walkout" on Wednesday, March 14, to remember the murder of 17 high school students and staff in Parkland, Fla., one month earlier and to protest all violence in schools.  Senior students organized and led the service on the school's playing field.
Our local Catholic newspaper was there:

and so was Catholic News Service:

Photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann courtesy of the Catholic Standard.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"I am writing in days full of death and suffering"

“I am writing to you in these days
full of death and suffering”

(ANS – Damascus – March 12) - The Salesian youth center in Damascus has entered its fourth week of forced closure: a totally unnatural condition for a place dedicated to socializing and educating young people, but necessary because of the dangerous conditions in the city. Many are the Syrians who have fled during these past seven years of war and the hemorrhage of the local population continues. From the Salesian center in the Syrian capital, the center’s director shares a new, bitter letter.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am still writing to you from Syria. I am Fr. Mounir Hanachi, director of the Salesian community in Damascus. I am writing to you in these days full of death and suffering for the Syrian people, who are suffering because of the war.

We are about to start the eighth year of this fierce war, which has caused so many deaths and displaced persons inside and outside Syria. Dear brothers and sisters, death continues in Damascus in these past weeks after the powerful assault of the Syrian national army to free Eastern Ghouta, an area controlled by rebels for over five years. The capital has suffered so much in these years by mortar fire and missiles that came over the schools and over the houses, and caused so many deaths of innocent children and civilians. We Salesians have suffered a lot on account of this, and we have been forced several times to close the doors of our youth center in spite of more than 1,200 young people and children who try to come to our center to find a place of serenity and peace.

In recent weeks the war in Eastern Ghouta has intensified. This is the fourth week that the Salesian youth center has been closed, and the children are shut inside their homes; the schools are closed, and life in the capital is semi-paralyzed.

In recent years we have lost so many families and so many young people who have left Syria seeking refuge abroad. Now the families that did remain are also beginning to look for ways out of Syria.

I invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for Syria, the cradle of Christianity, and let us remember Damascus during these months. May the Lord give us his peace, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who will protect us and protects the children of Syria under her cloak.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB (1923-2018)

Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB (1923-2018)

By Fr. Steve Ryan, SDB

(Tampa – March 6) – Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB, went home to the Lord on Monday, March 5. A native of Pennsylvania, Fr. Chubirko spent most of his religious life serving in Byzantine Catholic churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Fr. Chubirko was born on November 10, 1923, to Olga Suson and Mike Chubirko. He was baptized on November 21, 1923, at St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Bradenville, Pa. In 1948, he began his Salesian life at Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J. After the completion of the novitiate year, he made his first profession on September 8, 1950. He studied theology in Rome and was ordained on March 25, 1960.

Fr. Chubirko was a math teacher, catechist, treasurer, and spiritual guide for young people at Don Bosco Tech in Paterson, N.J., Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen, N.Y., and Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. His longest assignment was at Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Elizabeth, N.J., from 1981 to 1994.

Fr. Chubirko came to Tampa to live at St. Philip Residence at Mary Help of Christians Center in 2009. He was a confessor for retreatants and a strong advocate for Cristo Rey Tampa High School at Mary Help.    

Funeral services were held at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Tampa on March 8-9.

Additional rites will be celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y. (174 Filors Lane, Stony Point) on Tuesday, March 13:

Reception of the body             2:00 p.m.

Rosary                                   4:30 p.m.

Mass of Christian Burial           7:00 p.m.

Fr. Frank Twardzik, SDB, will preach at the Mass. The Most Rev. Kurt Burnette, eparch of Passaic, will carry out the priestly anointing and veiling of the Byzantine Rite.

Fr. Chubirko will be buried in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Salesians Return to Tappita

Salesians Return to Tappita

Mission was founded by Frs. John Thompson and Larry Gilmore

On March 5 ANS posted this follow-up to an interview they published on March 3 (see below).

(ANS – Tappita, Liberia – March 5) - The Salesian mission at Tappita, in the Liberian forest, is now being re-established some years after the 1989-1997 civil war forced its missionaries to depart.

The mission was founded by Frs. John Thompson and Larry Gilmore, American Salesians, in the mid-1980s. For one year the future martyr Sean Devereux (murdered in Somalia for defending the rights of the poor) was a volunteer at the mission.

When war made it too dangerous for the Salesians or Mr. Devereux to stay, the mission was transferred to local clergy, who were not able to give it much attention.

In the current phase of re-awakening, the mission needs everything: little things, like whistles to referee games at the youth center or catechetical materials, to the most ambitious programs like restarting the school and setting up the youth center. It is a reality where the pioneering spirit of the mission ferments every activity of education, social development, and evangelization.

The three Salesians who have taken over the mission have given themselves a few months to size up the situation, understand the challenges, and draft an action plan. They currently live in the house that belonged to the Consolata Sisters until they too had to leave because of the war. In the last 20 years the house was used occasionally by the priest who visited the mission from time to time and then stayed permanently, but its deterioration was progressive and fast. 

For the Christmas holidays [sic], the community had decided to adopt the “do as it has always been done” method to see and learn from the situation. And despite the challenges of the realities at Tappita – rationed electricity and water supply, sketchy communications, linguistic difficulties with the local population – the SDBs have begun to shape pastoral activities.

In January, all the parish groups met: pastoral council, finance committee, men, women, youths, altar servers, choir, and various associations. “Every evening, from 5:00 p.m. onwards, we ‘listened,’” explains Fr. Riccardo Castellino, SDB.

The parish also has 24 outstations in the villages. The Salesians have decided to visit them all. Every Sunday one of them stays in the parish, and each of the other two journeys to a neighboring village.

The local people are simple and poor. They live on agriculture, and though they do not lack food, they have no cash. All the communities, with the little they have, have built or are building a little church of mud and sheet metal.

“There is a lot of work to do, and this involves a great deal of energy and material resources. But they too are children of God and deserve our full attention,” Fr. Castellino concludes.

Don Bosco's Blacksmith Shop

Don Bosco’s Blacksmith Shop

After the construction of the church of St. Francis de Sales at the Oratory in Turin, Don Bosco added more buildings for the activities of the Oratory. One of the first initiatives to be started was a workshop to train apprentice blacksmiths and steel workers. This archival photo dates from 1880. (ANS)