Author: Nickie Wentworth-Holton

Martin Luther King Jr Day

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications relays the following statement from

Bishop David J. Walkowiak marking the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States on Monday:

Today we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who encouraged Americans to stand up for equality, justice, and peace – the message of the Gospel. He showed us that it is possible to fight for what we believe in, in a non-violent way.

We reflect on the progress made and the work still left undone. The sin of racism which permeated our country during Dr. King’s time still exists today. I echo the words of my brother bishops, ‘Our challenge is to bring Dr. King’s message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change’.

Let us take time today and throughout this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of his passing, to take time before God for internal reflection, inspire change in our communities, and to love our neighbors as Jesus commanded.

I encourage you to complete an act of kindness for a stranger or to say an extra prayer for peace in our world as we commemorate the life of Dr. King.

Bishop Walkowiak encourages all to read the full statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) which may be found here.

Mass for Life January 22nd

Mass for Life

Bishop Walkowiak will celebrate the Mass for Life on Monday, January 22nd, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, with a reception to follow. This date will mark the 45th Anniversary of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the United States.

Clergy will receive a separate email from the bishop’s office inviting them to concelebrate that evening.

This year there will be a few brief testimonies at the end of Mass pertaining to the power of prayer around the theme of abortion.

Plenary Indulgence for March for Life participants

Christian faithful who participate in the 2018 March for Life may receive a plenary Indulgence. In order to receive the Indulgence while attending the March for Life you must be detached from sin, pray for the pope’s intentions and, within a few days, make a sacramental confession and receive the Eucharist.

The elderly, sick, and those unable to leave home will be able to receive a plenary Indulgence if they fulfill the same requirements as those of the pilgrims while spiritually joining themselves to the March and offering prayers and their own physical sufferings to God.

If you are not able to complete all of the requirements necessary for a plenary Indulgence you may still be granted a partial Indulgence.

Nine Days for Life

Since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision 45 years ago, more than 58 million children’s lives have been lost to abortion, and the lives of millions of parents have been shattered. In prayerful recognition of these lost and broken lives, the U.S. Bishops invite Catholics and others nationwide to participate in Nine days of prayer, penance and pilgrimage (Jan. 18-26). Click the link for details or to receive the daily novena in English and Spanish each day by email, text, or through their app.

World Youth Day 2019 Panama

World Youth Day 2019 – Information Meeting

The Diocese of Grand Rapids is offering the opportunity for young adults, ages 18-30, to participate in the next World Youth Day –
being hosted in Panama City, January 22-27, 2019. World Youth Day is not just a day or an experience, but an ongoing pilgrimage of faith.
These special days and celebrations are meant to rejuvenate and reinvigorate the spiritual life of young adults along their pilgrim journey, which ultimately leads to Christ Jesus.

Those interested in making this pilgrimage are invited to an information meeting on Sunday, January 7, 2018 at Cathedral Square Center (360 Division Ave. South, Grand Rapids)
beginning at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.dioceseofgrandrapids.org or contact Mark Mann, director of family, youth, and young adults at mmann@dioceseofgrandrapids.org.

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Stephen’s Soliloquies 11-05-2017

RESPECT LIFE: SUFFERING & EUTHANASIA

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in the beginning of October, I asked the parish staff if it would be a good idea to write bulletin articles regarding major life issues since October is Respect Life Month. The staff loved the idea. And so my hope with these bulletin articles has been to teach how the Church looks at these issues and to understand our urgency in protecting the dignity of human life.

In 2004, Clint Eastwood starred in the drama Million Dollar Baby. This was a movie about a young woman, Maggie (Hilary Swank), who was estranged from her family and lived alone. She was seeking to become a successful boxer and really wanted Frankie (Eastwood) to coach her. The problem was Frankie did not coach girls. After talking with Scrap (Morgan Freeman), a previous fighter Frankie had managed, Frankie miraculously has a change of heart and decides to coach her. As the movie progresses, Maggie and Frankie develop a beautiful Father Daughter like bond. Maggie experiences great success and rockets up the rankings. Finally, she is able to fight the best female boxer in her division, and after a dirty punch, breaks her neck and becomes paralyzed from the neck down.

Maggie’s spirit is crushed. Life was finally looking up for her, and now everything she has worked so hard for is gone. Frankie, visits her every day at the hospital. After a while Maggie asks Frankie to help her die. Eastwood’s character responds: “I can’t. Please, please don’t ask me…”

At the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Frankie goes to the hospital, gives Maggie a lethal dose of Adrenaline and leaves. Afterwards, Scrap says that “Frankie never returned to the gym and no one saw him again… I don’t think he had anything left.” The movie ends with Eastwood’s character sipping coffee at Maggie’s favorite diner.

This is another movie I highly recommend, it’s both well done and very thought provoking (disclaimer: not a movie for young children). But with that last scene in mind, one is left wondering: is Million Dollar Baby promoting physician assisted suicide or euthanasia? I think the answer is obviously No.

Frankie did not want to help Maggie die. His initial response, “Maggie, I can’t” is his intuitive understanding that to be the agent or to be the one that causes the death of an innocent human being, is immoral. But it’s his actions at the end of the movie that are more telling. Scrap says, “I don’t think [Frankie] had anything left”. “Helping Maggie” cost Frankie something… It cost him his peace. And that’s what Scrap says to end the movie, “I hope Frankie finds peace”.

Friends, this is an issue that we understand on both sides. We understand it’s wrong to take human life. At the same time, it can be very difficult for us to see those that we love suffer. But here’s the beautiful reality, those who suffer and those who are nearing the end of their life have a lot to teach us. They can teach us how to hold on to God’s presence in the most difficult times. They can also teach us how Christ sanctifies us through suffering. We will never know the answer why suffering was necessary. But at least we will always know that we do not suffer alone. Christ, who did not deserve to suffer greatly, did so out of great love for us. We can be confident then, that when we suffer, we do not suffer alone. Christ is with us.

Fr. Stephen J Durkee

Stephen’s Soliloquies 10-22-2017

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘ Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him .’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ ~ Matthew 1 :13-15

Friends in Christ, immigration is one of those divisive issues amongst goodnatured Catholics on both sides of the issue. With it being Respect Life Month, my intention this weekend is to clarify that it is very much a life issue, and why we as Catholics should be concerned about it.

The Scripture above is an important starting point for us when we begin to think about the issue of immigration. It reminds us that even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, experienced the same fears and dangers that many immigrants who are seeking refuge in the United States face today. It also is a reminder that this country began as an immigrant people. Most of us, if not all of us, are here because family who came before for us sought to better their lives by coming to the United States.

Just as Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus in order to seek refuge, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops explains that undocumented immigrants face similar difficulties in their home countries: “violence from war, lack of economic opportunity to earn a livable wage, or being deprived of basic human freedoms, these issues are the motivating force for why immigrants are willing to risk so much, to often times leave everything they have, and move to another country with unfamiliar customs and cultures … This is the migration of the desperate” (USCCB: Welcoming the Stranger Among US).

Why should we be concerned about this? As Catholics, everything that we believe about the human person, is centered around the Imago Dei, that is, that all of us are created in the Image of God: God created humanity in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them ~ Genesis 1:27. All peoples, no matter their race, country of origin, gender etc. are all endowed with the image of God. Thus all peoples have this human dignity and are members of the one Christian family, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Thus, our concern for people extends to all peoples, especially those who face crises, whether here or abroad.

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops offers us the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to guide us on our decision making regarding Immigration:

“The Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylumseekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking.” Additionally, “comprehensive reform is necessary to fix…family reunification policies…refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment; alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized” (81).

To close, there are two key points to highlight from above. First, we do have a Christian duty to welcome the stranger among us, especially if there exists grave reasons for migration. At the same time, the Church recognizes both the need and duty of countries to control their borders in a humane way in order to protect the common good of the people.

My hope is that this article was both informative and challenging. As a Christian people, we must always be focused on protecting the dignity of human life. This article will not solve the issue, but I hope it at least is helpful as we open our hearts to the needs of people around us.

Fr. Stephen

Stephen’s Soliloquies 09-10-2017

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
In October of 2015 I had the privilege to visit France with my classmates in the seminary. It was an amazing trip filled with many graces. But unfortunately this trip is connected to one of the worst terror attacks in recent years. Just a month after our visit to France, 130 people lost their lives to coordinated terror attacks throughout all of Paris. I’ll never forget that sinking feeling I felt watching the news about these horrible attacks in Paris, and also the haunting realization that “it could have been me.”

Unfortunately since our world has seen the attacks in Paris, we have seen even more at Brussels (2016), the Bastille Day Massacre (2016), Berlin (2016), London (2017), to most recently the events in Spain on August 17th. Sadly, the violence exists in our own country as well as we have watched racial tensions increase tremendously.

Friends, I write this bulletin for two reasons. First, I write this because Monday, September 11, is a day that many of us will never forget. It is the one of the worst experiences of terror in our country where so many innocent men, women and children lost their lives to unnecessary violence and evil.

I also write this because Bishop Walkowiak has urged us all to pray for peace. In particular, in response to the increased racial  tension/violence in our country, he has asked us each to “reflect on how the sin of racism has potentially impacted [our] own lives and [to] ask the Lord for the courage and grace to resist this evil. Please pray for [our] community and our nation that we may come together as one seeking a solution to this wound that yet divides us.” And so, Bishop writes that these “recent events, and indeed the events unfolding over the last few years, days and hours all point to the need that we, as a nation, as a people, have for conversion.” And so friends, tomorrow in a particular way let us pray for peace and healing, not only in the United States, but among the entire human family through-out the world.

Heavenly Father,
Though the human race is divided by
dissension and discord, yet we know that by
testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation.
Even more, by your Spirit you move human
hearts that enemies may speak to each other
again, adversaries join hands, and peoples
seek to meet together.
By the working of your power it comes about,
O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love,
revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is
changed to mutual respect.

(Preface, Eucharistic Prayer Reconciliation 2).

Fr. Stephen J Durkee