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Tucson’s new bishop

The Register

Tucson, Ariz. — Three resounding knocks reverberated throughout the quiet interior of St. Augustine Cathedral.  The door was opened by the cathedral’s rector, and Bishop Edward Weisenburger was invited into his new cathedral.  The choir swelled with “Festival Alleluia” as Bishop Weisenburger made his way down the aisle of the cathedral to be installed as the seventh bishop of the Tucson Diocese Nov. 29.  In his homily on the Gospel of John 15, Bishop Weisenburger highlighted the importance “ ‘It’s not you who chose me but I who chose you (Jn 15:16),’ ” Bishop Weisenburger continued to paraphrase Christ. “I don’t want you for a servant, I want you as a friend.”  The focus of friendship is important, he said.

“He doesn’t want us for a slave or servant,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “What’s the motivation of a slave? Fear. What’s the motivation of a servant? Salary.  “All through his Gospel, (Jesus) uses endearing examples. A friend will do anything for another friend because his motivation is love.”  The difficulty for culture today, however, is that the phrase is too common.   “We let it run in one ear and out the other. We don’t let it sink in,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “How incredible it is that the creator of the universe wants to be in a relationship with us as friends. Where everything that we do for him is done in love, just as everything he has done for us has been in love.”

The Installation Mass began with the Rite of Installation, with the reading of the Apostolic Mandate by Archbishop Christophe Pierre.  Archbishop Pierre gave the mandate to Bishop Weisenburger, who showed it to the College of Consultors, the Chancellor, priests of the diocese and the congregation.  Next, Bishop Weisenburger was led to the cathedra (the bishop’s chair) by Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop John Wester, of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Metropolitan. He was then handed the crozier (the pastoral staff) and became the main celebrant of the liturgy.

On Oct. 3, Bishop Weisenburger was announced as the replacement for Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who submitted his retirement in 2016 at the age of 75.  Bishop Weisenburger honored his predecessor during his homily.  “I cannot let the day pass without one final time saying thank you to that magnificent shepherd for 16 years poured out sacrificial love for us — Bishop Kicanas,” Weisenburger said, as the members of the overflowing cathedral gave the retired bishop a standing ovation. “Does it not feel good to say thank you when the thanks are so deserving?”

“Brothers and sisters, as I step into this new role, let it be one of holy friendship,” Bishop Weisenburger continued during his homily. “Let us be committed to this very true Biblical friendship with one another which will entail a loving relationship with God as well as a loving relationship with one another.  “Let us be in friendship with all. For surely, that is the way love grows, the kingdom is built and the great Diocese of Tucson will step into its next age. Brothers and sisters, let the friendship begin.”

The night before the installation, Bishop Weisenburger gathered with priests and congregants to pray Solemn Vespers in the cathedral, including about a dozen priests from the Salina Diocese.  Bishop Weisenburger took the opportunity to share with those gathered to share his belief about a bishop’s role in the church.  “The bishop is a man ultimately of relationships,” he said.  He pointed out the word “pontiff” is one that most apply to the pope as “supreme pontiff,” but the term “pontiff” actually means bridge builder. 


Diocesan Administrator Selected


Salina — The eight priest consultors of the Diocese of Salina elected Father Frank Coady to serve as diocesan administrator. 

Father Coady, 67, is the director of three offices for the diocese: Office of Liturgy, Office of Deacons and Office of Lay Ministry Formation. He has been the pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Manhattan since 2015.

He was sworn in as diocesan administrator Dec. 1.

When the bishop’s office becomes vacant, the consultors are temporarily responsible for the governance of the diocese until they elect a diocesan administrator from among the priests of the diocese. The priests’ council is dissolved, and the power of the vicars general ceases. 

The elected administrator is bound by the obligations and possesses the power of a diocesan bishop with a few exceptions. He cannot initiate new programs but oversees operations of the diocese with the assistance of the consultors.

Father Coady said he will work on the confirmation schedule, and assign priests to handle confirmation, as well as arrange the Rite of Election for those in the RCIA program. 

“I’ll (also) have to arrange for a visiting bishop to do our ordinations next spring if we don’t have a bishop by then,” he said. 

The consultors are: Msgr. James Hake, Msgr. Barry Brinkman, Father Keith Weber, Father Michael Elanjimattathil, Father Kerry Ninemire, Father Joseph Kieffer, Father Kevin Weber and Father Frank Coady.

Why do Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin?

Q:  Why do Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary? 

A:  In discussing the Catholic belief of the Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate every year on Dec. 8 (a Holy Day of Obligation), we can start with something of an odd question: If you could create your own mother, would you make her just like everyone else? Or would you make her special and unique, possessing every good quality and having no flaw? Well, Jesus Christ is the only person ever who created his own mother. As God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, He existed before his mother and is the author of her existence and her creator. It’s within that context, and considering her unique mission as mother of the Messiah, that we believe God gave her unique privileges and graces. So, with that in mind, let’s dive into the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This dogma was formulated and definitively pronounced by Blessed Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1854. He taught, “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” Put more succinctly, we believe that Mary was free from all sin, both original and personal, from the very first moment of her existence and remained that way throughout her entire life. Put positively, this means that Mary was created in a state of sanctifying grace, similar to Adam and Eve before the fall. 

We, on the other hand, are created in the state of original sin, which means we are initially deprived of sanctifying grace, which we ordinarily receive at Baptism. This was a unique privilege granted only to Mary, for she was given a unique role to play in God’s plan for our salvation. She is “full of grace,” as Gabriel said at the Annunciation, in a way that no one else ever has been.

Looking now at some of the reasons why we believe this, we can return to the initial question. It seems perfectly reasonable that Jesus, being all powerful, would protect his mother from the stain of sin and preserve her in God’s grace. He honored his mother in a way that only he could. We can see this hinted at in Genesis 3:15, where God says to the serpent (the devil), “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” The woman is the mother of the messiah, the one who will “crush the serpent’s head.” Jesus specifically calls Mary “woman” twice in the Gospels, at Cana and Calvary, drawing our attention to this early prophecy. This enmity means that she is totally opposed to the work of the devil, which is sin. Every time we sin, we are NOT at enmity with the devil, we’ve sided with him against God. But Mary has never been separated from God by sin; she has always been perfectly holy and in union with God.


Encuentro aims to engage Hispanic community

For The Register

Hays — With a mission to generate 20,000 new pastoral leaders from the Hispanic/Latino communities and engage thousands more in the Church’s day-to-day work of spreading the Gospel, Encuentro, or “meeting” in Spanish, is a movement that is sweeping through Catholic dioceses across the country. The program is under the direction of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. According to the movement’s website, vencuentro.org, the goal of Encuentro is “to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.”

Each diocese is now in the final stages of work to shape a diocesan working document outlining needs and goals for its Hispanic/Latino populations. 

The Salina Diocese’s Encuentro was held Sunday, Nov. 5, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays. With representatives from Goodland, Hays, Salina and Manhattan, the day’s events included time for small and large-group discussion about issues affecting Hispanics/Latinos of all ages in the 31 counties within the diocese’s boundaries.

 “The Catholic Church calls us to become missionary disciples,” said Claudia Segoviano, a member of the parochial team for Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and the secretary for the diocesan Encuentro. “This is an opportunity for us to come together to determine the needs of the Hispanic communities within our local parishes.”

Identifying those needs has been a long-term process for Segoviano and others in the diocese who are involved with the discipleship teams. 


Encuentro busca involucrar a la comunidad hispana

Para El Registro

Hays — Con la misión de generar 20,000 nuevos líderes pastorales de las comunidades hispanas / latinas e involucrar a miles más en el trabajo cotidiano de la Iglesia de difundir el Evangelio, Encuentro o “reunión” en español, es un movimiento que está barriendo a través de diócesis Católicas en todo el país. El programa está bajo la dirección del Subcomité de Asuntos Hispanos de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos. Según el sitio web del movimiento, vencuentro.org, el objetivo de Encuentro es “discernir las formas en que la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos puede responder mejor a la presencia hispana / latina, y fortalecer las formas en que los hispanos / latinos responden a la llamada la Nueva Evangelización como discípulos misioneros que sirven a toda la Iglesia.”

Cada diócesis se encuentra ahora en las etapas finales de trabajo para dar forma a un documento de trabajo diocesano que delinee las necesidades y metas para sus poblaciones hispanas / latinas.

El Encuentro de la Diócesis de Salina se llevó a cabo el domingo 5 de Noviembre en la Parroquia Inmaculado Corazón de María en Hays. Con representantes de Goodland, Hays, Salina y Manhattan, los eventos del día incluyeron tiempo para discusiones de grupos pequeños y grandes sobre temas que afectan a hispanos / latinos de todas las edades en los 31 condados dentro de los límites de la diócesis.

 “La Iglesia Católica nos llama a ser discípulos misioneros,” dijo Claudia Segoviano, miembro del equipo parroquial de la Catedral del Sagrado Corazón en Salina y secretaria del Encuentro diocesano. “Esta es una oportunidad para que nos unamos para determinar las necesidades de las comunidades hispanas dentro de nuestras parroquias locales.”

Identificar esas necesidades ha sido un proceso a largo plazo para Segoviano y otros en la diócesis que están involucrados con los equipos de discipulado.


Advent Adoration event scheduled Dec. 17 in Junction City

Junction City — Families are invited to celebrate Advent Adoration from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City.

As with the summer’s “Prayer and Praiser for Children and Families,” the event is for the entire family. It will include a speaker, Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation, praise and worship music, silent reflection time and benediction. The event is free and all are invited to attend.

Murphy and Kelli Lierley from Lincoln, Neb. will be the featured speakers. Murphy Lierley was a seminarian for the Diocese of Lincoln and discerned he was called to marriage. He currently is the manger of FOCCUS Inc, USA., the marriage preparation and enrichment inventory working in the Archdiocese of Omaha Center for Family Life Formation in Omaha, Neb. Kelli Lierley teaches second grade at St. John the Apostle school in Lincoln, Neb.

Music for the event will be provided by the SPARK Choir. SPARK, which stands for Seek, Pray, Adore, Rely and Know, is led by Becky Keating; the choir is led by Heather Augustine. Special guest Heidi Jirak will join the SPARK choir for the event.

An Oakley native, Jirak graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison before discerning a religious vocations with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita. She returned to the Salina Diocese and is currently  a part-time director of religious education at St. Francis Xavier Parish. She is a familiar face to youth in the diocese; she served as a music leader on the Prayer and Action team from 2012-2014. 

“The Office Family Life and Natural Family Planning is very excited to be providing more opportunities for family faith formation and prayer,” said Corey Lyon, director of the Office of Family Life. “It is our hope that the afternoon will be enjoyed by men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life. This is a great addition to your personal or family Advent preparations for Christmas.”

Statement from Bishop on Racism

Racism and bigotry are among the great evils of our age, and the resurgence of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist movements is profoundly troubling.  The follower of Jesus Christ can see something of God’s image in every human being. For this reason, people of faith must unite and speak truth to this evil in our midst.  Let us renew our firm commitment to truth, equality, and universal human dignity.

– Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, ReutersBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and Mexico City, recovery was slow and deep pain remained from a string of natural disasters as 2017 ended. Hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes from August through December caused widespread destruction and claimed hundreds of lives. Rebuilding in the affected areas will take years to complete. Catholic agencies responded with emergency aid and undertook fundraising campaigns to help people of different walks of life who lost homes and livelihoods. Perhaps no other place was harder hit than Puerto Rico, which was slammed in September by Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense Atlantic storm on record. Electrical power was at 70 percent capacity and many communities continued to have no access to clean water in mid-December. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago visited the island in early December at the behest of Pope Francis. He toured the island with representatives of Catholic Extension, the papal society that has supported the church in Puerto Rico for decades. He found once-bustling town centers and business districts shuttered in cities large and small, signaling a massive loss of income and livelihood. Collapsed buildings, flooded homes and roofless structures offered testimony to the severity of the storm. The official death toll in Puerto Rico stands at 64. However, data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that at least 985 additional people died in the 40 days after the hurricane, which is a higher death toll than in 2016, a year without such severe storms.Elsewhere, Hurricane Harvey, swamped southern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as it ambled offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for days in late August, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on some communities. Catholic parishes and schools were among entities affected by flooding. The storm was the first major hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2005 and caused nearly $200 billion in damage. Then came the back-to-back storms in the Caribbean: first Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria. With winds topping 160 miles an hour, both storms devastated entire islands. Irma also caused flooding throughout Florida. Beyond Puerto Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Turks and Caicos were battered by the storms. About the same time, earthquakes of magnitudes 8.1, 7.1 and 6.1 jolted Mexico Sept. 7, Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, resulting in 474 deaths and more than 6,300 injuries. The temblors were followed in October and December by wildfires in California, driven by hot winds and fueled by hundreds of thousands of acres of dry timber, a consequence of a dry summer. The most recent round of fires near Los Angeles followed by two months more than a dozen wind-whipped blazes in California wine country that destroyed thousands of homes in urban neighborhoods, causing 24 deaths and leaving hundreds of families homeless. In response to the disasters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Relief Services mobilized to raise funds to assist with emergency relief and long-term recovery. The USCCB collected $38.5 million for hurricane relief and another $1.3 million for Mexican earthquake relief. Catholic Charities USA raised $24 million for disaster assistance. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also was on the scene in various locales coordinating its response through parish and diocesan councils.Other donors included Catholic Extension, which provided $400,000 in immediate support to the church in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes, and the Knights of Columbus, which pledged $1.4 million for church repairs in Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization earlier provided $100,000 to the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Caritas Mexico by the end of October had raised $900,000 for earthquake emergency aid. Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency and a partner in the church's Caritas Internationalis network, was on the ground providing disaster assistance. The U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions made an emergency grant of $50,000 to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, to help with its response to the fires. In addition, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began collecting funds even as wildfires raged in early December for families, parishes and schools affected by the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura countries. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 was the seventh most active hurricane season on record dating to 1851 and the most active season since 2005. Alan Betts, a Vermont-based climate scientist who has studied global weather and climate for more than 40 years, outlined his concerns about future weather patterns during a Nov. 2 Catholic Climate Covenant webinar. Betts long ago concluded that earth is warming and that humans cause it because of their penchant for burning fossil fuels in large quantities. During the webinar and a September presentation at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, Betts explained that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor. More humidity in the atmosphere means a higher potential for downpours. At the same time, the oceans are a storehouse for excessive heat. The Climate Special Report released by 13 federal agencies Nov. 3 found that the oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since the mid-20th century, leading to altered global and regional climate. The warmer the oceans, the more intense the hurricanes, Betts said. The Catholic Climate Covenant and the Global Catholic Climate Covenant continued efforts throughout the year to call on people to advocate for action to cut carbon emissions, a leading cause of climate change. In other climate-related actions, hundreds of Catholics from across the country joined the two organizations during the April 29 People's Climate March in Washington. In sweltering heat -- the temperature reached 91 degrees at nearby National Airport, tying a record set in 1974 for the date -- an estimated 200,000 people walked from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to protest President Donald Trump's environmental agenda. The Trump administration has begun the process of dismantling environmental regulations and rolling back the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in the name of creating jobs and boosting the U.S. economy. Trump also followed through on a campaign pledge to begin the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. The U.S. bishops issued several statements throughout the year calling on the president to remain in the accord and keep the Clean Power Plan in place. - - - Follow Dennis Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Hannah McKay, ReutersBy Carol GlatzROME (CNS) -- With so much suffering, poverty and exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar. "Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such a decision they had to close their hearts," he said during a private audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop's house in Yangon. "Our missionary work must also reach those hearts that are closed to the reception of others," he told 31 Jesuits from different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar. The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the pope's private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits based in Bangladesh. In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English translation of the original Spanish remarks. A Jesuit's mission is to be close to the people, especially those who are suffering and forgotten because "to see them is to see Christ suffering and crucified," he said in his meeting in Myanmar. His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places and to "speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their borders." "It is a serious issue," he said, commenting on how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including dessert, while many refugees will "have a piece of bread for dinner." He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and how the children he was greeting were torn between shaking his hand and reaching for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets. "With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for days." The situation of many of the refugees and stories they have told him have "helped me to cry a lot before God," he said, particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she wore. "These things must be seen and must be told," he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and "we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some try to silence." The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar's Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh. "Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya," as these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits. Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure still persist, he said. "Today, there is much discussion about how to save the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity of men and women today?" "Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The devil manages to do this in today's world. If we had a little sense of reality, this should scandalize us." "The impudence of our world is such that the only solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears," he said. Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the archbishop's residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. "I felt ashamed of myself, for the whole world!" When asked "why such attention" for the small Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to the "small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the edges." It's not meant to give them "consolation," but is "to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something to teach us." - - - Editors: The full text in English can be found online at: https://laciviltacattolica.com/church-life/at-the-crossroads-of-history-pope-francis-conversations-with-the-jesuits-in-myanmar-and-bangladesh/  - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Ritchie B. Tongo, EPABy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the thought of receiving a blessing by text from Pope Francis could have millions of mobile users glued to their smartphones, the Vatican spokesman said that isn't his style. The spokesman, Greg Burke, issued a statement on Twitter Dec. 13 saying that Pope Francis doesn't use the instant messaging platform WhatsApp. Reports of "the Holy Father using WhatsApp are false," Burke tweeted. "He does not send messages or blessings through this medium." The Pope Francis Foundation, a Catholic organization in Corrientes, Argentina, announced Dec. 12 the launch of "Wabot-Papa Francisco," a chatbot that allows users to contact the pope and keep up-to-date with his schedule, reported the Argentine newspaper, La Nacion. The foundation said the chatbot would respond to users queries through "texts, images, video, audio and documents," La Nacion reported. "You can also have a simulated chat with His Holiness. Wabot technology allows the entire Catholic community or people of any other faith to interact with the pope," the foundation said. The pope, the organization added, "is a technological man, he believes that technology can help many people and understands that it is the future of communications." In his message for the 50th World Communications Day Jan. 24, 2016, Pope Francis acknowledged that emails, text messages, social networks and chats can be "fully human forms of communication." However, he added, "it is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal." Despite his favorable attitude toward new forms of communication, the pope has also admitted that he is "a dinosaur" when it comes to technology. During a Google Hangout conversation sponsored by Scholas Occurrentes in 2015, a young girl from Spain asked the pope if he liked to take photos and upload them to a computer. "Do you want me to tell you the truth?" the pope asked. "I'm a disaster with machines. I don't know how to work a computer. What a shame!" - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just like a plant needs sun and nourishment to survive, every Christian needs the light of Sunday and the sustenance of the Eucharist to truly live, Pope Francis said. "How can we carry out the Gospel without drawing the energy needed to do it, one Sunday after another, from the limitless source of the Eucharist," he said Dec. 13 during his weekly general audience. "We don't go to Mass to give something to God, but to receive from him that which we truly need," the pope said. Sunday Mass is the time and place Christians receive the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, follow his commandment to love others and be credible witnesses in the world. The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas tree and a life-sized Nativity scene. A number of people in the audience hall handed the pope -- who turns 81 Dec. 17 -- Christmas cards, notes and a chocolate cake. In his catechesis, the pope responded to the question of why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays and why it is not enough just to live a moral life, loving others. Sunday Mass is not simply an obligation, he said. "We Christians need to take part in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his presence alive in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment and, in this way, be his credible witnesses." "Just like a plant needs the sun and nourishment to live, every Christian needs the Sunday Eucharist to truly live," he said in summarized remarks to Arabic speakers. "What kind of Sunday is it for a Christian if an encounter with the Lord is missing?" he asked in his main talk. Unfortunately, in many secularized countries, the Christian meaning of the day has been lost and is no longer "illuminated by the Eucharist" or lived as a joyous feast in communion with other parishioners and in solidarity with others, he said. Also often missing is the importance of Sunday as a day of rest, which is a sign of the dignity of living as children of God, not slaves, he said. "Without Christ, we are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of daily life with all its worries and the fear of tomorrow. The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with confidence and courage and to move forward with hope," he said.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/David McNew, ReutersBy LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Six major wind-fueled wildfires in Southern California have destroyed more than 1,000 structures and forced the evacuation of 200,000 residents.After he surveyed the damage in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, where the worst of the fires has raged, California Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters that the fires "may be the new normal." He declared a state of emergency for the area Dec. 6. U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for California Dec. 8. As of Dec. 12, officials had reported only one fatality.The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has started a fund for victims of the wildfires that have raced through the archdiocese and spread to locations in the nearby Orange and San Diego dioceses. "Friends, as the wildfires continue, the needs of our neighbors continue to increase," said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles on the archdiocesan webpage that hosts the fundraising campaign, https://tinyurl.com/yaa4qlu2. "In this season of giving, let us open our heart to our brothers and sisters in need," he added. "Let us keep praying for an end to the fires and let us keep praying for the safety of our police, fire and emergency workers -- and all those who are in harm's way."In a Dec. 8 statement from Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked prayers for all those in danger, "both those whose homes are in the fire's path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk." The wildfires, which have stubbornly resisted most efforts to be reined in by firefighters, have hit Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the archdiocese. This is the second set of wildfires to have hit California this fall. Wildfires burned thousands of acres in the Sonoma and Napa areas in the northern part of the state in October, killing 31, scorching more than 128,000 acres and causing an estimated $3 billion-$6 billion in damage. The Southern California series of wildfires had passed the 150,000-acre mark within four days of their starting Dec. 4. As of the morning of Dec. 8 local time, no fatalities had been reported despite the density of population in the region. Four counties have already declared a state of emergency. Archbishop Gomez on Dec. 5 called for prayers for the well-being of families, firefighters and rescue workers "facing devastating fires and high winds" in the wildfires. "May God keep them all safe and put an end to these fires!" the archbishop said in a message sent via social media channels and posted on the archdiocesan news site, angelusnews.com. On Twitter, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron said the fires in Ventura County, which is in his pastoral region, had alone forced 30,000 people to evacuate. "Join me in praying for all the evacuees, firefighters, officials, and everyone helping to subdue the flames," he tweeted. About 1,000 firefighters were working to contain the wind-driven flames. Called the Thomas Fire, it is the biggest of the wildfires being stoked by dry conditions and high winds. Among the evacuees in Ventura County were students and faculty at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. In a message posted on its website and on Twitter, the Catholic college expressed "deep gratitude for the prayers of its many friends and for the heroic firefighters who battled all of Monday night (Dec. 4) to protect the Santa Paula campus." The college canceled classes for the rest of the week as roads had been closed and power was out in some communities. "The college is hopeful that it will reopen in time for final exams next week," the college said in a Dec. 5 statement. Students from California who had transportation were considering returning home for the time being; others planned to remain at the homes of local friends and faculty.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.