Salina — In front of friends and family, Bishop Edward Weisenburger ordained three men as transitional deacons April 9 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“I almost said ‘these three fine young men,’ ” Bishop Weisenburger quipped during the opening moments of the Mass. “Today Leo, you’re even a young man” the bishop told Leo Blasi, 52.
Ordained alongside Blasi were Ryan McCandless, 34, and Justin Palmer, 31.
The ordination to the transitional diaconate is the final step before being ordained a priest.
“This is a day of rejoicing for our entire diocese,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “A day of great rejoicing for our priests — the very men who I hope very soon you will find to be your brothers in a whole new way. Their coworkers — brothers in arms for Christ.”
In attendance were priests of the Diocese of Salina, along with visitors from the three seminaries the men attend: Father Robert Cook, O.F.M. Conv, Vice President of Human Formation at Sacred Heart Seminary in Milwaukee where Blasi attends; Father Jonathan Fassero, O.S.B. from St. Meinrad where McCandless attends; and Father James Mason, Rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary where Palmer attends.
Bishop Weisenburger asked each man if he promised obedience, laid hands on each and finally handed each the book of Gospels.
“What we do today is so much more than merely a “step along the way,’ ” Bishop Weisenburger told the men during his homily. “Rather we lay the redemptive, life-giving foundation that I pray, in working with the holy spirit, each of you will build for your future. A future of true loving, authentic sacrificial servant diakonia.”
Upon entering the cathedral, the men sat with their families.
Deacon Ryan McCandless said his mother, Teresa, held his hand through the first and second readings.
“As soon as the gospel came, she patted my hand and that was it,” he said. “It was time to stand up and be present for my ordination.”
The rite of ordination consisted of five parts: the promise of the elect, the litany of saints, laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, investiture with the stole and dalmatic and receiving the book of Gospels.
In turn, each man was called up for each component.
“I could have wept when the bishop laid his hands on me,” Deacon Blasi said. “It was a very emotional, moving experience.”
Deacon Palmer said one of the most meaningful moments of the ordination was the litany of saints.
“I was lying prostrate, reflecting about dying of the old self and rising to become a new man,” he said. “It was beautiful to hear the invocation of the saints and everyone praying for me. What I was about to do was not something I’m worthy of, but something with God’s grace I can do for His greater glory.”
Family sat behind the men and watched their ordinations.
Deacon Blasi, who entered seminary in January 2013 after a career in the U.S. Army, was previously married and has six children including sons Leo, Jr. and wife Alexandria, Joshua and Keith; daughters Tracy Releford and 24-year-old twins Danielle and Desiree; and six grandchildren. Blasi is one of 10 children of Franklin and Jeanette Blasi. He is a member of St. Andrew parish in Abilene.
Deacon McCandless, who grew up in Wichita, is the son of Rory and Teresa McCandless, members of All Saints Parish in Wichita. His brother, Matthew, was the lector and attended with his wife, Melissa and four children. Deacon McCandless began his seminary studies in September 2010.
Deacon Palmer, the son of Greg and Karen Bond of Sylvan Grove and the late Robert Palmer, is a vocation of St. Patrick Parish in Lincoln. His sisters, Erica and Amy, as well as grandparents Flossie and Tony Malsom all attended the ordination along with two nephews and one niece.
During his homily, Bishop Weisenburger said the men are preparing for the priesthood, when they will shepherd souls.
“Others will have sown wonderful seeds and you will contribute your part, nurturing them along with the gifts you happen to have at that moment in time,” the bishop said. “These represent privileged moments in our ministry … exceptional moments of grace. Don’t miss them.”
The three newly ordained deacons each preached his first homily April 9. Deacon Blasi preached at St. Andrew in Abilene; Deacon McCandless preached at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and Deacon Palmer preached at St. Wenceslaus in Wilson.
Bishop Weisenburger concluded his homily, reflecting on the reading from Acts when Philip was sent to the eunuch in the desert, then whisked away to another place.
“With the example of Philip, be committed to our people,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Go where you are sent. Embrace those you find. Be generous in responding to their needs. Seize the moment — and then get out of the way.”
Bishop, Archbishop witness ordination of friend in Rome
By The Register
Bishop Edward Weisenburger and Archbishop Paul Coakley witnessed first-hand the ordination of two by Pope Francis March 19 in the St. Peter’s Basilica.
The current and prior bishop of Salina attended because of a personal friendship with the newly ordained Archbishop Peter Wells.
“He has become a very good friend over the years and it was a joy for me to see him promoted in his work for the Holy See,” Bishop Weisenburger said.
Bishop Weisenburger said he and Archbishop Wells became acquainted as seminarians and their friendship deepened as young priests. Archbishop Wells was involved in Chancery ministry in the Diocese of Tulsa while Bishop Weisenburger worked in the Chancery for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The friends also worked together in Guatemala.
During the ordination, Pope Francis along with more than 25 cardinals and 50 bishops laid hands on Archbishop Wells and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot in ordination.
“Attending the episcopal ordination of a friend over which Pope Francis presides in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is an extraordinary opportunity,” Archbishop Coakley said. “Attending an episcopal ordination is always an occasion to renew the grace of my own episcopal ordination.”
Being named a bishop is being chosen to be a servant; it’s not an honor, the pope said.
“Be servants of all – of the greatest and the least of all,” Pope Francis said.
The trip to Rome was an opportunity for Bishop Weisenburger and Archbishop Coakley to update one another.
“Archbishop Coakley’s years of ministry as the Bishop of Salina gave him a unique perspective on our Diocese which I have always found helpful and enlightening,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “I always seek him out at bishops’ meetings so that I can get an update on the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. I’m very grateful for the fraternal friendship that has evolved between us.”
Archbishop Coakley said it is always a pleasure to see Bishop Weisenburger.
“We are each interested in hearing about what is happening in our former dioceses,” Archbishop Coakley said. “Not many people have the same understanding and knowledge of those two dioceses, so it’s good to be able to discuss and consult with each other. It’s good to get caught up on the news about priests and parishes as well. I certainly have very fond memories of my six years in the Diocese of Salina.”
Archbishop Wells is the new nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. Bishop Ayuso has been secretary of the council for interreligious dialogue since 2012.
Salina — Doug Weller, longtime Editor of The Register, has resigned from his post and accepted a new job in Lawrence.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger said Weller, who was named editor of The Register in April 2006, will be replaced by Karen Bonar.
Weller was the first lay person to be hired to run the diocesease’s newspaper.
“As soon as I arrived in our diocese I recognized that our newspaper was an excellent tool for helping our people to grow in the faith,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “A Catholic newspaper is actually more complex than what many people realize. Public news sources often provide little more than headlines when addressing Catholic issues. While The Register provides local Catholic news coverage, it is also a crucial means of providing our people with national and international Catholic news.
“For many in our diocese, The Register is the primary means of keeping up with what’s really happening in the Catholic world. Weller did a masterful job of balancing important local issues of interest with the happenings of the Universal Church. His editorial ministry has had a great and lasting impact on our diocese. I can only be grateful for the years he has given us.”
One of Weller’s contributions was transitioning the newspaper to a tabular format and full-color photographs. In 2014, the weekly newspaper switched to a semimonthly publication. The reduced printing and mailing costs allowed the diocese to send the newspaper to every registered household instead of only to those who subscribed. Households are asked to donate $20 a year to help offset printing and mailing costs. Circulation increased from about 5,500 to nearly 18,000.
Weisenburger said when Weller approached him about transitioning to a new job he also recommended Bonar for consideration as the new editor. Bonar is a 2002 graduate from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. Prior to accepting the position of editor at The Register, she was a city/government reporter at The Hays Daily News from 2005 to 2008 and a staff photographer at The Independence (Kan.) Daily Reporter from 2003 to 2005. Since moving to Salina in 2008, Bonar has been operating Heartland Photography, as well as freelancing for newspapers around the state, including The Register.
She assumed her duties March 21st, which included a week to overlap with Weller, ensuring a smooth transition for the newspaper.
“Doug has done a phenomenal job transforming The Register into the paper it is today,” Bonar said. “I worked with Doug during one of my college internships as well as on several stories for The Register. I have photographed many ordinations for the diocese, including Bishop Weisenburger’s four years ago. I always enjoy working with Doug; he is a skilled designer.
“He also did the hard work of laying a solid formation for a 21st century Catholic newspaper when he modernized The Register. I hope to continue his vision.”
Bonar and her husband, Erik Bonar, live in Salina. They are parishioners at St. Mary Queen of the Universe and have a son, Brooks.
Weller’s last issue was March 25. He was named associate editor and director of design for B the Change Media in Lawrence. The new company will be launching B magazine this summer. He and his wife, Nancy Arnoldy, have two children. Ian is a software engineer in Seattle and Suzy is a junior at the University of Oklahoma.
Salina — Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas will be moving to a new location within a year, thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous supporter.
With that donor’s support, the property at 1500 S. Ninth has been purchased and will undergo renovation to house Catholic Charities, the social services agency of the Diocese of Salina.
Michelle Martin, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the agency had been searching for a larger property for several years.
Catholic Charities’ current location, at 425 W. Iron, is a former medical clinic acquired by the diocese in 1959. The diocese initially planned to renovate that facility to enhance its efficiency but determined it would not be cost-effective.
“We did an analysis of the building, and it proved too expensive to retrofit. Given the age of our current location, extensive remodeling would be required to bring the entire facility up to current building codes and deal with environmental issues, so we started looking at other options,” she said.
In the meantime, a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities offered to purchase a property for the agency.
“The donor of this project was so deeply grateful for the many years of support shown to him by the Salina community. It was important to him to give back in a way that will help the area for a long time to come,” said Eric Frank, director of development for Catholic Charities. “What an impact this will make, and it’s just an incredible, heartfelt thing to do.”
Martin, who joined the agency in December 2013, said the new location will be much more visible to the community and easier to access for clients, as many walk or use the City Go public transportation.
Catholic Charities provides an array of services focusing on adoption, pregnancy, financial assistance, counseling, immigration and predatory lending. Services are offered to anyone in need, regardless of faith belief.
Salina — Nearly a third of this year’s goal for the Catholic Community Annual Appeal, “Open the Door to Mercy,” focuses on Catholic education and formation.
From subsidizing Catholic schools to funding youth and adult programs, the CCAA helps to educate young and old about their faith.
The annual appeal seeks to raise $1 million to help fund the day-to-day operations of these ministries and the Salina Diocesan church.
Through the appeal, the 16 Catholic schools in the diocese receive support through a per-pupil subsidy from the CCAA. This year’s allotment is $154,250.
Another $132,500 will fund the Catholic Education and Formation office, which oversees youth ministry, parish religious education and adult education programs across the diocese.
Syndi Larez, director of development, said that “your gift ‘Opens the Door’ to people of every age and walk of life to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, sharing the joy of Christ. Through faith formation and education, we provide a chance to practice the Catholic faith, study the teachings of the Catholic Church and encounter Christ in one another. Catholic schools provide a place where our faith can be incorporated into every subject of as we form disciples of Christ in our classrooms.”
This year’s CCAA was launched in early February. Donors are encouraged to make one-time contributions or have the ability to pledge a gift amount monthly through the end of the year.
So far, $533,800 has been pledged toward the 2016 goal. The 1,938 gifts received to date represent 11 percent of the households of the diocese. Nine parishes already have met or exceeded their goals.
This weekend, March 12 and 13, there will be an in-pew solicitation for the CCAA to give people who have not given an opportunity to do so. Pledge card and envelopes are available in all parishes for those who need them.
Junction City – Deacon Edward Souza has been assigned to St. Francis Xavier Parish here after serving in Idaho, Ohio and Nebraska.
He and his wife, Mary Guttieri, recently moved from Nebraska to Manhattan, where she is a wheat geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Deacon Souza is director of a research program for Bayer CropScience.
He was ordained a permanent deacon in 2001 for the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, and continued his ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.
Deacon Souza said he was inspired to pursue this type of ministry after being urged to do so by another permanent deacon.
“I think like most deacons, it’s someone you admire who asks you to do it,” he said. In Idaho, he was an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and took the Eucharist to patients at a hospital whose administrator was a permanent deacon.
“To have someone else see that in you is a unique gift,” he said.
Deacon Souza called his ministry “a privilege” and said his desire “is to help with ministry, particularly in rural settings.”
He and his wife have two children, Caroline and Patrick, who live in the San Francisco area.
Permanent deacons undergo much of the same studies as seminarians and are ordained by the bishop. In the Diocese of Salina, permanent deacons are assigned to a particular parish, where they assist the pastor. They may baptize, officiate at weddings and funerals, proclaim the Gospel and give blessings.
The permanent diaconate is relatively new in the Diocese of Salina. The first deacons were ordained in January 2009, with another class ordained in June 2013. A third group of men is currently in formation.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in 27 parishes in the Diocese of Salina has prepared 164 people for full communion in the Catholic Church.
On Feb. 14 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and on Feb. 21 at St. Nicholas of Myra Church in Hays, Bishop Edward Weisenburger celebrated their journeys during a ceremony known as the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion.
Among those who are seeking the sacraments are individuals known as catechumens, who will be baptized and confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time during the Easter Vigil.
Another group known as candidates, who were baptized in other faith traditions and are preparing for Confirmation and/or the Eucharist or reception into full communion in the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil.
During the ceremony, the Church “elects” the catechumens, declaring that they will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Those already baptized are recognized and encouraged to continue their spiritual preparations.
The catechumens and candidates, for the most part, have been preparing to join the Church since last fall.
Salina — This year’s Catholic Community Annual Appeal focuses on Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy.
The 2016 appeal, “Open the Door to Mercy,” has set a goal of $1 million to help support the work and ministries of the Diocese of Salina.
Gifts to this year’s appeal will “open the door” to numerous ministries, noted Syndi Larez, director of stewardship and development for the diocese.
The CCAA supports the health care and retirement for the diocesan priests who have spent their lives bringing the sacraments to parishioners. The appeal also supports the education of the 13 men currently in formation for the priesthood.
In addition, the annual drive helps fund the education of young people through Catholic schools and religious education programs and assists with the operation of diocesan departments where many of these ministries originate.
In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Edward Weisenburger stressed the importance of the annual appeal.
Cuaresma comienza con el miércoles de ceniza el 10 de febrero. El domingo de Pascua es el 27 de marzo.
Ambos el Miércoles de Ceniza y el Viernes Santo son días de abstinencia de comer carne y de ayunar, así como la abnegación y mortificación.
Los otros viernes de la cuaresma son días de abstinencia de carne, aunque el Obispo Edward Weisenburger le ha pedido a la gente de su diócesis que continúen la abstinencia todos los viernes del año. Todos los días de la semana de la cuaresma se deben considerar días de penitencia.
La obligación de abstinencia comienza a los 14 años. Ayunar es comer solo una comida completa al día con las otras dos comidas siendo sin carne y juntas no igualan una comida completa. La obligación del ayuno comienza a los 18 años y termina los 60 años.
Las formas tradicionales de penitencia son abstinencia de la carne; ayuno de alimentos; práctica de abnegación; los actos de la religión (aumentar la vida de oración, participación en la Misa cotidiana, y otras devociones, lectura espiritual y bíblica); y actos de caridad y testimonio cristiano.
• • •
Los participantes en el Rito de Iniciación Cristiana de Adultos continúan su camino para ser recibido en la comunión plena en la Iglesia Católica.
A las 3 pm 14 de febrero en la Catedral del Sagrado Corazón en Salina y a las 3 pm 21 de febrero en San Nicolás de Myra Iglesia en Hays, sus jornadas serán marcados durante una ceremonia conocida como el Rito de Elección y el Llamado a la Conversión Continua. Serán recibidos en la Iglesia durante la Vigilia de Pascua.
• • •
Hace 40 años, los católicos en los Estados Unidos querían responder a la hambruna en África. ¿Podríamos alimentar a los hambrientos a través de las oraciones, el ayuno y los donativos de Cuaresma? La respuesta fue que sí — y llegó en la forma de una pequeña caja de cartón.
Hoy, Plato de Arroz de CRS es el programa de Cuaresma de Catholic Relief Services de fe en acción para las familias y comunidades de fe.
A través de Plato de Arroz de CRS, escuchamos historias de nuestros hermanos y hermanas necesitados en todo el mundo, y dedicamos nuestras oraciones, ayuno y donativos de Cuaresma para cambiar las vidas de los pobres.
Impulsados por nuestra fe, estamos comprometidos a ayudar a los necesitados, sin importar dónde vivan. En ese espíritu, el 75 por ciento de tus donativos apoya los programas de CRS en todo el mundo. El 25 por ciento de tus donativos apoya los esfuerzos para aliviar el hambre y la pobreza en tu comunidad.
Para obtener más información, visite crsricebowl. org/es.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 10. Easter Sunday is March 27.
Both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence from meat and fasting, as well as self-denial.
Other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, although Bishop Edward Weisenburger has asked the people to observe Friday abstinence year-round. Weekdays of Lent should be considered days of penance.
The obligation of abstinence begins at age 14. Fasting means eating only one full meal a day with the other two meals being without meat and together not equaling a full meal. The obligation of fasting begins at age 18 and ends at age 60.
Traditional forms of penance are abstinence from meat; fasting from food; practices of self-denial; acts of religion (increased prayer life, participation in daily Mass and other devotions, spiritual and Scriptural reading); and acts of charity and Christian witness.
• • •
Participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults are continuing their journey to be received into full communion in the Catholic Church.
At 3 p.m. Feb. 14 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and at 3 p.m. Feb. 21 at St. Nicholas of Myra Church in Hays, their journeys will be marked during a ceremony known as the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion. They will be welcomed into the Church during the Easter Vigil.
• • •
Forty years ago, Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa. Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? The answer was yes — and it came in the form of a small cardboard box.
Today, CRS Rice Bowl is Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities.
Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor.
Seventy-five percent of your gift supports CRS’ programs around the world. Twenty-five percent of your donations go to hunger and poverty alleviation efforts in your own community.
For more information, go to crsricebowl.org.
Salina — For Father Steve Heina, the upcoming Year of Mercy means just one thing:
“It’s all about hope,” he said.
On Divine Mercy Sunday in April, Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy to be celebrated from Dec. 8 until Nov. 20, 2016.
The theme of the year is “Merciful Like the Father,” but Father Heina has his own take on it: “To set free those entrapped by darkness, sin and death: not to accuse, but to give hope.”
“It’s all about hope — a balance of justice and mercy, in the words of Pope Francis,” he added.
Salina — The Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Salina, is delivered to all registered parishioners.
To be able to continue to do that, however, requires some help on their part.
Today’s issue mailed to parishioners includes a donation envelope. Every household is asked each year to donate $20, roughly the cost of printing and mailing the newspaper.
Until two years ago, The Register was mailed only to those who subscribed. That number, however, had dwindled to about one-third of registered parishioners. Plans were made to send the newspaper to every household, beginning in January 2014.
To accommodate the increased printing and mailing costs — from 5,500 to about 17,500 copies — the decision was made to reduce publication from weekly to twice monthly — on the second and fourth Fridays.
And instead of selling subscriptions, The Register would seek a $20 donation from each family to underwrite the additional costs.
Last year, about 22 percent of households receiving the newspaper responding, giving an average of $25.
In addition to each household receiving the newspaper, each Register edition also is available online at salinadiocese.org/the-register.
On Aug. 22 the Respect Life Commission for the Diocese of Salina hosted our annual Respect Life Conference. Diocesan directors Jaclyn and Eric Brown put together an excellent group of speakers, and the information shared was thought-provoking, insightful and significant.
The lead speaker, Stephen Wagner of Justice For All, focused on how we can better engage those with whom we disagree about life issues, especially abortion. Instead of caustic shouting matches that inevitably fail to move hearts or change minds, we were actually led through practical exercises in how we can share the truth about the inherent dignity of human life in a way that is respectful and worthy of our Christian vocation, and at the same time prophetic.
We were reminded that all of us who recognize the image of God in every human being must take part in the public discussion. Without being abrasive or condemning, each of us must use our voice to speak up — in our friendships, our families, and our communities — to give a loving and thoughtful witness to human life.
As I drove home from the conference I reflected upon the fact that most of us need a day like that now and then to be reminded of how crucial this issue is. Indeed, one of our speakers noted that most Americans really are not pro-abortion. Rather, most Americans are actually ambivalent about abortion. Most Americans don’t want to think about it, and the pro-abortion movement in the U.S. has been exceptionally clever in keeping it out of sight and out of mind. The less people think about it the more socially acceptable — if not ignored — it becomes.
If I could use a sad analogy, it’s as though abortion has become our culture’s “dirty family secret.” We all know about it, we don’t talk about it, and while we regret it, we would prefer that no one bring it up in public or in any way make us look at it. In so doing, abortion becomes culturally and quietly all the more acceptable, while the inherent dignity of life deteriorates in life issues across the board.
But the stakes are simply too high. One abortion is too many; but over a million abortions a year is an almost unfathomable holocaust. And while abortion has a central role in the pro-life arena, as noted earlier, the issues actually extend well beyond the death of an infant and the damage resulting for the child’s mother flowing from abortion. The dignity of life is increasingly eroded in many areas of our culture. In “The Gospel of Life” (18) we read, “Today, when human rights are proudly proclaimed and the value of life itself given public affirmation, the most basic of all human rights, ‘the very right to life,’ is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.”
Related to this, the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities points out “a policy and practice that result in well over a million deaths from abortions each year cannot but diminish respect for life in other areas.”
Having degraded the inherent value of human life through abortion, we are now seeing life degraded in the elderly and terminally ill; immigrants are viewed more as a “problem to be dealt with” than human beings; and international refugees — fleeing starvation and death — are equally dismissed.
Again, we who participated in the annual conference were reminded that the starting point to turn the tide in our culture involves each of us using our voice to speak the truth. Abortion needs to come out of the shadows. When made clear by us, the facts related to abortion will themselves move people to the truth. Ambivalence can be moved to zeal and activity. Lives will be saved and life will triumph. But it must begin with each of us.
First published March 1, 2013
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its Committee for Pro-Life Activities and Religious Liberty, has urged bishops to recommend Friday abstinence for the people of their dioceses.
The bishops’ committee sees Friday abstinence as a spiritual effort undertaken for the sake of the protection of human life, the sanctity of marriage and religious liberty. While these are more than worthwhile reasons, I would add that abstinence is likewise an ancient Church discipline that helps free us from what might otherwise own us (and our souls). It helps to make room for the joy and hope that only God can give.
For all these reasons, I am asking that the faithful of the Diocese of Salina immediately return to this ancient practice of the Church.
There are other factors at issue here, as well. Many are unaware that the Church, after the Second Vatican Council, never changed its ancient custom of observing Fridays as penitential days. Friday abstinence was never abolished. Rather, the Church allowed bishops conferences around the world to determine whether or not Friday abstinence could be substituted with a different penance.
When the U.S. bishops conference permitted Catholics to exchange the Friday abstinence for a different form of penance, it seems that the notion of a Friday penance disappeared entirely. This was never the intention of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council. I fear that we were unwise in our rush to get rid of this ancient practice, allowing ourselves to blend in with our generally non-believing culture.
While I believe a return to Friday abstinence a true benefit for the Church, I would note that this is a strongly recommended spiritual endeavor. It is not law, and scrupulosity is to be avoided. Children in public schools, residents of nursing homes and care facilities and others without control over their diet may substitute a different form of penance on Fridays, as is already allowed by the bishops’ conference legislation. Moreover, pastors may dispense their parishioners or even their entire parish for special celebrations.
Three additional points are worth noting. The first is that abstinence from certain foods for spiritual purposes is well-grounded in Scripture. In Daniel 10:2-3, we read of Daniel taking no delicacies, no meat, no wine and not anointing himself for three weeks while he was in mourning. As Jesus was crucified on a Friday, abstinence from meat on that day each week is a way of entering into the penitential spirit of the day. The fish, typically consumed in its place (but not required), is a symbol of Christ. It should be noted that those who cannot eat meat for medical or dietary reasons may continue to substitute a different penance, such as abstinence from a different but still preferred food.
Secondly, it is good for us to stand out, to be a little prophetic and not to blend in with a culture that is harming its members in so many ways. The English historian Eamon Duffy published a 2004 call for a return to Friday abstinence in the journal The Tablet. He noted that Friday abstinence was a focus of Catholic identity that transcended class and educational barriers, even uniting “good” and “bad” Catholics in a single eloquent observance. And finally, while it may be trendy to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle for health, environmental or ethical reasons, we enter into the Friday abstinence for matters of the soul. If the world thinks us odd, then we are in good company with St. Paul, who was known to call himself “a fool for Christ.” If we want to be different from the culture around us — and different for all the right reasons — then we need to do things in a different way.
The purpose of the abstinence remains primarily spiritual as a penance, a recalling of the Lord’s passion. It also can unite us spiritually to those who do not have enough food for the day. But as a public witness, it clearly adds to our Catholic identity. For that reason, it may be far more needed today than when it was observed more faithfully 50 years ago.
Victoria — Capuchin Father Jeff Ernst’s voice leapt with emotion when he heard the news: St. Fidelis Church would be named a minor basilica.
“It’s exciting,” he said from his office at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence. “The state of Kansas doesn’t have any.”
Bishop Edward Weisenburger received the news from the Vatican last week that the diocese’s application to name St. Fidelis a minor basilica had been granted. He will dedicate the church as a minor basilica beginning at 10:30 a.m. June 7.
“This is a great day for the people of Victoria but an equally great day for the people of the Diocese of Salina,” the bishop said. “St. Fidelis Church has long been a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Indeed, many have been drawn to the mystery and love of God by spending time in this inspiring church.”
Father Ernst thought much the same when he was walking through the front doors one day.
“This could become a minor basilica,” Father Ernst said to himself.
“I thought about it for a few days and then ran it by the bishop, and he really liked the idea,” Father Ernst said.
After receiving permission from his Capuchin provincial to proceed, he contacted people at the most recently named minor basilica in the United States, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Canton, Ohio, to inquire about how to do it.
Bishop Weisenburger had just been named bishop of Salina, and when he traveled to Rome with other bishops from the region to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, he told Father Ernst he would check with Vatican officials about the process.
“He found out they were discouraging applications,” Father Ernst said, but when the bishop sometime later met with other U.S. bishops, they encouraged him to proceed.
“He said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Father Ernst said.
The Capuchin priest had only been at the Victoria parish since August 2011, and with his parish council’s support, he began assembling the information he needed.
The application asks for specific information about the structure of the church, the participation of the parishioners and the art and architecture.
“One thing people at Canton said was send lots of pictures, so we did,” Father Ernst said.
It took him about six months to complete the application, which then was sent to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for its approval. By September 2013, it was on its way to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican.
Victoria — Anyone traveling Interstate 70 in western Kansas has seen the twin towers of St. Fidelis Church standing out against the relatively flat plains.
Those who exit the highway, their curiosity piqued, learn an amazing history of what is known as the Cathedral of the Plains. The church towers, which rise 141 feet into the sky, are a stark difference from the first church: a humble wooden structure.
Victoria was founded in 1873 by English farmers. German Catholics from the Volga River region of Russia began arriving in 1876. Their ancestors had left Germany at the invitation of Catherine the Great. A century later, when guarantees of autonomy, religious freedom and exemption from military service were revoked, thousands came to America, and many settled north of Victoria in a village they named Herzog. The two towns eventually merged and used the name of the older settlement.
The first Catholic church was a 40-by-20-foot addition built onto a settler’s home. Later, parishioners quarried and hauled stone for a new church, completed in 1878. Capuchin Franciscan priests have served the parish since.
In just a few years, the second church proved too small. The new church, completed in 1884, held 600.
By the turn of the century, even that larger church wasn’t big enough, and plans were announced in 1904 for an imposing new structure.
To build it, each communicant 12 years of age or older was assessed $45 annually and asked to deliver six wagon loads of stone to the building site. Many large families were responsible for 70 to 80 wagon loads of stone. The limestone was quarried about seven miles south of town. Parishioners also learned to dress the stone. The old church was dismantled and the stone set aside for the new inner walls.
The resulting Romanesque structure is 220 feet long, 110 feet wide at the transepts, 75 feet tall and seats 1,100. At the time of its dedication in 1911, it was considered the largest church in the state. Builders used 125,000 cubic feet of rock, 150,000 board feet of lumber, 4,000 cubic yards of sand and more than 400 tons of concrete.
The 14 solid granite pillars, each weighing 8,500 pounds, were transported to the site from railroad cars using a wagon placed on the reinforced axles of a threshing machine. Four horses pulled the wagon to the church, and horse-powered block and tackle and hand winches were used to erect the pillars in place.
Colored-glass windows made in Munich were installed in 1916, and stations of the cross were imported from Austria in 1917.
The cost to build the church and furnish it totaled more than $95,000.
William Jennings Bryan, a Democratic presidential candidate, dubbed it the Cathedral of the Plains when he visited in 1912.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 2008, it was named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. Since 1994, the parish has spent nearly $1 million on restoration, repairs and mechanical and physical updates.