Ellsworth — Inmates sauntered into the worship space in the Spiritual Life Center inside of the Ellsworth Correctional Facility. When they entered for Mass June 9, they were greeted by their new priest, Father Joshua Werth.
“How long have you been a priest?” one inmate asked.
“Seven years,” Father Werth responded.
“Is this your first time in prison?” another queried.
“I worked with people in a juvenile prison in Chicago,” Father Werth replied.
Twenty-eight inmates gathered for their weekly celebration of the Mass. Like clockwork, men moved the altar into place and prepared it for Mass.
As a seminarian, Father Werth had a pastoral education assignment at the Cook County Juvenile Detention outside Chicago. This experience helped pave the way for his new assignment as priest of the Ellsworth State Correctional Facility, which goes into effect June 30.
“I have had my own run-ins with the law that God used for the good to focus me in the right direction,” Father Werth said. “That’s an experience that helped me in Cook County and hopefully will help with those in Ellsworth.
“In his own mysterious way God has prepared me for this type of ministry.”
Nostalgia begins to set in this time every year.
The sounds of the wheat rustling in the wind, the beauty of the setting sun making the waves of grain glisten, the taste of that baloney sandwich in the middle of the half harvested wheat field. These memories help us to recall the goodness of God in recognizing that none of this could be possible without his hand in creating it.
I love Kansas this time of year as the wheat turns from green to gold and farmers prepare their equipment for the coming harvest. It reminds me of the passage in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The fruit born from one simple grain of wheat planted in the ground in September is tremendous, but that grain had to give its life for the others to come about. The typical Kansas farmer has been doing this great work for many years. My own father works some land that has been in the family for more than 100 years.
What is witnessed in the farmer is the devotion to producing fruit from one simple seed that then can feed people all across the world. This would not be possible if their ancestors gave up after just a few years on the land. It takes years to be able to begin to learn the ways of the land and where the best crop can be grown in order to feed their family and even the world.
A little welcome goes a long way with a new priest.
Many parishes throughout the diocese will welcome a new pastor soon.
Some priests are outgoing and are comfortable initiating friendships with parishioners. Others are daunted by the task, but would gladly accept an invitation.
Here are some common excuses about not extending an invite to our parish priest, as well as why we should bust through those excuses to welcome our new clergy members:
• I’m not “Catholic enough” / Father will only want to talk about religious or spiritual topics.
While it is true religion is a central aspect of the priest’s life, it is likely not his only interest. Maybe your priest is an enthusiastic sports fan. Perhaps he has an unusual hobby.
Salina — The chimes of Sacred Heart Cathedral pealed out “For the Beauty of the Earth” as the newly ordained Father Luke Thielen gave blessings and greeted friends and family following his June 4 ordination.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger encouraged Father Thielen to look for “mustard seeds” of faith throughout the priesthood.
“Moments when you see the glimmer of a mustard seed in one who is struggling, and where God in that grace filled moment chooses to reconcile through you, to heal through you to bring joy and comfort and new life through you,” Bishop Weisenburger said during his homily. “It is through the humble efforts of quite ordinary men like you and me that God sacramentally reveals his great love for his people.” The bishop highlighted his point with a story of Pope Francis, who as a young priest, asked an unrepentant penitent “Are you sorry you’re not sorry?” to which the man replied “yes.”
“And Father Bergoglio said ‘That’s enough’ and gave him absolution,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “What I admire about this story is the creativity, the initiative of a good priest who was looking for a crack in the wall of a man’s heart and hurt. Looking for a way, searching for a creative, spirit-filled way to reconcile a sinner. You might say he found the mustard seed and it was enough.”
By The Register
Salina — More than a dozen years after starting Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in the Salina Diocese, directors Donetta and Lester Robben are passing the ministry to a new couple. Their final retreat was May 20 in Victoria.
Tom and Tina Schrick, Colby, will take charge of the retreat.
Rachel’s Vineyard is a retreat weekend for women and men who need to find healing after an abortion. “When she leaves the clinic (after an abortion), there is so much shame and a grieving process has never taken place,” Donetta Robben said.
Since 2002, more than 100 people have attended the 23 retreats. Of those attendees, parents named and memorialized 155 babies. Past attendees have included parents, those who have taken someone to an abortion clinic and or abortion clinic workers.
The retreat team consists of a priest, counselor, facilitator and two to three other team members, with at least one who is post-abortive. While Rachel’s Vineyard has Catholic roots, Robben said nearly three dozen of the attendees over the years were non-Catholic.
“The cool thing about Rachel’s Vineyard is to see the physical transformation from when they arrive Friday to when they leave on Sunday,” Robben said. “They are looking down from shame and guilt when they arrive and when they leave, there are smiles and hugs and thank yous. It’s such a beautiful transformation.”
For more information about Rachel’s Vineyard, please visit rachelsvineyard.org or call 1-877-447-4383.We will be holding our 2016 Diocesan Respect Life Conference on Aug. 27, 2016, in Russell at St. Mary Queen of the Angels Parish. A schedule of the days events and a link for online registration/payment is below.
Salina — More than 200 gathered at St. Mary Queen of the Universe for the Third Annual “An evening with our Seminarians” June 2. “Your prayers are extremely important for vocations,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger said. “Your encouragement for the young men you encounter is essential.” The bishop said he enjoys traveling throughout the diocese. Often at the end of Mass, he noted parishoners are shifting in their seats, checking their watch, ready to leave. “That’s when the pastor leans over and says ‘Now we do the prayer for vocations,’ ” Bishop Weisenburger said. “It’s always worth those extra few moments.” The crowd gathered in the church at St. Mary, singing evening prayer.
Following prayer, the group moved into the parish hall for a social hour, dinner and presentation by the seminarians. Salina resident Julie Ottley said she looks forward to the annual event. She prays regularly for the seminarians and also write monthly letters to the men. “It has to be hand-written letter,” she said. “My (late) husband said it would be faster to type it, but it is more special to write a letter.” Chris and Rachel Sipe from Russell attended the evening for the first time at the invitation of his parents. Chris met several of the seminarians when he attended Prayer and Action. “This is cool to see everyone backing the seminarians,” Chris said. “Since we love our seminarians and priestly friends, we thought we’d come,” his wife added. Edith Pierce, who lives in Salina, worked at the chancery and said she enjoys the chance to see many priests she worked with. “It’s a little bit like a family reunion,” she said. Bishop Weisenburger recognized all of the diocesan priests in attendance, as well as the number of years each has been ordained: 479 in all. Adding in the bishop’s years as a priest, the group represented more than 500 years of service in the priesthood.
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.
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.
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.
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.