By Bishop Edward J. Burns
JANUARY Southeast Alaska Catholic
During the first full week of January I was honored to be invited to lead the annual retreat for the seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR. It was a privilege for me to be in the presence of 153 dedicated and committed men seeking God’s will in their lives. These men come from various dioceses and represent various cultures. But they all have a singular focus, to serve the Lord as priests and to do his will – to reflect his love and mercy towards others through humble service. As the Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, I am also pleased that two of them—James Wallace and Gerard Juan—are studying for our Diocese and seek to serve as priests in Southeast Alaska. All of these men are a source of hope for the future of the Church and are a fulfillment of God’s promise to provide us with future shepherds.
While I was with them, they spoke of the upcoming Walk for Life – West Coast, and their participation in this march that will take place in San Francisco, CA on Jan. 23rd. This reminder is an opportunity for me as the Bishop of the Diocese to invite all the faithful to remember to pray that we and this country will always value the sacredness of life from the moment of conception until natural death.
The Bishops of the country have said, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a ‘Gospel of Life.’ It invites all persons to live abundantly in respect for human dignity. We believe that this gospel is not only a complement to American principles, but also the cure for the spiritual sickness now infecting our society… We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of Life only as a private piety. American Catholics must live it vigorously and publicly, as a matter of national leadership and witness, or we will not live it at all.” (Living the Gospel of Life, #20)
By keeping this important anniversary of Roe V. Wade alive in the work of the Church, we will tirelessly work for a future for innocent lives through the end of abortion.
And as time marches on, we must be mindful of the fact that Lent will be here before we know it. The season of Lent offers us a wonderful spiritual journey with our Lord which continually challenges us and calls us to conversion. This penitential season is an opportunity for us to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, to look at alms giving, and to reevaluate our charitable works. We look at our lives in “what we have done and what we have failed to do.” In doing so we hope to become better Christians, to become more like Christ. To help us in this journey, the Sunday readings throughout the Lenten season bring us to an intimate encounter with Christ. Let us pray that our Lenten encounter with Christ will equip us to face our own personal crosses in light of the promise and hope of the resurrection.
The March for Life and the season of Lent are just a couple of items that are on the immediate horizon. With regards to the ministry and mission of the Church in Southeast Alaska, we continue to promote the Jubilee Year of Mercy convened by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. As you are aware, we have two Jubilee Holy Doors in the Diocese – at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Wrangell and at the Shrine of Saint Therese in Juneau.
In his 2013 Easter Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis said: “God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and, let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
On Sunday, January 10, 2016, Fr. Thomas Weise would have celebrated his 47th birthday. Many of you are aware that the cross he wore daily was placed on his casket by his mother and it was present at all his Memorial services in the Diocese. On January 10, 2016, the Baptism of Our Lord, I celebrated Mass for Fr. Thomas and his cross was on the altar. As I mentioned in my homily at the memorial Masses for Fr. Thomas, he lived his life and ministry by introducing people to the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ’s cross will always be for us a great sign of His mercy and, by God’s grace, it will serve as a reminder that the future is always full of hope.