Tag Archives: church

Confession – Penance – Reconciliation: Call it what you will, it’s not that hard to go back

February 21, 2012

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An examination of conscience made easy

You don’t rob banks. You haven’t killed anyone. You go to Mass weekly.

This Lent, try going to confession anyway. Or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Or Penance if you’re an old fogy like me. No matter what you call it, you’ll be glad you got up the courage.

Let’s even make it easy — here’s a quick list of questions to ask ourselves — you remember, an “examination of conscience.” These are some good things to talk to the priest about. Think of them as places in your life’s journey you want to improve, and your conversation with the priest is inviting him to help you do that.

  • Have I made time for my relationship with God — for Mass and prayer?
  • Have I failed to forgive?
  • Have I shown others anger way out of proportion?
  • Have I been a gossip, spread rumors, been critical of others without really having all the facts?
  • Have I been jealous or envious of other people?
  • Have I been a bad influence on others, even an enabler of other’s sins or addictions?
  • Have I failed to use the talents God’s given me because I’ve been lazy?
  • Have I made excuses for my own addictions or over-indulgences?
  • Have I given in to temptations that I know are sinful?
  • Have I missed chances to use my gifts and talents to help others?
  • Have I failed to see Jesus in the eyes of others?

The grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will do you good, and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, even if the total of your sins don’t add up to much.

And need a daily tug on your sleeve? Click here to sign up to get one e-mailed every day during Lent.

 

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7 Reasons Why I Like Religion

January 30, 2012

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Photo/DrabikPany Licensed through Creative Commons

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how bad religion is, so bad it seems that some claim Jesus hated it. According to one singer, “All religion ever made of me was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet.”

Well I’m a sinner but I think Christ has actually helped me untie stones from my feet through the Catholic religion.

If  instead of being helped you’ve been hurt by religion, I am sorry. Maybe it was the members of that religion, not the religion itself.  Religions are made up of people who regularly make mistakes but it doesn’t mean God’s not there.

Here are some reasons why I believe Jesus is not only OK with religion, but is working through it to heal, unite and sanctify His people.

1. Jesus started one.

When Jesus tells St. Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my Church” in Matt. 16:18, He doesn’t sound very anti-religion. He’s starting His own religion as a fulfillment of the one He practiced all His life. He doesn’t call for abolishing any of the Jewish law. (Luke 16:17)

2. It helps many people in need.
Contrary to claims that religion doesn’t help the poor, the Catholic Church is actually the largest non-governmental provider of education, health care, and human services in this country. It helps families and communities to combat hunger and homelessness, overcome poverty and dependency, build housing, resist crime and seek greater justice. It also offers relief and development in more than 80 countries.

3. It is all of us together.
There are times when it’s extremely comforting to know that a lot of people are going through the same things I am. My religion is not a building, although we have some beautiful ones. It’s people who love each other because they love Christ, and want to spend eternity with Him. It’s holy men and women who lived during the past 2,000 years and continue to help me through their prayers and support. And it’s knowing that in every country in the world I will find others who believe as I do. Because of God and my religion, I am never alone.

4.  It does what Jesus told us to do.
At the Last Supper He said, “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) If He’d wanted us carry out His wishes alone, He would have given the Apostles one-on-one instructions instead of calling everyone together. St. Paul reaffirms this in I Cor. 11:24

5.  Through it, Jesus feeds me when I’m hungry and heals me when I’m broken.
The Lord could come directly into my home and give me communion and absolution for my sins but instead He does it through others–men in directly line from the Apostles who had the original assignment.

6. It promotes peace.
I’m sure some wars have been fought because of Christianity, though it’s not always clear if the Church has been directly to blame. What I do know is that people in my religion work tirelessly for peace. At Vatican II, the Council Fathers exhorted “Christians to cooperate with all in securing a peace based on justice and charity and in promoting the means necessary to attain it, under the help of Christ, author of peace. (Pacem in Terris)

Through history, a total of 43 popes have brought peace and settled disputes between warring factions. You don’t hear much about that. One of them was Pope St. Leo I who faced Attila the Hun in 452. Words were exchanged near Mantua, Italy, and afterwards Attila promised to withdraw his forces from Italy and negotiate peace with the Roman emperor.

7. It is about humans searching for God.
I’m searching for God, too, so that makes the Church a good fit for me. Even though Jesus started this religion, He left it for humans to run with the Holy Spirit’s help. I am imperfect and broken and so are all the other members of my religion. But together we are stronger (Ecc. 4:12) and we are doing what the Lord told us to do. (See all four gospels.)

 

 

 

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Making giving easy — stewardship’s next goal

January 17, 2012

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You’re paying most of your household bills online.

Instead of writing a check and putting it in the usher’s basket each week, you’ve got automatic-withdrawal set up so your parish gets your donation right from your checking account.

Think about the hassle it would save both you and the parish bookkeeper — not to mention the savings in printed material and postage — if you could make your annual stewardship pledge right online.

That was the kind of thinking that came out last week at a gathering in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development joined efforts with the Association of Parish Business Administrators for a listen-and-learn session that allowed parish administrators to hear some best practices of their peers and to give feedback to the archdiocesan Stewardship Committee about its efforts during the past year.

Stewardship director Mike Halloran was especially looking for feedback on the Stewardship Toolkit the archdiocese made available last spring.  Sample pastor letters, pledge forms and the suggested timeline for a parish stewardship campaign were among the most-used pieces of the toolkit, which was available both in a three-ring binder and online.

Parish business administrators also asked for more copy-and-paste features, for instruction on how to write good “ask” letters, and for help in bringing pastoral leadership (read clergy) on board with the approach the archdiocese itself is promoting, that is, stewardship as a way of life.

Four administrators showcased their efforts during the “best practices” portion of the morning.

From Deb Langlois, of St. John the Evangelist in Little Canada:

  • Rekindled the parish stewardship committee and used the Stewardship Toolkit as a roadmap;
  • Added accountability to the annual parish report;
  • Tailored two separate messages, one to active and engaged parishioners and one to inactive;
  • Suggested “growth-step giving,” asking, “Could you grow a step in your pledge, and if you do here is what we will do with the money.” Results? Biggest percentage back from new parishioners ever.

From Mike Laughery, St. Michael in Prior Lake:

  • Began sending out quarterly giving reports;
  • Added a ministry fair — and got 250 new volunteers;
  • Invited a nationally known speaker to give stewardship talk at Masses.

From Scottie Bahr, Holy Spirit in St. Paul, offered goals for coming year’s stewardship efforts:

  • Allow credit-card giving;
  • Give donors a personalized history of pledge giving.

From Jon Jakoblich, Transfiguration in Oakdale:

  • Saved $10,000-$14,000 by not using a consulting firm;
  • Did a parish census, reducing wasted mailings and postage;
  • Used the theme, “Reinvest in Your Parish”;
  • After a short homily, did an in-pew ask at all Masses and gave parishioners time to fill out simple pledge card that concerned finances only, not time or talent. Result was increased pledge of $140 per family.
  • Wrote hand-written thank yous that Sunday that were in the mail Monday.
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The unforgettable Cardinal John Foley

December 12, 2011

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Goodbye to a mentor and a friend

Cardinal John P. Foley, speaking at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Jan. 7, 2011. The American cardinal died Dec. 12, 2011.

Many will remember him as the voice doing the “play-by-play” during the Pope’s Christmas Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica, something he did for 25 years up until two years ago.

Journalists around the world will remember him as the archbishop who got them a radio or television feed or a straight answer about what the church teaches and why.

Those of us in Catholic media will remember the Philadelphian who became a Cardinal of the Church for his hilarious stories, his love of puns, and his commitment to his faith, to the church and to truthful Catholic journalism.

I remember John Patrick Foley as a mentor who became a friend.

Cardinal Foley, who died today, Dec. 11, at the age of 76, was the editor of Philadelphia’s Catholic newspaper when he hired me, just a 22-year-old, to be his news and sports editor back in 1974.

Best of mentors

I’m trying to avoid saying he was a demanding boss, because that would put too dark a tone on the reality of who he was. What he was was a boss who set high expectations — for himself as well as others.  He could never understand why anyone would ever give less than 100 percent when they could inform, form and inspire God’s people through the work we did.

Because he held those high standards, he could hold the reins loosely and let a young colt like me run. I tried out the latest in graphics. I cropped photos tight and used them big. I covered everything from high school football to the International Eucharistic Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court. When a tip about Catholic school teachers organizing a labor union got me into a sub rosa gathering at an apartment one night, then-Monsignor Foley not only published my full-page story but defended the story to archdiocesan officials because Catholics needed to know why their teachers felt they needed a union.

Along the way he taught me the importance of planning, the value of teamwork and collaboration, and the truism that Catholic media have nothing to fear from reporting bad news. His approach to Catholic news — one forged in part at Columbia’s School of Journalism and in part by his priesthood — was that Catholic media should tell every story, tell it honestly, and tell it with compassion. And he showed us all how to be Catholic, how to live out our faith every day in all we do, with everyone whose life touched ours.

When we worked for him in the mid-1970s we expected the monsignor to one day be named an auxiliary bishop. Instead he went right to archbishop; Pope John Paul II chose him to head the Vatican’s communication efforts. He became a cardinal in 2009.

I’d left Philadelphia in 1977, but through the years we’d see each other at Catholic Press Association conventions and correspond occasionally. He always helped me better understand the church and my faith. All his letters — every one — included “give my love to Barbara and the children,” never forgetting my wife and that he’d baptized two of our four.

When I think back I appreciate that he taught me the valuable lesson of having a reason for whatever I was doing. But even better, he showed me how to love the church, warts and all. The bureaucracy frustrated him and the politics drove him crazy, yet I don’t know how many times I heard him say, “I’ve never had an unhappy day as a priest.” It was a sentence he repeated last year when he came to the Twin Cities to help The Catholic Spirit celebrate its 100th anniversary.

He wowed ’em in Minneapolis

I thought the cardinal would be a big-name draw for our centennial celebration, so about a year in advance I invited him to be our keynote speaker in January 2011. Needless to say he was a hit. He had several hundred people laughing aloud as he quipped with his host, Archbishop John Nienstedt, and told anecdotes from his years in the Catholic news ministry.

It was only after he left town that I was told he had leukemia but didn’t want me to know it.

Once he was diagnosed with that cancerous blood disease he had cleared his calendar for two events: the 2011 Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh and the 100th anniversary celebration of The Catholic Spirit in the Twin Cities. I can’t describe them, so you’ll have to imagine my feelings upon hearing that our friendship meant that much to him that he would honor his commitment to me knowing that he hadn’t long to live.

Thank God he made it to Pittsburgh last June.  He was the keynote speaker there, too, and as we sat down for the centennial dinner I was asked to introduce the cardinal.

I wasn’t expecting that, but frankly it wasn’t difficult. I’d watched Foley through the years, and he was a master at self-effacing stories, at working an audience, at getting a message across clearly yet quickly.

The hard part, the lump-in-the-throat part, was finishing up the introduction by telling him — in front of several hundred people who work in Catholic media around North America — how much he meant to me. And how much I loved him.

Requiesat in pace, good and faithful servant.

 

 

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9 Reasons Catholics Go to Mass

November 29, 2011

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According to Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley

Catholics come to Mass because we desire:

1. To respond to God’s love.

2. To encounter Christ in the most profound way possible.

3. To gather and pray with our parish family.

4. To strengthen our particular family.

5. To witness to our faith and provide a living legacy to our children and grandchildren.

6. To be transformed by Christ’s grace.

7. To participate in Jesus’ victory over death and the salvation of the world.

8. A foretaste of heaven.

9. To follow God’s loving guidance and to commit to deepening our relationship with 
God.

Any of these at the top of your personal list? If your reason isn’t listed above, what is it?

 

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Mass? On Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2011

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There’s ‘having’ to go to church, and there’s ‘wanting’ to

“Mass? On Thanksgiving?” the man-child’s voice asked with not a little incredulity. “We don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving.”

No, the voice of reason and rationality answered.

You don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving, I said. I just thought you might want to go to thank God for all the gifts you’ve received during the past year.

I might as well have been talking to the deceased turkey on the counter that was having its cavity stuffed at the moment.

That conversation happened 20 years ago.

I remember writing a column about it at the time — yes, in the old Catholic Bulletin — because a debate was going on at the time about holy days of obligation. Very few Catholics were attending those “obligatory” feast day Masses, and although it took several years, the “obligation” was removed. Now, as we know, in the United States we observe several former obligatory attendance feasts on the nearest weekend. (Immaculate Conception — Dec. 8; Assumption — Aug. 15; Ascension Thursday).

But back to Thanksgiving 1991.

The assigned lector was unable to make it, and as I walked into church, the pastor grabbed me to fill in in the emergency.

That’s where an insight came into the difference between “having to” and “wanting to” go to Mass.

When you lector at weekend Masses, you can see all the folks who duck out at Communion, all the folks who rush out to their cars at the first note of the recessional hymn, all the folks who are in the parking lot before the priest even makes it halfway down the aisle to the back of church.

On that Thanksgiving Day, when the only people who were at Mass were the folks who didn’t feel “obliged” to be there but “wanted” to be there, guess how many people left Mass early?

Not a single one.

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Young Swiss Guard shares lessons he learned from John Paul II that helped him succeed in business

October 14, 2011

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Ever since Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence” turned business improvement into a hot booksellers category, the printing presses have been revolving in earnest, pumping out titles to capture that audience of eager leaders and managers.

There have been a handful of valuable books as a result, works like “Good to Great,” “The Tipping Point,” “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” and “Made to Stick,” to name just a few.

A former Swiss Guard who has gone on to success in international business might not be the first person you’d think of to jump into this authorship arena, especially when he’s saying he learned how to succeed in business by observing Pope John Paul II.

“The Pope & The CEO” (Emmaus Road Publishing) isn’t the first business book to bring ethics into the conversation, nor is it the first to pull lessons from religion. But this one is done very, very well. It’s tasteful, it’s respectful, and most of all the lessons that Andreas Widmer shares are valuable.

This isn’t a Pollyanna piece. Widmer, a Swiss native who studied in both Europe and the United States and who has worked on five continents, has seen both success and disappointment in his business activity since leaving the ranks of the pope’s protectors. In his 20-plus years of leading technology firms with a global reach, though, he found that John Paul II was quite the role model for business leaders.

Those attributes that Widmer gleaned while standing guard in colorful garb at the Vatican he turns into lessons that will help every leader in every organization. And what makes this book such good reading is that the advice is peppered with anecdotes from the author’s time in the presence of the Holy Father that were those “teachable moments” that made a lasting impression on an impressionable young Andreas Widmer.

He writes about being true to one’s calling, knowing and doing what’s right, having a vision, about teamwork, humility, the power of prayer and more, and each chapter ends with a handful of questions for readers to ponder. Here are just a few examples:

  • What have been your greatest professional successes? What did you gain? What did it cost you? How did it change you?
  • Who was the best manager you ever had? Describe what made this leader great? Did this person lead as a coach or a critic? How did he or she bring out the best in you as an employee?
And Widmer’s Catholic faith — thanks to the example displayed by John Paul II — is an influence on literally every word.
“John Paul’s influence made me understand that business and faith go together — they are not opposed to each other,” he writes. “Business can be wonderful school of virtue and faith. What’s more, faith and virtue make a business and the economy truly prosperous.”
Readers will find practical advice throughout the 150 or so pages of this paperback.
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7 Tips for a Deeper Prayer Life from a Former Swiss Guard

October 14, 2011

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Andreas Widmer, now involved in global international business, learned as he observed Pope John Paul II during the two years he served as a Swiss Guard at the Vatican. In “The Pope & The CEO,” he offers practical tips for prayer. Here is an abbreviated version:

1. Be aware. Before you pray, focus on the fact that God is present and listening.

2. Slow down. When reading the Scriptures or other religious writing, don’t race from passage to passage. Treat the reading like a love letter from God. Savor the text, and ask God to help you understand the connection between the words on the page and the circumstances in your life and heart.

3. Praise always. Don’t take God’s goodness or love for granted. Thank him by acknowledging all that he is and all he’s done for you.

4. Tell him you’re sorry. You don’t have to wait for confession to examine your conscience. Make a habit of doing this nightly. Then express contrition to God and ask for the grace to do better the next day.

5. Be attentive. Listen for God’s voice in your soul.

6. Plan for prayer. Don’t let a day go by without making time for God. Schedule a daily appointment with God and never miss it. Cultivate a rhythm of prayer throughout the day. Before beginning difficult tasks, pray “Lord, come to my assistance.”

7. Pray in all things. Make your life a prayer by making a gift of yourself. Every time you make a sacrifice great or small, say silently, “Lord, I give this to you.”

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Archbishop Nienstedt’s remarks at 100th anniversary of the Catholic Bulletin/The Catholic Spirit

January 14, 2011

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(Remarks of Archbishop John Nienstedt at The Great Catholic Get-Together of 2011, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Catholic Bulletin/The Catholic Spirit – January 6, 2011.)

As we celebrate 100 years of The Catholic Spirit, we could point to so many achievements. Imagine the number of words that have been written over that time! The moments of great joy and deep sorrow that appeared on the pages. Life changing events for our world and the Church that were captured by a camera. And the discourse of a few archbishops!

While we cannot minimize these human achievements and the manifestation of the creative talents of so many, what is it really that The Catholic Spirit has meant to the hundreds of thousands of Catholics, and others, who have read its pages week after week?

Above all else, The Catholic Spirit has been and continues to be a tool to bring the faithful into closer relationship with Jesus Christ. The Catholic Spirit is at its best when it unpacks the news of the day through the lens of the teachings of the Catholic Church. It helps Catholics really understand how to live out their faith in the workplace, at school, at play, in the public square. It does this by telling stories – the important stories that are present in our parishes, in our Catholic schools and in places great and small throughout this archdiocese. And the hope is that in each story, column or editorial, the reader encounters Jesus, is strengthened by his presence and brings the fruits of this encounter to those around him.

In November, the Pope himself affirmed the irreplaceable role Catholic newspapers play in forming Christian consciences and reflecting the Church’s viewpoint on contemporary issues. Where the secular media often takes a relativistic and skeptical attitude toward truth, Benedict tells us that the Church must bring the truth of Christ to the world and the Catholic newspapers play in encouraging dialogue among readers as a way to form “critical and Christian consciences.”

The Catholic Spirit strives to be this formative influence in the life of this archdiocese. As publisher of The Catholic Spirit, I am grateful for the care the staff takes in ensuring that the truths of our Catholic faith shine through on the pages of the newspaper – and on the website, Facebook and Twitter, for that matter. And as the words written by those who contribute to The Catholic Spirit will most certainly be delivered in very different ways in the future, the purpose of those words – to bring all who encounter them closer to Jesus – will never change.

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Minnesota Catholic paper starts second century with a head start on reaching audience in the digital world

January 7, 2011

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(The following is the text from Bob Zyskowski’s talk at The Catholic Spirit newspaper’s 100th anniversary party in downtown Minneapolis Jan. 6. His talk included a seven-minute video that demonstrated the new http://www.TheCatholicSpirit.com)

Many of you know Father John Malone. I see from the chuckles that you do.

Well, Father Malone has a brother named Jim.

Jim Malone came home from the office one day, and before he could get his coat off his wife, Kath, who worked for years in the office at Hill-Murray, said, “Jim, you gotta read this.”

She held out a copy of the Catholic Bulletin to him.

“Could I take my jacket off first,” Jim asked.

“Nope. You gotta read this.”

Turns out a column I’d written had touched Kath, and she had to share it with Jim because she knew it would touch him the same way.

That was more than a few years ago, but touching lives is something that has happened pretty regularly over the last century, thanks to the Catholic Bulletin and its successor, The Catholic Spirit. And we know that because people tell us we touch their lives.

A catechist in Hopkins let us know she uses The Catholic Spirit to prepare teenagers for Confirmation.

A teacher in Woodbury orders 25 copies each school year so that everyone in his class can keep up to date with the news of their church.

A small faith-sharing group in Maplewood — a RENEW group that still meets — uses articles from The Catholic Spirit as discussion starters.

A pastor in Roseville told me at every parish meeting he goes to somebody brings up something they read in The Catholic Spirit.

These are just some of the anecdotes that confirm in my mind a philosophy I’ve pushed our staff to live by: I don’t want The Catholic Spirit to be liberal or conservative – I want it to be useful.

It’s a philosophy that has earned The Catholic Spirit national recognition. Over the past century this newspaper has done tremendous work, but during the past six years The Catholic Spirit has become one of the very best diocesan newspapers in North America. For this medium-size archdiocese out on the prairie to have its Catholic paper named No. 1 four times – and never lower than third – in competition with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Baltimore — says a lot about the newspaper, but it says so much about you, our readers – about the excellence you expect from us.

What’s more important than recognition by Catholic journalism judges is that you appreciate what we do. You truly are friends of The Catholic Spirit. Your being here tonight to celebrate with our board and our staff is testament to the fact that you understand the need for our church to communicate in the best possible ways.

There are lots of friends of The Catholic Spirit. We hear from readers all the time that as soon as the paper comes in the mail they read it cover to cover.

But we also get this type of note, and

Stephanie Anderson, sent this, and it’s printed right off a computer screen.

“Being a single mother of two very active and smart kids, I don’t always have the time to read the actual paper when it comes in the mail. It’s nice to be able to read articles online through Facebook.”

While so many of us appreciate holding our reading material in our hands, a growing audience lives in the digital world, and our church must as well.

For us, the future has arrived. TheCatholicSpirit.com this year was named the best diocesan newspaper website.

But we’re not resting. Shortly after we came back from New Orleans with that award in June, our web guru, Craig Berry, told me he was dumping the old site and creating something new. By September that “best website” has been completely revised. As we take a look at it today you’ll get a peek into how The Catholic Spirit is spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ as it begins its second century.

We’ve jumped into social media so that we can touch even more lives. We push out our stories by promoting them on Facebook.

We send an e-newsletter to several thousand folks, giving them the headlines and the gist of stories and a link they can click on to send them right to that story.

And as of yesterday morning, TheCatholicSpirit had 18,540 followers on Twitter. That means that every time we post a story 18,540 people get a tweet with a link to our website.

As Catholic newspapers have for 100 years, Catholic media today – through e-mail and video and smart phones and iPads and Facebook and Twitter and whatever comes out next, as well as through printed publications – will have the same charge:

  • Spread the Gospel and the teachings of the church.
  • Form consciences and values.
  • Deepen spiritual and prayer life.
  • Challenge Catholics to live morally and justly.
  • Connect Catholics to their faith, to their parishes, to their fellow parishioners, to the archdiocese and to the wider church.
  • Report stories that affirm others’ faith and inspire even more noble acts.
  • Celebrate Catholic traditions, strengthen Catholic identity and enliven the Catholic community.

I’ll be honest. There are days when I wish I were five years older and could have retired before all this new technology entered our lives.

But most days I’m excited to be part of this great movement in Catholic journalism. God is giving us a great opportunity to reach and inspire not only those faithful readers of The Catholic Spirit but thousands more who see our work on their computer screens.

It’s a great way to start a second century, don’t you think?

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