11/5/2015 9:00:00 AM BISHOP'S COLUMN 'The harvest is abundant, but...'
BISHOP’S STATEMENT ON ‘SPOTLIGHT’ FILM
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger released the following statement regarding the new movie "Spotlight," which is about the clergy abuse crisis in Massachusetts:
"Because I have not yet had the opportunity to view 'Spotlight,' I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular film. However, I can tell you unequivocally that anything that raises awareness of the crime of sexual abuse of minors and encourages transparency is a good thing. I certainly hope 'Spotlight' will be a vehicle to communicate the truth and advance the dialogue regarding the protection of children.
"We need the facts, and we have to be watchful and vigilant at all times, which is why the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany actively works to protect children at every level through prompt reporting to and cooperation with law enforcement authorities; through clergy, employee and volunteer background checks and awareness training; and through age-appropriate child protection programs in our schools and parish faith formation classes. We had to learn some hard lessons from this painful chapter in the life of the Church, and because of that we have committed ourselves to creating and promoting standards that now serve as a model of what our society can and must do to protect all children.
"The Diocese encourages all victims/survivors to report any instance of sexual abuse against a minor to the appropriate civil authorities. You may also contact our diocesan assistance coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org."
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER
It's harvest time. Thanksgiving is three weeks away. But I would like to go out on a limb and say, why not start working on that Thanksgiving list right now?
What list? Well, as we do in the lead-up to Christmas, making notes of people we would like to greet and gift. What if, every day from now till Thanksgiving, we just contacted one person each day just to say, "Thank you"?
On my personal list, for sure, would be the priests and religious, sisters and brothers, who serve us so generously every day. This week, I will have the chance to thank our clergy personally at our annual fall convocation. On Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. (I hope you can join me), I look forward to thanking our religious at a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany for the closing of the Year for Consecrated Life.
But I don't want to forget our wonderful deacons and so many others who, as employees or volunteers -- often both -- serve our parishes and our many diocesan organizations every day, working tirelessly, more as on a mission than on a job.
Every disciple of Jesus, actually, is on a mission. It's what we call "the great commission." It is the instruction of the risen Lord that each of us, actively and intentionally, every day, spread the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus is with us always and is ready and able to transform lives.
The hunger is deep and widespread for the real presence of the healing mercy of Jesus. We need to hear it personally, through someone near and attentive to us. There is something about a live encounter that does not come across in a text or a tweet or even a phone call.
I am very grateful for the forgiveness of so many good people who are patient when I am not as responsive as they and I would wish. I want to do my best to get around to every parish in every region of the Diocese as often as I can.
Our new episcopal vicars (see separate story) will help me do this better. They are priests who love being with their people. It is my hope that their strong pastoral presence will also be an expression of my desire to listen and learn how we can bring out the best in one another and to share the good news of God's work in all of us around the Diocese.
Although we need to continue to pray for an increase in vocations -- this is national Vocations Awareness Week -- we can never forget that priests and religious generally receive their call through the people closest to them: family, friends and neighbors.
This is true for all of us. God saves us through us! So we have to pray, but we also need to ask. Encourage a young man or woman you know to consider a vocational call if you think he or she may have one.
Each of us in on a spiritual journey which will, one day, with help of God's grace, lead us to heaven. We need companions along the way, like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus that the risen Jesus met. Every day offers us opportunities for an Emmaus experience. "Where two or three are gathered in my name..." (Mt. 18:20).
More than anything else, I would like to encourage each person to accept that Jesus is calling you to be an instrument of His peace and love for every person you meet. That is the simple truth of discipleship. It is not just the job of "professional Christians" who have some kind of a title or a degree.
Just look at the lives of the saints and how they often had parents and spouses, brothers and sisters who prayed for them and gave them spiritual courage. I think of St. Monica praying for her wayward son, "city boy" St. Augustine, for some 30 years, or the parents of St. Thérèse de Lisieux, the Little Flower, themselves saintly yet simple "country" people who were just canonized.
It does not matter where you live or where you are from. Like Jesus, we meet people where they are.
You may be the only "Christ" someone may ever know! Do not be afraid to tell your friend or neighbor or family member about the ups and downs of your journey of faith. You may be surprised how encouraging you can be to them.
If nothing else, you and I can always pray for -- preferably with -- a friend in need. It doesn't have to be a particularly original or creative prayer. The power of one Hail Mary at the right moment could quite literally be the arrow that steers another away from the road to hell and into the loving arms of God's mercy.
Mary, by the way, has an intimate knowledge of the heart of Jesus. In the Year of Mercy, which starts Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I hope you will be joining with me in making a consecration to her immaculate heart. I will let you know more about this wonderful "fast track" to Divine Mercy in the weeks ahead.
For now, please pray that each of us may discover that Jesus is inviting us and counting on us to bring the Gospel to our families and neighbors. It's harvest time! And thank you for accepting the call to be a disciple of Christ.