Archbishop to new transitional deacons: Look to the examples of Sts. Peter and Joseph

On Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained six men to the transitional diaconate during a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Marking this important step toward the priesthood were John Alemeida, who is studying at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary; John Croghan, who is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.; Sean Conroy, Anthony Davis and John Stapleton, who are all studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary; and Peter Srsich, who is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

In his homily, Archbishop Aquila noted the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and spoke of the readings for the day, taken from the book of Jeremiah.

“In our readings for today, we hear the Lord speak to the prophet Jeremiah, and he speaks to you too,” the archbishop told the men. “‘I formed you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. I send you. I command you. I am with you to deliver you. I place my words in your mouth.’ And all of those point to action of God in your lives.”

In meditating on these words, Archbishop Aquila said, it becomes apparent that the vocations of the six men – and each of God’s children – was God’s will from the beginning.

“You, my beloved sons, your vocation began at the time of your baptism. And that is true for each and every one of us,” he asserted. “In making us at our baptism his beloved sons and daughters in Jesus Christ, the Lord pours out his love upon us, unconditionally and freely.”

Citing the Gospel of Matthew, Archbishop Aquila explained that even today, there is still confusion about who Christ is, but as Christians, we must look to the example of Peter and the apostles, who states, “You are the Christ, son of the living God.”

This is a proclamation all sons and daughters of God must make, the archbishop said, and in doing so, we “respond that Jesus is the son of the living God. That he is the Lord. That he is the savior. He is the redeemer. He is the brother and friend. And it is living in that relationship and believing it and trusting it and opening our hearts to receive it that we discover our vocation.”

The archbishop then urged the men to always remember the vocation to which the Lord has called them, that it is not their own will that they should seek to do, but the will of the father.

“In your preaching, you must have confidence in the Holy Spirit and in the words given to the prophet by God: ‘I place my words in your mouth,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “You are not to preach your opinion. You are not to preach your personal preferences. You are not to lead people astray. You are to lead them into the truth of Jesus Christ. You are to lead them into the encounter with Jesus. You are to preach Jesus’s words. And certainly, you are to use personal examples of where you have encountered Christ, helping people to see that, yes, in 2020, it is possible to encounter Jesus Christ.”

In the wake of media reports on Querida Amazonia and the question of priestly celibacy, Archbishop Aquila urged the men to accept their celibacy as gift from Jesus Christ, so that they can offer their vocation as a self-gift for God’s people.

“The priesthood is not functional, it is sacramental. And so, too, is celibacy,” the archbishop told the men. “You give witness to the truth and to the world that the virtue of chastity can be lived. In this sex-crazed culture that we live in, it needs more than ever that witness to the gift of chastity and to how to live that virtue and the incredible freedom and joy that it gives you.”

In the struggle of celibacy, the archbishop suggested the newly ordained men to look to the example of St. Joseph, who he said is the “best example of spiritual fatherhood and what it means to be a father as a celibate.”

“St. Joseph was called by the Father to be the father of Jesus in his humanity, and in that call, he responded wholeheartedly,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He became the protector of Jesus and Mary and he lived that out in his lifetime. That encounter with Joseph can teach us what it means to be a spiritual father. Listening to the words of Jesus, ‘I have come not to do my own will, but the will of the Father. My very food is the will of the Father.’ St. Joseph was obedient to that.

“You are making a lifelong commitment today,” the archbishop concluded. “Stay faithful to Jesus in that. Remain strong and steadfast in Jesus.”

Featured image by Daniel Petty

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”