A passion for the faith
L.A.’s Archbishop Jose Gomez talks immigration, family and the Legatus Summit . . .
With the 2011 Legatus Annual Summit less than two months away, members from across the country are anxious to hear from the stellar line-up of faculty and clergy who will focus on this year’s theme – “Communicating the Word.”
Attendess will hear from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, Houma-Thibodaux Bishop Sam Jacobs, Pulitzer Prise-winning author David McCullough, and others.
As a preview of the Feb. 3-5 event – to be held at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton beach resort in Naples, Fla. – We bring you an exclusive interview with Summit speaker Archbishop Jose Gomez. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Archbishop Gomez actively supported the Legatus chapters in San Antonio and Denver during his tenure as bishop of those dioceses. He will automatically succeed Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony upon the cardinal’s retirement on Feb. 27.
You’ve been coadjutor archbishop for six months. What’s been the biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise has been how active the faithful are. It’s a wonderful place where people participate in the life of the Church. There are 5 million Catholics, making it the largest archdiocese in the country. We have all kinds of ministries — all joyfully active. We have Mass in 42 languages.
Pope John Paul II called for a New Evangelization. Since your diocese encompasses the entertainment capital of the world, how can Hollywood be evangelized?
In Los Angeles, the beautiful thing that I have experienced is how many Catholics in Hollywood want to bring the truths of the faith to that industry.
I went to the Legatus Hollywood Chapter meeting last fall. They are wonderful people trying to evangelize Hollywood. There are many initiatives trying to influence the way that things are portrayed in the entertainment industry. It’s a big challenge, but I was happily surprised to see how many good people are trying to make a difference.
I met someone who decided to make educational vignettes for kids. I also met with Eduardo Verástegui — a member of the Hollywood Chapter — who just finished a movie on the Mexican martyrs [Cristiada, also starring Andy Garcia and Peter O’Toole, is due in theaters in 2011]. If there is some coordination and support from the archdiocese, I think that these initiatives will be very successful.
You’ve preached extensively on immigration. How should Catholics understand this issue?
This is an issue about the dignity of the human person. The U.S. bishops have said many times: Latinos are a blessing for the Catholic Church. I think those two things can help us understand the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform. The particulars of the legislation are up to our elected representatives. But what is urgent is that we have some resolution to this issue.
I think we all agree that we have to protect our borders, and that it’s a national security issue. But we have to keep in mind what we have with the immigrants: many wonderful people who are coming to work and to be part of society in a positive way.
Why are people so angry?
One of the big challenges is that some of the new immigrants don’t speak English. The Hispanic community is addressing this.
Another issue, which is very delicate and important for people, is that immigrants come breaking the law. I understand that it’s not right for anyone to do that. But they had to do that because there is not a legal way to come to this country if you are looking for menial jobs. The demand is there and so they come.
I have made one suggestion — and that is to ask these immigrants to do community service. It’s a win-win situation. They understand that breaking the law is not correct, and at the same time they become more integrated in the community.
What do Hispanics contribute to the Church?
There is a long-standing tradition of the integration of faith and culture in the Hispanic way of life. A challenge we have with the Hispanic community is education in the faith. More and more are becoming cultural Catholics. Many Hispanics come from areas in Latin America where there were not enough priests. This lack of formation leads them to leave the Church. We must use electronic means, the Internet, to reach out to the people. We can’t just wait for people to come to us. We need to tell them about the truths of the faith.
What can parents do about the culture wars?
Present to your children a positive view of life and issues. Look at the positive side of our culture: discipline, work, community. Keep communication between generations. Have the family eat together for dinner. Parents and children must be able to listen and talk together. That is basic. Attend their school events. Not all activities that children are involved in are essential. The essential is to be together as a family. We have to continue giving parents more options for movies, games, Internet sites. We need to be engaged in the culture.
How can we encourage vocations?
Vocations start in the family. Parents need to be praying for vocations and presenting them as good options. Priests are essential in the promotion of vocations. We priests need to be happy. We need to talk about the possibility of vocations.
A good, solid seminary program is essential. Someone who is committing themselves to the priesthood should expect a solid foundation that is human, spiritual and apostolic.
You’ve had years of interaction with Legatus members. What’s that been like for you?
I have had a wonderful experience with different Legatus groups. I was involved in Denver and San Antonio, where I made wonderful friends. I think Legatus is a very important organization for the U.S. church.
When I speak to Legates at the Summit in February, I will talk about immigration. I think that when we understand the issue of immigration, we see how positive it is for our country. I will also speak about how important it is to be involved in the cultural issues of our times — immigration, marriage, life and the New Evangelization.
Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.
Three ways to register:
Call: (866) LEGATUS (534-2887)
How to convert the world
Summit attendees to hear from Fr. John Corapi
As a young layman, John Corapi made millions in the real estate business. The jet-set Hollywood playboy became a drug addict, lost his fortune and was homeless for three years. His journey back to God began when his mother sent him a one-way ticket home to New York state. She begged him to pray one “Hail Mary” every day.
Today, Fr. John Corapi — a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) — preaches the Good News to the masses. Catholics around the world listen to his weekly program on EWTN. He will address Legates at the Summit in February and preach a mini-retreat the following day.
Father Corapi told Legatus Magazine that he will speak about the Summit theme — Communicating the Word — from his own perspective. During the retreat, Fr. Corapi said he will do what any good football coach would do.
“You return to the fundamentals when the game is not going well,” he explained. “I look to what the Catholic Church teaches. It can’t get better than that.”
The renowned preacher’s challenge to Legates is never to stop educating themselves in the faith.
When asked about the culture war and how to fight it, Fr. Corapi’s answer is simple. “The most eloquent and convincing sermon you can give is a life well-lived,” he said. “To the degree to which we learn — and most importantly live — our Catholic faith with intensity, that’s the best thing you can do.
“An example from the history of the Church is St. Francis of Assisi. He didn’t set out to convert the world. He set out to convert himself. That’s the lesson for us. To the degree to which we are converted, that we live our faith with fidelity and intensity, to that degree and that degree only will we contribute to the conversion of the world.”
—Sabrina Arena Ferrisi