Tag Archives: priest

North Georgia chaplain had stunning call to religious life

“HAD NEVER THOUGHT OF MYSELF AS A PRIEST … WANTED TO HAVE A FAMILY”

Father Lino Otero, 52, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, is the new chaplain of Legatus’ North Georgia Chapter, which chartered in late November.

Father Otero, a native of Nicaragua, was 14 when his family immigrated to Miami. A few years later, an intense religious experience led him to discern a priestly vocation. That path would ultimately lead him to join the Legionaries of Christ in 1990, and ordination in 2001.

In an interview with Legatus magazine, Father Otero shared his vocation story, his impressions of Legatus, and the reforms that the Legionaries of Christ has undergone in the years since revelations came to light that the congregation’s late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, led a double life and sexually abused boys and young men.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

It was mostly because of the recommendations from some of the founding members of the chapter. They invited me, and I started coming to meetings, and they came to like me. That’s pretty much how it happened.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I’ve been very impressed by the maturity of the members. These are people who take their faith very seriously. They’re very intent in raising their families in the Catholic faith. They’re people who are very concerned about the deChristianization of society, and they have the desire to do something about it.

When did you discern you had a vocation to the priesthood?

I never thought of myself as a priest growing up. On the contrary, becoming a priest was the last thing I thought I would do. I was very much opposed to the idea because I wanted to have a family of my own. When I was 17, I was invited, providentially, to attend a retreat at a Trappist monastery outside of Atlanta. It was on the third day of the retreat that I had the most enlightening experience in my entire life. It was a split second of an immense shower, an inundation of God’s love, that felt like a little piece of Heaven in my soul. After that, I could not imagine doing anything in my life but to dedicate my life to God.

How did you end up joining the Legionaries of Christ?

It was during my time in the diocesan seminary that I realized the experience that I had felt in that monastery corresponded more to the calling of a religious life with vows. So the question was, if God was calling to me religious life and not the diocesan priesthood, then where? I was discerning with a very holy diocesan priest who had been a teacher of mine at the seminary. Among the options that I presented to him, he recommended the Legionaries of Christ.

Do you feel you made the right decision?

Right from the very beginning. I felt everything that I received in my formation was a blessing. And like many of my companions, we suffered the shock of the revelations of our founder. But eventually, even that we grew to see as a blessing since it has given us the opportunity to be more humble, and to appreciate things much more. In my own life, I’ve been able to detach myself from viewpoints and perspectives that were too narrow. I participated in the renewal and reform of the congregation, which entailed a reconfiguration of the inner culture of how we live our lives, our spirituality, and our mission.

How would you describe the health of the Legionaries today?

I would say it’s better than ever. Because even though, in the old days, many young men entered and persevered because of the high ideals that the founder presented, eventually, as one grew older, a stifling air could be perceived in many. So now, all of that is gone. I think our perseverance rate is much higher because the priests feel that there is greater degree of possibility of self-expression, of more mature friendships and relationships, and a more balanced way of life.

Retired Air Force chaplain embraces new Fort Lauderdale Chapter

MONSIGNOR JAMES DIXON SOON MARKS 50 YEARS AS PRIEST

Monsignor James Dixon may be a retired priest, but he will soon have a new role as the chaplain for Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, which will charter officially in early 2020.

Monsignor Dixon is also a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who served 23 years in the military. His final military assignment was at the Pentagon, where he served as chief of plans and programs for the Air Force chaplaincy service.

At 77 years old, Monsignor Dixon still walks five miles a day and he will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination in May 2020. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How is the Fort Lauderdale Chapter coming along?

I think the Chapter is doing very well. We recently had a very good function and we’re getting close to the numbers that we need [for chartering]. Everyone is doing a great job, so I think we’re nearing the goal.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I was at dinner a few months ago with a very good friend of mine who’s been associated with Legatus for a long time. He told me, “I’d like you to do me a favor.” I said, “Sure,” so he then said, “I’d like you to be the chaplain of Legatus.” I didn’t even know what Legatus was, but I had said ‘yes’ to him so I accepted the invitation. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but happily I got into something very worthwhile.

What have been your early impressions of Legatus?

I’ve been impressed with the kinds of people who are coming to the meetings and accepting the invitation. I’ve been getting to know them and I find them to be very sincere Catholic adults who want to do the right thing, who want to live and express their faith. They’re just good solid Catholic people.

How did you discern your vocation?

I don’t have a spectacular vocation story. I didn’t have to break up with a girlfriend. I wasn’t engaged, or on track to be a world-renowned scientist, doctor, or lawyer. I was just an ordinary person.

In my senior year of college, I started thinking about the priesthood. I went and talked to a priest, who said, “I have no idea whether you should go to seminary or not. But if you don’t, ten years from now when you’re married and have a couple of kids, you’ll always think back and ask yourself, ‘I wonder what it would have been like if I had gone to the seminary.’” I thought that was pretty good advice. Sixty years later, I’m still here.

What made you decide to join the Air Force as a chaplain?

For one thing, I really admired the people who were serving. I think the Air Force also appealed to me because very often, the work of an Air Force chaplain is pretty much doing parish work. On our bases, we run parishes pretty much like any diocesan parish. I liked parish work and I wanted to be a parish priest.

What are some differences between being a priest in the military and in civilian life?

One difference is that in the military, these men and women deal regularly with long absences. To move around every few years is a very normal thing for them. To have somebody in the family missing for months at a time, is a very normal thing.

Furthermore, on a more serious note, military people face the reality of death and they talk about death in a way that civilians don’t because they don’t really spend a whole lot of time thinking about death. For military people, this is a reality where even 19- and 20-year-olds will say, “If I don’t come back…” I think the military people hold on to life very carefully. They treasure it because they always have in the back of their minds the possibility of not being there one day. And often, they take their faith very seriously because of that.

New Bismarck chaplain sees how world longs for God

‘RELENTLESS’ CALL TO PRIESTHOOD BECKONED HIM AWAY FROM MEDICINE

Father Thomas Grafsgaard, 33, is the chaplain of Legatus’ Bismarck Chapter, which was just chartered in October. Father Grafsgaard, ordained on June 13, 2013, is pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Beulah and Saint Martin Church in Hazen, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck and dreamed of becoming a doctor before he heard the call to the priesthood. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

When did you first suspect that you were called to the priesthood?

I’d always wanted to be a doctor, so I went to St. John’s University in Minnesota and got a biology degree. But during my junior year, I couldn’t stop thinking about the priesthood. I didn’t know why. I didn’t want to be a priest. I wanted a wife, a family, kids, and to be a doctor, but that call was relentless.

I studied abroad in Ireland in 2006, and it became pretty clear over there that God was calling me to the seminary. I’d say the call didn’t originate with me — it was definitely a call that God gave to me. I couldn’t imagine not being a priest now.

What is it about the priesthood that most brings you joy?

I certainly enjoy celebrating Mass. In hearing confessions, I am deeply edified and humbled by that. With the ministry of giving Christ’s mercy to people, it’s overwhelming, it’s such a gift that He left to His Church. I also enjoy being with people in every step of life. I could have a baptism followed by a funeral, wedding, or teaching in the classroom. Every day is different, and I love that. I’m learning new stuff every day, as far as what it means to be a priest and what it means to be a pastor.

What are some things you’ve learned in your six years as a priest?

I’ve learned the importance of simple kindness and charity, and also I’ve learned quickly how much the world longs for God. Being out in public, wearing the Roman collar, you see how much people are thirsting for God. To be a public witness to the reality of God and God’s presence in the world, it’s overwhelming and it’s very beautiful.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Bishop David Kagan [of Bismarck] had contacted me, saying that there was going to be a meeting for people interested in an organization called Legatus. I knew nothing about Legatus and had never heard of it. But the bishop asked if I would be open to being the chaplain for our Chapter. From there, it just grew. I’ve come to really enjoy the Legates in Bismarck, and am very grateful to Bishop Kagan for having asked me.

What have been some of your impressions about the Legates?

I am edified by how much they desire to live their faith in the workplace, by being that leaven in society in living the Gospels and upholding Catholic social teaching. The Legates here in Bismarck have a tremendous desire to share, not necessarily by overt evangelization in the workplace, but in very subtle ways, to live the Gospel in a culture that is not always easy to do, especially in the workplace.

Who are your spiritual heroes?

Certainly, John Paul II. I was able to see him when I was a young high school student on a retreat-pilgrimage after my senior year in high school. Also, Pope Benedict XVI for his humility and his tremendous knowledge of history. I wrote my master’s thesis on Pope Benedict and the New Evangelization, so I’ve had a deep admiration for him for a long time.

What kind of spiritual impact did that retreat have on you?

You think the Church is big, but when you’re in North Dakota, you forget how universal the Church is, especially with the languages that are spoken, the cultures that Catholics live in around the world. I think that retreat helped me to understand more fully what it means to be Catholic.

Exemplary priestly celibacy models Godly fatherhood

Venerable Fulton Sheen once wrote that “Sex has become one of the most discussed subjects of modern times. The Victorians pretended it did not exist; the moderns pretend that nothing else exists.”

Our cultural fixation on sex, like other neurotic obsessions, has all the markings of a split personality. On one hand, sex is idolized as the ultimate good, an imperative for everyone, a necessary component of a successful and happy life. On the other hand, sex is trivialized as a recreational pastime, something as casual, fun, and meaningless as a video game.

 Holding this contradiction together has been the overarching aim of the sexual revolution, and with deadly effect. The euphoria over free love that swept through the Western world in the 60s and 70s ushered in new technological and legal demands, including ready access to effective contraception – so that sex could be enjoyed without consequences – and legal abortion, to make problematic embryos go away when contraception fails or isn’t used.

 If we wish to promote a culture of life, then, our remedy must go deeper than the legal protection of human beings who happen to still be in their mother’s womb. Our remedy will also address that split personality, both the idolization and the trivialization of sex. And believe it or not, priestly celibacy has an important role to play in the effort.

A celibate priest is, first of all, a living refutation of the idolization of sex. Do you ever wonder why so many non-Catholics are intensely interested in the question of priestly celibacy? It is not because they lay awake worrying about the sexual well-being of priests. Rather, it is because they know, deep down, that celibacy is an existential threat to the central dogma of the sexual revolution: that unfettered sex is an imperative of any healthy and happy life. When priests live their celibacy well, with joy, peace, and fidelity – as it is in the vast majority of cases – then the notion that sex is a human necessity is simply and emphatically debunked.

 Celibacy also refutes the opposite error of the sexual revolution, the trivialization of sex. In a book that I recently wrote entitled Why Celibacy? Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest (Emmaus Road Publishing), I argue that celibacy is not primarily about being unmarried, but about loving in a radical and life-giving way, with a heart wide open in the exercise of spiritual fatherhood. In fact, celibacy is a living reminder that all men, including natural fathers, are called to spiritual fatherhood since their chief duty is to help their children get to heaven. Fathers are to raise not just children but future saints.

Celibacy, then, is a reminder that sex is anything but trivial. The beauty of human love between a husband and a wife is found in their breathtaking capacity to give life to immortal beings, something completely beyond their ordinary human capacities. Through their love, parents are made co-creators with God. This is why we do not say that human beings reproduce but rather procreate. They usher into the world children destined for heaven, whose souls are nourished, guided, and protected by their own parents and also, in a powerful and unique way, by the ministry of celibate priests, true spiritual fathers in the order of grace.

Protecting life means, fundamentally, protecting the human love that brings life into the world. The sexual revolution has left behind a devastating trail of human wreckage – broken hearts, broken bodies, and broken families. We need to begin the healing, recovering our sanity about sex which is neither an idol nor a plaything but rather a beautiful cooperation in the creative love of God. However paradoxical it might seem, priestly celibacy, well-lived, can help lead the way.

FATHER CARTER GRIFFIN is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Raised Presbyterian, he converted to Catholicism while attending Princeton University. After serving as a line officer in the United States Navy, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 2004. He is the Rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC.

Ways we can support our priests

Recently, Legatus Magazine polled members on what topics they would like to see addressed. One of the topics that surfaced was:

Stephen Henley

How can we, as laity, support our priests to be healthy, happy and holy?

As an imperfect layperson, I will humbly offer recommendations.

Pray: often, specifically. God willing, our prayers will sustain them in their hardest moments, those moments they find themselves in the desert.

Live your vocation as leader: in your business, at home, but spiritually as well. We are all examples to each other and the example we set helps to hold up those around us. Feeling needed in our vocation is something we all desire. Priests seeing that you are going to daily Mass, praying the rosary daily, availing ourselves to go to Confession, will help to edify our priests.

Be a friend: As a married man, I take for granted that I have a wife who is my ‘second opinion.’ When it comes to making decisions in my life, whether that be dealing with a work issue, writing this article, or with my kids, I can count on my wife to bounce ideas off of or to call me on something when needed. For many priests, however, they may not have such a person. They need personal interaction; they need people who are going to cheer them up when they feel down, or provide a dose of reality if needed.

Invite them to dinner: growing up, I can recall having our parish priest to a family dinner at least once a year. As a kid, I always thought it was something special. How many young men and women have been led to a religious vocation as a result of that dinner time with a priest!

In your chapters: you can support your priests in the life of your chapter by hosting a panel of priests. You could even host one of your monthly events at the local seminary. Many chapters create prayer buddies in the chapter that pray solely for local priests and seminarians.

Reach out: write to your priests (bishops and cardinals included), to commend them and thank them when they are doing the right things. Letter-writing is often thought of when things are going wrong, but it is just as effective when things are going well.

While it is easy to paint the clergy with a broad brush after the actions of some, it is the good and holy priests who will and do suffer. It is those priests we have to support, even more so in these times. As Ambassadors for Christ, it is within our vocation to lead the way in building up our clergy.

STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

Meet the Chaplain: Kansas City Chapter chaplain sensed priestly calling in 4th grade

DIOCESAN PRIEST 27 YEARS, ALSO SERVES MULTIPLE ROLES IN VICARIATE AND CURIA

Father Kenneth A. Riley, 53, is the new co-chaplain of Legatus’ Kansas City Chapter, which is set to charter in August 2019. The Chapter encompasses members from both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas.

Father Riley, who has been a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri for 27 years, is also the diocesan vicar general for administration, the moderator of the curia, chancellor, and the judicial vicar. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

Some days, I juggle it better than others. It’s really about what is the next deadline? What is needed most at the time? I try to give each of them a little bit of time every day but I also have great people I work with who really keep things moving too.

Did you always want to be a priest?

I thought about it in the fourth grade. I was an altar server. I loved it and thought, “Well, this would be kind of cool.” But that quickly went away and I then wanted to be a photojournalist and travel the world. I wanted to find local people, local stories, and just kind of walk with people and hear their stories, their lives, and see how God acts in the world.

How did you then discern the priesthood?

In junior high and high school, the idea of the priesthood kept coming back. I talked to my folks about it. I woke them up one night and told them I couldn’t get rid of this idea, that maybe God was calling me to be a priest. We had to shake my father awake. He said, “Okay, we’ll talk about this later,” and went back to bed. My mom and I stayed up for the night and talked it through.

Was there a moment when God confirmed for you your vocation?

In my junior year of Conception Seminary College, I had an experience coming back from the Rec Center. I went to the student chapel outside of a required prayer time and sat there. I had an experience of God laughing at me, but it was like one of those times where someone tells you a joke and you’re not getting it in the moment, but then it kind of clicks. I was very much at peace then that this is where God was calling me to be.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Several years ago, when they were starting the group, they would meet at the cathedral, which is where I’m in residence, so I kind of knew them and would help out with confessions and Mass. They had a different priest chaplain for a number of years, and when he was reassigned, the bishop invited me to pick up the mantle and try to help the Legates as they move forward as a fledgling new chapter.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I love that there is such a prayerful spirituality and tone. I love the fact that they’re professional networkers who live their faith. I appreciate their faithfulness to the Church’s teachings, beliefs, and practices. I think lifelong learning is very important for all categories, and if you can do it with like-minded individuals of faith, that’s just a tremendous blessing for people.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to go to the movies. I used to run a group for Catholics in the social media profession locally. I enjoy working and making faith connections with movies and television. Also, I like going out with friends for food and drink. I like to try different foods and converse over dinner. For me, that is very Eucharistic.

What is the value of media to evangelization?

We cannot not engage social communications and the media. This is the digital world we’re in. But we need to do it with charity and love, not hate and name-calling. At the same time, we have to call out people who do not speak the good, the true, or the beautiful, and continue to have the Gospel and the Good News presented there.

Meet the Chaplain: Lincoln chaplain first pondered priesthood in youth, when dad was ill

INTENDED TO QUIT SEMINARY AFTER A YEAR, NOW CELEBRATING 30 AS A PRIEST

As a young man, Father James Meysenburg entered the seminary with the idea that he would attend for one year and then quit to prove to himself and others that he was not supposed to be a priest.

Today, Father Meysenburg, 55, is about to celebrate his 30th anniversary of his ordination.

“It didn’t work out the way I thought it would,” Father Meysenburg said with a laugh during a recent interview with Legatus magazine.

Father Meysenburg, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, became the chaplain of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter a year ago. He is also the chief administrative officer of Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska.

How did you become a Legatus chaplain?

I lived with the previous chaplain in residence at St. Joseph’s parish where he was pastor. If he was gone for some reason and couldn’t do the Legatus Masses, I would cover for him, so I got introduced to it that way. And because of my position here at Pius X, I knew probably half or a third of the people that were in the Legatus Chapter anyway

How would you describe your time as a Legatus chaplain so far?

It’s an impressive group of people to be around. I’m edified by their faith. I’m edified by how they try to bring their faith into their businesses and into their homes, especially in their families. I always appreciate the quality of speakers they have brought in over the years. That combination of being surrounded by real quality, faith-filled people, and having people who come in and give inspiring talks has been really wonderful. It’s been a real blessing for me.

When did you first suspect you were called to the priesthood?

Probably like most young boys, as an altar boy, you think about it. I quit thinking about it until my seventh-grade year, when my father got sick with colon cancer. That was when I started thinking about things to do with eternal life and what this world is all about. After my father died when I was in eighth grade, I kind of forgot about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then in my senior year of high school, I had a couple of people say, “Hey, have you ever thought about the priesthood?” I wanted to tell them to get lost.

Did you feel more comfortable about it when you entered the seminary?

No. I battled, wrestled, and tried to come up with every excuse I could as to why I should leave. It really wasn’t until I was two months away from my diaconate ordination that I had a sense that, “Okay, this is really an invitation. I can say ‘no’ and God will still love me, yet all the signs are saying that is what the Lord really wants me to do.”

What kind of assignments have you had as a priest?

I’ve been involved in education my whole priesthood. When I was newly ordained, the bishop at the time had two big priorities; one was vocations, the other was Catholic schools. All the priests were assigned to teach in Catholic schools because he wanted a priest’s presence to help with vocations. So I started teaching. After a year or so, I found that I really loved teaching. The bishop later told everyone to get an administration degree, so I went to the University of Nebraska and got my educational administration degree. 

Do you have any hobbies?

I like golfing. I wish I could say I was good at it, but I’m not. I am also a motorcycle enthusiast. I’ve enjoyed taking some great trips on a motorcycle. It’s been a few years now since I’ve been able to take a long trip, but I really enjoy it. Going up into the mountains with the bike, it’s really mind-clearing.

Embracing Catholic faith first involves obedience to it

One of the most striking examples of the fact that there’s always more to learn about our faith is the priest who, while saying Mass one morning, gained another insight on Mass he never realized before.

The priest had been ordained for 50 years!

I’ve been a priest 30 years, and am still learning. The object of our faith is God, and He’s infinite; we never reach the end of knowing and understanding Him. In heaven, for all eternity, we’ll constantly be learning new things about God.

And yet this God, who is infinitely beyond our comprehension, shares His life with us today. We know Him as our spouse in the New Covenant. We know what He expects of us, and how to serve and obey Him.

Hence we speak about studying and living our Faith.

On the one hand, our Faith involves knowing concrete things about God and the things of God. Some of them we know by human reason (like the existence of God, or the moral truth that killing a baby is always wrong), and others we know only by Divine Revelation (like the Trinity or the Eucharist).

God has spoken to us. Faith has a content. It’s not just an attitude or a good intention.

On the other hand, Faith is the obedient acceptance of the relationship God initiates with us. Saint Paul speaks of “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). It is precisely in submitting ourselves to God that we encounter and better understand his truth. Isaiah says it well when he declares, “Unless you believe, you will not understand” (Is. 7:9).

The proclamation of the faith is called evangelization. It is the announcement of what God has done for us in Christ, and the urgent invitation to accept Him. Once that “Yes” of faith is made, then catechesis unfolds for us more extensively the meaning of that “yes” and the content of what God has spoken. Theology is then the work of deeper study, comparing the truths of revelation with the dictates of reason, and the various tenets of the faith with one another.

All this is well summarized by what we see in John 6 where, after many of his followers left Jesus because they could not accept His teaching about the Eucharist, Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe, we have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:68-69). In other words, Peter and the other apostles didn’t understand His words about eating His flesh any better than did the ones who left. But they understood who was speaking, and the authority of the one who spoke. They exercised the obedience of faith, knowing they would have a lifetime to more deeply understand it.

There is a lot of confusion in the Church today. But as I was discussing with a senior Vatican cardinal not long ago, there is no “secret knowledge” in the Church. No Church leader has more books of the bible or chapters of the Catechism than any of the rest of us have. The Faith is wide open for everyone to know, accept, and study. There is a clear body of teaching that the Church has always taught. It is OK to be confused about what a particular person says at a particular time; but there is no need to be confused about what the Faith says.

Indeed, let’s study and live it better each day!

FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com

Father Flanagan’s Visionary Cause Takes Modern Focus

On the morning of the dedication of a life-sized statue of Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, rain poured down in his hometown of Ballymoe, Ireland. Steven Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League Society and vice postulator of his cause for canonization, checked the weather. Rain was forecast throughout the country all day.

Wolf had traveled from Omaha, Nebraska to the little Irish village of 250 people. He brought with him the statue purchased by alumni of Boys Town to honor the famous priest.

Father Flanagan was born on July 13, 1886 in a whitewashed limestone, thatched-roof cottage, the eighth of 11 children in a hard-working farm family. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and was ordained a priest in 1912.

Tom Lynch, director of Community Programs at Boys Town and also director of their Hall of History Museum, explained that Father Flanagan came to Omaha as a diocesan priest to be with his older brother Patrick, who was also a priest.

ROOTS OF BOYS TOWN

“Father Flanagan saw men living on the streets, so he opened a shelter and called it a working men’s hotel,” Lynch said. Over time, men started showing up with drug and alcohol and mental problems. What they had in common were broken families, no education, and no skills. It inspired Father Flanagan to seek out homeless boys living in junk yards, railroad yards, and even prisons and offer them a better life.

“He went to a Jewish friend and borrowed $90 to rent his first home in 1917,” Lynch explained. “It was an old mansion that had been converted to a boarding house. In two weeks, he had 70 boys. By 1920 he needed a bigger facility to house them.” A priest with a crowd of homeless boys of different races and religions was not especially welcomed in neighborhoods, according to Lynch. Father Flanagan rented another building for a while until he was able to buy the Overlook Farm, about 10 miles west of Omaha.

“The property was beautiful with orchards and crops in the field, and a lake for swimming and fishing,” Lynch said. “Father Flanagan announced: ‘We are free and independent, we will build our own village.’” It was the start of Boys Town.

By the 1940s, the village had expanded to over 1,000 acres. At the public school, some boys were discriminated against and on average, they were around three years behind so Father Flanagan started a school for them. He created individual learning programs and also taught them trades. Church on Sunday was mandatory, but the denomination was of their own choosing. Father Flanagan had said, “Every boy must learn to pray; how he prays is up to him.”

ABUSE IN IRELAND

Father Flanagan was a social reformer, protecting the rights of children, fighting racism, closing reformatories, and insisting that every child had a right to basic necessities. The boys flourished under his supervision. At this same time, however, children in his homeland were not doing so well. In 1946, Father Flanagan received letters from Ireland begging him to investigate religious-run industrial schools that served poor and homeless children and unwed mothers. He went unannounced and was shocked.

After he returned to the U.S., Father Flanagan wrote letters to key people and spoke to a reporter, calling the institutions a disgrace where children were treated harshly and abused. The Irish government was furious and denounced him in the Irish parliament. Undeterred, Father Flanagan vowed to return to clean things up. However, after World War II ended, President Truman asked him to assist governments with programs for war orphans in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Austria, and Germany.

Father Flanagan complied with the president’s request in 1947-1948, planning to then get back to Ireland. He died of a heart attack in Berlin, Germany on May 15, 1948, however. Sadly, it would be another four decades before the truth became public. Beginning in the 1990s, a series of criminal cases and Irish government enquiries established that hundreds of priests had abused thousands of children over decades. If only Father Flanagan had been listened to.

DEDICATION DAY

Back in Ireland, before the dedication ceremony in November 2001, Wolf and 40 other Boys Town alumni climbed onto a bus outside their hotel, 10 miles from the village of Ballymoe. “It’s not going to rain on Father Flanagan’s day,” Wolf announced to the others. People smiled at his optimism. The rain kept coming though. There would be three bishops, the papal nuncio to Ireland, the U.S. ambassador, members of the Irish government, and a letter from their president would be read, and the Celtic Tenors would sing the U.S. and Irish national anthems.

As the bus rolled along on bumpy, country roads, the rain slowed. By the time they pulled into the village, where 1,800 would come for the ceremony, the clouds parted. The ceremony took place under a blue sky. After the ceremony, clouds moved back in and the rain resumed.

Many “God-things” seem to happen when Father Flanagan is involved, according to Wolf. He lived at Boys Town as a 14-year-old runaway from a single-parent home. Wolf graduated from high school at Boys Town where he had been the editor of the school newspaper and joined the Army National Guard while he was still a senior, which he just retired from after 38 years. He went on to earn a degree in journalism and master’s degree in public administration.

Wolf did not convert to the Catholic faith until years later when he had a family of his own and was a board member of the National Boys Town Alumni Association. “When I talk to other alumni, every single one of us calls that place home,” he said. “The essential ingredient is love. For that ingredient to be there for everyone, that’s God’s love and that’s what ties us all together. Father Flanagan would say, ‘It’s not my work, it’s God’s work.’”

CAUSE FOR CANONIZATION

In May of 2017, Omaha’s three-year investigation into Father Flanagan’s life received a decree of judicial validity by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, according to Father Ryan Lewis, the archbishop’s episcopal delegate for the Cause and also chaplain for the Omaha Legatus Chapter. The next step is to determine if “Servant of God” Father Flanagan lived a life of heroic virtue. If so, he will advance to the status of “venerable.” Generally, a miracle credited to his intercession will be required for beatification, and a second miracle for canonization.

Many Legates of the Omaha Chapter are also members of the Father Flanagan Guild, promoting his cause for canonization. Mass prior to the monthly meetings takes place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the heart of Boys Town where the nave on the west side holds Father Flanagan’s tomb.

“With the sexual abuse crises across the globe, to lift up someone like Father Flanagan at this time—an American priest who worked with youth and who did so in a heroic, dare I say in a saintly way—is an example that we need now more than ever,” said Father Lewis. “At a time when morale is down among priests, we can look to him with great pride that he was one of ours.”

Father Flanagan’s work lives on. Boys Town began accepting girls in 1979 and has become a national organization with programs across the country including in-home family counseling and programs for schools.

For more information about Father Flanagan, to download prayers, or to plan a pilgrimage with Mass and a visit to his tomb, go to www. fatherflanagan.org.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing write

 

The priest – husband of one Wife – for life

According to the Catechism (CCC 1579), priestly celibacy is a discipline found in the Western Church for those who are “called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord’” (1 Cor 7:32). Eastern Catholic churches maintain a tradition that allows for married priests, but, as is also the custom in the Western Church, those who hold the office of bishop must be unmarried. Since it is a discipline that was introduced later in Church history by the Church’s authority, the presence of married clergy in Scripture does not refute it.

This discipline is also not an arbitrary one but follows Paul’s teaching that a married man is anxious about pleasing his wife whereas the unmarried man is anxious about pleasing the Lord (1 Cor 7:32-34). In fact, both Saint Paul and Jesus practiced celibacy, so taking vows of celibacy would follow Saint Paul’s command to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Some Protestant apologists, however, claim Paul condemned celibacy, calling it a part of the “doctrines of demons” taught by those who “forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods” (1Tim 4:1,3). In fact, Paul said that “a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2), which means, according to Todd Baker (author of Exodus from Rome: A Biblical and Historical Critique of Roman Catholicism), “Rome blatantly contradicts Scripture by demanding their bishops and priests must be unmarried celibates.”

The Catholic Church does not teach that marriage or eating meat is evil. In fact, it is because these things are good and pleasurable that it is praiseworthy when someone abstains from them to serve the Church for a season (such as during a Lenten fast) or for the remainder of an entire lifetime as in the case of clerical celibacy. The fact that Paul desired that all could be celibate like him (1 Cor 7:7) makes it highly implausible that he would have condemned voluntary vows of celibacy.

Baker dredges up the canard that priestly celibacy is responsible for the clergy sex abuse crisis that took place in the late 20th century.

The actions of the small number of priests who abused children, as well as the decisions of some bishops to transfer those priests and rely on psychological treatments instead of criminal prosecution, have caused great harm to innocent lives and great scandal to the Church. But these sinful acts do not prove that celibacy is sinful or that it was a motivating factor in the recent clerical abuse scandal.

Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Priesthood” (pp. 153-57) in the recently released book, The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections, by Trent Horn (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017). www.ignatius.com

 

TRENT HORN, a convert to Catholicism, earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Arizona State University, then a master’s degree in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is a regular guest on the popular radio program “Catholic Answers LIVE,” and nationwide lecturer on the Catholic faith. Additionally he is author of Answering Atheism, Persuasive Pro-Life, and Hard Sayings.