Tag Archives: priesthood

From probation officer to priest, chaplain was ‘a late vocation’

MONSIGNOR ROBERT JAEGER OF COLORADO SPRINGS MEETS MINISTRY CHALLENGES DURING PANDEMIC

When Monsignor Robert Jaeger is not at St. Paul Church in Colorado Springs, CO, where he is pastor, he can be found downtown in the chancery as vicar general for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Monsignor Jaeger, 69, has also been chaplain of the Colorado Springs Chapter, sponsor for Legatus Summit West next month, since it chartered 10 years ago. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How is the Colorado Springs Chapter doing?

We’re in pretty good shape. We’ve maintained consistent membership. We have a good community of people to be with, from all walks of life, from different businesses and lines of work. The thing we share in common is our Catholic faith, with the members living it out in their own lives and in their own businesses.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the chapter?

We weren’t able to meet for a couple of months. The coronavirus curtailed some of our socializing. Normally in July, we do a picnic of some sort or go somewhere for a social engagement. We have one planned now at a local country club with big rooms where food will be catered and everyone will be at a safe distance from one another.

We had our last meeting at St. Paul’s, in the parish hall. We scattered the tables around, each at a safe distance, and had a meal catered. We had our speaker via Zoom. It all worked out pretty well. There were 34 people in the room, and we had Mass and Confession beforehand. We also had about 10 members watching via Skype.

How has the pandemic affected your role as a pastor?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve said Mass every day. We stream it online so people can watch live at home and later when they want. We called everyone in the parish at least once a month to check in with them, and I do other taped messages on a regular basis to keep some kind of contact on a regular basis with everybody. I think that’s important to bring some stability and confidence, to let people know the Church is still here for them.

What’s one thing people are surprised to learn about you?

I’m a late vocation. I was ordained when I was 39. I worked in parole and probation in Illinois for five years and then I did the same thing in Las Vegas for 10 years. I enjoyed the work, and I enjoyed the people I worked with. Basically, you’re a social worker in that role, sometimes a babysitter. Everybody needs somebody to talk to, sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

How did you transition from probation officer to priest?

My older brother is a priest. He went to the seminary right out of high school, and I had given it some thought many other times. I dabbled in seminary two or three previous times, but it didn’t take then. But I kept close to the Church. I had priest-friends, and I was close to the bishop, who urged me to pursue a vocation. After 10 years in Las Vegas, I decided I should really take a look at the priesthood. If you feel the Lord calls you, you need to give it an honest shot.

Is there anything else you’d like to emphasize to Legates?

Our basic premise is to be ambassadors for Christ. Are you witnessing Christ in your family, in your place of business, and everywhere else, so that the faith is fully connected and integrated into your whole life wherever you are?

From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah
Ignatius Press, 148 pages

 

 

Here’s the book that stirred up no small amount of controversy in January when, just prior to the book’s release, the pope emeritus asked that his name be removed as co-author. Whatever the concern is, Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah each contribute chapters to this work and collaborated on the introduction and conclusion to the book. Together they provide a succinct catechesis on the Catholic priesthood and a masterful defense of the discipline of priestly celibacy. Amid the sexual abuse crisis and the push in some quarters for optional celibacy, this book serves as an urgent reminder of the true character and necessity of the priesthood of Christ.

 

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The Priests We Need to Save the Church

Kevin Wells
Sophia Institute Press, 229 pages

 

To say that the Catholic Church and her priesthood are in crisis is a vast understatement. Some priests and bishops have failed us miserably, Kevin Wells is quick to point out, and others just go through the motions. Yet a renewal of the priesthood is precisely what will renew the Church as a whole, he proposes. Through engrossing discussions of exemplary priests he has known or interviewed, Wells proposes that priests who give themselves over to what they are meant to exemplify — virtues like holiness, self-sacrifice, availability, and spiritual fatherhood — will help transform our clergy and lay faithful more closely into the Church that Christ wills us to become.

 

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For new Miami chaplain, it was an easy transition

“Business leaders need to have something in their life that reminds them to be faithful to the Lord.”

Father Richard Vigoa, 49, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami, is the chaplain of Legatus’ Miami Chapter, set to charter this month.

Father Vigoa, parish administrator of St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables, Fla., was ordained in 2008. For nine years, he served as the priest-secretary for Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, he described himself as a “workaholic” who probably doesn’t take as much time off as he should.

How old were you when you first thought of becoming a priest?

It was my pastor who first said something to me when I was age nine: “I think you should be a priest.” At the time, I told him, “No way, Father. I don’t want to be a priest. No offense.” But that kind of stuck in my mind. What did he see in me that he saw the potential of the priesthood?

When did you start discerning the priesthood?

It wasn’t until college. I was dating a young girl. I was even thinking about marriage. That didn’t work out, but I was very involved in my parish. Again, the pastor of that church told me, “You know, you have a vocation to the priesthood. Have you ever thought about being a priest?” I called the archdiocese and asked them if there was a day when I could visit the seminary. They told me to come by that weekend. So I made a pledge to the Lord: “I’ll give you one year. If I’m not happy after one year, then I’m outta here.” And I can honestly say, from Day 1, it felt like I was home. It was right for me, and it was where I was supposed to be. As they say, the rest is history.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I was the priest-secretary for the archbishop of Miami for almost nine years. I was in my office one day this past September, and I received a letter from him saying, “I have appointed you to be the chaplain of Legatus.” We had talked about Legatus a lot. And, being his secretary, I was kind of aware of what was happening with Legatus in Miami.

What have been your initial impressions of Legatus?

I was already aware of some of the bigger donors here in the archdiocese. So for me it was easy to go into the role because I knew a lot of those people already. Also, a lot of my parishioners were either in the chapter or were interested in joining, so it’s very easy to slide into the role of chaplain.

What value do you see an organization like Legatus having for the Church?

Leaders, specifically business leaders, need to have something in their life that reminds them to be faithful to the Lord, to stay committed to holiness, and to continue to encourage, motivate, and engage others to know Christ better. If we can get the leaders in our community to be strong in their faith, that’s only going to make society better. It’s going to change culture, and it’s going to help the businesses they run to be effective and for the kingdom of God.

Who are your spiritual heroes?

Right now I’m writing a book on Bishop Fulton Sheen, on how he was the precursor to the New Evangelization. Pope St. John Paul II called him an apostle of the New Evangelization. There is no one who did it better in the 1950s than Fulton Sheen.

Understanding God’s special mission for those with influence

Father John Riccardo, 54, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, will be a featured speaker at the 2020 Legatus East Summit.

Father Riccardo is the executive director of ACTS XXIX, a nonprofit he helped to form that is aimed at revitalizing parish life and helping pastors and their teams to reclaim their identity as missionary disciples. Father Riccardo recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

Without giving too much away, what are you going to be talking about at the Summit?

What I want to try to do is in the midst of the confusion that’s going on in the world we’re living in — and in the Church and the country — is to pull back from the weeds and to get clear once again on the big picture. And the big picture in my mind is to make sure we understand God’s plan for the world and our mission in it, most especially the mission that has been entrusted to people like those who belong to Legatus.

How would you describe that mission?

The mission is two-fold. For all of us, the mission is to understand that the work that happened on Easter Sunday was the work of the re-creation of the universe. What you and I are supposed to be doing right now is letting the Lord use us as instruments in his hands to continue to foster that work of re-creation in every sphere of life. For those who belong to Legatus, it’s that and then some. The line that comes to mind is the line in the book of Esther when Esther’s uncle says to her, “Who knows whether or not God has raised you up for such a time as this.” There’s an especially weighty task given to those who have influence, and I’m going to be talking about that, too.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

I’ve spoken at Legatus meetings off and on ever since it started. The Legates are tremendous men and women with a real passion for the Gospel, and an eagerness to understand what God is asking them to do in these crazy times in which we live.

What did you do before entering seminary?

I worked in the auto industry. My vocation story is complicated. I never had an inkling to become a priest, but I had an encounter with Jesus that I could never deny. I went from being in a place of not going to church – even though I prayed – to Jesus inviting me to be a priest, which is something I had never genuinely considered in my life.

What was that encounter with Jesus like?

I was a typical early-to-mid-20s individual who was restless, trying to find something truly meaningful to do in my life, and wasn’t able to find that in the world. I was on my way back to grad school to get another degree to open another door, which I didn’t really care about because I didn’t want money, I wanted meaning. One day out of nowhere as I was praying, I felt like the Lord invited me to live single and to do it as a priest. And the moment He seriously asked me to do that, I knew that’s what I was looking for.

What is the mission of ACTS XXIX?

ACTS XXIX is a nonprofit we founded last year that does work with pastors and parishes across the country to bring about transformation and to help them reclaim their missionary identity. We feel the Lord has given us something unique to share with a segment of pastors and parishes around the country. It’s about priestly renewal, working with pastors and their teams to get healthy and then to get clarity on God’s plan for the world, and then to get out there and begin to discern the blueprint that He has for every parish.

Do you have any hobbies?

My passion outside of Jesus is golf, reading, and friends, not in that order.

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.

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.