U.S. Church News

A Norbertine abbey, steeped in tradition, uses modern outreach

By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service

CNS photo/courtesy St. Michael's Abbey

Members of the Norbertine Fathers' St. Michael's Abbey process on the grounds of the abbey in Silverado, Calif. Currently, more than 35 men are in formation with the Southern California Norbertines. (CNS photo/courtesy St. Michael's Abbey) See ABBEY-OUTREACH-GROWTH Dec. 7, 2018.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado, California, just opened their doors, so to speak, to the world at large.

The priests and seminarians who live a monastic life at the abbey but also have apostolic ministries at schools, parishes and prisons in Southern California, recently developed an online platform for their donors and subscribers to essentially take part in the life of the abbey -- gaining access to spiritual writings of the priests, audio to their Gregorian chants and video clips including links to a series they produced last year about themselves called "City of Saints."

The site is called the Abbots Circle -- www.theabbotscircle.com -- and is akin to a digital library, but it also provides opportunities for subscribers to ask questions.

"God is asking us to reach the church in new ways," said Norbertine Father Ambrose Criste, novice master and director of vocations and formation for the order.

The new platform enables the priests to give back to their supporters and "provide spiritual nourishment," he added. It also responds to those who come to the abbey seeking spiritual direction and often ask for more, wondering if they can read homilies or other works by the priests.

"They are thirsty for sound instruction, teaching nourishment and real-time questions and answers," the priest told Catholic News Service Dec. 4.

And the timing of the site, which launched Nov. 1 and is available for a free two-week trial, is crucial for what the U.S. Catholic Church is currently going through, said Norbertine Father Chrysostom Baer, prior of St. Michael's Abbey, in a statement.

"St. Norbert, a Catholic reformer, founded the Norbertines to lift up a demoralized clergy, preach to the lay faithful, and so renew the church in difficult times," he said, noting that the order is fulfilling this same mission today, "in a time when both laity and clergy are demoralized by scandal, by using new media to connect with the faithful and offer support and guidance."

Offering clear teaching amid church scandal is not something the order does just for those who come to the abbey to join them in prayers or liturgies or for those who come to the online portal, but it is something the Norbertines particularly offer to men seeking a vocation. Their numbers continue to rise, so much so that the order is building a new monastery, eight miles from the current site where they have been since 1961.

They just finished a $120 million campaign to get this two-year project started.

Currently, more than 35 men are in formation with the Southern California Norbertines. Father Criste said he has heard from a number of seminarians who joined the order this year and a few already in formation that they feel there is no better time to become priests. Above all, they have stressed their desire to be "holy priests," he said.

"It makes sense to me that our vocations are thriving in these dark ages," he said, adding that the Norbertines' way of life -- living and praying together and being accountable to one another -- is a remedy for the church.

Their particular way of life, a ministry fed by contemplative prayer, is far from the modern lifestyle. The priests gather for prayer seven times a day and eat their meals in silence. But this lifestyle offers something authentic to today's young people, said Father Criste, who added that so many are "thirsty to give to something bigger than themselves."

San Francisco Archdiocese celebrates newly written Mass of the Americas

By Catholic News Service

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted in a stained-glass window at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, is Dec. 12. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- San Franciscans will celebrate the recently commissioned "Mass of the Americas" Dec. 8 for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe at the archdiocese's Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

The liturgy, scheduled for 2 p.m., is the first new Mass commissioned for the cathedral since it was dedicated in 1971.

"The Mass embodies the way Mary, our mother, unites all of us as God's children," San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in a statement announcing celebration the Mass, which he said is a "simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe," whose feast days are Dec. 8 and Dec. 12, respectively.

San Francisco composer Frank La Rocca wrote the Mass, which includes music in Spanish, Latin, English and Nahuatl, the Aztec language Mary used when she spoke with St. Juan Diego in Mexico in the 16th century.

The Mass is sponsored by the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. La Rocca is composer-in-residence at the institute.

The Eternal Word Television Network planned to broadcast and livestream the celebration.

An announcement for the liturgy said the style is of the long-standing sacred music traditions of the Catholic Church but incorporates traditional Mexican folkloric hymns to Mary.

It was composed for a 16-voice mixed chorus, organ, string quartet, bells and marimba, which is an instrument from Central America and South America. A professional choir known as Benedict Sixteen was to sing at the Mass.

Archbishop Cordileone originated the idea for the Mass as the "musical equivalent of mission architecture because it is rooted in the tradition and incorporate local elements in the creation of a new worship experience."

The Archdiocese of San Francisco said the Mass also was inspired by the calendar in which the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on the Saturday before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a way to unify the Anglo and Latino communities of the Catholic Church.

After its first celebration, the Mass of the Americas will be taken on an international tour of cathedrals including to Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedrals in Dallas and Tijuana, Mexico.

Religious investors ask energy firms to oppose EPA emission rollback plan

By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nearly two dozen Catholic entities have joined other investors in urging major oil and natural gas producing companies to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rollback of standards governing greenhouse gas emissions.

In an early December letter to the energy firms, the 61 shareholders that are part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility wrote that any rollback is risky to their investments because it would lead to "excessive methane emissions that needlessly tarnish the reputation of natural gas as clean fuel and call into question the role natural gas can play in a low-carbon future."

The letter specifically focuses on an EPA plan to ease the New Source Performance Standards, or NSPS, adopted in 2016. The standards govern production and transmission in the oil and gas industry.

The standards set limits on the emission of methane, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants in energy production. The EPA proposal seeks to ease those limits, citing cost savings to industry.

Organizations such as Virginia-based Mercy Investment Services, one of the Catholic signatories to the letter, see the rollbacks not just as financially risky but a threat to the environment as the world struggles to respond to climate change.

"It's a loss of product for (the companies)," Mary Minette, director of shareholder advocacy at Mercy Investment Services, said of leaks at wellheads and pipelines. "It's also horrendous for climate change and air quality. Quite frankly, the oil and gas companies need to get control of it if they want to say natural gas is a lower carbon fuel force."

The shareholders' concern is that methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas, a class of pollutants that trap heat in the atmosphere. The majority of environmental scientists have pointed to research that shows greenhouse gases are a major contributor to global warming.

President Donald Trump's administration has called for rollbacks of "excessive" environmental regulations, saying they are too costly to industry and would slow the drive to U.S. energy independence. Trump and some members of Congress also have dismissed scientific findings on climate change, saying current global warming is part of a natural cycle that has seen atmospheric temperatures rise and fall over time.

The EPA proposed amendments to the NSPS in September. The comment period on them closes Dec. 17, which hastened the ICCR to act.

The revisions have been sought primarily by smaller oil and natural gas producers who find the regulations too costly to follow.

The amendments affect well construction, natural gas processing plants, storage vessels, and record keeping and reporting. The changes also would reduce the frequency of monitoring of oil and gas infrastructure, including pipelines and compressor stations, for leaks.

The EPA estimated that the amended standards would result in up to an additional 380,000 tons of methane, 100,000 tons of volatile organic compounds and 3,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants being released into the atmosphere at a cost of $13.5 million in foregone climate benefits from 2019 to 2025.

During the same period, the proposals would save industry as much as $380 million in monitoring and construction costs, according to EPA estimates.

The EPA said in its report justifying the new standards that the larger amounts of volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere "may also degrade air quality and adversely affect health and welfare effects."

The ICCR shareholders called on the companies to publicly and privately support direct methane regulation by the EPA and oppose elimination of the regulations. They also stressed the need for the energy producers to submit comments to the EPA opposing the rollbacks by the Dec. 17 deadline.

The investors stressed that national emission standards are necessary because of the large number of companies -- more than 600 -- involved in oil and gas production.

"We believe that strong but fair regulations are critical to ensuring the ongoing viability of the oil and gas sector in the energy transition. We would like to hear the companies in our portfolios publicly support a similar position," the shareholders wrote.

The letter pointed to Colorado and California where the current federal regulations to reduce methane leakage have proven effective.

Among the firms receiving the letter were Anadarko Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Kinder Morgan. ICCR said the firms were chosen because of their efforts to operate profitably under the stricter standards.

Minette told Catholic News Service Dec. 6 that she had heard from one company wanting to discuss the letter and was expecting to hear from others.

She also said that the shareholders, as part owners of the energy firms, want to be sure they are heard on the issue.

"The companies we wrote to are the ones that are behaving responsibly," she said. "There are a lot of players out there and not everybody is doing the right thing. We want to assure a level playing field and to ensure that everything proper is being done."

Among the letter's signers were the leadership team of the Felician Sisters of North America, Maryknoll Sisters, Sisters of Bon Secours USA, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Corporate Responsibility Office of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order, and regional networks of investors including Seventh Generation Interfaith in Milwaukee, Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment in Seattle and Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment in New Jersey.

Retired Bishop Rodimer dies; spent a lifetime of ministry in home diocese

By Catholic News Service


Retired Bishop Frank J. Rodimer of Paterson, N.J., died Dec. 6 at St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Totowa at age 91. He is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS) See OBIT-RODIMER Dec. 7, 2018.

PATERSON, N.J. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Frank J. Rodimer of Paterson died Dec. 6 at St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Totowa. He was 91.

When Bishop Rodimer became the sixth bishop of the diocese Feb. 28, 1978, he had the unique distinction of being installed as the only priest of the Paterson Diocese to have ever been raised to the episcopacy. He retired in 2004. Earlier this year, he moved St. Joseph's Home.

For much of his retirement, Bishop Rodimer resided in Green Pond and in those years he served the diocese whenever he could.

"Every day I still pray for the people of the diocese and their intentions and I always hope today to still encourage my brother priests in whatever way I can to continue this very important ministry," he once said.

Bishop Rodimer's body will be received the afternoon of Dec. 14 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson, followed by viewing until 7 p.m. and then vespers. His funeral Mass will be celebrated Dec. 15 at the cathedral.

All of his years of ministry to the church were spent in the Paterson Diocese. He knew every bishop of the diocese personally. When he decided to be a priest, it was the Paterson's first bishop, Bishop Thomas McLaughlin, from whom he had to ask permission to become a seminarian.

His ministry to the people of the Paterson Diocese began May 19, 1951, when he was ordained to the priesthood at the cathedral.

During his years as a priest before becoming bishop, he served as parochial vicar of St. Brendan Parish in Clifton, Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Sparta and St. Paul Parish in Clifton, where he was pastor for 10 years. He later served as assistant chancellor of the diocese and secretary of the tribunal.

He was the first diocesan director of sacred liturgy and he was a member of the editorial board of The Advocate, the Newark Archdiocese's newspaper, which then also served the Paterson Diocese.

He was secretary for Paterson Bishop James Navagh and attended the Second Vatican Council with him in June 1963. He was appointed diocesan chancellor in December 1964, and in April 1966, he was appointed secretary of the diocesan board of consultors. He also served as chairman of buildings and sites.

As bishop, he served as leader of the diocese for 26 years until his retirement in May 2004. During his ministry as bishop, he established 12 new parishes, ordained 91 priests and 179 permanent deacons and confirmed more than 100,000 Catholics.

In 1999, he supported a bill introduced in the state Legislature to abolish capital punishment in New Jersey.

"Precisely because we love and cherish the gift of life, we are challenged to oppose the death penalty," Bishop Rodimer said. "Those who have so little regard for life as to take it from someone else, though deserving of severe punishment, should not reduce us to their level."

On the eve of the 1993 Super Bowl, he called on parishes and institutions of his diocese to halt trips to Atlantic City casinos and to consider ruling out gambling as a fundraiser.

Stopping short of banning bingo as a parish fundraiser, he said "there have to be better ways of doing the work of Jesus than by calling out bingo numbers or selling raffle tickets."

Calling Super Bowl weekend the "occasion of the most illicit wagering all year," Bishop Rodimer said small-scale office pool betting was "innocent enough" but placing bets with bookmakers and others involved in organized crime was wrong.

A 1992 pastoral letter of his, "Put Our Children First," listed a comprehensive plan Catholics can undertake on behalf of children. "I fear for a society which deplores but does little or nothing to address the horrible daily realities which many of our children face," Bishop Rodimer said.

In 1991, he testified on behalf of the U.S. bishops in support of a bill to ban permanent replacements to striking workers.

"If workers lose their jobs, what does it mean to have a right to strike? If there's no effective right to strike, what does it mean to have a right to organize?" he said in his testimony. "When employers are allowed to offer permanent jobs to strikebreakers, strikers lose their jobs. It's that simple."

He committed the diocese to the full implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He likewise established the policy that the Sacrament of Confirmation be administered to young people in their sophomore or junior year of high school.

During the 1980s, Bishop Rodimer established the three-year fundraising campaign "Share His Vision," which raised $3 million for purchase of land in the diocese for future parish sites and major capital repairs to parish buildings in urban areas of the diocese.

He also spearheaded the creation of the Tri-County Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to needy students. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist underwent major repairs and liturgical renovations in preparation for the diocese's 50th anniversary. Bishop Rodimer rededicated it on Dec. 19, 1987.

He appointed a task force which in 1989 approved a plan to assist the homeless that calls for providing them with emergency, transitional and permanent housing. It committed the diocese to use its land and buildings "where appropriate and available" to provide affordable and transitional housing.

Born Oct. 25, 1927, in Rockaway and raised there, Frank Joseph Rodimer attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange and St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, which was a minor seminary.

He went St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey and The Catholic University of America in Washington, where he received a licentiate in sacred theology in June 1951. He returned to the university after his ordination for graduate studies. He received his doctorate in canon law in 1954.

On the national level, Bishop Rodimer was a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. He served on the bishops' Administrative Committee and he was chairman of the Committee for the American College at Louvain, Belgium.

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