St James The Apostle Parish

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Browsing News Entries

Suicide and the grieving people in the pews

Recently a story about a Detroit priest’s homily at the funeral of a young man who died by suicide created a media storm. The parents were upset, the priest was attacked, and everyone had an opinion. I read the homily and, as a mother who lost a son to suicide, I did not read anything that offended me. However, I can see how this family and others in this situation would be hurt by it. Losing a child to suicide is very traumatic. Not just because you are burying your kid, but because there are so many unanswered questions, so many regrets and so many “what ifs.” It is your child, and in your mind as a parent, you failed them somehow. Timeline of events On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, my son Anthony took his own life in my home. I left him sitting on my couch to go pick up his brother Daniel from work. I left at 1 p.m., and Anthony called me on the phone at 1:51 to ask to use my car. Daniel and I paid for our food at a local drive thru at 2:20. That drive thru is about eight minutes from our house, so we walked back in the front door at approximately 2:28. Anthony was nowhere to be found. I looked for him everywhere, including closets. The only place that I did not look was in the garage, which is where he was, meaning he must have died somewhere between 1:51 and 2:28 p.m. Unless he died while we were eating our takeout, which is a possibility that makes me gag every time I think about it. All of that might sound like a police report to people who have not lost someone in a traumatic way like suicide. Because that is what it feels like when all that information is going in my head. It is like a computer downloading information I pieced together using phone logs, receipts and any other information I needed in order to create a timeline of events. All of it was done involuntarily. My brain decided that is what we needed to do. I needed a timeline of events. Every Wednesday for the first year after Anthony died, I went through that timeline in my head in real time. That was my way of coping. I was not able to handle anything else on Wednesdays, because I was busy putting pieces together to try and figure out where things went wrong. It’s called “magical thinking,” the idea that if you can just do the right thing now, figure out the code or see where things could have been different, that you can somehow magically change the outcome. It isn’t reality. It is trauma. And that is what families who are dealing with suicide loss are going through. Losing a loved one to suicide creates inner chaos. Shutterstock The family impact Suicide not only takes a life, but it also destroys the lives of the victim’s loved ones. My husband, our other children, grandchildren and I are completely devastated by the suicide of my oldest son. His oldest daughter went from being a happy and bubbly little girl who knew nothing but love and laughter to a five-year-old with panic attacks. Her daddy would never have done that to her on purpose, and only God knows what was going on in his mind and soul when he took his own life. Only God knows if Anthony is in heaven or not; nobody else has the right to damn or canonize my son. What everyone can do is pray for him and the other victims of suicide. A priest should know the right balance between truth and love when dealing with a grieving family suffering from losing a child to suicide. The priest who preached the homily at Anthony’s funeral is a close family friend. He walked with me through my conversion in 2009, he baptized Anthony, and he was there the night that we found Anthony in the garage and blessed his body before it was taken away. And even then, he and I discussed what he would say at Anthony’s funeral. He did that out of respect for me and my family, not so that I could dictate to him what to preach in homilies. He understood that this particular homily had to come from a place of love and respect. That is how all priests should treat grieving families. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in ...

Eastern-rite parishes in California help keep traditions alive

While southern California is home to several Roman Catholic dioceses, it is also home to many Eastern-rite Catholic communities. While their liturgies and customs may differ from Latin-rite churches, they still share the Faith and the sacraments, and they are in communion with the bishop of Rome, the pope. These eparchies (Eastern dioceses) include: Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles (Maronite) — with 46,800 Catholics; Our Lady of Nareg in Glendale (Armenian) — with 51,000 Catholics; and St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego (Chaldean) — with 66,000 Catholics. Know Your Rites To learn about Maronite Catholics, read this week’s Faith article here . In addition to their serving a small fraction of the numbers served by California’s Roman Catholic dioceses, these eparchies cover territories that extend over large swaths of the United States. So local communities are often distinctive enclaves of cultures and customs associated with a particular rite and have strong ties to their ancestral homelands. The following are two such parishes. Chaldeans in San Diego St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral is located inland of San Diego, not far from the Mexican border. It was established in 1973 and is today the seat of one of the two Chaldean Catholic eparchies in the United States, the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle. The eparchy encompasses 19 western U.S. states; the other, the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, encompasses the remainder of the country. Together, they serve 210,000 Chaldean Catholics living in the U.S., with 12 parishes and 21 priests in the east and 10 parishes and 14 priests in the west. Another 15,000 Chaldeans live in Canada. “Wherever you go, a Chaldean parish is like your extended family,” remarked Samir Salem, president of the parish council at St. Peter Cathedral. “You see familiar faces and friendly people, making it like a second home.” Salem is originally from Tel Keppe, a historically Christian town in northern Iraq. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1982, joined St. Peter’s in 1983 and has been an active parishioner ever since. The number of Chaldeans in the San Diego area has grown steadily since, with an estimated 60,000 in the region. To accommodate the increasing numbers of Chaldeans in the area, a second Chaldean parish in El Cajon, St. Michael’s, opened a few decades ago, and another, St. John the Apostle, opened a year ago. Two seminarians will be ordained for the eparchy in December, Salem noted, as “we’re working hard to grow our Church and keep our kids in the Faith.” St. Peter’s has 5,000 active parishioners. It offers liturgies in Arabic, English and Aramaic, although Arabic and English liturgies both incorporate Aramaic hymns. The altar area of the church is rich in icons, including a central image of the Last Supper; there is a large dome overhead. While the U.S. Church has grown, many have been repressed in the Middle East. St. Peter’s rector emeritus, Father Michael Bazzi, noted that the 15,000 Christians who lived in Tel Keppe in the ’70s have diminished to five families. Father Manuel Baghdassarian presides at an Armenian Mass at St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church assisted by subdeacons Antoine Bezzdjian (left) and Gary Boyadjian. Armenians in Glendale St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale, California, is the episcopal seat of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg. The eparchy includes eight parishes, three missions and four schools serving 60,000 Armenian Catholics across the United States and Canada. It is under the authority of Bishop Mikael Mouradian, who also serves as acting pastor of St. Gregory’s. “Our people come from Armenia and all over the Middle East,” Bishop Mouradian said. He himself was born in Lebanon. “We’ve especially seen a lot of immigration in the past 10 years.” St. Gregory’s was previously a Lutheran church, converted for use in Armenian Catholic worship and dedicated in 2001. It was elevated to cathedral status in 2013 when the bishop moved his seat ...

Looking ahead to February's abuse summit

A high-level international meeting on clerical sexual abuse, summoned by Pope Francis to take place at the Vatican in February, is simultaneously generating high hopes and notably modest expectations concerning what it will — or won’t — accomplish. On the one hand, boosters hope the meeting will forge a global consensus on an action plan for local churches. The Feb. 21-24 sessions will involve some 100 presidents of national bishops’ conferences from around the world, along with other Church leaders. On the other hand, skeptics say the meeting’s brevity and the differences that exist from country to country in their legal situations and cultures make a one-size-fits-all formula for fighting abuse unrealistic or unneeded. No matter whether the skeptics or the boosters turn out to be right, pressure for meaningful results now is aimed squarely at the pope, whose critics accuse him of being slow to catch on to the problem or do much about it until recently. Meanwhile, during the last year alone, major abuse-related crises erupted in Chile, Honduras, Germany and the United States. Tense questions The furor in the U.S. was touched off last summer by the disclosure that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had a long history of sexual misconduct that was apparently known to the Vatican for years. Archbishop McCarrick resigned as a cardinal and is now living in seclusion while a Church canonical process moves forward. The pressure on Pope Francis was further heightened in December by the reported conviction on abuse charges of Cardinal George Pell of Australia, previously the Vatican’s economic czar and a top papal adviser. Cardinal Pell has denied the charges. Among the many questions facing the February meeting, possibly the most sensitive is whether and how it will face the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. Those who consider it to be of fundamental relevance in this context point to findings by researchers studying clerical sex abuse in the U.S. that boys and young men were the victims in eight out of 10 cases between 1950 and 2010. Pope Francis has repeatedly sounded the alarm about active homosexuals in clerical ranks. “It would be better if they left the ministry or consecrated life rather than live a double life,” he said in a book-length interview published last month. Those in attendance Besides presidents of bishops’ conferences — in the U.S., Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas — those attending the February meeting will include the heads of Eastern Catholic churches, representatives of superior generals of religious communities, officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and heads of several Vatican offices. Last November the pope named a planning committee that includes Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, along with Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s point man on abuse; and Father Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Center for the Protection of Minors at Rome’s Gregorian University. Also involved in preparations is the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston. Cardinal O’Malley said the idea for the February meeting originated with his group, and in a written statement he provided a kind of outline of policies he hoped it would endorse. “We must continue to embrace and practice a commitment to zero tolerance [of abuse by clerics], work for greater transparency, including the release of names of clergy accused of abuse, encourage religious orders to adopt a similar policy, and cooperate with civil and legal authorities,” he said. “Above all else, we must place the support and pastoral care of survivors first.” In essence, that is the policy adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002. Since then, the number of reported new cases of clerical abuse of minors has continued to fall, with only 24 new allegations reported in the 12 months that ended June 30, ...

How Church teaching could help turn around birth rates

The birthrate in America has so slowed that we are no longer making enough babies to replace ourselves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a report Jan. 10. And while the fertility rate has been on the decline for many years, the 2017 numbers, which represent the most recent data, show the largest drop in recent history. To sustain our population, a rate of 2,100 births per 1,000 women is needed. In 2017, there were 1,765.5 births per 1,000 women. Anytime I see such data on the reproduction — or lack thereof — of Americans, I can’t help but think of TIME magazine’s 2013 article, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” In the article, Laura Scott, a main subject of the piece, said: “My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the way it was.” A corresponding online poll attached to the article found that 94 percent of respondents (numbering more than 20,000) asserted that people are not being selfish when they choose not to have children. Only 17 percent of respondents of the same poll said that having children brings happiness. In fact, 46.7 percent of respondents said that having kids brings unhappiness, and 37 percent said having children brings less happiness in the short term but more fulfillment in the long term. You may have to re-read those numbers. I sure did. The recent CDC report didn’t give any reasons for the declining birthrate, but looking at that data set, it’s no wonder. We also know that more women are delaying marriage and children while they focus on their careers. And we also know that, even among Catholics, contraception use is widespread. To this last point, we cannot overlook the role that our faith plays when it comes to a healthy understanding of family life. As a Church, we are not only pro-life, we are pro being open to life. The Church teaches that children are gifts from God — that we have neither the right to use unethical means to “procure” them, nor do we have the right to shut ourselves off to the potential of welcoming them. When family life is looked at through the proper lens of vocation, rather than one of obligation or choice, a natural shift occurs — a shift away from self and toward the good of others. And that shift is what helps lead us to heaven. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . I am by no means saying that an openness to children and family life is the easy path. As a working mother, I feel the tensions that affect so many working women. I am often torn between office and home. I am more tired. I am more anxious. I do a lot more second guessing. But I also laugh a lot more. I wonder a lot more. I marvel a lot more. I get sticky hugs and germy kisses, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else in the world. The Church’s wisdom on family life is a gift, and I can’t help believing that if more people were open to it, we’d be reading a lot less about population decline. Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV .

Drawn to Christ's heart

The Knights of Columbus have been in the news lately. I can’t even begin to tell you what this organization has done in my life, but I’ll begin to try. It’s the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, and while I’m obviously not a knight, I’ve long felt like a sister who is better because of them. The most recent example came just as they had become the stuff of headlines. Two U.S. Senate Democrats had given a judicial nominee a hard time for being a Knight. “Extremist organization” was the contention. I suppose they are right in a way — if an extremist is someone who tries to truly live the Beatitudes, who tries to take the Gospel seriously. Part of the reason we have all these religious-liberty clashes in the United States today is because of Catholics, frankly. The right answer to the question, “What is wrong with the world?” is always, “Me!” Take a look in the mirror and do an examination of conscience. We’re at the point where complaining about bishops is common, and obviously not unjustified in many cases for many reasons. But what about us? What about each and every one of us? Can they tell we are Christians by our love? Radical love? Selfless love? Death to self? Can they tell we are nothing without Jesus Christ and total surrender to the will of the Father? Do they see what life in the Spirit means when they watch us? We don’t always go out of our way to love. We aren’t always the doctors and nurses and volunteers in the field hospital amidst so much misery in the world. The Knights of Columbus help us be who we are made to be. People of Christ, people seeing Christ in the world and serving him. A recent example of my gratitude to the Knights happened while I was in Indianapolis just after New Year’s — with over 17,000 young people, most of them college students. On Friday, I snuck out to the cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul there, where the Knights of Columbus had brought the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney (it went to SEEK next, but I knew between the lines and the schedule, it would be more of a challenge to spend time with the relic there). The Curé of Ars, as he is known, was a priest who gave of himself, as we all are called to. He famously poured himself out in the confessional, hearing long hours of confessions, taking on reparation and penance as a way of life, as we all ought to be doing — especially as we know more and more about the sins in the world and in our Church, which have ripple effects of pain and more sin. After waiting in line for 45 minutes or so — I honestly wasn’t looking at the time, I was so happy to be there, praying the Divine Mercy chaplet and Rosary in gratitude — I stayed weepy in the front row for another hour or so. That’s how powerful an encounter it was with this incorrupt heart of a saint. I prayed for so many priests by name. I prayed for others I don’t even know except in the mysterious connection through the Sacred Heart of Christ. I prayed for some very specific bishops, Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, too. I prayed for the ones who might be in the need of the most prayers. And yes, I prayed for Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and everyone he has hurt. And I prayed for the Church — that means you and me. That we may tend to the wounds of Jesus, and live in loving union with his pierced heart. The Knights are near to the heart of Christ and help draw us all near, too. They are no small part of the solution to our problems. Thanks be to God. May they always be so. Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” ( OSV, $17.95).