Monday, November 30, 2009

Respectful Dialogue on Complex Moral Issues -- Nov 30, 2009

Some weeks I have to search for things to ponder about. This week there is so much to write about in the ongoing public debate between Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy. Two weeks ago the Barrington Times had an editorial cartoon on the issue. Bishop Tobin is pictured saying if you do not follow Church laws refrain from coming to church. In each frame there are less and less people in church. Finally with one person remaining the Bishop says, “That’s better.” On Friday, November 20, I wrote this letter to the editor:

“Your editorial cartoon entitled “And on the Bishop Tobin/Patrick Kennedy War” raised deep emotions in me. It is not Bishop Tobin’s intent to drive people away from the church. As a matter of fact the Diocese has started a Year of Evangelization to reach out and invite Catholics back to the faith. Granted the Catholic message is a challenging one; respect for life from conception to natural death, the proclamation that marriage is a covenant between man and a woman, etc. It is the Church’s mission here at St. Luke’s and elsewhere to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, protect the stranger, educate the young. St. Luke’s parish is willing to work to make our town, state and world a just and peaceful place.”
This week I finished helping with communion at the 11:30 Mass and I go to the side door and begin a quiet discussion with a cross country runner from Barrington High School. When the conversation is over I hear Father Collins talking about “ensoulment” and Thomas Aquinas. Then he continues to comment on the Tobin-Kennedy issue. The main point revolves around the issue of who is worthy to receive Holy Communion. Fr. Collins’ remarks provoke strong opinions; pro and con. Now it’s my turn to weigh in as pastor to this ongoing debate. First of all, Bishop Tobin’s letter of three years ago was a private, confidential letter. He asked, not told, the Congressman to refrain from communion. Bishop Tobin has said many times he did not instruct the 300 priests of the Diocese to refuse Congressman Kennedy communion. I support Bishop Tobin’s many efforts to promote health care legislation that will not directly fund abortions. I hate abortion with my whole heart and soul. It is respect for life from conception that is indeed the engine that propels us as a Church to promote the dignity of human life. It is our respect for life that sends missionaries to the disabled, forgotten children of Jamaica. It propels us to work at the soup kitchen at St. Charles, send donations to the Little Flower Home, bring communion to the residents of Orchard View Manor and engage in many other outreach efforts. If the Church does not speak for the voiceless who will? I find it providential that right after the Mass I drive to Holy Apostles Church in Cranston to concelebrate a Mass with Monsignor Gregory, the founder of Mustard Seed. Our Catholic Church continues to speak for the voiceless and the least of our brothers and sisters.

Father Ray Collins is a friend who taught me in seminary about applying the word of God to the events of the day. However, his remarks Sunday should have been presented in a letter to the editor of the Rhode Island Catholic or in an OP-Ed piece. Remarks after communion was not the proper forum. He is open to hear from you with your thoughts. His e-mail is:; his phone is 401/783-4301.

The Church seeks to promote forums where people can engage in a respectful dialogue about complex moral issues. In this pondering I have attempted to shed light, not heat, on this controversial topic. A year ago I initiated “A View from the Pew” in our bulletin. About five people have offered reflections. Perhaps now more people will offer their opinions. Let us listen to each other and come up with constructive solutions to the moral questions of the day.

Fr. Robert Hawkins

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy New Year -- November 27, 2009

The Church wishes everybody a Happy New Year as we gather for the First Sunday in Advent. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians greets us by saying, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love.” During this coming year there will be many invitations for all of us to abound in love. This year the Diocese of Providence calls us to evangelize and to invite others to join us at the table of the Lord. We hope to have listening sessions to hear the concerns of those who are not active in our faith community. Sometimes if people feel listened to and respected they know the are valued by others.

This past Sunday we had our 10th Grades gather at the 11:30 Mass to start their retreat experience. I was so impressed to see our church packed with young people. The contemporary choir added so much spirit to the liturgy. On December 8, following the 7 p.m. Mass, there will be a meeting for those who would be willing to form a core group. This core group would co-ordinate our evangelization efforts. I feel we need at least 20 people if our program is to be effective. I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving. We are absolutely blessed here at St. Luke’s with so many talents and blessing. May we express our thanks to God by caring for His people.

Fr. Bob

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jamaica mission trip will live on in my heart forever - Nov . 22, 2009

Late last Saturday night I returned from Blessed Sacrament with the adult missionaries. It was an experience that will live on in my heart forever. Never have I seen the utter enormity of human suffering. Young people with contorted bodies suffering from Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, and other diseases. These are the “least of my brothers and sisters” that Jesus refers to in Matthew 25. Yet I also saw in the presence of the divine. Christ shines through the broken people of our world. As the week progressed I was able to adapt to the challenges of the week. The children are needy and like to be picked up and held. Some of them are very strong and can tax one’s back. One wonderful outcome of the week was the bond that was created among our group. We shared a desire to be of service. We were of one mind and one heart as we prayed and worked together. At night we sang, played “Catch Phrase”, processed the events of the day, and shared our experiences. Each one of us brought our talents in things like dental hygiene, nursing, painting, and yes even singing. We reached out to the caregivers who face immense challenges every day. Foot massages and pedicures, brought healing balm to these incredible people who live out the Gospel on a daily basis.

One added dimension of the week was a power point presentation given by Father Leo Shea, a Maryknoll father working in the Montego Bay Diocese. He shared the history and culture of the Jamaican people. Only 3% of Jamaica is Roman Catholic and yet the best schools in the country are indeed Catholic. We were amazed at the ease with which the caregivers prayed. They would quote long passages of the Bible by heart. Hymns were sung with great vigor and grace. St. Francis prays that it is “in giving that we receive.” Indeed our adult mission group received much from our time at Mustard Seed. It was due to the generosity and prayers of this parish that this trip was possible, so thank you to one and all. In the coming weeks Trish Cirillo, Mary Lally, Mary Nugent, Ann Molak, Ann Marie Thompson, and Doug Johnston will be sharing their experiences with the parish community.

Fr. Bob