Posts Tagged ‘diocese’

Bishop of Solwezi on Priorities for His Church

ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The 41-year-old bishop of Solwezi in Zambia is entrusted with a diocese stretching some 34,000 square miles (88,300 square kilometers). Scattered over the territory are about 80,000 Catholics. In this rural, poor setting, Bishop Charles Kasonde says his priority is evangelization.

Marie Pauline Meyer of Where God Weeps for Aid to the Church in Need spoke with the bishop, who is the fourth prelate to be charged with the task of overseeing Solwezi since it was declared a diocese in 1976.

Q: You have recently been appointed bishop (March 23, 2010). It this new task difficult?

Bishop Kasonde: Yes and no. It is difficult in knowing that it is a task that I have to perform and it requires a lot of experience. And it is measured by a lot of experience, of which I don’t have a lot. Once you are ordained a priest you remain open to the prompting of the Spirit in your life and also what the Church wants you to do. So we as priests, we have the missionary spirit ready to be sent anywhere and to be given any task; for us it is not a promotion, it is an appointment and we graciously say “yes” to that and we move on. So with that I rely on the grace of God to help me to carry out my activities with the support of the Christians, my brother priests, deacons, bishops and all the fraternity within the Church.

Q: What do you see as your most urgent project at the moment?

Bishop Kasonde: I think this is reflected through my motto, which is “Evangelization of the people of God.” Therefore I’m drawn much more to start projects that concern evangelization of the people, disclosing the love of Christ to the people; let the people encounter Christ. I’m not going to a new diocese; I’m going to a diocese that was founded in 1976. I’m going to a people who have already come into contact with Christ. I’m going there to add to what the people already know. I’m also going to a diocese that is largely rural and quite poor. So infrastructure will be needed. Many churches have been built out of mud and we need concrete churches that stand the test of time. So this is one more reason why I need also to go in that area, so that the people of God can worship the Lord in a house that is beautiful — and they are looking forward to going back to “their home,” the home of God. This is also my preoccupation.

Q: I’ve heard that there are many sects coming to Zambia. Is this something you have encountered?

Bishop Kasonde: My diocese is peculiar in a sense that out of the 10 dioceses it is the only diocese, by and large, which was occupied by the Protestants. Here our brothers and sisters shared greatly in proclaiming the Word of God. Catholicism is a little bit foreign, but slowly it is sinking in and people are getting to know about it and already we have our churches built, though some are very bad structures. Almost in the entire Northwestern province, which covers my canonical area, the population for the province is about 900,000 and the Catholic presence is just about 90,000 — 10% of the entire population. In other places the Catholic population goes, to some extent, even about 70% to 80%, so I have a long way to go.

Q: You say that your diocese is mostly rural and very poor. Are the poor attracted to other churches because they are given food and other needs of daily life?

Bishop Kasonde: Yes. The poor do it not intentionally but because they lack the very basic necessities. When you talk about poverty, it is overwhelming.

Q: Can you describe the poverty?

Bishop Kasonde: Poverty is making less than a dollar a day. They make 50 cents a day — that is all. Some even don’t make that much. So our people struggle a lot and they depend on farm produce. They also depend on the rain because we do not have irrigation systems; only a privileged few have this but the majority depends on the rain. Without the rain there is drought, which means they are unable to purchase their daily needs for their homes as well as tuition money for their children’s school fees. It is a very bad situation but by the grace of God we are surviving and we are happy even in the midst of that poverty.

Q: What do your people expect of you? 

Bishop Kasonde: They expect me to bring Christ to them; to be one who identifies and lives with them and one who brings them the Good News of the Risen Lord. You look at the people: They are very poor, yet very happy. We share the Word of God together. We pray together. We break bread together through the Eucharistic meal and that is what they want.

Q: When one consults the Internet about Zambia, most often the information one reads is about AIDS and poverty-related problems. Is this how you see it as well?

Bishop Kasonde: I see that but this is not all that is Zambia. Zambia is a peaceful and beautiful country. The media perhaps wants to portray Zambia as such but Zambia is not just poverty, AIDS or corruption. Of course we have these problems but when you walk around you see Zambians who are wealthy, Zambians who are poor. They are cheerful and well versed in what they do. Zambians are moderate and so it is a great mixture.

Q: Yet AIDS is a problem? 

Bishop Kasonde: AIDS is certainly a big problem in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa and Zambia is part of this region. There is no cure so when one is infected, it spreads. We have seen especially the middle-aged people, the bread winners, the family providers dying from AIDS and the retired, the old, and the feeble — the grandmothers and grandfathers — taking over the role of parenthood again for their orphaned grandchildren, because their children are dying or are dead.

Q: Do you have a solution?

Bishop Kasonde: I think one of the solutions could be investing in education. There was a time when the Catholic Church provided education facilities and then the government took over and “Zambianized” everything, which was a good thing but they became overwhelmed and they couldn’t provide the quality service in education. Now they want to dump this back on the Church, now that the schools are not in good condition and are dilapidated. So the Church is a little bit hesitant but we know that education is a priority. If we want to help our people it is through education because an educated person will suffer less than an illiterate one. Education is the key and empowerment especially for the generation that is growing up; if those are educated they will go and find their own means of sustenance and survival. So this is one area I want to look at — to get back the schools. If we have the money and we invest in them, we could renovate them and attract the teachers who could educate our children.

Q: What is the hope for your country?

Bishop Kasonde: Zambia is very rich in minerals and natural resources. All we need is a leader who is able to interpret the signs of the times; a leader who is able to die a little for his people, a leader who is sincere and honest. We can’t be as poor as we are because everywhere you go you find minerals and we live in a rainy belt. Every season we have the rain, which is why people have not even invested in irrigation because we have enough rain for a season in which to grow crops. The poverty in Zambia is exaggerated. All Zambia needs is a leadership that could command respect and put things in order and we’ll be home and dry.

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This interview was conducted by Marie-Pauline Meyer for “Where God Weeps,” a weekly television and radio show produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

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NICARAGUA: A CHURCH IN THE SWAMP (PART 2)

Interview With Auxiliary Bishop David Zywiec of Bluefields

BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua, MARCH 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- It is easy to become isolated in the problems of one’s own nation, but a bishop working with the poor in Nicaragua says it is important to remember that we live in a global community and form part of the universal Church.

Capuchin Bishop David Zywiec is the auxiliary bishop of the Vicariate of Bluefields, which serves almost all of the eastern half of Nicaragua, including what is known as the Mosquito Coast.

The 62-year-old prelate is a native of East Chicago, Indiana, and he recently spoke of the life of the Church in Nicaragua with the television program “Where God Weeps” of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need.

Part 1 of the transcription of the interview appeared last Sunday.

Q: You learned the Miskito language — how long did it take you?

Bishop Zywiec: I’m still learning it! They say to learn a language it takes about 1,000 hours. One of the difficulties I find is that you almost have to be immersed in it or speaking the language all the time. And one of the things I find difficult here is that I’m in the Miskito area for a while and in the Spanish area for a while.

Q: You are one of the few missionaries who actually speaks the language.

Bishop Zywiec: That’s right, and the thing is, we are blessed in the vicariate because we’ve got five Miskito priests, and then there are some young Miskito men in the seminary. So I think that this is God blessing us in a way to build a native church.

Q: What would be your appeal? What would be your call now for your work, for the diocese, for the vicariate?

Bishop Zywiec: One thing of course would be prayer because we are called to pray. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries of Latin America. We’ve been through civil wars, and hurricanes, and so prayer is important. A lot of times, I feel that I read a newspaper in Nicaragua and they just talk about Nicaragua …you go to the States, they just talk about the States. We are part of a global community now; we are part of the Catholic Church. So, I believe that this is an important thing too. And also we’ve had, you might say, partnerships with different parishes and I believe that this is an important way of not just saying: “OK we’ll pray for Nicaragua”; and also not to say … I know this person there, or this family there, so that it isn’t just helping a certain person or a certain anonymous area, but this particular person, this particular family with their needs. I believe, that makes one … it kind of hits you in the heart … and I think this is a way of living the brotherhood and sisterhood that God calls us … that Jesus calls us to live, as followers of Jesus.

Q: We’re talking about a really rural area where you are: swamps, lots of swamp areas, mountains. How would you characterize the social development of the people? Are they still very traditional in their practices or are they becoming more modernized, so to speak. How would you characterize that?

Bishop Zywiec: I’d say a lot of things have changed in the rural area. When I first worked there, I was working with the Spanish-speaking settlers — Spanish-speaking farmers — and you know older missionaries said that, when they’d have a mission, the priest would come like every year, every six months, there were some women who wouldn’t understand when another man talked to them because they lived so isolated and the only man’s voice that the woman would hear was the husband’s voice. And now in some of the same areas you don’t just have radios, you know, battery powered radios, but with solar panels you now have television. And so things have changed there … slowly, not all of a sudden … not over night… but one of the things I noticed too is when I came there 30 years ago the children as a sign of respect would fold their hands and say “Santito,” [holy one] and now they don’t do that and this is something that you might say is just a little sign of how things have changed a little bit.

But then on the other side there have been some good changes. I find, for example, people are very gifted as far as making up songs. When I first came there, if we came to a chapel and there was a man there who played the guitar this was really great! Now there are chapels were they will have a guitar, and a guitaro — and a little guitar — an accordion and a trumpet, or maybe even a keyboard; so things have changed … you know, a mixture of good and bad, but I think, these things here give more life to our celebrations in the rural area.

Q: You mentioned earlier some of the social challenges — particularly schools. You’ve been working very hard for the development of a grade school system for young rural children that wouldn’t otherwise have access to education. Why did you see this as a priority?

Bishop Zywiec: If you’re going to live in the world today, you need to know how to read and write. And another thing that we find is that, lots of times, there is migration, from the country to the towns. For example, one of our seminarians comes from a rural family — he is one of 16 children. Now most likely a lot of them will move to towns and then if you do not know how to read and write, what are you going to do? You are just going to have menial jobs, or else you might be tempted to rob. So at least, if a person has the capacity to read and write, that person can get a job more easily and make a living in an honest and dignified way.

Q: What other priorities, what other projects would you see as very important now for this vicariate?

Bishop Zywiec: I believe that this whole business about education, because there has been too much history of non-involvement by the government in this area — so it goes way back, 40, 50 years — that the Church has had to get involved in education. Right now there is a school system of over 400 schools with over 20,000 children in grade school. I believe another step is to get involved in a type of high school, but technical high schools so that people are able to work in agriculture…

Q: To have skills, vocational training …?

Bishop Zywiec: That’s right, vocational training. … Another challenge in the whole line of human promotion is health, because there are so few doctors. Doctors want to stay in the cities. They do not want to go out in the country, and so we have, lots of times, small health clinics … that’s a challenge too. As I mentioned, our whole work for evangelization — that’s an important priority, and our lay leaders, that that they are ever better trained so that as people become more educated, that our lay leaders are able to give quality leadership and be able to explain the faith with more capacity, and I believe too, one of the things that we have to do is to work for the common good, the sense of community.

I think, lots of times, people get into certain situations in politics or business or even in the Church, where they think: “Well, I have this particular job and let’s see what I can get out of it for myself,” rather than say, “I’m here as a public servant, as a servant of God.” As Jesus said: “I came not to be served but to serve.” This whole spirit of service is one of the big challenges that we have. You might say, to have a mentality of service … a service attitude like that of Jesus, is part of evangelization. I think that is an important challenge that we have in Latin America and in the Bluefields Vicariate.

Perhaps, one other thing too, as you mentioned, with the Miskito area, is the whole inculturation of the faith, being able to express the faith we have in Miskito. For example, now we have a Miskito Bible, we have a song book, and to be able to help the Miskito to express their faith, their feelings, their love of God in their own way and that this becomes part of their Church structure — in the rural areas too — with the music and so forth, becomes part of their way of expressing their faith and their love of God.

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This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for “Where God Weeps,” a weekly television and radio show produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Confession Comeback

Efforts to Stimulate Interest in Reconciliation

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Confession is undergoing a revival of sorts after a long period of neglect. There has been a spate of recent press articles on the sacrament of confession, or reconciliation, as it is often termed.

On Sept. 21 the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 5,000 people turned up at a Reconciliation Weekend held in March in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida.

A column dated March this year by Bishop Thomas Wenski, posted on the Orlando Diocese’s Web page, spoke about the need for confession. The loss of the sense of sin was termed “the spiritual crisis of our age,” he said.

Last year, the bishop noted, he wrote to the priests of his diocese, asking them to make more time to hear confessions. This year he explained that a number of parishes were going to organize a special Reconciliation Weekend, just prior to Holy Week.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal article explained that interest in confession is rising among some Protestant denominations. This summer, a North American branch of the Lutherans passed a resolution at a meeting supporting the rite of confession, after more than a century of neglect.

Online disclosure

Some of the Protestant versions of confession being popularized are, however, notably different from the Catholic sacrament. The Wall Street Journal mentioned practices such as individuals coming clean in videos that are even posted on sites such as YouTube, for all to see.

Other initiatives include a confession Web site, set up by an evangelical congregation in Cooper City, Florida, which according to the Wall Street Journal has postings from 7,700 people who list their faults.

The rising interest in confession marks a turnaround, the article observed. A 2005 survey reported that only 26% of Catholics in the United States went to confession at least once a year, down from 74% in the early ’80s.

The revival in confession, particularly of the public kind, can take all sorts of forms, as is evidenced in a Reuters article from Sept. 27. The agency reported on a new Web site set up by a major publisher of romantic fiction, Harlequin Enterprises. People will be able to confess, anonymously, their sins online, with others being able to read their postings.

More news on varieties of confession came in a major feature article, published Aug. 31 by the Los Angeles Times. The paper gave details about a number of Web sites where confessions can be made. One of the sites even allows other persons to comment on and give advice to those who confess.

Turning on the light

The Catholic Church is also trying to promote interest in confession. This year some dioceses launched campaigns to encourage use of the sacrament in the period prior to Easter. In Washington, D.C., for example, all the 140 churches of the archdiocese opened for confession every Wednesday evening.

The effort was part of a campaign titled “The Light Is On for You.” Included in the campaign were radio and billboard ads, and a Web page set up with a variety of material encouraging participation in the sacrament. In addition, 100,000 printed guides in Spanish and English were distributed.

Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl also penned a pastoral letter, “God’s Mercy and the Sacrament of Penance,” as part of the campaign.

“Despite our best intentions, each of us has experienced personal failure,” he noted in the introduction to the letter. We are aware, explained Archbishop Wuerl, “that a part of us is determined to do good while at the same time an element within us continually turns away from the good we know we can do.”

God does not leave us alone in this situation of our human weakness and the ever-present reality of sin, the letter added. “Jesus gives us newness of life in grace that begins to restore our relationship with God which will lead to full communion with God in glory.”

This power to forgive sins was extended by Jesus to the Church and is administered through the sacrament of confession.

God’s forgiveness

“It remains one of the great marvels of God’s love that God would make forgiveness so readily available to each of us,” Archbishop Wuerl commented.

“The sacrament of reconciliation is the story of God’s love that never turns away from us,” he said. “Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God waits, watches and hopes for our return every time we walk away.”

Not all are convinced, however, that these efforts to stimulate confession will succeed. Time magazine, which gained notoriety for its Sept. 3 cover issue that sought to cast doubts on Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s faith, posted an article dated Sept. 27 on its Time.com Web page titled “The Unrepentant.”

Noting the decades-long decline in us by Catholics of the sacrament, the article attempted to argue that reaction against the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” has “led to a wider re-evaluation of what constitutes sin — and whether confession is really necessary.”

The article also doubted that recent efforts in the American dioceses to promote confession had obtained any real success and concluded that future efforts are similarly doomed.

A gift

Another recent initiative to revive interest in confession comes in the form of a book titled “The Gift of Confession, (Connor Court Publishing). Father Michael de Stoop, a priest in the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, aimed to portray confession in a positive way, emphasizing the many benefits the sacrament offers believers.

Many people, he noted in the book’s introduction, are unaware of the theological background that can help us to understand and appreciate confession. In addition to freeing us from sin, the sacrament also restores and increases our opportunities to share in God’s divine life, Father de Stoop explained.

Thus, confession frees us from sin, and also restores our freedom to live a life of virtue by restoring within us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The grace we receive strengthens our will to resist sin, thereby enabling us to progress in holiness.

By making us more aware of the evil of sin and the need to avoid it, regular participation in confession, the book observes, also helps us to build our character and develop good habits. Coming closer to God by means of the sacrament of reconciliation will also make it easier for us to pray.

Benedict XVI reflected on the importance of confession, in words directed to the youth of Rome, gathered March 29 in St Peter’s Basilica to prepare for the local diocesan celebration of World Youth Day on April 1.

God’s love for us, expressed by the death of Christ on the cross, has obtained for us the gift of the Holy Spirit through which our sins are forgiven and peace granted, the Pope commented.

“Christ draws us to him to unite himself with each one of us so that, in our turn, we may learn to love our brothers and sisters with this same love, as he has loved us,” the Pontiff added.

Once we are filled with this love, Benedict XVI recommended to the young people, we are called upon to make an impact in the world by means of an authentic Christian witness. Valuable words of encouragement to encourage participation in a sacrament neglected for too long.



Catholic Schools in the Spotlight

Role of Faith and Education Debated

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- State funding of Catholic schools has been a hotly debated topic in the lead-up to Oct. 10 legislative elections in the Canadian province of Ontario.

John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, raised the issue when during the campaign he questioned why Catholic schools in the province are state-funded while other faith-based schools are not, reported the National Post newspaper Aug. 25.

Tory, who is hoping to unseat the ruling Liberal Party Ontario premier, Dalton McGuinty, proposed extending public funding to other faiths, at an estimated cost of 400 million Canadian dollars (US $407).

The newspaper article explained that the decision to fund provincial Catholic schools dates back to the 1867 Constitution Act, which established in Canada two systems of publicly funded education: government and Catholic. Other provinces have since changed their education funding, but this has not been the case in Ontario.

In reply to Tory’s proposal some critics proposed simply eliminating any public funds for all faith schools. “The best course of action would be to simply eliminate public funding for Ontario’s Catholic schools,” opined an editorial in the Globe and Mail newspaper on Sept. 6.

The editorial echoed a censure heard with frequency in some quarters, saying: “As we struggle to avoid the polarization of ethnic and religious minorities, governments should not be contributing to it by encouraging kids to interact only with members of their own faith.”

An opinion supported by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in an open letter dated Sept. 21 written to Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, said: “Public funding of religious schools will drain resources from the public system and promote private schools at the expense of public schools.”

Parental rights

The province’s Catholic bishops had their say in the altercation, reported the Ottawa Citizen newspaper on Sept. 10. “The public funding of Catholic schools recognizes that parents have the right to make educational choices for their children, and that the state should assist them,” said a statement issued by Bishop James Wingle, head of the Diocese of St. Catharines and president of the Ontario conference of bishops.

“The primacy of parental rights in education is a value which should be realized not only by Catholic parents, but also by others,” the prelates’ continued.

The bishops also stated that they “respect and support the wishes of parents in other faith communities for religion education in the public school system or for alternative schools which reflect their beliefs and values.”

Faith-based education was also criticized in England recently, by columnist Zoe Williams, in a commentary written Sept. 19 for the Guardian. Her article came after the decision of Catholic schools in Northern Ireland to disband their support groups for Amnesty International, owing to its adoption of a pro-abortion stance.

Williams accused Christians of “prosecuting an agenda that is repugnant,” through their schools and argued that they should not receive any public funds.

Times opinion columnist Alice Miles previously expressed similar sentiments. In a May 23 article, she accused the middle classes of using the faith schools “as a barely covert form of social and academic selection.”

Selecting on belief

Schools run by Anglicans or the Catholic Church, Miles argued, should not be allowed to select pupils on the basis of belief, but should simply accept anyone who applies to enter.

The question of using religious criteria to select pupils also came up recently in Ireland, reported the Irish Times newspaper on Sept. 15.

Replying to criticisms of Catholic schools, Bishop Leo O’Reilly, chairman of the Irish bishops’ education commission, said that the schools were founded by the Church to provide a Catholic education for its members.

Parents have a right to have their children educated in Catholic schools, and having contributed through taxes to fund public education, it is not unfair that the faith schools receive government funds, argued Bishop O’Reilly.

The right of parents to choose what sort of education they wish for their children, he added, is supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Shortly afterward, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh spoke about the topic of faith schools in a speech given Sept. 21 for the launch in Belfast of a Web site for the Consultative Group on Catholic Education.

At a time of moral confusion, he argued, Catholic education defends the dignity of the human person and offers a set of values based on the Gospel.

Labeling such an education as divisive is simply not the truth, Archbishop Brady maintained. “Reconciliation, love of neighbor, respect for difference: These values are intrinsic to Catholic education because they are intrinsic to the message of Jesus,” he said.

“We do not abandon children to the ‘whatever you think yourself’ approach to morality so often associated with a purely secular or state-based education often found in other countries,” the archbishop added.

Catholic values

The advantages of a Catholic education were enough to persuade even an atheist to make a large donation, as an article posted May 23 on Bloomberg.com explained. Retired hedge-fund manager Robert W. Wilson announced he was giving $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York to fund a scholarship program for needy inner city students attending Catholic schools.

“Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,” Wilson said.

Nevertheless, Catholic schools face trials in some areas. In Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl is proposing to convert eight out of the 28 Catholic schools into charter schools, due to financial pressures, reported the Washington Post on Sept. 8.

The plan means the schools lose their religious identity, as they would be run by a secular body. Archbishop Wuerl said this was the only way to continue providing education for many low-income families.

Chicago is also facing a time of transition, as an article published Sept. 11 in the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported. Chicago’s Catholic schools educate 98,000 students, but responsibility for this task now depends on laypeople instead of members of religious orders.

Citing data from the National Catholic Education Association, the article noted that while in the 1950s about 90% of the Catholic teaching staff was made up of religious brothers and sisters. Today, there are only 206 religious teaching in Chicago’s Catholic schools, or 4% of the staff.

Numbers up

Meanwhile, Catholic schools in Australia face a different kind of situation. Private schools, many of them Catholic, are flourishing. An article published Feb. 27 by the Australian Associated Press reported that the number of students at independent and Catholic schools had risen by 21.5% since 1996.

Over the same period, numbers in government schools increased by just 1.2%. By the end of last year, 66.8% of Australia’s 3.36 million full-time school students went to government schools, down from 70.7% in 1996.

In spite of the numerical success there are concerns over the Catholic identity of the Church schools. On Aug. 8 the bishops of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory issued a statement titled “Catholic Schools at a Crossroads.”

In it, they observed that over the past two decades the proportion of children in their schools from non-practicing Catholic families has risen considerably. As well, enrollments from non-Catholics have more than doubled to 20% from 9%.

The bishops urged school leaders to study how to maximize enrollment of Catholic students and also to work in order to maintain the religious identity of their institutions. The document recommended a greater space for prayer and liturgy, along with sound religious education. Maintaining the Catholic identity of schools in clearly no easy task in today’s world.



Melbourne Prepares the Way for Sydney 2008

ROME, JULY 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- In just about one year, 5 million of the world’s youth will gather Down Under to celebrate World Youth Day 2008.

While Sydney, Australia, will be home for a week to the millions who will come together to meet Benedict XVI, the Diocese of Melbourne, to the south of Sydney, will also host thousands in the days prior to the main events.

Tim Davis is one of the project officers for Days in the Diocese, a series of programs and events for the quarter of a million young Catholics from around the world who will stop in Melbourne on their way to Sydney.

Here in Rome last week for another round of preparatory meetings, Davis described what is in store for Catholic youth.

“One of best aspects of Days in the Diocese will be the opportunity for people from different cultures to get to know the day to day experience of people here,” Davis said. “We often think the mundane is boring, but for others it can be interesting, and helps people understand the faith life of people here, how it is developed and sustained.

“This will be an opportunity for others to see the living Church in action.”

In addition to being home to the largest diocese in Australia, Davis said that Melbourne is known for its hospitality and is accustomed to hosting large crowds for sporting events, such as the Grand Prix and football matches.

“Victoria is an event state, and being the city that it is, Melbourne is proud and loves providing hospitality,” he said.

To cut costs for young people who cannot afford to travel, many businesses and individuals have made generous offers of support. The state is also supporting the World Youth Day effort by absorbing some of the cost of logistical support, allowing the Church to concentrate on programs and people.

As much as most Australians are used to large numbers of visitors for special events, Davis said the World Youth Day crowd promises to be different from most groups Melbourne is accustomed to hosting.

“When the streets are filled with young people who are full of joy and excited about their faith, others take note,” Davis said.

He added, “We seem to lose that demographic of young people between the ages of 15 or 16; we are hoping that this event or gathering will be a stimulus, especially when they see young people excited about their faith.”

Davis said families in parishes and schools throughout the diocese are already preparing to accommodate pilgrims from all over the world.

Some, he said, have decided to host groups from particular parts of the world such as North Korea, in order to allow international communities to come to know each other.

For example, he said, Nazareth College in Victoria will host a group of students from the Holy Land.

The most important thing will be the sharing of the same faith among people from different cultures: “People from different communities will come together for prayer or Mass, and this will be a powerful way for people from different parts of the world to know each other.”

Beyond prayer, he said, there will be opportunities for different activities. The diocese will host cultural events and musical festivals, as well as speakers and pilgrimages.

“We don’t have the same religious history that Europe holds. But we want to share our own pioneering and missionary Christian faith, and how far we have come in 2,000 years,” Davis said.

In addition to dynamic leaders and role models such as Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the diocese will host pilgrimages in the footsteps of Australia’s first blessed, Mary Mackillop, beatified by John Paul II in 1995, and to the Cistercian Tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria.

Davis said the momentum for the event is building gradually. “It’s a slow-moving steam roller. People who don’t know what to expect will suddenly see the streets filled with faith-filled young people.”

Franciscan Friar Father Stan Fortuna, a leading musical artist, has already toured Australia to give young people a small sample of what they can expect a year from now.

“He worked hard when he was here. He gave concerts in every major city and, in the two days I was with him, did about a dozen interviews,” Davis said.

As a former Australian rules football star and teacher in a program for children with behavioral and emotional difficulties, Davis said he jumped at the opportunity to work for World Youth Day.

“I have always wanted to be involved in World Youth Day,” Davis said. “For me personally, the most interesting part of this has been the people I have met from all corners of the earth. To see the universal Church has been very moving.”

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Under Mary’s Protection

Just beyond St. Peter’s Square down the Via della Conciliazione looms the beautiful white facade of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Traspontina.

Here every year large numbers of the Roman faithful gather to thank Our Lady of Mount Carmel with a special novena in preparation for her feast, July 16.

Beginning July 7, a different cardinal every day preaches about Our Lady at an evening Mass.

In a homily last Sunday, Cardinal William Levada, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, focused on Mary’s role in welcoming the Word of God into the world.

“The Evangelist Luke places the Gospel manifestation of the Word of God in the context of the mystery of Mary,” he said. “So much so, that Mary becomes the ‘instrument’ by which God rescues man from the slavery of sin, and brings him into the intimacy of communion with himself.”

In the same way, he continued, Mary even today reveals the glory of God’s presence among us. Moreover, he said that we enjoy her special patronage when we are consecrated to her.

Carmelite pastor, Father Piero Leta, explained that this aspect of devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is central to the identity of all Carmelites.

“I am a son of Mary,” he said. “She is the patron and protector of all Carmelites in a unique way.”

Father Leta said the history of the Carmelite order is unique, and their identity is centered on the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who appeared to St. Simon Stock in the 13th century during a time of turmoil among the Carmelites.

“As an order, we are unique in that we have no one founder,” Father Leta said.

For centuries, he explained, Carmelites lived as monks on Mount Carmel, where Elijah met God. The Carmelite tradition was established by those who sought to live apart from the world, to find God in the silence of a desert retreat.

During the time of the Crusades, the Carmelites fled to Rome, where they were suddenly thrust into the bustling life of a busy city. Without a founder, and in completely new surroundings, the order suffered an identity crisis.

“The Holy See wanted to suppress us around the year 1250, because we did not have a founder that we could identify, as other orders do. We had simply always followed the desert tradition of Elijah and were dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” he explained.

Facing suppression, the Carmelites prayed fervently to Our Lady of Mount Carmel whose providence had never failed. She appeared to Carmelite Friar St. Simon Stock in England with the scapular, a sure sign of her protection and preservation.

For this reason, Father Leta said the origin of the devotion is directly linked to the brown scapular of Carmel: “The scapular is a sign of our consecration to Mary as our mother and is a sign of her protection of us. We belong to her, and everyone who wears this scapular as a sign of consecration is identified as her son or daughter.”

Since that time, and renewed again by the 16th-century reform of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, the entire Carmelite family, which includes the discalced and the Order of Carmelites, has flourished in many places throughout the world, Father Leta said.

The widespread devotion of the faithful who wear the brown scapular as a sign of consecration to Our Lady, he said, is a special gift for all that was entrusted to the Carmelites.

Moreover, Father Leta said the Traspontina church has been a privileged place for this devotion since the 16th century when it was placed under the care of the Carmelites after the sack of Rome.

The church itself is a treasury of art and architecture depicting history of the Carmelite order. Beginning with the altar, which depicts the prophets Elijah and Elisha on Mount Carmel, visitors can trace the origins and growth of the Carmelites, and the elements of the Carmelite charism that set it apart as a “desert oasis.”

Father Leta explained that Mount Carmel was a garden, an oasis of beauty and peace in the Holy Land.

“Our Lady is always adorned with the Flos Carmeli, the flowers of Carmel,” he said.

The novena will end Sunday, when the massive statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be carried down a main side street, Borgho Pio, and through the rest of the neighborhood.