Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming Catholic College’
For over a year, I have felt the desire to gather some theologians to pray and discuss the truth regarding the human person, family and marriage. Along with so many others in our Church and society today, we are searching for a positive way to address the many challenges our culture is both facing and creating.
One does not have to be too attentive to world headlines and local news to be aware of the troubling times we live in; wars in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, Africa; violence of so many forms with school shootings, drive by shootings, domestic violence, police officers being shot, the list just goes on.
There are no simple answers to either understanding all of these realities nor to solving them, but at the heart of it all is a lack of understanding and respect for the dignity of the human person.
In addition to the already mentioned violence, we are also seeing serious threats to traditional marriage and family life.
Desiring not to remain silent in the face of these serious social challenges, I asked a group of theologians from the Wyoming Catholic College along with our Director of Pastoral Ministries, Deacon Vernon Dobelmann to spend a day with me in prayer and study.
Each of the group was given an assigned topic to research and to prepare a study paper on their findings. Joining the effort were Dr. Kevin Roberts, President of the Wyoming Catholic College, Dr. Jeremy Holmes, Dr. Elizabeth Mortensen and her husband, Dr. John Mortensen, Academic Dean of the Wyoming Catholic College.
The Second Vatican Council and our present Holy Father, Pope Francis remind us that we are not to remain separated from the world and all of its challenges. Rather, we are to be engaged with the world, bringing the light of Jesus Christ into the world, as yeast mixed with bread dough. This means that we cannot be afraid to share the Good News of our faith in a manner that heals the ills of our world, one person at a time if necessary.
Our day together this past Thursday was very fruitful. It was a real gift to set aside such quality time for serious discussion of serious societal issues, and to do so with hope in faith. It is my strong desire at this time to begin writing a pastoral letter on the topic of the dignity of the human person and the dignity and sanctity of marriage and the beauty of family life. Our Church teaching is rich, and has so much that is positive and good to say about the human person, about human sexuality, marriage and family, and the more of us that step up to live this teaching in all of its richness, we can and will begin to make a difference that serves the common good of the broader society.
Please pray for me and those who will assist in the preparation of this pastoral letter. More importantly, continue to pray for peace in each human heart, every home, community and nation.
This Sunday, as with so many Sunday’s in Spring, there are many moments calling for reflection. First and foremost, a very Happy Mother’s Day to all our moms! By God’s providential and loving plan, there would be no life without women, and more particularly, without moms. May all of our moms enjoy a memorable day, and may you know of the love and gratitude of your children.
I just spoke with my mom and the family gathered in Tell City. They were busy opening the pool for another summer season. I guarantee you no such events are taking place here in Wyoming today, where we are experiencing one of those Spring Winter Storms, snow, ice, and 20 – 35 mph winds.
Today is also Good Shepherd Sunday. A good part of the renewal of the Church will require more and more of our people to come to know Jesus in such a familiar way that we will so fall in love with Him that we will follow Him faithfully. Following of course begs the question: “where?” Today’s psalm response (Psaom 23) gives the answer: “to verdant pastures, restful waters, right paths, a banquet table, a place of anointing, a place of goodness and kindness, the eternal dwelling of the LORD.”
Good Shepherd Sunday is a time for each of us to listen for the Voice of Jesus, and to be attentive to this voice over all others, which prove to be mere distractions during this pilgrimage of faith. Today is an invitation to renew our conviction that the LORD is the Good Shepherd Who alone can give us what we long for – communion with Himself. Each of us is to grow in the wisdom that understands that only in following Jesus can we achieve the destiny of our life.
I pray that more and more families will place Jesus at the center of their lives. I pray that more and more young people will humbly pray to know the Good Shepherd, that He may lead them to understand and embrace God’s will in their life. I pray that every parish and family will call discover and empower the vocations our Church so desperately needs of holy married men and women and especially the vocations of religious and priests. Christ is calling. Let us listen.
If Christ is calling your son or grandson to become a priest, will you support this call and support your son / grandson to answer this call? If Christ is calling you to be a priest or religious, will you answer? … will you follow Him? I pray the answer will always be “Yes.”
Finally, some brief thoughts about yesterday’s graduation ceremony at Wyoming Catholic College. In keeping with tradition, this year’s graduating senior chosen to give the senior address was Joanna Mason from Rockville, Maryland. It is so refreshing to hear a young adult speak so articulately and comfortably of her faith. Her address clearly reflects that this class of graduates understands that they are to go into the world to carry on the great commission of Jesus Christ, following Him as our Good Shepherd, proclaiming the Good News, and setting the world on fire with the approaching Kingdom of God. Well done, Joanna and graduates. You give great hope to this bishop, and to many others.
I could not help but share at the banquet on Friday night my hopes for the future of these graduates. If I can do what I am doing as a bishop with the education I received, I cannot wait to see what this group of young people will do with the unique education they have received at Wyoming Catholic College.
I also wish to acknowledge what a fine commencement address Bishop James Conley delivered. He obviously shares an education very similar to what these young graduates of Wyoming Catholic College have received. Bishop Conley understands what a treasure a liberal arts education is, as well as how that rich gift imbued with faith is the remedy for the poverty of today’s society.
His challenge to the young graduates was to recognize the great treasure of our Christians faith along with our relationship in Christ. True human satisfaction comes from following Christ and living a life of witness to our faith in him. The encouraging reality for me is that I believe Wyoming Catholic graduates understand this fundamental truth.
Bishop Conley was also awarded this year’s Sedes Sapientiae Award. This award is given each year by the Wyoming Catholic College in honor of the College’s Patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The award recognizes a Catholic who has made an outstanding contribution to articulating and defending the Faith in today’s Church.
Congratulations to our Wyoming Catholic graduates of 2014!
(photos courtesy of Joseph Susanka)
+ January 30, 2014
Defending Religious Freedom in Court
Today, the Diocese of Cheyenne along with five other Catholic institutions filed a lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate which requires religious organizations to violate their conscience and the Church’s teaching. As you may be aware, the mandate requires employers to provide their employees with access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs through their group health plans, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Joining the diocese in this lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, are four of our related organizations: Catholic Charities of Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, St. Anthony Tri-Parish School in Casper and John Paul II Catholic School in Gillette. The Wyoming Catholic College is the fifth plaintiff joining the lawsuit filed today.
Federal law, including the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution, guarantees religious organizations the right to practice their faith free from government interference. It is true that the Mandate contains an exemption for so-called “religious employers.” However, the definition of religious employer is so narrow that many of our institutions that carry out the Gospel mandate to serve the poor, the young, those in distress, do not qualify. Even though the Diocese of Cheyenne is recognized as a religious employer, four of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit do not qualify, and these organizations provide their employees’ health insurance through the diocesan group health insurance plan. The Wyoming Catholic College also fails to qualify as a religious employer, but provides health insurance to their employees through a separate plan.
Also, you may be aware that the mandate allows for a so-called ‘accommodation’ to those institutions who claim that providing the objectionable services would require them to violate their conscience and Church teaching. However, the ‘accommodation’ requires these organizations to complete a certificate which authorizes either their insurance provider or a third-party administrator to provide the drugs and services which we find morally objectionable. The organizations must also take numerous additional steps to ensure that their employees receive access to the mandated coverage, including identifying and contracting with an insurance provider or third-party administrator willing to provide the mandated coverage and then maintaining a health plan that will serve as the conduit for the delivery of the very products and services to which the organization objects. Thus, the accommodation in fact provides no relief to the burden of conscience. It merely makes us complicit in authorizing someone else to do what we are claiming the government has no right to require. Thus, this lawsuit is about religious freedom.
For Catholics, the practice of faith always requires more than acts of worship. For us, faith is more than belief in God and freely worshiping the God of our faith. Faith necessarily entails ‘acts of faith,’ such as feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, education, in short, faith entails the practice of charity. Jesus’ summation of the commandments teaches that love of God leads to love of neighbor. St. James also teaches that “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:14-26) The last judgment scene of Matthew’s Gospel also makes it clear that we will be judged by how well we love our neighbor.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI clearly taught that for the Church, “the exercise of charity is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” (God Is Love, #22) Because Christ commissioned the Church to ‘go into the world and proclaim the Good News’, (Mark 16:15), religious freedom cannot be restricted to freedom of worship.
In August, as we began to review the implications on our various institutions of the mandate final rule, I was dumbfounded and disheartened to understand why the federal government is making it so difficult for people of faith to exercise their faith for the common good of society. The message of the mandate is clear; keep your religious beliefs private or face financial penalties. This is one of the strongest reasons the decision was made by the diocese and the plaintiffs to resist this mandate, even knowing that other similar lawsuits are now making their way through the court system.
The guarantee of religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment and federal law, however, was not meant to protect merely the right to worship, but also the right to contribute through acts of faith to the common good of society. Up until now, our government has chosen to honor this right. Never before has the government contested that institutions such as Catholic Charities of Wyoming or St. Joseph’s Children’s Home or St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School are religious. But the government’s conception of what constitutes the practice of religion is so narrow that it must be contested and ultimately overruled. Such a law cannot stand.
The Church did not choose this fight. The federal government has departed from longstanding practice and precedent to change the law; our response merely aims to preserve our constitutional rights to practice our religious beliefs with freedom for the common good.
I ask for your prayers during this time. I especially ask that each of us, and all members of our faith-family, practice our faith with enthusiasm, joy, and love. This is the ultimate witness and testimony that assures our government and society they have nothing to fear from the free exercise of religion, and everything to gain, as our practice of faith helps to make the world a better place, and our society strong.
With assurances of prayer, I remain,
In The Heart of Christ,
The Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, DD, STL
Bishop of Cheyenne
I arrived in Lander Sunday evening in time for dinner with the Board members and a few other guests of the Wyoming Catholic College. After dinner, I joined the new President, Dr. Kevin Roberts and his wife, Michelle, for the traditional ice cream social with this year’s incoming freshman class. It was a great setting to meet the newest members of the College.
The freshmen were fresh off of their three week Outdoor Leadership trip into the backcountry of the Wind River Mountains. Man, can they put away some ice cream!
Monday morning at 8:30 am found me at Holy Rosary Catholic Church which doubles as the chapel for the Wyoming Catholic College. I wanted to be present to welcome the former Bishop of Cheyenne and one of the co-founders of the Wyoming Catholic College, Bishop David Ricken. I also needed to review the 9:00 am ceremony for the inauguration of the 2nd President of the Wyoming Catholic College.
The procession of faculty, board members, students and clergy along with the President-elect began at precisely 9:00 am. With everyone in place, the inauguration ceremony began with the singing of the Alma Mater, written by a faculty member, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
It is hard to fully describe the joy and enthusiasm this Wyoming Catholic College has for the faith, and the genuine fraternity that exists among the many members of the College family. The enrollment this year stands at 112 students, with an incoming freshman class of 34. I’m glad the new president has already set a goal of doubling the enrollment over the next ten years.
One of several things I am proud of with regards to this Wyoming Catholic College is its fidelity to the faith and the Church’s teaching. This Catholic College faculty begins each academic year making an Profession of Faith and an Oath of Fidelity to the local ordinary. And, in keeping with that tradition, the new President after being duly installed by the Board President, made the same Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity.
Following this very important formality, the new President made his way to the ambo and delivered his inaugural address…one of the best, if not the best speech I’ve ever heard! Be sure to watch the WCC website to read this address once it is posted.
Wyoming Catholic College is so very fortunate to have Dr. Roberts as the new President. As with so many events over these early years in the life of the College, God’s providence keeps providing what is necessary for the success of this College. Clearly, Dr. Robert’s own academic formation and life experience are a part of this Providence of God, because we could not have found a better qualified person for this unique and inspiring program.
And Dr. Roberts comes with a beautiful wife and family. Dr. Roberts brings not only the expertise to guide the College in the next chapter of life, but I believe brings a great heart, and adds a great presence of not only excellent leadership, but warmth and humor to boot. I have no doubt that his guidance and charisma will be just the medicine for this hour of the great adventure that is the Wyoming Catholic College. If you are soon embarking upon a college education, and looking for a great Catholic program, you will certainly want to give Wyoming Catholic College a look!
Today, the third class will graduate from the Wyoming Catholic College. Family and friends gathered with the College community yesterday evening for a Baccalaureate Mass and dinner. Bishop Edward Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa, was the homilist last night, and will give the commencement address at the graduation ceremony later today.
In the short life of this fledgling College, the tradition is that the graduates gather with parents for the President’s Dinner. A few awards are given and the President address those in attendance. This was the final year for outgoing President, Fr. Robert Cook.
Fr. Cook has been a dedicated servant and founder of the Wyoming Catholic College. He has labored faithfully on behalf of the College and those associated with it. Fr. Cook has promised to work with the incoming president to guarantee a smooth transition. I was pleased to recognize Fr. Cook at the end of the dinner last night with a few brief comments. The student-body’s love for Fr. Cook is obvious.
Towards the end of the dinner, two young and very talented graduates came forward to sing a song they had written that captured their four year experience at Wyoming Catholic College. These two young women could probably make a decent living as entertainers, but something tells me they have even greater gifts and more urgent contributions to make. The name of their song was Long Days, Short Years. The blend of their voices was beautiful enough, complimented by the melody of their tune and witty lyrics. Well done, Sadie and Margie!
You may enjoy reading a recent article on the unique nature of the Wyoming Catholic College in the National Catholic Register.
In-climate weather (translate another heavy snow) has forced moving the graduation ceremonies from Sinks Canyon to Holy Rosary Church. The ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 this morning.
The bishops in my support group have been emailing and texting me recently asking if I am tired of the snow yet. Yes, Southeastern Wyoming received another foot of snow earlier this week. The snow began Tuesday evening and continued pretty much till mid-afternoon Wednesday. When I awoke on Wednesday morning, there was already 10″ of fresh, wet, heavy snow on the ground. I could hear limbs breaking and falling under the weight of the pretty white stuff.
The early week was heavy on the administration side of things. It is good for the people of the Church to know that a bishop really does have to consult quite a bit in the decision he makes. This week, the Diocesan Finance Council met to review the results of the fiscal year quickly drawing to a close and to approve the budget for the upcoming year. Lay men and women with varying expertise give me great guidance and advice regarding our finances. I’m glad to report that we will end our fourth year running in the black.
The board who manages the investments for our retired priests, the St. Joseph Society, also met this week. This board is made up of priests from the diocese who are also very thoughtful regarding both investments and the benefits for our retired priests.
A good friend, Mark Seabrook, arrived Wednesday night to accompany me on this week’s tour of six more parishes for conferral of the sacrament of Confirmation. We were in Riverton last night to celebrate with a group who were unable to make an earlier date due to snow. Two students from St. Stephen’s Indian Mission and six students from St. Margaret’s in Riverton received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Today and tomorrow, I will be in Lander for the graduation ceremonies of the third graduating class of Wyoming Catholic College.
After a couple winter months spent primarily in the office, travels resumed once again this month. In the past two weeks, I’ve celebrated Mass or visited to following: Blessed Sacrament in Ft. Washaki, St. Joseph in Ethete, St. Stephen’s, Lander for a brief visit with some of the faculty at the Wyoming Catholic College, St. Margaret in Riverton, St. Francis in Thermopolis, St. Mary Magdalene in Worland, Our Lady of Fatima in Casper as well as the Cathedral and Holy Trinity in Cheyenne.
Today I’m enjoying a bone fide day off. I truly enjoy the opportunity to be with the people in the diocese. It reminds me of the way Jesus himself ministered through his travels from town to town, one person at a time. These recent trips provided an opportunity to simply be with the people that wished to come for Mass, dinner and a visit.
Matt Potter and I have been ‘drumming up business’ in relationship to our annual Living and Giving in Christ appeal. This allows me to make a stronger connection with parishioners on a personal basis and gives us the opening to help them see that the parish as vital as it is in our ministry as a church is connected to a larger, universal Church. We are also able to educate around the need for the appeal regarding the ministries it supports as well as make a strong argument for the spiritual theology of stewardship and the many ways we are asked to make a generous return to the Lord for all he has done for us.
Not all of the visits revolved around the Living and Giving in Christ theme. While I was in the area, I simply ‘popped in’ on some of the faculty and staff at the Wyoming Catholic College. It is good for them as well to know of the bishop’s presence and support for their good work.
The visit to Our Lady of Fatima was an official Pastoral Visitation. In the Fall, I began making such visitations in order to look a bit deeper at the workings of our parishes. I get an extended time to visit with the priests, deacons and pastoral staff about their work and to hear from them about their challenges and concerns. There is also time for visiting with the Finance Council, Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Trustees. Of course, there is also the great joy of celebrating the weekend Masses and the gatherings that follow. Fr. Fox and the folks at Fatima are doing a great job!
Of course, there were the moments of being ‘back in the office.’ The correspondence, meetings and staying in touch with my own staff never ends. I and the people of this diocese are truly blessed by a great chancery staff. I do not have to worry while I am on the road about business continuing as usual back in the office. We have tremendously dedicated and talented people serving us!
Yesterday, we had a rare visit from our cloistered Carmelite monks. As we had some timely business to discuss, and I was unable to get to their location, I invited their Chapter members to come to Cheyenne.
I’m pleased to report that our Carmelite monks are making great progress along with their Foundation Board in fundraising for their new monastery. Their building plans are nearing a final draft, after several years of creative effort. Also, we are very near approval of the latest revisions of their constitutions, which is the canonical document that defines their charism, way of life, and governance.
As this readership already knows, I have a great love for our Carmelite monks, and always enjoy my time spent visiting with them. Please pray for them as their planning progresses closer and closer to seeing their dreams realized of finally living on their new mountain property!
Blessings to all in your Lenten journey. Draw close to Christ, and allow the light of his face to shine upon you. Trust always in his guidance and love.
Yesterday, the Wyoming Catholic College community gathered for Mass to officially open the new academic year. The Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit is typically used for such occasions. The readings provide unique opportunity to reflect upon the goal of academic life, namely, to teach and discover at an ever more personal level, the eternal Truth, Jesus Christ. Christ gave us His Spirit of Truth to dwell within us, as a means of keeping His promise to remain with us always.
The Wyoming Catholic College provides a wonderful atmosphere of faith for these young people to further develop and their faith, so as to live it with greater and greater integrity.
Another very important part of this Convocation Mass each year is the Oath of Fidelity given by all members of the Wyoming Catholic College faculty. Once again this year, they renewed their profession of faith and made a promise to faithfully teach and uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am very proud of the Catholic identity of our Wyoming Catholic College, and the dedication of those affiliated with her vision and mission.
A very good sign that in these early years, the College is successfully living out this mission to raise up new leaders for the Church and society, is that several of the incoming freshman class are siblings of those already graduated from Wyoming Catholic College.
After Mass and a short break, there was the traditional matriculation ceremony, in which the freshmen sign the enrollment book of the Wyoming Catholic College. The point is clearly made that they are ‘consecrating’ themselves for the next four years to seek the Truth of Christ, and to make a dwelling place for this Light and Truth in their own lives. They are reminded that such an effort to seek Christ above all else requires sacrifice and hard work. The joy of the community that surrounds them makes it quite evident that such sacrifice and hard work has its own reward!
After the matriculation ceremony, there was a nice picnic on the lawn. Tents were up and some great food available. Clearly, the students were enjoying renewing their friendships and establishing new ones. It was also good to see a few parents and families present to enjoy the festivities. Classes begin on Wednesday.
Have a great year, Wyoming Catholic College!
(all photos courtesy of Joseph Susanka)
After another five day road trip in the diocese, I spent a lovely weekend with the people of St. Rose in Torrington. Wednesday evening through Friday night I spent in Lander for a two day board meeting of the Wyoming Catholic College. The college had another great year, espescially with the innaugural graduation. However, the board is not resting, there is still much planning and decision making to do. We had a very good few days together, and please God, made some good decisions regarding the college’s future.
Saturday morning, I was in Casper for a Dean’s meeting. Then, that afternoon, I joined the Wyoming Council of Catholic Women for their annual board meeting. The Wyoming Council of Catholic Women has a great tradition in Wyoming, and are well respected by our pastors for their various roles of service in the respective parish communities. After joining these ladies for the first half of their meeting, I was on the road again to be in Torrington for the Saturday evening Mass to begin the weekend celebration of Ascension.
It has been a while since I have had the opportuntiy to celebrate all three parish Masses in a given weekend. The Saturday evening Mass was a bilingual Mass, with one of the readings read in Spanish, and several hymns and Mass parts in Spanish as well. I was surprised at the strong presence of the Hispanic community in this part of the state. As is usually the case, all three Masses had a different feel, but the music and participation at all three was very refreshing. As you can see in the picture, the 4th degree KofC members were present as well.
After each of the Masses a small reception was held for people to mingle and enjoy some time with eachother, and of course, to give the bishop a chance to visit. I always enjoy this opportunity to visit with the people and learn a bit about their history in the parish and diocese. And, as is getting to be the custom, there are generally a few good invitations extended to the bishop to do some fishing and hunting!
After the 11:00 mass, a more substantial meal was presented in the parish hall. A good number of people remained and we had a nice visit. Torrington has a strong agricultural base, with many farmers in the area. Of course, the St. Joseph Children’s home is also in Torrington, so I saw quite a few of their employees also.
It has been quite an emotional, historic weekend in Lander, Wyoming, as the Wyoming Catholic College celebrated its first graduation. What began as a dream and entailed much faith, hard work, courage and hope in the future reached a dramatic result today. Those who came in the Fall of 2007 not sure what to expect, both faculty, staff, students and family, and those who joined the procession along the way had something quite beautiful and significant to celebrate today!
Pictured above with myself and the three co-founders, Bishop David Ricken, now bishop of Green Bay, Fr. Bob Cook (a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne), and Dr. Robert Carlson. Both Bishop Ricken and Dr. Carlson were honored in today’s graduation ceremony.
Family and friends gathered from around the country these past few days. The senior awards dinner was Thursday evening, and the Baccalarueate Mass Friday evening, followed by the President’s Dinner. The Friday evening dinner gave me the “perfect opportunity” to also mention and “honor” Fr. Bob for his work, and role as a co-founder. (All I can say is, “you had to be there”)
A cold front came through Friday evening during the Mass and really cooled things down. Despite the overcast day Saturday, and rain showers, nothing could dappen the spirits of the moment. This latest venture in a Catholic College offers quite a unique experience in a liberal arts education. “Liberal” of course comes from the Latin “liber”, meaning, “free”, and that is exactly what this education seeks to accomplish; the formation of young men and women to freely live out their full human potential as God’s children.
Congratulations, Wyoming Catholic College and graduates!
(Photos courtesy of Mark Seabrook)