"Black Priest Ends Up On Front Page."

(Holy Family Bulletin for April 21, 2002)

Last weekend a number of people mentioned to me their deep sadness concerning Fr. John Cornelius. Even though he never served here at Holy Family, he had touched the lives of a number of our parishioners. Several told me about how he had helped them get through some personal crises. They asked me if it is appropriate to send him a note. I did so myself and it seems like a good thing for other to do, just to let him know you are praying for him and care about him. A note could be sent c/o Archdiocese of Seattle, 910 Marion St., Seattle, WA 98104.

In his homily last Sunday at Immaculate Conception in Seattle, Archbishop Brunett mentioned that Fr. John was “very depressed.” That is most understandable. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to have such accusations splashed over local newspapers and television. Archbishop Brunett referred to an e-mail the archdiocese had received that said, "There was a white priest accused of allegations, and we did not reveal his name, but the black priest ends up on the front page." As the Archbishop stated, "We did not do that. The press did that. It's not this community that has failed. It's the press that has failed."

A Seattle Times article devoted two paragraphs to explaining their decision to release Fr. Cornelius name, even though the story involved unproven accusations against him. Then, apparently to show they were not being discriminatory, they later went ahead and released the name of the white priest!

Given the lack of restraint in many quarters, I have to say I admire the care Archbishop Brunett has shown in addressing this most painful issue. A few weeks back we printed in our bulletin his letter outlining archdiocesan procedures which have been in place since the mid-80’s. The main concern is protection of children and adolescents while at the same time not trampling on the rights of those accused.

Some have told me the recent scandals have tried their faith, that they are thinking of leaving the church. In one case I knew the person well enough to say, “Come on, girl, you weren’t doing so great before the scandals broke.” But most of the time I have limited myself to pointing out that Jesus chose human beings, not angels, to visibly shepherd his church. We can – and should – install the best safeguards possible, especially to protect children and teenagers. But ultimately it depends on the human shepherds who oversee the flock. What a heavy responsibility they have!

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It is so important that we pray for our bishops and all those who bear the responsibility of shepherding Jesus’ flock. I was impressed by the response of Fr. Dennis Robb, the pastor of the Everett parish where Fr. Cornelius has served since 1996. He reminded his congregation that the case involved “accusations of things that happened in the 1970’s.” Fr. Robb said his faith in his assistant pastor and longtime friend hasn't diminished. "I don't believe these accusations," he said, but "the archdiocese must take these accusations very seriously." At the same time Fr. Robb set up round the clock prayer for parishioners, asking that at least two people sign up for each hour.

That must be our response as well. Here at Holy Family we do have 24 hour, seven day a week exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I invite you to come to the Ailbe House chapel (or on Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to the main church) for a time of prayer before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. All of us have experienced hurts, sometimes even by people we trusted deeply such as priests. We need to bring them before Jesus’ healing glance. And each of us has hurt others, perhaps in ways we were not aware of. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to give them the healing which only he can make possible.

On a more positive note, I want to ask your prayers for Deacon Armando Perez. On June 8 (10 a.m. St. James Cathedral) he will be ordained to the priesthood. I am looking forward to Armando being here at Holy Family for some days before his ordination to serve as deacon at Spanish and English Masses. Also after his ordination to the priesthood, he will be celebrating Masses of Thanksgiving with us.

Please also pray for others preparing for the priesthood. We should be grateful to God that, even during difficult times, young men are willing to make this sacrifice of their lives. In the vestibule of our church is a poster with the pictures of the thirty-plus seminarians from the Archdiocese of Seattle. You will notice that, besides Armando, two others are from Holy Family: Than Dao and Peter Mactutis. This summer, God willing, a young man from Holy Family will enter the Dominican seminary in California. We hold them all in our prayers that the Lord’s flock may have the shepherds we so deeply need.

Other sacraments are being celebrated at this time of year. Yesterday (April 19) we had our First Holy Communion Mass for a beautiful group of children. In June, children from Spanish speaking families will be making their First Communion. We have so many this year (140 children) that we will be celebrating two Spanish language First Communion Masses on June 15.

On May 23, a good group of high school students (16 years and older) will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Vernon Wells and Monica Orozco are working diligently to prepare them. Archbishop Brunett will celebrate a bilingual Mass that evening at 7 p.m.

Also we have a wonderful number of engaged couples this year. Our marriage preparation courses, in both English and Spanish, have been packed. The next English language course begins Sunday, April 28 at 4 p.m. in the rectory. Please call Sharon, 767-6220, for more information.

This past week the Archdiocese of Seattle sent out letters regarding the Annual Catholic Appeal. Last year 621 Holy Family parishioners participated with an average pledge of $111. I am hoping for a greater participation this year so that we not only can do our part to support the 63 Archdiocesan programs, but so that we might receive a rebate to help with our parish building and maintenance needs. The Parish Council and Finance Council have been advising me on how to best approach these pressing concerns.

Because the needs of our parish are so urgent, I have decided postpone my annual visit to Peru in order to be here the entire Fall to concentrate on our parish stewardship. The leaks in our church building and convent (Ailbe House) are not going to get better and will continue to cause damage if we do not fix them. Also the seismic repairs and ADA requirements of our parish school cannot be postponed.

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