Becoming Christ Through Grace

April 29th, 2015

saint catherine of siena

As the Church continues to celebrate the Easter Season, for many of us it is during this time that our families gather to celebrate First Communions, Confirmations and marriages. These sacraments are so joyful because they are marked by a sense of hope and a future that seems boundless. Perhaps we even can imagine the possibilities for holiness and witness made possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit that is received in each of these sacraments. These sacramental celebrations can also be an experience of renewal for those of us who have been fully initiated into the life of the Church and continue to grow day by day in love for Our Lord.

Every reception of the sacraments strengthens our likeness to Christ. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christians become Christ-like. Saint Catherine of Siena, whose feast we celebrate today, did not hesitate to remind those in authority of this, exhorting them to take off self-love and clothe themselves in Christ and his charity (Catherine of Siena, Letters, T268). By this affection for Jesus, we become more conformed to the only-begotten Son, she said, because “love transforms the lover into the object loved” (The Dialogue, 60). This is what the Spirit of Love gives us: the life of the God-man. We become partakers of the divine life (2 Peter 1:4); but we also come to share in Jesus’ perfect human life.

When we are baptized, we too receive the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) and we take on the character of Jesus who was anointed in the Spirit. We live not only with our own meager virtues, but with the grace of Jesus himself, given us by the Spirit.

Everyone has some degree of virtue by nature, and we can grow in good habits, thanks to the training from parents or teachers. But life presents many obstacles, and even our best qualities are not enough to get us through a day without some failure. Our good habits are too often offset by the lingering effects of original sin and our own personal sin. We grow impatient with others and we think uncharitable thoughts. We give into selfishness. We avoid people who are suffering. We neglect friends and family members. Yet, what Catherine of Siena learned from Jesus is that these situations are the very opportunities to grow in holiness.

In prayer, Saint Catherine hears the Lord say to her:

“I have told you how to serve your neighbors, and how that service proves your love for me. Now, I will go further. You test the virtue of patience in yourself when your neighbors insult you. Your humility is tested by the proud, your faith by the unfaithful, your hope by the person who has no hope. Your justice is stirred by the unjust, your compassion by the cruel, and your gentleness and kindness by the wrathful. Your neighbors are the channel through which all your virtues are tested and come forth to birth, just as the evil gives birth to all their vice through their neighbors” (The Dialogue, 8).

We learn in the Sacrament of Confirmation that it is the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord – that are God’s way of completing and perfecting our natural virtues and acquired habits. Grace does not destroy nature, but builds on it. The God who created us is the God who redeemed us in Christ – and now sanctifies us in the Spirit. With the indwelling of the Spirit, we receive what we need to live our waking hours as the saints we are called to be. We can live our days as Christ, sharing in the gifts that are his in the Spirit.

Archdiocese of Washington To Welcome Pope Francis

April 28th, 2015

Popa Francis Papal Visit

I’m pleased to confirm the welcome news that Pope Francis will visit Washington, D.C. between September 22 and September 25, 2015. During his time with us, among other things, the Holy Father will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House, address a joint meeting of both houses of Congress, and on the afternoon of September 23 will declare Junípero Serra a saint during a Mass celebrated at the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception which adjoins the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Pope Francis has captured the imagination of people around the world and touched the hearts of Catholics and others who do not share our faith. We look to his visit to Washington as a time of grace and an opportunity for each of us to grow closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ, and experience his Gospel of joy and mercy.

To learn more, I invite you to visit our archdiocesan webpage or sign up below to receive papal visit updates via text or email.





Lord, Send Us More Laborers for the Harvest

April 26th, 2015

This Fourth Sunday of Easter is the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, in which we pray that the Lord send more laborers for his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:38, Luke 10:2) and we pray also for the priests and consecrated religious who have ministered to us throughout our lives. With prayers offered up to the Lord, we might also encourage the young people in our lives to consider a vocation as a priest, deacon or religious brother or sister, as well as membership in societies of apostolic life or secular institutes.

In his Message for this special day, Pope Francis asks us to reflect on “that particular ‘exodus’ which is the heart of vocation, or better yet, of our response to the vocation God gives us.” What our Holy Father means is the basic movement of leaving behind our inward-looking self to decisively turn toward the Lord, accepting his call of love and being transformed by him, and then going forward with trust and self-giving. “Responding to God’s call,” the Pope says, “means allowing him to help us leave ourselves and our false security behind, and to strike out on the path which leads to Jesus Christ, the origin and destiny of our life and our happiness” (Message for the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations).

This familiar theme of our Holy Father, that of “going out” toward others is a calling common to us all as missionary disciples, but it applies in a particular way in the priesthood and consecrated life, in which one gives him- or herself totally to Christ and his Church. Our model is our mother in faith, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose “yes” to God’s call inspires our own. With her, our prayer is that the fire of the Holy Spirit may enkindle our hearts and show us the path that the Lord has laid out for us.

In our culture today, amidst all the secular pressures that would exclude God and consequently leaves people spiritually impoverished, more and more young men and women are discerning a call to the priesthood or consecrated life. This year alone will see a 25 percent increase over last year in the number of men ordained to the priesthood nationwide. Locally, because of the growth in the number of seminarians, we needed to expand our Saint John Paul II Seminary.

A renewed vibrancy is also seen in religious orders across the country.   Young religious sisters and brothers have joyfully discovered what Pope Francis himself shows in his life. “How wonderful it is to be surprised by God’s call, to embrace his word, and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in adoration of the divine mystery and in generous service to our neighbors!” (Message for the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations).

The Archdiocese of Washington has a number of resources to assist the young person who is discerning a vocation. At our DC Priest website, in conjunction with the Saint John Paul II Seminary, you will find a wealth of information on the priesthood and formation process, including the vocation stories of many of our seminarians. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops likewise has a variety of informative materials to help women and men to hear and answer God’s call.

We pray for vocations in a special way today, but our prayer is one we can offer every day. With our Holy Father Pope Francis and the entire Church Universal, let us join in prayer:

God our Father, you made each of us to use our gifts in the Body of Christ.

We ask that you inspire young people whom you call to priesthood and consecrated life to courageously follow your will.

Send workers into your great harvest so that the Gospel is preached, the poor are served with love, the suffering are comforted, and your people are strengthened by the sacraments.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Saint Mark the Evangelist

April 24th, 2015

st marks

When Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his Papal Mass in 2008 at Nationals Park in Washington, the dramatic large crucifix over the altar fittingly came from Saint Mark the Evangelist Church in Hyattsville.

Like the evangelist whose Gospel shares the Good News of Jesus, that magnificent crucifix, along with the Eucharist celebrated at the altar at the Papal Mass and at its parish church, speaks to us of how Jesus redeemed the world by dying on the cross and rising to new life.

The Gospel of Saint Mark, like every crucifix, tells a love story – the story of how Jesus taught and lived a gospel of love. Then with love he opened his arms on the cross to save us from sin and death, and through his resurrection, showed us the way to eternal life, with and through him.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that Saint Mark, like his cousin Saint Barnabas, was a missionary companion to Saint Paul on his first journey, and he also later accompanied Saint Peter in Rome. The historian Eusebius reports that Mark then took down the teaching of Peter, which formed the gospel bearing his name (Church History, II:15).

This shortest of the four gospel accounts is believed to have been written first, before 70 A.D., when early Christians, like many Christians today, were facing persecution. Saint Mark’s vivid gospel account of Jesus as the Son of God bringing love and healing to the world gave those early believers strength to endure in their faith and share it with courage and zeal, a message that continues to resonate today.

On the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist on April 25, the gospel reading is from the final passage from the evangelist’s account. Jesus appears to the Apostles and gives them the great commission, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel” (Mark 16:15-20).

In a real sense, this ending is really a beginning. The month after his election in 2013, Pope Francis noted in his homily for Mass on the feast of Saint Mark that Jesus’ call to share the Good News is now the work of today’s Christians. “The Church continues to preach this to everyone, all over the world. But she does not go forth alone: she goes forth with Jesus,” he said.

The new pope from the Americas, who had earlier introduced himself as coming “from the ends of the earth,” encouraged today’s Christians to “become missionaries in the Church, apostles in the Church,” with greatness of spirit but also humility. “When we go forth with this magnanimity and humility,” he said, “when we are not scared by the great things, by the horizon, but also take on board the little things – humility, daily charity – the Lord confirms the Word. And we move forward. The triumph of the Church is the Resurrection of Jesus. But there is first the Cross.”

About one month after that blessed Mass with Pope Benedict, I returned to Saint Mark the Evangelist Church to celebrate the Eucharist at the altar there, where the dramatic crucifix again hung overhead, suspended by two pieces of airplane cable. In my homily, I noted how the risen Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and sent them forth.

For 20 centuries, that same action has continued, as the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Church today, on you and me, with the same power to open our hearts to Christ and to change the world by being witnesses to Christ’s love and new life, a story that unfolds in Saint Mark’s Gospel and in our lives, here and now.

Homily: Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-elect Mario Dorsonville

April 20th, 2015

Bishop Dorsonville

At this point in the liturgy, the ritual calls for the bishop to address the clergy, the people and the bishop-elect on the duties of a bishop.

In line with that ancient exhortation, I ask you, the faithful gathered in this cathedral church, to reflect on what we are about to do.

First, as the instruction tells us, we must consider the position in the Church to which our brother is being raised. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, in turn sent twelve apostles into the world. These men were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel and gather every race and people into a single flock to be guided in the way of holiness.

Because this service was to continue to the end of time, the apostles selected others to help them. By the laying on of hands which confers the sacrament of orders in its fullness, the apostles passed on the gift of the Holy Spirit which they themselves had received from Christ. In that way, by a succession of bishops unbroken from one generation to the next, the spiritual powers conferred in the beginning were handed down, and the work of our Savior continues in our time.

The third century Christian writer Tertullian concisely expressed this ancient apostolic tradition: “The Church from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God” (De Praescr. Haer. XXI, 4).

The second reading chosen for today is from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, where we find already at the very beginning of the life of the Church, reference to what we are doing here today – the imposition of hands, the invoking of the Holy Spirit and the passing on of the responsibility of proclaiming the message that Jesus Christ has saved us and called us to a holy life.

Paul’s admonition to Timothy is equally appropriate for what is transpiring right now, “I remind you stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.”

The Rite of Ordination in the Roman Pontifical underscores the unique spiritual quality of the Bishop: “In the Bishop surrounded by his priests, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, having become High Priest for ever, is present among you. For, through the ministry of the Bishop, Christ himself never fails to proclaim the Gospel and to administer the sacraments of faith to those who believe. Through the Bishop’s exercise of his duty as father, Christ himself adds new members to his body. Through the Bishop’s wisdom and prudence, it is Christ himself who leads you in your earthy pilgrimage toward eternal happiness.”

The pectoral cross that Bishop Dorsonville receives and wears today depicts what the Rite of Ordination proclaims. It shows the bishop with all of the priests at the service of God’s people teaching, pastorally meeting their needs, and administering all the sacraments.

How is it that a man can take on this enormous responsibility? How is that we find the grace and strength to stand in the midst of the Church as the one who is to teach, to lead and to sanctify?

The first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah confirms for us how this is possible. Just as the prophet announced that “the spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me and has sent me…” (Is 61:1), so can the bishop carry out his challenging ministry assured of a Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The anointing with chrism and the imposition of hands in this sacred ritual are not only visible signs to the faithful of your consecration, they are the efficacious actions by which the Spirit is truly poured out in a transforming and energizing manner.

How appropriate is the responsorial Psalm for today that has been, for Bishop Dorsonville, not only a prayer but a working model, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake.”

At this point, the ritual also instructs the ordaining bishop to address the one to be ordained. And so Bishop-elect Dorsonville, I offer these words for your consideration.

Scholars tell us that the pivotal point in Matthew’s Gospel is when Jesus asks of Peter a declaration of faith: “Who do you say I am?” Peter responds in a way that has become the model for every disciple of the Lord, every follower of Christ: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Bishop-elect Dorsonville before your response to any other call from Christ or his Church there was your previous answer in faith. With Peter you, together with all of us, have responded to Jesus with the declaration: “You are the Christ…”

The Gospel we listen to today also tells us of a second challenge and question to Peter. This one also is directed now to you and all in apostolic ministry:  “Do you love me?”

It is not a question of faith, but a request for commitment: “Simon son of John do you love me?” Peter’s response is by every priest and bishop here, and certainly in your heart. Peter said directly and clearly: “Lord you know that I love you, Lord you know everything you know that I love you.”

To all of this Jesus simply replied: “Feed my sheep.”

What we celebrate today is your anointing as a successor to the apostles, that body of chosen disciples, charged to feed the sheep.

What we witness today is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this Church in your consecration and through your ministry to the whole Church of Washington.

Shortly you shall receive as a sign of your office a ring. Tradition tells us that the Bishop’s ring manifests visibly that he is pledged in love to the particular Church entrusted to his care. We speak lovingly of Holy Mother Church when we think of the Church Universal and all of her manifestations. But for a bishop the local Church entrusted to his care is his bride. You are to wear the ring as a sign of fidelity to this holy Church. Love her totally, tirelessly and completely.

You will soon be anointed with the sacred chrism – the oil of mystical anointing that is intended to bring forth an abundance of spiritual blessings. May it always be for you as you exercise your episcopal ministry and stand in the midst of the faithful of this diocesan Church the oil of gladness. May it always renew in you a spirit of joyful hope.

Pope Francis speaks and writes of the Joy of the Gospel. He also gives us an example of how we live that joy of the Risen Lord and invite others to do the same. May that joy always fill your heart.

In a few moments the open Book of the Gospels will be placed over your head. This gesture on the one hand is to indicate that the word of God embraces and watches over the Bishop’s ministry. On the other hand, it indicates that “the Bishop’s life is to be completely submitted to the word of God in his daily commitment of preaching the Gospel in all patience and sound doctrine (cf. 2. Tim. 4)”.

The Church speaks of the bishop’s exercise of the munus regendi – the responsibility to lead his flock. “The Bishop is sent in Christ’s name as a pastor for the care of a particular portion of the People of God” (43). Pope Francis tells us we are to go out, encounter and accompany all those we hope to bring to the Lord.

May your ministry always be an echo of that pastoral challenge given to Peter by our Lord after his Resurrection. “Feed my sheep.” Strengthen them with my Gospel, nurture them with my Body and Blood.

Our prayers, the prayers of all of the clergy, religious and faithful of this diocesan Church, are, at this moment, for you and your ministry. As you face the challenges of episcopal service we pray that you will be constantly sustained by God’s grace. May we always see in your ministry the joy of the Lord and the face of the mercy of God.

In the light of this understanding of who you are and what we are doing, our faith prompts all of us to great joy as you are ordained a bishop of God’s holy Church.

I join my voice to that of your family, friends, the presbyterate, and all the faithful of this local Church in praise to God for this wonderful moment that promises so much good.

May God bring to fruitful completion what today is so wondrously begun in you.

Disagreement Is Not Discrimination

April 20th, 2015

The Washington Post published an op ed I co-authored with John Garvey, the president of The Catholic University of America, regarding the recent laws enacted by the D.C. Council that challenge religious freedom in the nation’s capital.

Here is an excerpt:

Last month, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church would celebrate a Holy Year of Divine Mercy. God’s mercy has been a theme of his pontificate.

We all need God’s forgiveness. The pope has said, “I am a sinner.” The Catholic Church’s response to our human frailty is not condemnation but mercy. There may be no institution that understands this better.

Recent laws enacted by the D.C. Council would have us believe otherwise. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act and the Human Rights Amendment Act purport to address “discrimination” by institutions such as ours, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Catholic University of America. The putative victims of this discrimination are people who part ways with church teaching about unborn life and sexual autonomy.

You can read the complete op ed here.

Easter Joy

April 18th, 2015

easter joy

One of the graces of Easter falling in early April is that nature reflects the joy of new life found in the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior. Our parks and gardens bloom with color. We wonder at how even the most delicate of spring flowers survived our long and cold winter. We revel in our world that seems to have been reborn.

This experience of a world made new also describes some of how the Apostles and other followers of Jesus felt as they made sense of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection and began to see what impact this astounding news had on the people with whom they shared it. They too found a new vision for life in the story of Jesus. They too wanted to become disciples.

In fact, Jesus described his whole mission as one of giving new life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). What Jesus offers is a life richer than any we could ever otherwise have, a life so radically new that we must be born again to receive it, a life that participates in his own resurrection and in a glorified and eternal body.

In this we learn that Easter is not so much a time of historical reflection as it is one of rejoicing in our own hope of resurrection. While it is true that we look to the past and see in Christ’s risen life new and eternal existence, we do so to confirm our own faith that some day we too shall rise from the dead. Easter takes on an aura of celebration and an evangelical dimension as we recognize that we are called to share in the wonder of new life.

Like the first followers of Jesus we also need to be enthusiastic messengers of the Good News of the new life to be found in relationship with the Lord. The Church spread from Jerusalem and Rome to Africa and India and all over what we now call Europe on the strength of the testimony of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and the enthusiasm of the first Christians. As we move through these 50 days of the Easter season, we have an opportunity to share the difference that Jesus, faith and belonging to the Church make in our lives.

Sharing our faith can be as simple as praying with family each day of the Easter season one of the traditional Easter prayers, like the Regina Caeli. Another way is to read together the book of Acts of the Apostles, in which we learn how the first Christians began to form local communities and expand the Church that Jesus established. In the invitational spirit of Pope Francis, we might consider inviting friends who do not have a spiritual home to join us at Mass or for family sacramental celebrations such as First Communion or Confirmation and then talk about what the sacrament means in everyday life.

We also need to be courageous and active in bearing witness to the Good News as it relates to some of the toughest issues we face today. We are being called to defend religious liberty and promote our right to nurture a robust Catholic identity in all of our Catholic institutions and in how we each live our Catholic faith. Being faithful witnesses to the joy of Easter requires us also to speak up on behalf of Christ’s Church. We should not remain silent, either before the empty tomb or before challenges, to our ability to live and practice our faith.

As joyful witnesses of the Gospel, we want to share that Jesus Christ can fulfill our deepest yearnings and has the power to make what is good in human life far better and richer. He takes our broken lives and heals them, inviting us to share in God’s life so that we might live not just as creatures of a loving God but as his children.

God is Love: The Letters of Saint John

April 15th, 2015
St. John the Evangelist by Zampieri

St. John the Evangelist by Zampieri

Easter is a season to rejoice in the love of Christ our Redeemer, and then proclaim the Good News of the Risen Lord who calls us to eternal life. This is what Saint John does in his three letters of the New Testament and I invite you to read and reflect on these inspiring writings in this time of joy.

The message of Saint John is this: God is light and we are called to walk in the light with him, living in truth and loving God and one another (1 John 1:5-7, 2:9-11). He begins his first letter by bearing witness – “[W]hat we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life,” professes the Beloved Disciple. “[W]e have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us” (1 John 1:1).

Applying these words to life today, Pope Francis says, “By his taking flesh and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments he continues to touch us even today; transforming our hearts, he unceasingly enables us to acknowledge and acclaim him as the Son of God. In faith, we can touch him and receive the power of his grace” (Lumen Fidei, 31).

Belief in the Incarnation is central to our faith. “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,” Pope Benedict XVI taught, “but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Before all else, the Christian faith is relationship – relationship with God who is himself relationship in the communion of the Trinity.

The key then to understanding John’s letters – the key to interpreting all of sacred scripture, as well as the meaning of human life – and why these writings are so treasured in the Church is found in his beautiful affirmation, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Pope Benedict explains: “[E]verything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope” (Caritas in Veritate, 2).

This love is not merely a sentiment or philosophy, but a living reality. God’s love is visible throughout history, but nothing so demonstrates that “God is love” as the fact that “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 John 4:9).

If human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love – a fullness of love that is a complete gift of self as Jesus gave himself – what does that say about what we should be and how we should conduct our lives?

While God loves us faithfully to the end, if we are to remain in the light, we must admit that we have not always been faithful to our calling. “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” warns Saint John. “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 John 1:8-9).

God wants our destiny to be with him and so, though imperfect, we dare to call him “Our Father.” We dare because Jesus said to, and because we are baptized into Jesus’ life and so have become God’s adopted children. Saint John speaks of it this way: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 John 3:1). We are children of God. This too is not a metaphor or poetic figure of speech. We really are, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, adopted children of God who shares eternal life with us.

In his three letters, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” says that he proclaims the Good News “so that our joy may be complete” (John 19:26; 1 John 1:4). We too are disciples whom Jesus loves, and so if our joy is to be complete, we too must share the saving love of Christ with others.

Child Abuse Prevention Month: Protecting the Innocent and Vulnerable Among Us

April 13th, 2015

Silhouettes of Cheerful Children Playing Balloons Outdoors

Children are precious. Their simplicity, their sense of wonder and enthusiasm, their laughter at play are all infectious. Their innate way of receiving and giving tenderness, their way of seeing reality with a trusting and pure gaze, cannot fail to touch our hearts and fill us with hope for tomorrow, Pope Francis recently observed.

Children are truly a gift. Yet, as with all else in this fallen world, young people are subject to the human condition. Some are raised in poverty and poor living conditions despite the best efforts of their parents. But others have had grave wrongs perpetrated against them, including physical, mental, emotional and/or sexual abuse.

To draw attention to this evil and what we can do about it, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month, government agencies, community groups, and churches are encouraged to work together to share child abuse and neglect prevention strategies and promote the well-being of children and families. This responsibility belongs to everyone as a matter of charity and justice, and the Archdiocese of Washington is strongly committed to child safety in the Church and throughout society.

“Concern for the child, even before birth, from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another,” said Saint John Paul II in an address to the United Nations (Familiaris Consortio, 26). We can all do our part to protect the dignity of all human life and ensure our children are in safe environments at home, at school, in our neighborhoods, and at church.

Our local Church has long been pro-active in protecting children. Since 1986, the archdiocese has had a stringent written policy on child protection, one of the most comprehensive of any organization – public or private – entrusted with the care of children in Maryland or the District of Columbia. This policy mandates reporting of suspected abuse to civil authorities, education for children and adults, and background checks for clergy, employees and volunteers who work with minors. Also included is information on healing for those harmed and what to do if there is an allegation. These efforts are overseen by a Child Protection Advisory Board of predominantly lay experts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a variety of child abuse prevention resources on its website. The archdiocese has also developed a series of safety tips, including advice on Internet safety, sexting, healthy teen relationships, and bullying. Children in archdiocesan schools and religious education programs are also taught how to recognize abuse and protect themselves.

Our efforts to combat child abuse begin with ourselves, with our own families in our own homes, including our spiritual family. The Catechism reminds parents they have an obligation to love and care for the children that are entrusted to them by our heavenly Father (CCC 2221-31). Likewise, the Church that is our Mother has an obligation toward our little ones.

“Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home,” Pope Francis has emphasized. Most especially, “everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.”

Being most vulnerable, our young people require us to care for them and protect them from harm. Child Abuse Prevention Month calls our attention to this obligation in charity and justice. Let us all be vigilant in helping to provide a safe environment for all children and to help those who are victims of abuse find healing.