From Guest Columnist Fr. Mario DiCicco, O.F.M.
EMERGENCY HELP FOR SYRIA
The country of Syria finds itself in a conflict which each day becomes more and more cruel. The death toll from the conflict is over 500,000. The severity of the humanitarian disaster has been outlined by the United Nations: more than 7.6 million Syrians have been displaced. More than 12.2 million people who remain in Syria, including 5.6 million children have been left in the poorest of living conditions with shortages of food, drinking water, and medicines. This humanitarian, social, and economic crisis has had a direct impact on the public health system which has collapsed in most of the country, affecting the decrease of 38% of primary health care services.
Water is an emergency need. Water cuts for millions of residents, sometimes lasting up to two weeks at a time, have been used by the government controlled west and a rebel-led east as a "weapon of war," according to the UN and the Red Cross. The water from the Euphrates passes through different areas of control (Islamic State, rebels, government) and was drastically reduced by 40% during the hot months of summer. Residents go for two weeks or more without water. Some have resorted to digging makeshift wells but water drawn from them may be unfit for human consumption, sometimes causing residents to develop a kidney illness, typhoid and salmonella. Even bottled water sold by private enterprises is not necessarily safe but even so families form hours-long queues to buy it. A family of six cannot spend so much on water alone; there would be nothing left for food.
Another issue is limitation on access to health-care facilities and health service, causing disease epidemics, acute jaundice syndrome, and respiratory and diarrheal diseases. There is a breakdown in immunizations, a lack of nutrition, and exposure to water-borne diseases to which the children are susceptible.
As you know from the daily reports in the papers and television, Aleppo has been most affected by the war. The battle has been marked by the Syrian (also Russian forces) army’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from helicopters killing thousands of people. The onset of winter without heating oil for the residents of Aleppo will make their outlook even more profoundly bleak. The United Nations has called Aleppo "a merciless abyss."
In the midst of all this catastrophic devastation, there are 14 Franciscan Friars remaining in the country who are beacons of hope for the people. We Franciscans have been in Syria since the 13th century, and the Friars who are there now want to remain with the people in spite of peril to their lives. They belong to the Custody of the Holy Land. They operate four humanitarian centers in Damascus, Aleppo. Latakye and Knayeh, offering sleeping accommodations, providing food (either meals and food allowances for the most disadvantaged families), and non-food items such as clothes, blankets, medicines hygiene products. These four centers reach out to everyone in need regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Even though the prices of essential goods has increased from 100% to 300%, the Franciscans there, through donations from around the world, make food, water, shelter, medicines available to the people without cost.
Fr. Kurt, our pastor, has offered me his space in the bulletin to apprize you of the situation in Syria and to enlist your financial help for our Franciscan brothers and their humanitarian centers. For the past several months, through benefactors and charitable foundations, we have been able to raise over $100,000. We would like to invite you to help us double or even triple that amount by contributing what you can to this emergency relief effort. The humanitarian center in Aleppo alone estimates it will need over $300,000 to run its programs of relief in 2017. I ask you to join us in this very practical manifestation of a work of charity as we soon close this Year of Mercy by making a very generous donation. If you wish to make a donation of whatever amount, please make your check out to: FRANCISCANS FOR THE WORLD (not to St. Peter’s Church). This is my tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and your gifts will be tax-deductible. The donation should be directed to my attention and sent to St. Peter’s Church, 110 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60602. Together we can express our solidarity with the suffering people of Syria who daily live the nightmare of war. Thank you for your kindness. If you wish more information on Syria, please let me know.
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The fire of the prophet Malachi in the First Reading corresponds to Jesus’ intensity in the Gospel as he predicts the destruction of the temple’s stones and the end-time. Malachi’s words forewarn the “proud” and all “evildoers.” They will suffer burns so deep that the fire will even destroy the roots of the wickedness. Those who honor the Lord’s name will face a much different fate. In a phrase that Christians would be accurate to interpret in relation to Jesus, the prophet tells the Lord’s faithful ones “there will arise the sun of justice,” bringing healing from within its wings.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus responds to those who comment about the external objects that embellish the temple’s environment and the gifts offered to God in the holy place. His remarks about the destruction of the temple create so much anxiety within the people that they ask Jesus a twofold question dealing with exactly “when” the destruction will happen and “the signs” that will warn of its occurrence.
The evangelist Luke wrote about the temple’s destruction around 70 AD. Given that, we can see in the encounter between Jesus and the people a discussion of the end-time. Many violent occurrences will usher in the eschaton, but also “mighty signs will come from the sky.” Yet even before these signs occur, Jesus’ followers will suffer persecution and trials. How can we prepare ourselves for this? The conclusion of the Gospel presents Jesus’ teaching on readiness—there is no defense that we can prepare ahead of time. The preparedness of a disciple rests on his or her willingness to trust that Jesus will provide the wisdom necessary to overcome any opponents. Next Sunday, we celebrate why Jesus is able to withstand all enemies and help us do the same, even when the enemies are our very relatives and friends: he is Christ the King who reigns from the Cross.
The Responsorial Psalm comes from the same psalm as on the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The refrain connects with the coming day when fire will consume the wicked and God’s faithful will endure, for on this day “the Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.” Justice and equity are the Lord’s governing principles and because of them, the psalmist praises the Lord together with all of creation and all the world’s peoples. The verses of this Sunday’s psalm follow from where the verses left off a few Sundays ago.
We learn from the Second Reading that Paul and his companions were hard workers. They never expected the Thessalonians or other communities in which they preached to provide for them. They intended to have their work ethic serve as a model for Christians. Jesus never promised that the life of his followers would be easy or that others would give food, clothing, or shelter for free. Apparently, there were some among the Thessalonians who were acting in a “disorderly” way. Their laziness distracted them from proclaiming and living the Gospel. Paul’s advice is to imitate his example as we await Jesus’ return and also to refrain from being busybodies!
COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICE
As a way of celebrating the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are having a Communal Penance Service on Friday, November 18, at 12:15. This service will replace the usual Mass at this time. Since the Year of Mercy has emphasized God’s enduring mercy to all his people and his willingness to forgive our sins and transgressions if we are truly sorry and ask for mercy, this form of the Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us the possibility of hearing a large number of confessions in a relatively brief amount of time. Therefore we wholeheartedly invite and encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity, especially if you have not celebrated the Sacrament recently. There will be ten or more confessors available for this face-to-face encounter. We hope to see you here for this important occasion.
GOLDEN PRIESTLY JUBILEE OF FR. ROBERT PAWELL, O.F.M.
This past June Fr. Bob Pawell, who has ministered here at St. Peter’s for a number of years, had his Golden Anniversary of ordained priestly ministry. Unfortunately at that time he was in the midst of recuperating from a very serious operation and therefore could not celebrate this milestone publically. Even though Fr. Bob has not yet completely recovered, still he is feeling much better and has decided to celebrate it now, namely at the 5:00 Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Saturday, November 19. We want to invite all his many friends to join him, the friars and his family on this joyous occasion. We will say more about his life and ministry in the bulletin next week, but we wanted to let you know of the celebration now so that you can plan to attend.
NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK
All during the past week we have been praying for and reflecting upon vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Either or both of these vocations is a gift and an invitation to a most fulfilling and happy life. Today I would like to give anyone discerning a priestly or religious vocation some contact information so that you may move forward with your interest and discernment with someone who can assist you.
Franciscan Life: We invite men, ages 20-45, to a Come and See Weekend to visit, pray and reflect with the Franciscan Friars for a weekend. It is an occasion to come away and to be with others who are considering a religious vocation and who are on a similar path. This is a time of discovery, not necessarily decision. Upcoming dates are February 10-12, 2017, at San Jose Mission, San Antonio, Texas, March 10-12, 2017, at St. Anthony Friary, St. Louis, Missouri, and April 7-9, 2017, at St. Peter’s in the Loop, Chicago. If you would like to participate in any of these events or if you would like to get in contact with the Franciscan Vocation Office, please email [email protected] or call 773-753-1925.
Diocesan Priesthood: The Archdiocese of Chicago has several programs for those interested in the priesthood: the Quigley Scholars Programs for High School students, Saint Joseph College Seminary at Loyola University for College Students, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary for Theology Students. For more information, contact Fr. Francis Bitterman, Vocation Director, at [email protected] or call 312-534-8298. You may also visit their website at www.ChicagoPriest.com.
Religious Life: A vocation to consecrated religious life is a call from the Holy Spirit to respond to the emerging needs of the Church and the world through vowed life in a particular charism. Men can live out this life either as a priest or a brother; women can do so as a religious sister. There are many different religious communities in the church, each with a particular spirit and with various ministries. To get more information on religious life, contact the Office for Religious/CAVA at [email protected] or call 312-534-5240. You may also visit their website at www.vocationscava.org.
Deacons: A deacon is an ordained cleric of the Church who serves the bishop through a three-fold ministry of the Word, Liturgy and Charity. He also carries his sacramental identity into daily life, including his secular professions and occupations. For more information about the Institute for Diaconal Studies, call Deacon Bob Puhala at 847-837-4563 or go to www.usml.edu.
CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “to bring good news to the poor…release to captives…sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18). The belief that those who are directly affected by unjust systems and structures have the best insight into knowing how to change them is central to CCHD. CCHD works to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities. CCHD offers a hand up, not a hand out.
Please read the following letter of Archbishop Cupich, who writes to us about this very important initiative of the bishops:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
As the Jubilee of Mercy concludes, I invite you to reflect on opportunities to continue accompanying the poor in our midst, including through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). For over forty-five years, CCHD has been a living example of our Church’s social teaching, offering a ‘hand-up’ to empower the poor to help themselves improve their lives and the livelihood of their families and others. This year, CCHD is funding twenty-eight organizations that are addressing the root causes of poverty with seniors, youth, immigrants, people with disabilities and workers in Cook and Lake Counties.
This year a collaborative effort by several CCHD grantees helped pass the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (HB 1288). This law grants domestic workers—caretakers, housekeepers, those who clean and do household maintenance—the same legal protections as other workers. This victory directly lifts up the poor.
Please make a special effort during this Thanksgiving season to give generously to the CCHD collection the weekend of November 19-20. Your contribution will enable the poor to achieve greater dignity and all of us to work together to build God’s kingdom of justice.
To learn more about CCHD in the Archdiocese of Chicago, parish resources, and the groups it funds, please visit www.ChicagoPeaceAndJustice.org/CCHD.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Blasé J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago