Nearly 200 people from across the state of Wyoming gathered in Casper from Tuesday through Thursday to learn about fruitful discipleship. Sherry Anne Weddell from The Catherine of Siena Institute was the keynote presenter at the Diocese of Cheyenne annual September Institute. These days of education and formation each September help the clergy, religious, and lay leaders of the diocese grow in their own journey of faith. This better equips them to minister faithfully with and to the people entrusted to their care.
LifeChain 2016 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Top photo looking east. Bottom photo looking west.
LIFECHAIN takes place on the first Sunday of October each year. There are nine locations across the state of Wyoming. In Cheyenne, we will again gather at 2:00 P.M. at Powderhouse and Dell Range. We had a great turnout last year even though the skies were a bit ominous. I was close to being in the middle of the chain last year. As I quickly snapped the photos it was great to see people lining the sidewalk for such a great distance in both directions.
LifeChain takes place all across the United States. Please find a location near you and join thousands of others in quietly being a prayerful witness of the sanctity of life. Go to LifeChain's website for details about the event. Click on your state on the left hand side of the page to see all the locations and times listed for your area.
The piece of art pictured above is located in St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. I was captivated by the expression on our Blessed Mother's face in the sculpture. I can only imagine the pain and sorrow she experienced as she held the lifeless body of her Son.
One of my favorite places to visit while living in Missouri was Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine located in Starkenberg, Missouri. It sat in a very rural area of the state and many times when I visited there was no one else there. The quiet and solitude was beautiful. It is not a large shrine, but if you ever pass through central Missouri it is worth a visit to experience the simple message conveyed there. Take time to appreciate the stillness of the moment.
The sorrows of Mary have been have been prevalent in my prayer life. The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary have frequently been instrumental in helping me cope with my own sufferings and difficulties. When I look at everything our Blessed Mother endured, I realize that my burden of suffering is manageable.
Since the 14th century, the sorrows of Mary have typically been delineated in the number seven.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple must have been astounding. What was it like for Mary to hear the prophecy from Simeon? "A sword of sorrow shall pierce your heart." Mary indeed had much to ponder.
The flight into Egypt must have been frightening. Most parents will go the extra mile to protect their children. Mary was no different. That surely was a sorrowful journey.
When Jesus was lost in Jerusalem I can only imagine the growing anxiety with each passing day. Mary's question was to the point. "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
I cannot even fathom the heartache Mary must have felt when seeing her Son on the way to Calvary. A mother looks at her innocent Son all beaten and battered on the way to His death. The devastation of seeing her Son in such a condition had to be incomprehensible. Simeon's words must have certainly resonated in her mind during this encounter with her Son.
The crucifixion of a human being would be horrendous under any circumstances. Witnessing the crucifixion of one's own flesh and blood, especially one innocent of all wrondoing, must surely have been gut-wrenching. I remember when Mel Gibson's movie was released and the number of people who said they could not watch it because it was too violent. Can you imagine Mary watching her Son being crucified? It was not a movie; it was real life; it was real death.
Taking down the body of Jesus from the cross must have brought a flood of emotions to Mary. His physical pain and suffering was complete. Her sorrow was still very much alive. Caressing His lifeless body renewed that sword of sorrow in her life.
The burial of Jesus brings her suffering to the pinnacle. She had walked the journey of faith and it had been quite the pilgrimage. Since the Angel Gabriel's greeting reached her ears, her quiet trust in God through the years gave her strength. It had certainly not been an easy life, but it was blessed. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." We pray this scriptural prayer frequently. Do we grasp even in a minimal way the beauty of Mary's fiat?
Reflecting on the sorrows of our Blessed Mother invites each of us to consider our own sorrows. What sorrows are due to our following Christ faithfully? What sorrows are due to our own pride and sin? If we follow Christ faithfully we will suffer. However, we will be strengthened by the love of God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. His yoke is easy and His burden light. Let's walk with our Lord just as faithfully as did His Blessed Mother.
Our Lady of Sorrows--pray for us!
The Catholic Church celebrates this great feast of "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross" to acknowledge that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death. We are blessed indeed.
This day is very meaningful to me personally. In reflecting on the sufferings that Jesus endured at the time of His passion, I am reminded that my own sufferings can be utilized for good as well. While it can be difficult to see God's hand in the midst of our sufferings, we can trust that He is always present. "The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us; He is like us in all things but sin." Jesus understands my pain. I am never going through something that He does not comprehend.
I don't know how many times I have heard the question in one way or another, but the search for meaning in suffering is an age-old philosophical quest. However, it is still tempting to become frustrated during our times of suffering. The question asked usually looks something like this, "Why is this happening to me?" I have asked myself that question on occasion. It may not be a sound theological question, but it is an honest, emotional one.
These are some of the scenarios in which the question arises:
A person is diagnosed with a serious illness and dreams are shattered.
Someone dies in a tragic accident and the grief is immense.
A marriage breaks up and the words exchanged bring deep hurt, guilt, anger, or shame.
A person loses a job and experiences a loss of income, security, and sometimes even their identity.
The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture. We each have a story that contains a certain amount of pain and suffering. Today, we are invited to look intently at the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can't handle when we unite ourselves to the "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords".
Last Friday was the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame Banquet. Last night it was the 90th anniversary celebration of St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School in Casper, Wyoming (photo above). Today, it was lunch with many of the key players in the community surrounding some of the social outreach efforts through various organizations around Cheyenne. I learned more about Boys & Girls Clubs, Climb Wyoming, Wyoming's Family Home Ownership Program, and other organizations. It was a very worth-while luncheon to make connections with people who are striving to improve our community.
It was a pleasure to have Wyoming's Secretary of State, Ed Murray, seated at our table for lunch. Margaret had invited him and he graciously accepted the invitation. It was a nice conversation to hear about his work and what has surprised him about the role since being elected. We also had a couple of "Emerging Leaders" at our table. Their energy and passion was infectious. What a joy it was to converse with them as well.
More activity is on the plate for the next ten days. Let the good times roll.
Secretary of State, Ed Murray (Left), Margaret Dobelmann, and Deacon Vernon Dobelmann
As Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Cheyenne, I get the privilege of joining in some milestone celebrations. I am looking forward to joining the Casper community this evening to commemorate 90 years of Catholic education in Casper, Wyoming. We will begin by celebrating the Holy Eucharist at St. Anthony's Tri-Parish Catholic School with a reception to follow.
It takes many people to make Catholic education a reality. The generosity of the people who have gone before us is remarkable. We have inherited some wonderful institutions because of their sacrifices. St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School is one of those institutions.
I extend my gratitutde to all of the clergy, religious, administrators, faculty members, support staff, parents, grandparents, students, volunteers, financial benefactors, alumni, and all who have supported the mission of St. Anthony's Tri-Parish Catholic School since its inception in 1927. May all of those who are currently responsible for the mission of the school be filled with God's grace and blessing as we continue the beautiful legacy of proclaiming the Good News of Salvation.
It was another new experience for me last night. I joined nearly 400 other people in attendance at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame Banquet. I extend my congratulations to all of the new inductees, but I especially want to acknowledge Colonel Rod Hottle. He was the General Chairman of CFD in 2010. That was the year of my first experience with Cheyenne Frontier Days after moving to Cheyenne in late 2009. Thank you Rod for your service to the Cheyenne community in all of your volunteer endeavors with CFD as well as your work with United Way. Thank you also for your service to our country through your military career.
The rodeo each day, four parades, three pancake breakfasts, concerts, and other activities make ten days in July each year the highlight of festivities in Cheyenne. It is made possible because of the volunteerism of hundreds of people. It goes to show what can be accomplished when people work together toward a common goal.
The evening began with a "Cowboy Prayer."
I have seen many comments on social media recently about living in the "end times," or simply "reading the signs of the times" in which we live. Yes, with wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and rumors of war (North Korea), one can certainly begin to speculate. However, should we not always be prepared for the end times--at least our own end time?
I have had a lot of time to think during the last week. (I know that can seem somewhat frightening, but it really was a good thing.)
I drove to Rapid City, South Dakota last Wednesday to lead a retreat for the staff of St. Patrick's Parish (Casper, Wyoming). Most of that five hour drive was spent going over the material I would be presenting at the retreat. It is my desire when I give retreats to have the material solidly in my mind to utilize my notes as little as possible. A five hour drive certainly lends itself to making that happen.
After leading the retreat from Wednesday evening through the day and evening on Thursday, I was prepared to head out for my next commitment. While I had to skip Mass and breakfast on Friday morning to make an early departure from Rapid City, I was truly blessed with the 36 hours I had at Terra Sancta Retreat Center with the good people of St. Patrick's Parish. I left Rapid City at 3:00 A.M. on Friday and headed back to Cheyenne.
After arriving in Cheyenne at about 8:30 A.M. I quickly unpacked my suitcase and repacked it. I went to the office and worked for a couple of hours to take care of things that had arisen while I was in Rapid City. My son was finishing classes at noon, my wife was leaving work at noon, and I was also able to get away at noon. We met at home, finished packing the car, and were on our way to St. Louis, Missouri.
We were headed back for a Memorial Mass for my brother-in-law Glenn who had died the week before. This trip of 900 miles, which I have now made nearly 40 times in eight years, meant that I had 14 hours in the car to "think" about the homily I would preach at the Mass. We drove all night and arrived at our hotel at 5:00 A.M. This allowed just enough time to relax for a couple of hours and then get ready to leave for the church. I was exhausted from the trips, but I was prepared for the homily and grateful that we could be present for the Mass. (Rapid City to Cheyenne and then Cheyenne to St. Louis meant that I had covered just over 1,200 miles in a little over 24 hours. Thankfully, I had two other drivers to help with the trip to St. Louis.)
As I age, a number of things become quite apparent. First, I cannot do some things that I was able to do when I was younger. (For example, I will never dunk a basketball again the way I did when I was twenty years old.) Secondly, I do not have the physical stamina I once possessed. The 900 mile drive back to St. Louis was significantly easier even eight years ago than what it is today. However, the obvious aspect of all of the physical limitations is that I have adjusted and continue to adjust as needed.
The other thing about aging is that when I walk through the cemetery of my childhood church, I recognize the names of many, many people buried there. The reality of life and death seems to stare at me more directly with each passing year. That is okay. Having been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 25 put me ahead of the game in recognizing the fragile nature of life. The gift of faith has been a blessing to help process the difficult components of life such as illness, suffering, and death.
Death has been a part of the picture several times recently with extended family members. A few serious illnesses have also been diagnosed with relatives, friends, and co-workers. We truly are only on this earth a short time, and there are significant struggles during some of those days. I assure my family and friends of my prayers for each of you during your time of sadness, sorrow, or illness.
The photo above shows one petal of the flower laying on the ground. Much symbolism can be read into that depiction. I'll let you reflect upon it as you see fit. However, I will ask these questions:
1. If God is the Vine and we are the branches, how securely are we attached?
2. If we all must face death at some point (petal falling from the flower), how do we live until that time arrives?
Coping with grief and loss can be a painful process. If we experience multiple losses in a short period of time the grieving process can become even more complex. Being surrounded by family and friends can certainly aid in the process of healing from grief. However, sometimes even that is not enough. It really is okay to seek help when we struggle with the circumstances of life. My dear readers, if you ever find yourself unable to cope with the challenges and difficulties confronting you, please seek out a trusted friend, clergy person, or professional counselor. You do not have to struggle alone. There is help available. I simply offer those thoughts as a gentle reminder to those who are hurting profoundly.
The trip back home came at a more leisurely pace. Stopping more frequently to stretch my legs increases the amount of time the trip takes, but that is one of the adjustments I make to accommodate the realities of life. (Visiting restrooms on a more frequent basis while traveling may also be part of the equation.)
Once again, I offer my condolences to the Maschmidt family. Thank you for giving me the privilege of preaching at the Memorial Mass. May you find strength, peace, and comfort in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Thank you also to the pastor, staff, and volunteers of St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant, Missouri. Your hospitality and kindness was truly appreciated.
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