I write this column on May 12 and already so many wonderful events have occurred during this month in the Diocese of Palm Beach. May truly is a month filled with many celebrations which reflect the essence of our faith and fill us with hope for the future. Rather than calling it the "Merry Month of May," I would like to refer to it as the "Mary month of May" since Mary truly reflects the essence of our faith.
On Sunday, May 2, we celebrated our annual Marian Rosary Festival at the Rosary Way of Emmanuel Church in Delray Beach. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and a very fitting way to begin the month of May which is dedicated to Mary as our Mother as well as the Patroness of our Diocese. This year, we honored the image of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, as so many groups of different ethnic backgrounds carried images dedicated to Our Lady in their culture. All those present had the opportunity to reconsecrate themselves and our Diocese to the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as to celebrate the Lord's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament through its Exposition and Benediction. Mary is the perfect disciple who experienced the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection in her life. She is present body and soul in God's kingdom as the one who precedes us into the fullness of this life. She is with us in all of our joys and sorrows having experienced all that we do in life. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, shows great but simple devotion to Mary in his life and is an example to us of how we should stand with great confidence before Our Lady who leads us to her Son.
After the Marian Rosary Festival, we celebrated a special Mass at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius for high school students of our Diocese who will be graduating this month and most moving on to college life. It was a wonderful celebration at which many young men and women who are to graduate were present and received a special certificate from the Diocese. These young people certainly fill us with hope as they look to the future and are grounded in their faith. Realizing that they will face many new challenges in their life, they do so with faith in the Person of Jesus Christ who gives meaning and perspective to everything. The young men and women brought a special joy to all of us at the Cathedral and reminded us of how important our faith is in our lives. We all wish these young people much grace and happiness as they graduate from high school and move forward in life, many on to their college years.
On Monday, May 3, we began the annual Priests’ Convocation of our Diocese which lasted until Thursday, May 7. This is a wonderful gathering of our priests at which we take time to be together, share reflections in our ministry, pray together and support each other in the great gift of priesthood which the Lord has gifted to us. The month of May also celebrates many anniversaries of priestly ordination which gives the convocation a special atmosphere. This year we were privileged to have workshops with Father Thomas M. Rosica, CSB, which centered on the topic of The Impact of Pope Francis on the World, France's Vision for the Church. Father Rosica has many roles within the Church including that of the founding CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television as well as the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office. He works very closely with Pope Francis in regard to media relations and has great insight into the person of the Pope as well as his dealing with people. All of us priests were very much engaged with the presentations that Father Rosica gave and found ourselves even more excited with the Pope's person and ministry. The days of the convocation were truly ones of renewal and recommitment for us as brother priests. We are blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach with an outstanding and varied presbyterate and I certainly enjoyed the convocation with them.
On the evening of the conclusion of the convocation, we were off to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach for the graduation ceremony of the seminarians, deacon candidates and laypersons as well. The evening was one which celebrated the high quality of an ecclesial education that is present at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. We are very blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach to have the seminary in our midst where such excellent theological education as well as formation for ministry are handed on. I am grateful to Monsignor David Toups, the rector of the seminary, as well as its outstanding faculty and staff for all that they give to the Church in Florida and beyond and in a special way to our Diocese of Palm Beach. The evening was also a joyful one because some of the graduates will be ordained as priests during this month of May. It was a joy to be with all for this occasion and in a special way to be with our seminarians.
Saturday, May 9, held a special celebration at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius for men and women of consecrated life. They gathered for the 4:30 Mass to renew their religious vows as well as to celebrate the special jubilees of the religious. Among the many religious present celebrating anniversaries, were two Sisters celebrating 65 years of religious life, two celebrating 60 years of religious life and three celebrating 50 years of religious life. After the Mass, there was a special dinner to honor our religious and to hear their experiences of many years of commitment. I have often been so inspired by the quality of the men and women religious that minister and are present within our Diocese. They truly are the very foundation of what the Church is all about and I could never thank them enough for all that they do in making Christ present among us in such a loving and joyful manner which includes preschool and elementary school education, religious education, seminary education, health care in nursing homes and hospitals, parish work, pastoral care, retreat work, contemplative life, shelter for the homeless, visiting the sick and homebound, ministry to various ethnic cultures, ministry to immigrants as well as many other ministries. This is a special year called for by our Holy Father to celebrate consecrated life and we certainly celebrate it within our Diocese. Pope Francis has expressed that "Where there is religious, there is joy." That certainly was true on the evening of May 9, as well as on any other occasion when we are in the presence of our religious. I am deeply grateful to Sister Joan Dawson, OSF, our Delegate for Religious, for all that she did to make the celebration such a wonderful one.
Monday, May 11, was the day for the special Mass and luncheon sponsored at St. Matthew's Church in Lantana by our wonderful Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for our seminarians. We are blessed in our Diocese, not only with fine seminarians, but with an extraordinary Council of Catholic Women. I have said on many occasions, and I am happy to say it again, we have the best! These women live their faith in their parishes and in their deaneries in such a concrete manner and go all out to bring the teaching of Christ to others in a very concrete and loving manner. The Mass and luncheon for the seminarians was just but one example of their giving of themselves. The luncheon was also wonderful because Father Clem Hammerschmitt, an excellent chef, prepared a first-class meal and personally served it as well!
As I said at the beginning of this column, it is only May 12 and we are not even halfway through the month of May. There are many, many more celebrations and significant events to occur. Among the Confirmations and First Communions which are taking place, there will also be the graduation of the Diocesan School of Christian Formation, the graduations of our grammar schools and three outstanding Catholic high schools, the Mass of installation for our Diocesan Council of Catholic Women as well as their annual meeting, the celebration of our Hispanic Community in the annual Encuentro, the Memorial Day Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery and many other diocesan and parish celebrations. May truly is a wonderful month and it is fitting that our Mother Mary stands at its helm. As she leads us to her Son, may the events of faith that we celebrate during this “Mary month of May” deepen our commitment to Him and to each other.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 22, 2015