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And once more the number 120 takes a step closer. Swiss Cardinal Henri Schwery turns 80 today and so makes the number of cardinal electors drop to 121.
Born as the last of eleven children in a small village near the city of Sion in Switzerland, Henri Schwery was proficient student, studying at seminaries in Sion and Rome. After his ordination in 1957, Father Schwery studied mathematics and physics at Fribourg, and then went to work as a teacher and chaplain to both the Catholic Action of Young students and the children’s choir of Our Lady of Sion. He was also a military chaplain.
Father Schwery become the director of the major seminary of Sion in 1968, a function he would hold until 1972, after which he was rector of the College in Sion until 1977. In that year, on 22 July, Father Schwery was appointed as bishop of Sion, one of Switzerland’s oldest dioceses. Bishop Schwery was consecrated on 17 September 1977. In 1978 he became a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He was active in the fields of evangelisation and vocation, and took his previous experience as chaplain of various institutions and groups to further their religious identity throughout Europe.
Created a cardinal in the consistory of 28 June 1991, Cardinal Schwery holds the title church of Santi Protomartiri a Via Aurelia Antica. In April of 1995 he resigned as Bishop of Sion, and today he also takes leave from his remaining duties as a member of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
The only cardinal that the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has ever known, Luis Aponte Martínez, passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
Born in a large family in 1922 in the town of Lajas, Luis Aponte Martínez showed a deep religious devotion from an early age. This no doubt contributed to his vocation to the priesthood. He studied at Puerto Rico’s San Juan seminary and at the Seminary of Saint John in Boston. In 1950, he was ordained to the priesthood.
Father Aponte Martínez served as secretary to the curia of the Diocese of Ponce and as parish priest in that same diocese. In 1960, he became the first native Puerto Rican bishop, as he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Ponce and titular bishop of Lares. Three years later, Bishop Aponte Martínez became coadjutor bishop of Ponce, and succeeded Bishop James McManus in November of 1963.
Bishop Aponte Martínez would not stay in Ponce for very long. Less than a year later he was appointed as Archbishop of San Juan, a position he would hold for no less than 35 years, retiring in 1999.
Archbishop Aponte Martínez was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1973 with the tile of Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde. He was one of the longest-surviving cardinals created by Paul VI and participating in both conclaves of 1978. The only others who can claim the same are Cardinals Paolo Arns, William Baum, Eugênio Sales and Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Aponte Martínez played an important pastoral role on the entire island of Puerto Rico, often speaking out strongly on all sorts of moral issues, and criticising government programs of birth control and sterilisation. One of his most notable denouncements was that of the homosexual lifestyle of pop singer Ricky Martin.
The body of the cardinal is taken to the various churches that played an important part in his life, before his burial at the cathedral in San Juan on Monday.
The College of Cardinals in now 210 strong.
After the summer, one of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden’s two vicar generals will be quitting as such to enter the monastic life at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Willibrord in Doetinchem.
Father Johan te Velde, parish priest of the parishes in the Noordoostpolder and as vicar general responsible for the vicariate of Friesland and the Noordoostpolder, is answering a lifelong desire to enter a monastic community. In a letter to the faithful of his parishes, dated to Palm Sunday, Fr. te Velde writes:
“For several years now I have been experiencing a strong desire to be a monk. That is nothing new for me. As a student I also dreamed for years to enter a monastery. In the end I did not have the courage to do so, and I became a priest of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. For many years I worked, with much satisfaction, in basic pastoral care. But the monastic life, with the daily liturgy, the silence, the personal and communal prayer, the life of simplicity and fraternity continued to appeal. Personally, I feel called to it by God. I am grateful to my bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, that he gives me the space to answer to this call.”
Father te Velde has been a priest for the diocese since his ordination in 1982. In 2003, Bishop Wim Eijk appointed him as one of the diocesan vicars, and last year he became one of the two vicars general. The diocese intends to find a new vicar general as soon as possible. In a comment, Bishop de Korte wrote:
“Johan te Velde is a good diocesan manager and an intelligent theologian. With his departure we are faced to fill his position of vicar and parish priest. But when God calls someone so clearly, I must allow for that as a bishop.”
Things like this don’t happen very often, and are all the more remarkable for it. It is heartening to see such an honest and clear vocation story. God calls us where He wills us, indeed., and that is not always to our own plans and expectations.
With the academic year well underway (in fact, the first break is happening this week), the numbers of new students at the Dutch seminaries have been released. With 18 new seminarians (some of whom are pictured to the left, at the Tiltenberg seminary) there is an ever-so-slight drop from last year, when 20 new names were added to the books. With several ordinations having taken place in the previous academic year, the total number of students at the four seminaries in the Netherlands remains at exactly 100.
A breakdown per seminary:
Rolduc, Diocese of Roermond, received 2 new students, both from the Neocatechumenal Way. The total number at Rolduc is now 29.
Tiltenberg, Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: 7 new seminarians, with another way possibly joining them later. The total number is now 44.
Bovendonk, Diocese of Breda, als has seven, with four of hem starting in the first year. The three others, because of previous education, join a later year. Bovendonk now has 18 part-time students.
Saint John’s Centre, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2 new students, bringing the total to 12.
The Tiltenberg comfortably holds on to its top position when it comes to the numbers, which can be explained in part because it remains the only seminary above the great rivers. It is home to students from at least four dioceses.
Looking at the numbers per diocese then:
Breda: 4 (2 of whom study independently at the FCT)
‘s Hertogenbosch: 2
Utrecht: 4 (maybe 5)
The ‘harvest’ is… okay, but the need for further vocational promotion and formation should be clear.
In 1988, Berlin lost its bishop – Joachim Meisner, now a cardinal – to Cologne. Now, it seems, the gesture is returned. Only four days after the death of the previous metropolitan of the German capital, Bishop Rainer Maria Woelki crosses the country from Cologne. And so none of the German dioceses remain vacant any longer.
Archbishop elect Woelki was born in Cologne in 1956 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1985. In 2003 he was ordained to be one of the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Cologne (he leaves three of them with Cardinal Meisner). In his time in Cologne he served as private secretary to the cardinal, and director of the Collegium Albertinum for seminarians studying in Bonn, among other duties. As auxiliary bishop he held the titular see of Scampa in modern Albania, and within the German bishops’ conference his responsibilities were in the fields of vocations, Church ministries and science & culture. At 54, he is among the youngest German bishops, and certainly the youngest archbishop.
As mentioned before, this appointment fills all German sees, but in the near future we may expect three new vacancies, one of which is Woelki’s native Cologne. Cardinal Meisner is 77 and thus overdue for retirement, and the same goes for Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau (76) and Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz (75).
Later this month, on Saturday 21 May, the clergy of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden will increase with one priest and two transitional deacons. Bishop Gerard de Korte will ordain Tjitze Tjepkema to the priesthood, and Pascal Huiting and Maurits Damst’e to the diaconate.
The names of the first two have been no surprise to me. I have met Deacon Tjepkema once in Utrecht and Pascal is a good friend of friends of mine (among them my girlfriend). Mr. Damsté’s name has been under the radar for me until this year’s Chrism Mass, when the bishop spoke of three men to be ordained this year, “Tjitze, Pascal and Maurits”. I had no idea who this Maurits was at the time, but an article in the Friesch Dagblad revealed his name. Google then located an announcement, dated 24 August 2010, on the website of the parish where Mr. Damsté has been working as a pastoral worker since 2009. The announcement quotes him: “The bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, Msgr de Korte, has asked me if I wanted to become a priest. After due deliberation I indeed answered ‘yes’ to this question.” Like Deacon Tjepkema and Mr. Huiting,he studied at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Utrecht.
The step from pastoral worker to priest is perhaps not too unusual, but it is striking how this happened so unnoticed. In a diocese where priests are rare and new ordinations even more so, you’d expect any man willing to follow his vocation to be deservedly noticed.
While the parishes where Deacon Tjepkema will be appointed are already known – the south of the province of Drenthe – this is unknown for the other two. Mr. Damsté has expressed a desire to remain in the parishes where he is working now, but a priest goes where he is needed, of course. Mr. Huiting has been gaining experience in parishes in the southeast of Friesland. In recent years, new priests have ended up in the southeast of Drenthe, in eastern and central Groningen and in Leeuwarden. Perhaps new appointments will now be placed in central Drenthe, although much of Friesland is also an option.
Below is a selection from the official addresses and homilies made by Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to the United Kingdom last week. They are a strictly personal selection of passages which I think are either important to consider or which reflect the general topic of the various speeches. A full collection is available via the Vatican website. Below are my choices from the third day of the visit, 18 September.
Homily at Westminster Cathedral
“[T]he great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1).”
“Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.”
“One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.”
Salute to youth
“I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the “busy-ness” and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world.”
Address at St Peter’s Residence, home for older people
“As advances in medicine and other factors lead to increased longevity, it is important to recognize the presence of growing numbers of older people as a blessing for society. Every generation can learn from the experience and wisdom of the generation that preceded it. Indeed the provision of care for the elderly should be considered not so much an act of generosity as the repayment of a debt of gratitude.”
“Life is a unique gift, at every stage from conception until natural death, and it is God’s alone to give and to take. One may enjoy good health in old age; but equally Christians should not be afraid to share in the suffering of Christ, if God wills that we struggle with infirmity. My predecessor, the late Pope John Paul, suffered very publicly during the last years of his life. It was clear to all of us that he did so in union with the sufferings of our Saviour. His cheerfulness and forbearance as he faced his final days were a remarkable and moving example to all of us who have to carry the burden of advancing years.”
Address at the prayer vigil at Hyde Park
“Here is the first lesson we can learn from [Cardinal Newman's] life: in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfilment of our deepest human aspirations. In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).”
“The truth that sets us free cannot be kept to ourselves; it calls for testimony, it begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched. [...] In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.”
“[Newman} saw clearly that we do not so much accept the truth in a purely intellectual act as embrace it in a spiritual dynamic that penetrates to the core of our being. Truth is passed on not merely by formal teaching, important as that is, but also by the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness; those who live in and by the truth instinctively recognize what is false and, precisely as false, inimical to the beauty and goodness which accompany the splendour of truth, veritatis splendor.”
“By letting the light of faith shine in our hearts, and by abiding in that light through our daily union with the Lord in prayer and participation in the life-giving sacraments of the Church, we ourselves become light to those around us; we exercise our “prophetic office”; often, without even knowing it, we draw people one step closer to the Lord and his truth. Without the life of prayer, without the interior transformation which takes place through the grace of the sacraments, we cannot, in Newman’s words, “radiate Christ”; we become just another “clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) in a world filled with growing noise and confusion, filled with false paths leading only to heartbreak and illusion.”
“No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society. We know that in times of crisis and upheaval God has raised up great saints and prophets for the renewal of the Church and Christian society; we trust in his providence and we pray for his continued guidance. But each of us, in accordance with his or her state of life, is called to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom by imbuing temporal life with the values of the Gospel. Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person.”
“Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what “definite service” he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart. Christ has need of families to remind the world of the dignity of human love and the beauty of family life. He needs men and women who devote their lives to the noble task of education, tending the young and forming them in the ways of the Gospel. He needs those who will consecrate their lives to the pursuit of perfect charity, following him in chastity, poverty and obedience, and serving him in the least of our brothers and sisters. He needs the powerful love of contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer. And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation.”