Our celebration of the holy season of Lent is coming to an end as we've entered into Holy Week and are getting ready to move into the celebration of the Sacred Paschal Triduum. The Triduum is the time between Lent and Easter - it comprises the days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, and it's the holiest time of the year for Catholics, with some of the richest, most mysterious and sacramental celebrations of the year.
Holy Thursday gives us a chance to enter into the celebration of the Last Supper with Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. We gather together - just as they did - to pray, to share in the joys of the Eucharistic celebration, and to gather strength from our community. We strive to recognize ourselves in the obstinence of Judas, in the brashness of Peter, in the youthful exuberance and trust of John, and in the tumultuous preparation for the passion of Jesus. But we also take solace in the gift of the institution of the Eucharist that night, and rejoice in the gift of Jesus' own presence in our churches, in our homes, in our famines, and in our hearts and lives.
On Good Friday we gather together to journey with Jesus on the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross. We follow our Lord and Master as the Suffering Servant, willing to give everything - even his very life - as an example of sacrificial love. Every Catholic tabernacle in the world lies open and empty - every sanctuary lamp is dark - we commemorate the day, even the very hour, of the death of Jesus.
But on Saturday at the Easter Vigil, we gather together in the evening to once again to celebrate the coming light of the Resurrection. We finish the liturgy begun on Holy Thursday, we brandish fire to chase away the darkness of death and despair, and we join our voices in a glorious Alleluia to our Risen God and to our own eventual resurrection.
As we prepare to finish our Lenten journey as a parish and school community, I urge you, as parents and as the first teachers of the faith, to make time - wherever you may be - to lead your family to the prayers, the rituals, the sacraments, and the mysteries of the Sacred Paschal Triduum, so that we may more fully appreciate and celebrate the gift and the joy of the Easter resurrection. Like Jesus, may we be bringers of this Good News into the lives of those around us, especially those young lives gifted and charged to our care.
May each and every one of you have a blessed and wonder-filled Triduum and Easter celebration.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education published a new document (on Tuesday) called The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue. This document aims "to offer a more in-depth and up-to-date reflection and guidelines on the value of the Catholic Identity of educational institutions in the Church." These guidelines are given to the worldwide church against the backdrop of two guiding principles: subsidiarity (part of our Church's Catholic social teachings: that organizations exist for individuals, and that what the individual, or what the small group can do for themselves, shouldn't be done for them by the organization) and synodality (the current worldwide movement initiated by Pope Francis to help bring about communication at all levels of the Church).
This is the second of three articles summarizing and ruminating on that document.
The second part of this new document speaks to those who are responsible for promoting and verifying the Catholic identity of the community. How would you answer the question: Who is responsible for the Catholic identity of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School? Our bishops answer "students, parents, teachers, non-teaching personnel and the school management" - in short, everyone who is a part of the parish and school community has the responsibility to work on the Catholic identity of everyone else who forms that community. The document continues by highlighting each group:
Members of the School Community
All personnel who work and minister at a Catholic school (front office staff, teaching faculty, custodians and food service workers, administration, counselors), as well as the families (parents, extended family, children / students) who help form the community - everyone "has the obligation to recognize, respect and bear witness to the Catholic identity of the school."
Pupils and Parents
The school community helps students integrate the Catholic faith with their culture, with parents having the first and primary responsibility of educating them in their faith. As students grow older, they take on more responsibility for their own growth in knowledge and faith, but always guided by their parents and other adults in their extended family. For those of us who are parents, the obligation to foster the faith of our children never fades.
It's necessary as well, as parents of school-aged children, to work closely and cooperate with their teachers, become involved in their education and the school / parish community, and participate in activities and groups geared towards parents and families. This helps parents to continue to grown in wisdom and faith, which in turn helps them to be role models of faith to their children. Choosing to send a child to a Catholic school, just as choosing to have children as part of a family, necessarily entails a sacrifice of parental time and energy in fulfilling the responsibilities of raising a child formed in faith and ready to serve society at large.
Teachers and Administrative Personnel
Teachers and staff have the important responsibility of sharing the faith both in word (teaching) and deed (actions). As a Catholic school community, this is part of the ministry of education. Faculty and staff should be hired with an eye towards their ability not only to fulfill contractual obligations, but by their practice of the Catholic faith as well, and, barring that practice, by their willingness to adhere to and promote the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church.
School leaders should be chosen with the same criteria listed above, as they have the added responsibility of partnering with the pastor to ensure the Catholicity of the school community. This responsibility extends to curriculum, facilities, and management of the campus, but is always rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church. School leaders, then, have the responsibility of safeguarding the Catholicity of the campus in doctrine and in action, wether that intervention is towards faculty & staff, students, or families.
Educational Charisms in the Church
"Charism" is a word usually applied to religious communities, denoting their special gift to the Catholic Church. Some religious communities, for example, are known for their gift of teaching and education (the Jesuits); some are known for their example of poverty, humility, and service (the Franciscans); and some are know for their dedication to community and their gift of preaching (the Dominicans).
The Definition of Catholic School
Working at a Catholic school is an apostolate, a gift of ministry to the Church, with each member of the Church being called to certain charisma (gifts). The local Bishop (Bishop Flores, assisted by Bishop Mario) has primary responsibility for the work done in all Catholic churches in his diocese, followed by the pastor (Msgr. Barrera for OLS), and then the administrators (Mr. Martinez as principal of OLS). The Bishop alone, however, can designate an institution as Catholic; here in Texas, once designated as a Catholic school, we are also governed by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops Education Department (TCCBED) who conduct assessments every seven years to accredit a school as a Catholic institution. Families, parents, and faculty and staff bring the charisms of their individual gifts and talents, all working together under the guidance and direction of the administrators, pastor, and Bishop.
This section of the document highlights that every single person who is part of a Catholic school has duties and responsibilities to fulfill as well as gifts and talents to share. Far from working independently of each other, parents, extended family, faculty and staff, pastor and Bishop - all are called to work together in co-responsibility to challenge each other to grow in wisdom and faith. An attitude of listening and respect from all involved helps bring the reality of Christian dialogue to a school community, while also teaching the children that are part of that community how to interact not only through adult words, but more importantly through adult actions.
Choosing a Catholic school necessarily entails choosing it for its Catholic identity - that the academic program is rigorous, that there are many extracurricular activities for children to join, that the athletic program is award-winning, that the geographical area is desirable, or that the community is socially or economically advantaged - these are on the peripheries of choosing a Catholic education. Important to consider, yes; but they should never cloud the fact that the only reason a Catholic school exists is for the foundational and fundamental education in the Catholic faith of the members of that school community.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
- Gospel of Matthew Ch. 1
During this blessed season of Advent we celebrate one of our church’s greatest Marian feasts: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. As a Church, we affirm two central teachings with this dogma:
- We affirm that Jesus was truly human and truly divine. Inasmuch as he was fully human, he needed a human mother, and he needed to be born as any other child had ever been born. However, inasmuch as he was fully divine, he needed a vessel of surpassing purity and holiness. Hence, the need to have a mother who was in some way protected from original sin and all of its harmful effects.
- Flowing from that teaching, since Jesus, in all of his humanity and divinity, needed a sanctified place from which to be born, we also affirm that Mary, from the first moment of her conception, was spared the effects of original sin. Hence the word “immaculate”, which literally means “without stain.”
Mary is called “full of grace”, then, precisely because she never lost that sanctifying grace that our sins rob us of. Since she was free of the effects of original sin, then, she was in a state of sanctifying grace from her conception to her death.
Our Catechism says the following:
490. To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role". The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
491. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1844:
"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.)
When we celebrate this great feast day, then, we are celebrating Mary’s willingness to serve, Jesus’ full humanity and divinity, and we are celebrating God’s saving grace, which had prepared Mary from before she was born to be the Mother of His Son.
As we continue on our journey, let us ask Mary, as the Immaculate Conception, to pray for us to focus on the joy and love we can bring to others during this Advent & Christmas season. Let us also pray as a community to focus on God’s love, born to us as a vulnerable infant. We are called to trust God and God's love as he takes care of us, much the same way that all infants and children implicitly trust their parents to take care of them.
Finally, let us pray that by drawing closer to Mary and by entering more fully into the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception, we may be drawn closer to Jesus, her Son, and to the Father who willed his birth, and that we may keep Christ in Christmas by acting in ways that point others to the immense love of God.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
On October 9-10, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and taking his cues from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965; a worldwide gathering of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated religion and lay people), Pope Francis began a two-year process of consultation with Catholics around the world to help shape the flow and form of what Catholicism may look like for many years to come. This consultation process has coined the word "synodality" (from the Greek synodos, "to journey together"), and Pope Francis has titled this two-year endeavor For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.
This process of consultation evolves through three phases:
- Phase 1: Local / Listening: each diocesan bishop is tasked with crafting a process where Catholics in the pews can come together and discuss topics of real-world need and importance to their respective communities; of special importance to Pope Francis is that all Catholics in an area should be heard, including people that tend to sit on the margins and fringes of Church society; in our diocese, the opening Mass took place today (Sunday, October 24); the initial gathering of diocesan delegates takes place Saturday, October 30 at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle; mass will be celebrated that day at 11:30 am
- Phase 2: Continental: bishops from each conference gather together to review the questions, ideas, and issues brought forth in their individual dioceses; for us in the United States, that conference is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
- Phase 3: Universal: a month-long gathering in October 2023 at the Vatican where each bishops' conference comes together to formally discuss the topics of most importance, then begin the work of implementing any reforms and structural changes that come out of the two-year process of listening, accompaniment, and encounter
Pope Francis is challenging the Catholic church to become a church that emphasizes co-responsibility: where ordained (Pope, bishops, priests, deacons), consecrated religious (monks, nuns, brothers, sisters, etc.), and lay people (the majority of Catholics who are neither priests or consecrated religious) share power, purpose, and responsibility in exercising leadership roles to help in the evangelization of the whole world.
As we journey together these next two years, we're asked to pray the following prayer for the local, continental and universal delegates who, under the direction of Pope Francis and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will help to shape the way our Church continues to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master.
We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.
(From the USCCB Website)
For more information, visit:
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III
Every year, during the season of Lent, our diocese participates in Catholic Relief Services' Lenten Rice Bowl, and this year is no different. Bishop Flores is calling and challenging every person of good will in our area to find it in our hearts to sacrifice some of our monetary treasure to help areas with some of the poorest of the poor, including the colonias that are a few minutes' drive away from many of us.
To put things in perspective: last week many Texas residents lost power and access to clean, running water anywhere from a few hours to a week (or longer!) — this is the day-to-day life of many of the people that benefit from the donations given through CRS Rice Bowl. 75% of the donations are distributed to areas in desperate need of assistance (this year focusing on El Salvador and Madagascar), while 25% stays in our diocese to assist with efforts that target those living in abject poverty with daily hunger and other pressing needs.
This year, instead of handing out physical Rice Bowls to every student at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, we are focusing on digital donations that are in line with our COVID-19 safety protocols. You may give:
1) Through OLS Church's online giving page: https://www.osvonlinegiving.com/1383
- as a one-time donation (select “Quick Give,” then choose “Rice Bowl” as your Fund)
- as an ongoing donor (select “Create New Account” or simply log in if you have an existing account; make sure to select “Rice Bowl” as your Fund)
2) Through the OSV Online Giving App
- for Android devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.osv.OnlineGiving
- for iOS (Apple) devices: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/online-giving/id978677524
As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, let us join our prayers and our charitable donations as a means of continuing to bring the hope, light, and love of Jesus to our neighbors around us.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III