Lent is about returning to the basics. Yes, the three traditional pillars of Lent that we heard in the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, very much help us get reconnected to the basics of our faith. Pope Francis, in his Lenten message this year, invites us to return to the basic message of our faith: the Paschal Mystery as the basis of conversion. He wrote:
“Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This kerygma sums up the mystery of a love “so real, so true, so concrete, that it invites us to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue” (Christus Vivit, 117). Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will. Rather, life is born of the love of God our Father, from his desire to grant us life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).”
Temporary Suspension of the reception of the Precious Blood at Communion
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As a precautionary measure and for the health and safety of all due to the spread of the coronavirus, I am temporarily suspending the reception of the Precious Blood at Communion. Today, 28 February, the Committee for Divine Worship at the USCCB circulated a memo entitled “Liturgical Celebrations and Public Health Concerns.” The advice given to the bishops of the United States is similar to that which was given during the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
Merry Christmas! Remarkably, our faith captures the imagination even of secular society at this time of year and provokes a desire to reach toward something bigger and contribute to the common good.
Once in seminary, I headed out to shop for Christmas gifts. As I neared the ATM (not everyone had a credit card back then), I saw a long line of people. Ahead of me was a young man with chains on his clothing. It was the “punk rock” era and his hair was shaved on the sides, spiked on top, and sported several colors. I mentally sized him up, thinking that his appearance reflected nothing of the Christmas spirit.
Announcement to the Diocese of Fairbanks of status transfer from
Congregation of Evangelization of the Peoples to Congregation for Bishops
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
I have blessed news! On November 11, Pope Francis announced that the Diocese of Fairbanks will transfer from the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples (CEP) to the Congregation for Bishops. The CEP coordinates the Church’s initial missionary work around the world and supports dioceses with few resources to serve their small numbers of Catholics. This is an important milestone for our diocese because it reflects that the faith is now sufficiently established in northern Alaska to carry out our mission without financial help from the Holy See.
The Church in Alaska has a unique history. Thirty years after Jesuit missionaries brought Catholicism to the region in the late 1800s, the Vatican declared Alaska an Apostolic Vicariate--the first stage in the organization of a diocese. Initially, the entire state was considered a mission field and fell under the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which became the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP) after Vatican II. By 1966, however, Alaska had been split into the Archdiocese of Anchorage, the Diocese of Juneau, and the Diocese of Fairbanks. Around then, many missionary dioceses in the lower 48 states exited the CEP, leaving the Diocese of Fairbanks the only mission diocese in the United States.
The following homily was delivered by Bishop Chad Zielinski on September 10, 2019 at a Gold Mass at St. Mark Catholic Church, located at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska.
As a high school student in the 1970s, I would watch a weekly TV series called “Paper Chase.” The storyline took place at a law school, and was about the interaction of students and professors. John Houseman, a British-American actor, played Professor Kingsfield. On the first day of Contract Law, Professor Kingsfield would begin class with his straightforward British wisdom, “You have come here with a skull full of mush and you will leave thinking like a lawyer.” As a young man, I was interested in law, and thought there was hope that I, too, might one day be transformed into a thinking lawyer.
The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching is to support the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
The recent budget cuts are having a direct negative impact on the most poor and vulnerable in our State. Our Catholic social services agencies, along with other faith-based denominations and private nonprofits, can barely keep up with the current needs of people who live on the margins. Across Alaska, thousands of low-income families now face new struggles through funding cuts to agencies that operate food pantries, shelter programs, and early childhood education. The millions of dollars cut statewide to homeless services will force the most vulnerable onto the streets. Cuts to senior housing grants and to the senior benefits program adversely affect our elders.
When I was in the 4th grade in 1974, I wrote a book report on Alaska. I was deeply fascinated by the wilderness, wildlife, richness of natural resources, and indigenous peoples who had inhabited that land for hundreds of years. This drew me to read more stories about the souls whose thirst for adventure had led them to make the trek to the far north.
Eventually, this fascination led me and a friend to drive from Michigan to Alaska two days after my high school graduation in 1982. Some longtime family friends in Palmer graciously put us up and helped us find work at a fish processing plant in Valdez. As a young man, working 12+ hours a day and living in a tent (with almost daily rain) just seemed like an expected and normal part of our Alaskan venture.
On May 7 Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi”, “You are the Light of the World”. In this action, the Holy Father has modified Church law that mandates every diocese in the Catholic Church follow the outlined procedure regarding allegations of abuse by a bishop, clergy or member of an institute of religious or apostolic life.
This decree is a result of the gathering of representatives of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences from across the world that was convened by Pope Francis in February 2019. Our Holy Father has taken sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults very seriously.
The Diocese of Fairbanks has had a very sad history of abuse of minors which resulted in a bankruptcy process. While abuse survivors were compensated, this in no manner addresses the profound wound of the evil perpetrated against them. These innocent victims daily live with the effects of such crimes committed against them.
As our Holy Father has indicated in this document, “We are the Light of the World.” We includes each one of us. Yes, each and every person is created in the sacred image and likeness of God. No person can ever take this away. We as a diocese, and particularly as priests, religious and Church personnel are committed to accompanying abuse survivors. I know our Church personnel in the diocese regularly accompany abuse survivors helping them see that they are “The Light of the World.” This prayerful accompaniment brings hope and healing.
On May 1, I was invited by two clergy abuse survivors who work with Spirit Fire, to attend a gathering of bishops and survivors in Washington, D.C. The gathering was most powerful. We heard some horrible stories of abuse. The pain and suffering casts a long and dark shadow that affects people to this day. I was deeply touched by the fact that clergy abuse survivors wanted to dialogue with bishops, and truly want to be part of a solution bringing healing and hope to other abuse survivors who are in our communities. Also, they want to proclaim the sacredness and holiness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ because in their words, “they experienced the worst.” I truly saw the power of the Holy Spirit working to bring hope and healing as it pushes against the darkness and evil of our Church and world.
The Diocese of Fairbanks takes most seriously our Safe Environment Policies, but in order for these protections to be implemented and effective it requires the cooperation of all the faithful in their respective parishes. I thank you for your concerted efforts to make this a priority. Our children and vulnerable adults need to know our churches and schools are safe places where their sacred dignity is honored and protected.
I truly believe that as the Catholic Church addresses its own failures of negligence of leadership, crimes committed by Church personnel and becomes more proactive promoting safe environment, we can be a “light in the world.” It is most sad to see more abuse stories surface in the news from various sectors of society. There is a wound in our world that is calling out for the light of Christ and the protection of our children and vulnerable adults. While laws to address abuse are necessary, more importantly, we need to announce to our world that beauty, goodness and truth of God lives in every person and that all of us have a responsibility to honor and protect it.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska Diocese of Fairbanks
To: Diocese of Fairbanks From: Bishop Chad W. Zielinski Subject: Retirement of Reverend Kasparaj Mallavarapu and Assignments for Reverend Ross Tozzi, and Reverend Robert Fath
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fr. Kasparaj Mallavarapu has requested early retirement and I have granted his request; his retirement will become effective on 30 September 2019. Fr. Kasparj has served the Diocese of Fairbanks eleven years and the Archdiocese of Anchorage for ten years and three months with a servant's heart and we are truly grateful. Due to the retirement of Fr. Kasparaj, I have made the following assignment changes