Living the Gospel…Really Living the Gospel in Today’s Culture

Fr. Kevin C. Fazio

What does it look like to truly live as a disciple of Jesus Christ in Wexford, PA in 2017?

The reality is that we live in a consumer culture that we have allowed – unfortunately  –  to infiltrate our Catholic culture and identity.  With the speed of communication, we now crave immediacy, and are often-times very reactionary, rather than constructively responsive.  We at times base our decisions on impulse rather than reason, and seemingly forget that we play a critical role in salvation history, called to live the gospel truth now, and assist in saving souls forever!

The people who are able to reflect upon the essence of their truest self as a disciple of Christ – and then live this out – are called saints.  We are all called to sainthood, as was one such man named Francis Xavier Seelos.

As most of you are aware, Bishop Zubik recently announced the names of the three new schools in our region of the North Hills. The newly formed St. Alexis/St. Alphonsus school has been given the patronage of Blessed Francis Seelos, a Redemptorist priest who ministered to the people in this very community during the 1840s.  St. Alphonsus Ligouri was the founder of the Redemptorists.

In full disclosure, I am hurt and saddened by the amount of negative “chatter” verbally, and via social media that some people have been generating over the name chosen for our new school and the process involved in choosing it.  If this reaction is a reflection of how well I am leading this community as a disciple of Christ, then I am indeed failing.  For this, I apologize.

The process involved in selecting the new name for the school was not uniform in each of the seven parish and school communities.  Each group of pastors proceeded a bit differently in soliciting and collecting name suggestions.

Fr. Zywan, pastor of St. Alexis, and I asked for name suggestions in an April 5 letter that was distributed to the St. Alexis and St. Alphonsus communities.   Upon collection of all of the suggestions, Father Zywan and I reviewed the names and agreed upon the two names that had the most “substance” relative to our Catholic identity and mission.  These names were:  Wexford Catholic Academy, and Blessed Francis Seelos Academy, which were then approved by the Board of Directors of the North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary Schools, and then submitted to Bishop Zubik. 

 We made it clear in that letter that Bishop Zubik would make the final decision on the names of the three schools.  He reviewed the suggestions and prayerfully discerned that naming the school after Blessed Francis Seelos is a fantastic way to represent both our Catholic identity, and United States history. 

We must all keep in mind the prerogative and role of the diocesan bishop in this and similar matters.  Bishop Zubik is our chief shepherd.  I share in his ministry as one of his priests, and you share in his ministry through me, your pastor, and we all share in the ministry of Christ.  The regionalization of schools is a learning process for all of us.  We need to acknowledge this and navigate through the turbulence with steadfastness and compassion. 

What should be a time of celebration and coming together for the good of our children and the love of God is instead becoming an occasion for negativity and divisiveness.

Is this reaction to the bishop’s decision truly living the gospel?

Our primary objective in Catholic education is to teach children, and young men and women how to live their faith in the world, and to help their souls.  Have we lost the sense of what a Catholic education is all about?  It is more than just a private school education…it is Catholic.   Jesus is the center of who we are and what we do.

I encourage everyone to direct your hearts and minds to where they need to be:  to present the Truth of Jesus Christ to the world.  Avoid getting trapped in the whirlwind of negativity and immediacy.  Instead, rise up to be a beacon of light and hope, moving forward with great possibilities for our future.

Last summer, actor Casey Groves visited Wexford and offered his gifts and talents in his one-man play about Blessed Francis Seelos.  He was outstanding!  Many of us in attendance that evening (including the great-granddaughter of a man whom Seelos is credited with healing) grew in admiration and appreciation for this humble man who ministered in our community in the 1840s – a future saint who helped educate children, offer the sacraments, and heal people’s bodies and souls!

In one of the opening scenes, the young Seelos is standing amongst a crowd of people and at a distance from his father as he is about to depart his native Bavaria for the mission territory of America.  No words were spoken, but Seelos simply locked eyes with his father and pointed upward, and indicated that his father did the same.  They each knew quite well that they would never again see each other while on earth, but only in heaven.  Father and son, connected through Christ, selflessly living the gospel truth. 

After wonderfully depicting the events of Seelos’ life in America, Groves concludes the play with this same gesture, facing us – the audience – in silence, and pointing upward as he faces his own death at the age of 48, contracting yellow fever after ministering to those with the same disease.

As they say:  The mouth speaks to the ear; but the heart speaks to the heart.

I hope and pray that Francis Seelos is praying and interceding for us right now.

Yours in Christ,

 

 

Fr. Kevin