Right now I am in Rome at Christmastide and will celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphanyat the North American College here, where a new wing of the college will be dedicated by Cardinal Parolin, who will be representing Pope Francis. The college is at capacity enrollment and I have been blessed to spend some time with our seminarians and priests, as well as seminarians from my former dioceses. I am here now because I was supposed to come earlier during a conference on the “complementarity of man and woman” at which Pope Francis gave the opening address. Later my good friend Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church gave a very well received reflection on marriage. However, because of my father’s death I was unable to be present at that time.
This time I have been able to visit the Fratelli Ruffatti factory where great progress is being made on the restoration of the Hazel Wright Organ for the future Christ Cathedral. I want to extend my thanks to all who are generously supporting this aspect of the cathedral renovation , and please pass the word that we are dedicated to the restoration of this historic instrument, whose beauty will draw many to God, and in turn the service of his holy people.
While I was in the north of Italy, I was blessed to meet and visit with the former secretary of Pope Saint John XXIII: Cardinal Loris Capovilla. He is 99 years old and sends his blessing and prayers to our diocese.
One of the highlights of this trip for me was a pilgrimage to the city of Livorno and the parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. I went with a longtime friend of mine, Monsignor Fred Berardi of New York and a group of seminarians from the North American College. The city of Livorno, and the family of Antonio Filicchi in particular, were instruments of the hand of God in Mother Seton’s journey into full communion with the Catholic Church. When she was able to make her profession of Faith at St. Peter’s Church in Barclay Street in New York, (she was not conditionally re-baptized at the time) it was due in part to the example and care for Elizabeth and her family in Livorno after the death of her husband William Seton. Don Gino Franchi, the pastor for nearly 50 years, has a great devotion to Mother Seton, and saw to the reburial of the remains of William Seton on the Church grounds, because his tomb had nearly been destroyed during the bombing of Livorno during the Second World War.
We were able to celebrate Saint Elizabeth Ann’s feast day with the parish community. The paintings in the parish church clearly show the heritage of Mother Seton in establishing the Catholic school system in our country. This is especially important as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week later this month, and I will be attending a meeting of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education later this month at Notre Dame, working to strengthen our commitment to Catholic schools.
Some of the other paintings in the Church also celebrate the commitment of the entire Vincentian family to the service and care of the poor. Evident in these paintings is Blessed Frederick Ozanam, who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Vincentian family and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (of whom we have many here in our diocese) have been providing — and still provide– heroic, hands-on, loving and unsung service to the poor and those on the margins of society.
A very blessed new year,
Bishop Kevin Vann