When Archbishop Schwietz began his ministry here in 2001, the Alaskan priesthood was quite literally dying out. We had an aging group of hardworking clergy, but there were scarcely any young men following in their footsteps. The priesthood was simply not on the radar and in many parishes and families it was not encouraged.
Changes are afoot in Alaska this November, both in the halls of government and the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church. During these pivotal transitions the faithful should be fully engaged. First up is Nov. 8, when we have a duty to participate in advancing the common good of our immediate communities, state and nation by casting ballots that are guided by well-formed consciences and a commitment to uphold the non-negotiable moral teachings of Christ and his church.
Despite being founded by Jesus Christ and enduring for 2,000 years, the Catholic Church is not like a mountain range or old growth forest, which could endure even if all humankind were wiped from the face of the earth.
The so-called “Satanic prayer” at the Aug. 9 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting was widely reported on and left some Alaskans outraged. Others shook their heads or shrugged. Was this an earnest prayer for satanic principles to guide assembly members in discerning the public good or was it a tongue-in-cheek mockery of public invocations in general?
When Middle-Eastern Christians are beheaded for their faith, when men, women and children are killed in the streets of France, when ancient holy sites are reduced to rubble — something deep in the human heart cries for revenge.
Catholics and many other Christians disagree with legalizing same-sex marriage and enacting laws that force organizations and businesses to publicly affirm homosexuality. These laws run contrary to human flourishing and we must oppose them. But that is where it ends. In a civil society we must be free to disagree with someone because of their life choices or beliefs without being blamed for inciting hatred and murder.
As people of faith, we are called to unconditionally love those who suffer from a sexual identity crisis, listen to their struggle and lighten their burden however we can. Where friendship, prayer and counsel are needed we must step up. Christ would have no less.
Following decades with very few men following a call to become Alaskan priests, the tide is changing — even surging. As with most good things, however, this springtime of vocations comes with a cost — an average of about $325,000 for one man to be fully trained for the priesthood.
Churches have a particular challenge regarding the issue of out-of-wedlock pregnancies. On the one hand, the teachings of Christ and his church affirm that sex is to be reserved for the bond of faithful, lifelong marriage. Many churches have effective youth and young adult outreaches to help parishioners strengthen moral resolve in this area. And yet, a percentage of young people fall short. In some cases, this leads to a pregnancy. This is impossible to hide from public view — especially if mothers choose life for their unborn child and carry her to term.
We were not made to be spiritual Lone Rangers. The Pew study shows in no uncertain terms that outside Christ’s Mystical Body — the church — we cannot long endure in faith. It’s an old saying: Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.