My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
During this month there are several topics that deserve very special mention because of their great impact upon our lives as we celebrate our Catholic faith in the Diocese of Rochester.
Throughout the United States, October is recognized as Respect Life Month, dedicated to the Gospel of Life, which upholds the dignity of every person from the moment of conception until natural death. While serving in Vermont, I read an article entitled "Winter’s Miracles of Beauty" by a Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison (The Saturday Evening Post, November/December 2005). In describing the fascination with snowflakes of Vermont’s Wilson Bentley, Dr. Jamison’s article quotes him as follows: "‘I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty. It seems a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. … When a snowflake melted,’ (Bentley) lamented, ‘that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.’" In another part of the article, Dr. Jamison reported: "‘Nature is full of genius, full of divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.’ For Mr. Bentley, snowflakes were ‘gems from God’s own laboratory.’"
Now if this can be said of snowflakes, one can only imagine the description that must be given to the human person. Such a description defies human terminology because our words must attempt to capture the divine, since every person is bound to the Creator and the work of his hand. Every person is a "miracle of beauty," a "masterpiece of design" and a "gem" from God — but above all a child of God. How then can we ever accept the taking of human life at any stage of its development?
For more than four decades now, society has taught people that the taking of innocent human life is moral, acceptable and legal. What a very sad lesson to have taught our children over these years. One has to ask: Who bears the greater responsibility for this harsh reality? Those who have suffered through the painful ordeal of the termination of life — or those who not only have taught others that the destruction of human life is acceptable, but also worked to make these immoral procedures legal?
We need to be empathetic and understanding to those whom we have failed to teach and support in their time of need, or to show the face and the wisdom of God with a loving heart. St. Thomas Aquinas said it well: Nemo dat quod non habet — "No one gives what he does not have." How can our young people have an appreciation for life if they have not been taught both by word and example that this life, our life, is a precious gift from God? During this month of October, and always, we pray for a renewed reverence for all human life, especially for the child to be born, the sick and the elderly, the victims of war and violence, the troubled and the lonely who no longer have hope and feel abandoned — these are all our sisters and brothers, God’s children, and their lives are precious!
We have now begun our annual Catholic Ministries Appeal, which truly supports God’s gift of life and the many people who seek our assistance through ministries and programs supported by the appeal. Since becoming the bishop of Rochester, I have been so deeply impressed by the generosity of our parishioners throughout the diocese. This overwhelming Christian concern for others is quite evident in the response to the Catholic Ministries Appeal over its long and distinguished history.
The CMA provides support for Catholic Charities’ 10 regional offices/agencies throughout our 12 counties; our Catholic schools; campus ministry; sacramental preparation; and our programs for young adults and youths. In addition, because of the CMA, our brothers and sisters in hospitals and health-care facilities are not forgotten, and their spiritual lives are enriched by our chaplaincy services. Those in correctional facilities are reminded that Jesus gives us hope in the most difficult circumstances. In these facilities the word of God is proclaimed, the message of the Gospel is taught and the sacraments are celebrated through the CMA’s support for this pastoral and necessary outreach.
There really is no aspect of diocesan life that is not positively enriched by the Catholic Ministries Appeal, which this year has the theme "Attitude of Gratitude." As you have been so generous in the past, I pray you will continue this spirit of care and concern. For whatever contribution that you are able to make, I am most grateful. Every donation is significant and deeply appreciated by the many who will benefit from your kindness. Many of those who benefit from the appeal are unknown to you, but your goodness will be known to God.
And finally, let me acknowledge the very significant 125th anniversary of the Catholic Courier. All of what I have shared with you in this letter is brought home to you through the medium of the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico, the Courier’s Spanish-language sister publication, which will celebrate its own 10th anniversary next year.
As we speak often today of the "New Evangelization," reinvigorating our Catholic faith and rediscovering its rich heritage and roots in Christ, the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico continue their evangelical, pastoral and communications mission in print and on their websites.
Both newspapers are recognized not only locally, but nationally, through the many awards they have received. Over its long history, the Catholic Courier has helped so many to understand better their Catholic faith and to discover how to live that faith more effectively. I am grateful for the Courier and El Mensajero, which assist me in fulfilling my mission to teach. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico. Ms. Karen M. Franz, general manager/editor, together with her staff — and in cooperation with the Board of Directors of the papers’ parent corporation, the Rochester Catholic Press Association — are not only continuing the mission of our diocesan publications, but each day enriching and improving that mission.
Happy 125th anniversary, Catholic Courier! Indeed, this month of October gives us still another reason for an Attitude of Gratitude! Certainly, I am grateful for the privilege to be the bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, and each day I pray for you with the hope that you also remember me in prayer.
United with you in thanking God for the gift of Faith, the gift of Life and the call to proclaim the Gospel, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
+ The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester