WYD Days 6-7: Vigil and Papal Mass

Looking around the field, it was easy to see that the world was gathered all in that place. Or, more precisely, that the Universal Church was gathered together in that one place. You saw it first in the flags – easily recognizable ones like Mexico and Great Britain, France and Japan, Switzerland and Brazil, then ones that we might not recognize as easily, like Kenya and Nigeria, Kuwait and Malaysia, St. Lucia and Angola, Slovakia and Botswana, Moldova and Namibia. And so many more.

But it wasn’t just the flags. These national symbols were carried by people, children of God from the whole world, of every race, language, and way of life. They came with their own stories of faith and courage, hope and struggles, love and fear. And for one night, at least, the divisions among the families of nations and peoples of the world were set aside. We prayed together. We learned each others names and the beginnings of each others stories. We shared the light of the same sun and gazed through the night at the same stars. And in the morning, we awoke to the call of our chief shepherd, Pope Francis, who led us all to Jesus in Word and Sacrament, Jesus who gathered us as one, Jesus who now sends us forth on mission to the lands of many flags and languages, cultures and ways of life, to proclaim the good news that God loves us all and calls us all to himself.

This is World Youth Day. This is the Church. This is our faith.

As we left the Vigil and Closing Mass, one of the members of our group who is from California carried a flag from the Netherlands that he had received from some Dutch pilgrims. A pilgrim from southern Indiana wore a hat from Ghana. Another had replaced his US flag with a Panamanian flag. One now had a scarf with the flag of South Africa. But more than flags, we had each encountered the people – the children of God – who had come to the isthmus of Panama to be with one another and to grow closer to our God.

This is World Youth Day. This is the Church. This is our faith.

Advertisements

WYD Days 4-5: Catechesis

Our catechesis continued in the mornings yesterday and today with English-speaking pilgrims from around the world. Yesterday, we heard from Bishop Alan Williams of the Diocese of Brentwood, England, just outside of London. Today, we went to a different catechesis site where some friends of mine were coordinating the programming and music – it’s always great to run into friends from home in a different part of the world. Today, it was Robert Feduccia and Steve Angrisano – the three of us have collaborated at One Bread, One Cup conferences at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and it was good to be with them in Panama.

Our catechist today was Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida. Being at a different location for catechesis, we also encountered different groups of pilgrims – one that we had not run into before came from Tonga in the South Pacific. After catechesis, our group divided up around the city – many went to a large park where the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration were available, along with a vocations fair; others went back to the Old Town to explore more; and many went to attend the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis.

Speaking of Pope Francis, last night we all attended the official papal welcoming ceremony, where everyone in our group was able to see the Holy Father as he drove by in the popemobile. It was a bit challenging getting into the park where the event was being held – security lines were long and the crowds were tight – but we all eventually made it inside and were able to find a place to both see a screen and be close to the road where the pope would be driving by.

One final thought on these past couple days. Staying hydrated is always a necessity at events like World Youth Day, especially when held in a warm location – high temperatures here in Panama have been near 90 this week, with beautiful sunshine and high humidity. At the sites of the main events, it has been a bit hard to find places to fill up water bottles, although there are a lot of people standing along the streets selling bottles of water. But yesterday afternoon, we came across one place – the only place near the papal welcoming ceremony that I saw – giving away free water: a mosque. The local Muslim community was gracious and welcoming to all of these Catholic pilgrims. It was a beautiful sign of compassion and our shared humanity.

Tomorrow, many of us will begin the walk to the site of the Vigil and Closing Mass with Pope Francis, held in a field on the outskirts of Panama City. Please continue to pray for us along the journey.

WYD Day 3 – Catechesis and Papal Arrival

Today, the heart of World Youth Day began with the first of three days of catechesis. Pilgrims are divided into smaller groups by language and assigned to churches, schools, gymnasiums, and other venues around the city. We were assigned to San Francisco de la Caleta Church – or, as we found out when we arrived, the gravel parking lot adjacent to the church – for our English language catechesis with about 1500 pilgrims from around the world – the United States, England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, and more. Our catechist was Bishop Ed Burns of Dallas, Texas. He also celebrated Mass with us at the end of the morning session.

Some of our group then went to the local convention center for another prayer, music, and worship gathering for English-language pilgrims. I took the afternoon to get caught up on parish and vocations office work, then a few of us went out to wander the city. In the meantime, thousands and thousands of people had begun to line the route that Pope Francis would be following after he landed at the Panama City airport this afternoon and was making his way into the city. I really think just about everyone in Panama City came out to see the Pope. We walked for a while along the road, and it was packed full of people for as far as the eye could see. After walking through the crowds, we found a spot to stop and wait.

The noise of cheers preceeded the white-clad figure of Pope Francis as he was whisked by in the popemobile. It really is fascinating watching how excited people are to see the Holy Father – for many of these people, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the pope in their own city, and many of them waited for hours to claim a front-row spot. Of course, since it is 2019, lots of phones were taking pictures and video – my own included. I just wonder how many people actually saw Pope Francis directly with their eyes rather than through their screens …

One more set of encounters to round out the day … As I was sitting in the hotel lobby this afternoon working on emails, a group of about a dozen Polish bishops who are staying in the same hotel started to gather in the lobby before heading off somewhere together. A few minutes later, a young man sat down, and he and I started talking. He lives in San Diego now, but he is from Iraq. He is part of the Chaldean Catholic Church. We ended up talking a bit about languages and eventually about the Greek New Testament; he is interested in learning Greek. Such encounters are my favorite part of World Youth Day and a reminder of the universality of the Church – from Poland to Iraq to the United States of America to Panama.

Tomorrow, the other part of our group from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis arrives in Panama. We plan for another day of catechesis, and then the formal papal welcoming ceremony at the same location as the Opening Mass.

WYD Day 2 – Opening Mass

If I had a list of things I did not expect to do on this pilgrimage, one of them surely would have been to meet the First Lady of Panama and sing the National Anthem of the United States to her while she held an American flag. But that is just what happened on our way to the Opening Mass of World Youth Day in Panama City today. Some things just happen – and this was one of those things.

After a visit to a number of historic churches, plazas, and promenades in the Old Town of Panama City, we started to make our way to the location of the Opening Mass. Our local guide decided to take us on a bit of a short-cut through the grounds of the presidential palace. A few other groups were there at the same time. We went through a security checkpoint, and in the courtyard of the palace we found water and sandwiches – courtesy the president of the Republic – ready for free for pilgrims. We then made our way to the front of the presidential palace, where a group of Mexican pilgrims was singing and chanting – we thought maybe they were trying to see if the President would open a window and wave. But instead, a few minutes later, the First Lady of Panama walked out of the front door of the palace, stood on the steps, greeted people, took selfies, talked about World Youth Day, sang along with various songs, and personally greeted anyone who wanted to talk with her. When she saw our US flag, she asked – in English – where we were from and was glad to hear that we are from Indiana, because she has a son who is a junior at the University of Notre Dame. So she called us all up, had us stand around her for a picture, while she was holding a US flag, and the people around us said that we should sing our National Anthem. So we did. The First Lady was gracious, welcoming, and excited to have us in her country and at her home. And that’s how we met he First Lady of Panama.

While maybe not the expected highlight of the day, this encounter certainly became the most memorable – and even surreal – part of our day. From there, we joined a couple hundred thousand people for the Opening Mass with the Archbishop of Panama, and then out for dinner before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow we begin catechesis and the heart of World Youth Day 2019.

WYD Panama Day 1 – Arrival

This afternoon, our pilgrimage group arrived safely in Panama City for World Youth Day 2019. Also on our plane were pilgrims from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we encountered many other groups of pilgrims as soon as we set foot in Panama. It is a busy and energetic city this week, and the streets and sidewalks are already filling up with young Catholics from around the world.

Our itinerary today was pretty simple – get settled at our hotel, celebrate Mass, and eat dinner. The picture above is taken from our hotel and gives some impression of Panama City – marked both by countless skyscrapers and a vibrant faith community. The church in picture, Iglesia Neustra Senora del Carmen, is where we celebrated Mass tonight – which gave us a vintage World Youth Day experience. Our pilgrimage company had arranged with the church for our group to celebrate Mass at 7pm – one of a succession of Masses in many languages held throughout the day. There are only 20 of us, and it is a big church, but as we arrived and prepared, we ended up being joined by a group from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, including an auxiliary bishop and the vocation director of that diocese; a missionary priest from Ireland; a group from Brazil; a large group of women religious; and several other smaller groups, so that the church was over half full! Again – a very vintage World Youth Day experience.

In the morning, we plan to tour the old city of Panama and then make our way to the opening World Youth Day Mass with the Archbishop of Panama.

World Youth Day 2019 – Panama

When Pope Francis announced at the end of the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, that the next gathering of Catholic young people would be in Panama, I thought pretty clearly in my mind that I would not be there. Krakow was my second World Youth Day – the first being in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 – and I thought it would be my last. But here I am, preparing to go on this unique pilgrimage with a group of young people from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis once more. We never know the directions God leads us!

Tonight, the first of two groups from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will begin the journey to the isthmus of Panama, where the American continents meet and where a great canal joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I will be with this first group to make our way to Panama City, there to join with hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims from all over the world, including our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Over the next week, we will attend catechesis sessions, celebrate the Mass, meet and pray and learn with Catholics from throughout the world, and experience the culture and faith of the Church in Panama. Along the way, I hope to be able to share my experiences and those of our pilgrim group here on this blog.

For now, pray for safe journeys and openness to God’s grace for our group of pilgrims, and all who are traveling to World Youth Day 2019.

Homily – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Eric M. Augenstein
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
St. Agnes Catholic Church– October 27/28, 2018
Jeremiah 31.7-9 Psalm 126 Hebrews 5.1-6 Mark 10.46-52

Something that night changed me. It was the first Friday of September, a little less than two months ago. As the First Friday of the month, the young adult ministry office for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was holding a night of Eucharistic Adoration, followed by dinner and a social. It was being held that month at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, where I live during the week, and I had been asked to preside at the Holy Hour and hear confessions. I remember that the weather that night reflected the mood of many of us in the Church in those days – it was raining, pretty heavily; a wet and dreary late-summer evening. It had only been a few weeks at that point since the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on clergy sexual abuse, alongside all of the other sin and scandal that was weighing down the Church. It was a dreary night in Indianapolis that reflected the dark night of the soul that many of us felt deep inside. But something happened that night that changed me.

We really didn’t know who was going to show up for the Holy Hour. Would the rain keep people away? Would the scandals keep people away? Would the busy lives of young adults direct their attention elsewhere? But they did come. Well over a hundred young adult Catholics, most in their 20s, gathered in the midst of the dreariness to pray, to turn to Jesus present in the Eucharist, to gaze upon him and to let his love and mercy pour into their souls. As I sat in the back of the Cathedral hearing confessions, in the brief moments in between a steady line of penitents, I looked out through the church. I could feel the intensity of the pain that people brought with them. I could hear the united voices singing praise to our “good, good Father;” crying out, “Lord, I need you, every hour I need you.” The prayer of that community, even in the moments of silence, was palpable – you could sense it in the room, with all of our eyes directed toward the altar, where we found Jesus, the bread of life, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And all of a sudden, I knew that we would be ok. I knew that there is no darkness that cannot be broken by the light of Christ. I knew that there is no wound that cannot be healed by the blood of Christ. I knew that our fragile community, broken and tempest-tossed, would find its way if we all keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. And I saw before me that night a core group of faithful, humble, prayerful, fervent and young servants of God who would rise up as a new generation of saints to set the world on fire.

That night changed me. And even in the weeks since that night, as we continue to witness the violence and hatred and divisions that plague our world, even to yesterday’s deadly shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, I remember that night, and so many others since. Jesus continues to remind me that he is in charge and that he does not abandon his people. And he gave me eyes to see.

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

We have been blind, but with Jesus we can see. We have been afraid, but with Jesus we take courage. We have been lame, immobilized, but with Jesus we can walk. We have been mute, but with Jesus we can speak.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

Homily – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Eric M. Augenstein
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – September 1/2, 2018
St. Agnes Catholic Church
Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-8; Psalm 15; James 1.17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23

If you do a Google search for “Catholic Church,” the results can be interesting. Insightful, even. On the images tab, searching for “Catholic Church” brings up page after page of variations of two types of pictures: church buildings, or bishops. Apparently, that’s what the Google algorithm thinks best visually represents the Catholic Church – buildings or bishops. Curious. On the news tab of Google, the headlines, of course, are ever-changing. This morning, the top results were headlines like: “The civil war in the Catholic Church,” and “Gut the Catholic Church’s hierarchy,” and “Commentary: How to save the Catholic Church,” and “It’s time the Catholic Church started cleaning its house.” Such is the state of the Church in these days. But on the main Google search page, there’s something interesting that showed up – at least in my search of the “Catholic Church.” After a few links to the headline news articles, Twitter feeds, and YouTube videos, the next result was more local: a link to the website of this parish, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Nashville, Indiana. Of course, Google knew my location based on my computer’s IP address, and so it connected me to the nearest Catholic Church, the local parish. There’s always something local about our faith, about the Church – it’s not just the Vatican and the bishops, although that’s part of it; it’s not just the headlines and scandals across the world, although that is part of it, too. The Church is here – the Church is us. With a building to house our prayer and worship, yes. With a bishop in our region to shepherd us, yes. With our own brokenness and humanity and sins and failings, yes. And with our humble, open hearts, yearning for wholeness and truth and peace and love and compassion and community. Here, at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Nashville, Indiana, and at every local parish.

St. James gives all of us in the Catholic Church a good foundation in these days. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Talk about getting back to basics. So much else can and does get in our way, but St. James is right – the Gospel message of Jesus Christ can be summed up in these two points: to care for those in need – symbolized in the apostle’s day by widows and orphans – and to keep ourselves unstained by the world. To care for those whose poverty is spiritual as well as material – to walk alongside those who are hurting whether as victims of abuse or because of betrayal by those who have failed in their leadership – to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves – to cry out to heaven and earth for justice and mercy. And to rise above the baseness of worldly attachments – to keep our eyes fixed on heaven – to allow love to conquer fear, humility to root out pride, hope to shine in the darkness of doubt. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” And we strive to do that, here at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Nashville, Indiana, and in many other local churches besides.

In the early fifth century, St. John Chrysostom preached a pointed homily whose words, I think, can echo profoundly for us today. He had observed some people in the Church who were concerned about buying golden ornaments for church buildings and weaving expensive cloths for the altars, but were neglecting the very real, material needs of the poor. “Tell me,” St. John Chrysostom said, “if you were to see [Christ] lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold, would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? … Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the road as a pilgrim, looking for shelter,” St. John Chrysostom continues. “You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate the floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. … I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. … Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.”

We have work to do, my brothers and sisters – we, the Church, both the universal Catholic Church and our local churches. We have work to do – to refocus ourselves on the central task of the gospel, to care for orphans and widows and to live in the world but not of the world as we long for the world to come. We have work to do in loving one another and remembering that we need each other to teach us how to love as Christ loves us and to keep us accountable to the command of God. We have work to do in feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, in welcoming the stranger and visiting the sick and the imprisoned. We have work to do in listening to the Word of God, but then putting it into action. We have work to do in relying on the grace of the sacraments to sustain us in our frailty and to fill us with the strength needed to endure the trials of this present age. And we need each other to do this work.

If people are searching for the Catholic Church here, in Brown County, Indiana, or in any place, I hope this is what they find – a Church that cares for the widow and orphan and keeps itself unstained by the world, a Church that comes together to encounter Christ in Word and Sacrament, and also serves Christ in our afflicted brothers and sisters – a humble Church, a listening Church, an active Church, a living Church. Let’s get to work.

Homily – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Eric M. Augenstein
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – August 18/19, 2018
St. Agnes Catholic Church
Proverbs 9.1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5.15-20; John 6.51-58

Just under three years ago, I was on a bus with 50 other people from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. We were heading to the World Meeting of Families, which was being held in Philadelphia that year, and would be one of the stops on Pope Francis’ first pastoral visit to the United States. Not long after we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just south of Pittsburgh, we started seeing signs along the way encouraging us to turn back – literally. Highway information signs were broadcasting the message: “Pope to visit Philadelphia September 26-27. Expect delays. Seek alternate routes.” At a Turnpike rest stop, we encountered travel advisory signs urging us to avoid the Philadelphia area unless we are going to see the Pope. It said to expect congestion worse than a blizzard. Be sure to fuel up your car, bring plenty of food and water with you in case you get stranded, and really, if at all possible, just avoid the area. But that was exactly where we were headed. I remember thinking at the time that it felt like we were driving toward a fire or into the path of an oncoming hurricane against all advice.

That image and memory came to my mind this past week, not only because the next edition of the World Meeting of Families begins in a few days, this time in Dublin, Ireland; bur moreso as I – and many of us both inside and outside the Catholic Church – have struggled to process and understand the latest heart-rending revelations of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and cover-ups and criminal mismanagement by bishops and other Church leaders. The latest news comes from a Grand Jury report that covers criminal sexual abuse at the hands of clergy in dioceses that flank the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I’ve started reading the report. It’s painful. I haven’t finished reading the 800+ pages. I don’t want to, but I need to. The Catholic Church is on fire, and some of my brother priests have lit the flames. The winds are battering our fragile faith, and some of our shepherds were fiddling while Rome burned. It would be so easy to turn around and run away; it would be easy, and perhaps justifiable, to abandon the Church that has failed so many. The days are evil, St. Paul reminded the Ephesians. So don’t be foolish. The days are evil, he says; try to understand the will of the Lord. I confess, I’m not sure these days exactly what the will of the Lord is in all of this. And I’m ashamed and so sorry for the evil that has been done.

Last week, I stood in front of our seminarians as they prepared to enter a year of formation for the priesthood. Twenty four men who have courageously put themselves forward in these days to say that they feel called to a priestly ministry that has scars on it and that has caused partially-healed wounds to break open once more. Seven of these men are new seminarians, setting out on the path to priesthood in this summer of shame. As I stood before these seminarians last week, I gave them a challenge – one that I give to myself, and to all of us. When the Church is most hurting, it is then that we need great Saints. When the storms or fires rage and burn, it is then that we need the strength and witness and courage and wisdom that no mortal man or woman can conjure on their own but which comes from the Holy Spirit to raise up a new generation of saintly heroes. We need people to go toward the fire, not run away – to heal wounds – to listen compassionately – to show true mercy – to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty – to forsake foolishness – to advance in the way of understanding – to be the hands and feet and heart and voice of Jesus Christ, who does not abandon his own. There are plenty of sinners who are content at being sinners. These days, especially, we need sinners who long to be Saints, and with God’s grace, it can be.

So where do we go from here? From one perspective, that’s still an open question. The Church is sick. The world is sick. And the treatment plan is still under review. But there’s one simple answer that is fool-proof. Where do we go from here? To the Eucharist. Here at this altar is the bread come down from heaven. Here at this altar is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here at this altar, a broken man is called to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Here at this altar, the one who was crushed for our sins and broken for our infirmities raises us up to new life. Here at this altar, Saints are born. “Lord, to whom shall we go; you have the words of eternal life.”

Final Days in France

After a week of exploring the French Catholic roots of Indiana, we three pilgrims have finished this portion of our journeys and have returned home. The final two days of our journey saw us move beyond the main purpose of our trip to see a few other significant sites in the area – the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel; the D-Day beaches of Normandy and the American and German World War II Cemeteries; and the tomb and shrine of St. Therese, the Little Flower, in Lisieux. We also stopped by the birthplace of St. John de Brebeuf, an early Jesuit missionary to the Americas and one of the North American Martyrs. A highlight of these last days was the opportunity to concelebrate Mass on Sunday with the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem in the ancient Abbey Church of Mont Saint-Michel. It was a cold and windy day along the French coast, where the monastery sits on an island, and the unheated church was so cold that we could see our breath whenever we sang or prayed! And there was a lot of singing and praying during this beautiful chanted Mass in a holy and mystical place.

Mont St Michel.jpg

Mont Saint-Michel

Having returned now from our pilgrim journey, I have begun to reflect on the lessons that we learned about the French roots of the Catholic Church in Indiana – and how knowledge of where we have come from might inform our lives as Christians today. A significant part of this reflection centers on trying to understand what inspired people like Bishop Simon Brute, St. Theodora Guerin, the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and other early missionaries to come to the wilderness of Indiana and live our their faith in this unfamiliar place. My initial thoughts center on two areas: one historical, the other spiritual.

Historically, the French Catholic pioneers of Indiana were all formed by the difficult days of the French Revolution. Bishop Brute witnessed first-hand the trials and executions of priests and those who harbored them; and he also witnessed first-hand the courage and resilience of the priests who hid in the Brute family home and continued to celebrate the sacraments in secret despite the danger this brought. Being a priest in the days of the French Revolution was a dangerous – and courageous – act. And young Simon Brute was called to be a priest. The two religious orders that settled in Indiana from France – the Sisters of Providence and the Congregation of Holy Cross – were both formed in the years after the Revolution. Religious orders had been suppressed during the Revolution, churches had been closed, priests and religious had been killed or sent into exile. When religious expression was once again legal after the Revolution, many new religious communities were formed to educate and serve the needs of the people, especially the poor. And so we have the Sisters of Providence and the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Spiritually, all of our early French Catholic pioneers who came to Indiana were formed by the French School of Spirituality, which focused especially on the writings of St. John Eudes (1601-1680). These writings particularly fostered devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and were intensely Incarnational. People like Mother Theodore Guerin sought to be the presence of the love of the heart of Jesus Christ in local communities – to help Jesus become incarnate once again among the people he loves so much. I think, too, of Bishop Brute’s tireless pastoral work – visiting the sick and the dying throughout the enormous area of his diocese – in order to bring the Sacraments to those who longed for an encounter with the heart of Christ. Personally, I am not very familiar with St. John Eudes and the French School of Spirituality – but that means that I now have some new items on my reading list!

France Brittany Crest.jpg

Coat of arms of France (left) and Brittany (right).

At the outset of this pilgrimage, my hope was to better understand the reason there is a fleur de lis on the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. I have always known that this is because the first four bishops of our diocese were French, as were many of the early Catholics in this part of the United States. But now I understand even more what this history means – all the many connections between the early Catholic pioneers of this area – and maybe even the beginning of some lessons for living our Catholic faith today, nearly 200 years after the founding of the Diocese of Vincennes. And I also am beginning to understand the significance of the fact that our early Catholic pioneers came not just from France, but from Brittany, the somewhat isolated and rebellious region in the far northwest of France that is so tied to the sea that its residents more readily sailed across the ocean to be courageous missionaries in a foreign land. We Catholics of Indiana owe them our gratitude. But we also seek their guidance and intercession that we, too, may offer courageous witness to the presence of Jesus Christ, incarnate in our midst.