Monday, December 3, 2012

Posted on by Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas



We begin Advent
Advent is a time to awaken, to discover and to inspire.


Advent awakens in us a longing for the Lord to come more fully into our lives. Christ’s coming testifies vividly to God’s desire to dwell among us, to experience first-hand the struggles we experience. This season awakens in us a grasp of God’s selfless love for us that moves us to love as we have been loved. This season awakens in us a burning desire to draw closer to God as God has drawn so close to us in His Incarnation.


Advent invites us to discover what really matters in life; that which is worth living for. The Lord’s life was characterized by poverty from the very moment of His birth. There was no room in the inn. He was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He experienced the lot of a refugee in flight from Herod’s search to take His life. He taught us that joy, success, and fulfillment are not found in possessions or in status, but in selfless love of others.


A profound discovery happens in meditating on Christ’s birth. We learn one of the most important of life’s lessons: how to find fulfillment and true happiness in the Word, who existed before the world began.


This Advent, discover the scripture accounts of Christ’s birth. Read and meditate on the Gospels. The evangelists describe the humble beginnings of Christ, his family origin, the struggles, the danger, the exclusion, and the visit of the shepherds and kings to remind us of the great mystery that our God was born among us, a mystery we are called to ponder during Advent.


We believe that life can best be fulfilled in encountering Jesus Christ.

In Advent we are called to be missionary disciples, inviting and accompanying others to the crib, the place of Christ’s birth. We invite others and inspire them to know the One born among us, especially by the witness and the example of our lives as disciples. When people see a joy in us that flows from our faith, they are drawn to wonder what they are missing.


That can be our effort this Advent: to lead others to the stable where they too can encounter Christ and turn their lives to Christ. The call of the New Evangelization is that we witness Christ in such a way that others come to believe in Him.


Above, Bishop Cirilo Flores and I with members of one family who now have a new home. Just right of Bishop Kicanas is Peg Harmon of Catholic Community Services.

Trip to Yuma

This past week I spent four days in the Yuma area. I always return moved by experiences there. The faith of those in the area is vibrant, and the priests, deacons, religious and laity are deeply committed to the Church.
Peg Harmon, Director of Catholic Community Services (CCS) in the Diocese of Tucson, Sister Betty Adams, C.S.J., Director of CCS in Western Arizona; Victor Calderon, editor of our New Vision; Sister RayMonda, Director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of San Diego; Bishop Cirilo Flores, Co-Adjutor Bishop of San Diego; and I went to Mexicali to view five new homes our dioceses have built for victims of the 7.4 earthquake that struck there in the spring of 2010.

Five simple homes, a drop in the ocean of sorrows the earthquake wrought, yet for these families receiving those homes, the modest buildings are a miracle for which they are deeply grateful. Their faces showed such pride as we toured the simple rooms of these newly built houses, now nearly ready to be occupied.

Above, the man at right now awaits his home, but will live there without his wife who has died.

Bishop Flores and I presented each family with a set of doorknobs and keys to make their homes secure. You would think we had given them a bag of diamonds. We blest their homes and their families. Their smiles told us of their happiness.


One home has been given to an elderly man whose wife died recently. He lives alone, mourning his loved one of 42 years. As he awaits the completion of his new home, he is living in a makeshift house with no roof and only basic essentials. He waits moving into his new home, although saddened by the fact that his wife cannot join him.


A shelter for someone waiting for a home.

Several families now living in makeshift housing asked us if we could build them home also. If only we could. There simply are not enough resources.

This was the first project that our two dioceses have done together. What beautiful things come of cooperation. You helped make that happen through your gifts to Catholic Community Services in the Annual Catholic Appeal.



Mass for farmworkers

The next day, Saturday, I celebrated a Mass for farmworkers at Friendship Park in San Luis.  The Mass was part of the 18th annual Día del Campesino (Day of the Farmworker).  The event, sponsored in part by the Independent Agricultural Workers Center, which goes by the acronym CITA from the name translated to Spanish, began at 3 a.m. (we came later) and continued until 10 a.m.  The event began early so farmworkers could attend, and the day included a mobile clinic where farmworkers received flu shots and basic health tests, and there were information booths from about 60 different community organizations.


Many farmworkers and their families participated in the Mass. Several farmworkers carrying hoes, knives, and instruments of the harvest led the procession of deacons and priests to the altar. It was so touching to have them and the tools of their labor included .


Following the Mass, Howard Graham Buffett, a farmer, philanthropist and son of the famous Warren Buffett, spoke to the farmworkers.  Working with CITA, or Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricolas, The Buffett Foundation is providing funding to open “farm worker support centers” in Chiapas, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi and other interior Mexican states.


The goal is for the centers, working with growers and employers in the United States to recruit seasonal workers to come into the U.S. under the H-2A program without charge, unlike other recruiters who often prey on migrant workers by demanding payment for their services.


CITA was created by Catholic Relief Services, working through our Diocese along with dioceses in  Mexicali, Baja Calif. CITA is a bi-national nonprofit organization that connects workers with U.S. growers needing labor.


The H-2A program was created by the U.S. government and permits growers to hire foreign guest workers on temporary work visas to fill seasonal jobs they cannot fill with domestic labor. Employers apply to the government for  the H-2A visas needed for the workers.


I was grateful that Msgr. Richard O’Keeffe, recovering from a recent injury was able to attend. Father Javier Perez, Vicar of the area, Fathers Ramonito Celestial, Sean Carroll, Oscar Magallanes, and Tomas Munoz participated in the Mass along with Deacons Arnulfo Carbajal, Jose Manuel Lopez, Jeff Trujillo and Dave Sampson.

This year we also welcomed some special guests that included Suzanne and Roger Broetje from Washington State who have been big supporters of farmworkers’ rights and the need for comprehensive immigration policy change. Members of Catholic Relief Services came from Baltimore and Mexico to join in the celebration. Sister Karen Bernhardt, H.M., who works with farmworkers through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Dylan Corbett of the Campaign for Human Development of the Bishops’ Conference also attended.

Everyone came for one reason– to pay tribute to and to express gratitude for the work of the campesinos. Their hard work makes it possible for us to buy fruits and vegetables at the market. They toil in the frigid temperatures of the morning, in the heat if the day, and through the rain that occasionally falls.


The concluding event was an Open House and blessing of the new offices for CITA.

My thanks to Joanne Welter, who directs our Office of Human Life and Dignity, for keeping our Diocese involved in organization such as CITA and in the support of critical services needed by those living and working along the border.   Additional thanks to Mr. Buffett for his generous support and vision for a project that can help thousands of migrant workers; and to the many staff members who joined us for the day’s events.  My thanks also to the following CRS staffers who attended: Lane Bunkers, Gaye Burpee, Anne Bousquet, Mary DeLorey, Robyn Fieser,  and Mariano Yarza.


Congratulations Father Oscar

It was my joy to end a very busy Saturday by celebrating Mass and the installation of Father Oscar Magallanes as pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in San Luis.


If you ever wonder how priests make a difference in our lives, you should have been at San Luis to hear the excitement people felt with their new pastor. The applause for him was sustained and deafening. Father Oscar seemed thrilled to embrace his new family in the Lord. The great celebration continued after Mass with a dinner for the parish including, the Mariachis who were invited to attend.
Fr. Oscar was joined at Mass by Fathers Javier Perez, Tomas Munoz, Gustavo Benitez and Ramonito Celestial and a priest friend from the Diocese of Mexicali, Father Jose Alfredo, who serves in San Luis.


It was a joy for Father Oscar that his mother could join us as well as his sisters, Blanca and Martha, his brother Armando and sister in-law, Linda. Father Oscar is from a large family. After his wife died, he entered the seminary to serve as a priest. He has two sons who wanted to attend but could not.

Office of Hispanic Ministry

On Saturday, as part of our Year of Faith events, 70 people from more than 10 parishes renewed their commitment to faith as they listened to the presentations by Monsignor Carlos Romero.  The presentations entitled Porta Fidei: Faith in The Gospels and Mary’s Faith provided a good foundation for this renewal. We are grateful for the teaching gifts Monsignor brings to the diocese and look forward to his Lenten Series scheduled for February and March.  For more information contact Sister Gladys Echenique, or Ofelia James at


Feast Day at Mission San Xavier

Joining in the celebration of Mission San Xavier’s patron saint St. Francis Xavier will be another wonderful celebration in our Native American community.  This Mass, today at 10 a.m. at the Mission, is open to all tribal leaders, members of the surrounding Tohono O’ odham community,  the Franciscan ministers working at the Mission, and Jesuit fathers and brothers in our area.
St. Francis  was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was born in Spain in 1506.  Another pioneering Jesuit, Padre Eusebio Kino, named our beloved Mission in Francis’ honor.


Mass at the Mission always causes me to ponder the hardships and trials those first Catholics in Tucson endured.  Today, through the magnificent Mission, we see that their faith endures still.


Tis the Season
This evening begins a whirlwind of Christmas banquets and festivities at my residence.  Each dinner gives me the opportunity to joyfully greet and thank the members of the many committees, councils and organizations who do so very much for our Diocese.


This week, I will be hosting members of our Marriage Tribunal, our Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Review Board.


CRS meeting
I will be in Savannah, Georgia Dec. 4 to Dec. 6 for the Winter Meeting of the Catholic Relief Services.  As you know, I am Chairman of the Board for the CRS, and part of my responsibilities include traveling to villages and towns in countries served by CRS.  These places are most often extremely poor, and the CRS works to assist people with living essentials such providing clean drinking water, improve farming methods, and with micro-financing programs that allow people to develop small industries in their communities.


At this winter meeting we will be talking about the recovery in Haiti after their devastating earthquake. It has been slow with many complications but progress is happening as more people move from tents to temporary or permanent housing. Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Health Association are striving to rebuild the St. Francis Hospital that was completely destroyed.

At the Board meeting we will discuss the plight of Syrian refugees both those displaced within Syria as well as those who have settled in nearby Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. We will also reflect on the dangerous situation in the Dominican Republic of the Congo.
There remain many troubled areas throughout the world. Thanks to the generosity of American Catholics CRS is able to do much good throughout the world.


Diocesan Pastoral Council
After hosting the members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and their spouses at my home for a meal of appreciation, the Council will meet on Saturday morning to continue their discussions and planning for the implementation of the Year of Faith as well as their efforts to further the other goals of the Diocese: Inspire vocations, inform people in the faith, improve communication and the use of technology, and increase the sense of stewardship among all in the Diocese.


Congratulations, Father Antunez
On Saturday evening it will be my joy to install Father Bardo Antunez as the pastor of San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Nogales. Father Bardo is one of four who came to the diocese as a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Heromosillo. He brings much energy and creative ideas to his ministry,  as well as a deep love of his people. He has served at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Casa Grande as well as Holy Cross and Sacred Heart parishes in Morenci/Clifton. I know the community will receive him enthusiastically.


Op-Ed: Please, no cuts to funds for the impoverished
You may have read an Op-Ed piece I submitted and that was published in the Arizona Daily Star, the Yuma Sun and the Arizona Republic last week.  In the piece, I encourage all of us to contact our federal representatives, urging them not to cut foreign aid to impoverished countries. If you would like to read the story, please visit:


Remembering our Guadalupanas
On Sunday I will celebrate a Mass in remembrance of the deceased members of the Guadalupanas, a group whose ministry is devotion to the Blessed Virgin de Guadalupe. This Mass will take place at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral.

The Guadalupanas throughout our Diocese do so much good by their prayers for all of us, as well as their simple yet important acts of service. Many Guadalupanas have served their parishes tirelessly for many years. We will join in prayer for those who have died after countless years of dedicated to commitment to the Cathedral and other parishes.


Feast of the Immaculate Conception
On Saturday (Dec. 8)  we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States and of several parishes in our Diocese including Immaculate Conception in Yuma, in Douglas, and in Ajo. Congratulations to Father Xavier Perez, Father Gilbert Malu, and Father Peter Nwachukwu and their communities on their parish feast day. Honor the Blessed Mother by your attendance at Mass in your community.


Please pray for
Deacon Richard Ornelas, that he be restored to full health and for Father Foster Hanley O.Carm., of Salpointe Catholic High School.