Today's Learners. Tomorrow's Leaders.

Cardinal Mooney Bulletin for August 8, 2021

To honor priests, we must remember our mission

On Aug. 4, the Church observed the Feast Day of St. John Mary Vianney, patron saint of priests. I want to reflect on this feast day for two reasons.  

Coincidentally or maybe not, Bishop Bonnar invited Fr. Ackerman from the Pittsburgh Diocese on that Feast Day to speak to the campus ministers, administrators, and newly appointed chaplains about their role in our various schools. I’m grateful to Bishop Bonnar for placing Fr. Matt Humerickhouse at Mooney. 

Each year, Aug. 4 gives me an opportunity to remember how important priests (and all religious) are in our Catholic institutions. It has been said of St. John Vianney that he was a “wonderful shepherd of souls” … “rich in generosity toward others” … and was “aflame with charity toward everyone.”  And so, for our priests on Aug. 4, I’m reminded that they are not for themselves but for us. 

In 2009, the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “without the sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord.”  He went on to ask questions worth reflecting upon:  “Who puts the Lord in the tabernacle? The priest.  Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. And, who will prepare (your soul) to appear before God? The priest”.

And with this in mind, I want to welcome Fr. Matt to Cardinal Mooney. 

The second reason for mentioning St. John Vianney has to do with education. When the history of American Catholic education is written, scholars will write of its legacy to the French Revolution. During the Revolution all religious schools and churches were closed, and those who harbored priests were imprisoned. (More on this further down) St. John Vianney’s family harbored a wanted priest during that time. 

In response to civil strife caused by the revolution, the Catholic leaders of the time began to open schools to educate people in the liberal arts thus “freeing men of their ignorance.” They believed through education of the many (not quite the masses then), wars, revolutions, etc. would cease. 

Our Founding Fathers also understood the nexus between education and freedom.  Thomas Jefferson observed that “Despotic governments could restrain its citizens and deprive the people of their liberties only if they were ignorant.” In one of his more famous observations, he noted:  “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

It is interesting to also note that in the darkest days of the American Civil War, President Lincoln signed into law the Merrill Act which created Land Grant institutions (The Ohio State University) that extended education to more people. His hope in educating more would avoid future conflicts. 

In 1960, with the election of the first Catholic president, the question of having a dual education system (public and private) was raised. The Church reaffirmed the need for Catholic schools to address social justice issues that were present. The Church has long understood that all the secular-racial-diversity money in the world can’t solve a problem that stems from the human heart. Only faith can do that. It is no accident that the greatest advances of human rights have come from religious people, from Sojourner Truth to the Reverend Martin Luther King, to the Catholic Church. 

In each era, our Church and leaders understood that faith, families, and education were buffering institutions between freedom and authoritarian government. Throughout history, including the present day, we see evidence that when these institutions are attacked, we lose personal freedom.

As long as children must be raised, we will need the family. As long as individuals and nations need to solve problems jointly, we will need civility. As long as America is a constitutional democratic republic, we will need a well-educated self-governing population.

Click here to download our full August 8, 2021 bulletin (PDF Format)