fTHERThe Flame: November/December 2017
Dear Readers of The Flame,

From October 1-6 I led a long planned pilgrimage called Saints and Shrines of America. I conceived this pilgrimage 18 months ago as our nation approached the 2016 elections. I desired to help others become more acquainted with the Catholic heritage of our nation and to pray for our upcoming elections.

Though things did not work out for 2016, I was able to pull things together enough to lead a small cadre of 16 tireless pilgrims through five states and Washington DC to visit a variety of Catholic shrines. I am grateful for the help of Footprint Tours and the office staff of my own parish for helping with the details of this trip.

After a Sunday afternoon tour of Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonder in Pennsylvania, our touring of Catholic sites began in earnest on Monday morning. We visited Emmitsburg, Maryland where St. Elizabeth Seton established the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph and founded the first Catholic school in the United States. That afternoon we pressed on to Washington DC where we visited the National Shrine of St. John Paul II and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Tuesday we toured the Philadelphia Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, as well as the shrines for St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel. On Wednesday we were in New York City for the Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Two “Venerables” are currently buried under the altar of St. Patrick’s: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Pierre Toussaint, a Catholic layman who came as a slave to New York and, after gaining his freedom, helped the poor of the water city.

On Thursday we travelled across New York State visiting the North American Martyrs Shrine where St. Isaac Jogues, and laymen Rene Goupil and John LaLande met their martyrdom. It is also the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We then stopped at the shrine to St. Marianne Cope in Syracuse (a collaborator with St. Damian of Molokai who cared for lepers in the late 1800’s) and then pressed on to Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, New York where the Ven. Fr. Nelson Baker is buried. We ended on Friday by visiting St. Mary of the Cataract Church in Niagara Falls, the National Our Lady of Fatima Shrine and Niagara Falls.

One of our more surprising and providential stops was to St. Mary of the Cataract Church. (By the way, the word, Cataract, can mean either a waterfall or an eye disease. The eye disease results in vision as if one were looking through a waterfall.) It was founded by St. John Neumann in 1836 and has a shrine dedicated to him. Along the top of its main aisle were medallion mosaics of: Sts. Elizabeth Seton, Frances Xavier Cabrini, Katharine Drexel, Kateri Tekawitha, John de Brebuef (a North American Martyr), Ven. Fr. Nelson Baker and Ven. Pierre Toussaint. In other words, this one church summed up most of our trip!

This trip truly inspired faith. These saints shed their blood for Christ, suffered ridicule, labored tirelessly, practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and gave away fortunes. They lived for Christ and his Church with abandon. They are our American family of faith summoning us to live our faith in a full manner.

Each of these spiritual giants shaped the landscape of the Catholic Church in the United States. In varied and different ways they met the challenges of their times in the power of the Holy Spirit. If I were to pick one unifying characteristic, I would have to say that each of them had great faith. The mountain like challenges each faced was met with a “faith working through love” that did the seemingly impossible, served people of their time and proclaimed Jesus Christ.

As we entered this holiday season, with its two pivots of Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us pray to be Christ’s faith-filled witnesses to all the people we will encounter. As Catholics in America we have much to be grateful for. Let us give thanks. We can yet freely live for and proclaim Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice as we celebrate his birth and gladly share him by word, deed and charism with others.

Finally, I want to thank each of you for your support of Catholic Renewal Ministries in this Jubilee Year of the charismatic renewal. Pray that our work will elevate the Church in the Diocese of Cleveland to an ever greater faith in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit in 2018.

Sincerely in Christ,  
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries