For the first time in Warwick’s history, faculty and staff from all four of the city’s Catholic schools – Bishop Hendricken High School, St. Peter, St. Rose of Lima and St. Kevin – gathered at St. Benedict Church on Beach Avenue for a discussion on supporting one another to prepare the next generation of Catholic leaders and working collaboratively towards an overall renewal of faith in a tumultuous society.
“Just to be unified and together is a great thing,” said Bishop Hendricken principal Mark DeCiccio during the breakfast gathering portion of the event on Friday morning. “To be able to collaborate and share ideas, we’re all about sharing the faith. It’s a great way to start the year so we can all be on the same page, and we’ll be more apt to work together moving forward.”
Fr. Robert Marciano, pastor at St. Benedict and St. Kevin and the president of Bishop Hendricken, said on Monday that over 200 people turned out for the event.
“It was really a historic day for the diocese and for the city for the Catholic schools to be joined like that,” he said, adding that he intends to make the gathering a reoccurring annual event that will take place the Friday prior to Labor Day.
The keynote speaker, celebrant and homilist for the event was Archbishop Timothy Broglio, a graduate of Boston College who has risen through the Catholic Church throughout the years, going from a pastor in suburban Cleveland to being a Nuncio for the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See in the Dominic Republic, and then being ordained as an archbishop by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
Broglio’s current role is as Archbishop of Military Services for the Unites States, which Fr. Marciano spoke about in his introduction of him.
“The Archdiocese of Military Services is the largest archdiocese in the world – it has no walls,” he said. “He [Broglio] is the pastor of all military personnel and their families and all of those who serve in VA hospitals. Someone this morning said ‘Archbishop where do you live?’ and he said ‘A plane,’ because all he does is travel. Every Easter or Christmas he is always overseas visiting the troops in far flung locations bringing the Gospel message to the brave men and women of our military.”
Broglio mentioned in his address to the gathering that he was reading through a book that chronicled the experience of Catholic chaplains during World War II – which brought up a theme of faith persevering despite all forces working against it, which would reverberate throughout his address.
“It's amazing what they were able to do in a variety of circumstances,” Broglio said. “The willingness to meet the spiritual needs of others in a war zone unarmed, the courage of some to animate prisoners of war while they were also imprisoned, the commitment to those whose spiritual care was entrusted to them – they encourage us to move forward despite the odds.”
Broglio recalled another time where he was reminded of the enduring nature of faith despite other forces acting against it when he was a newly ordained deacon during his time at the North American College in Rome and he was sent to Nigeria to experience missionary work firsthand. He remembered everyone speaking the traditional language of Igbo, “which I neither spoke nor understood,” and being reliant on a local catechist to translate his portions of baptism ceremonies.
“I would read the dialogue in English, and the catechist would translate and the faithful would respond. Then the catechist would give me in English the version of the response. Sometimes I wondered if he was only telling me what he wanted me to hear,” he said. “I was completely dependent on those catechists, and I baptized more people in those two months than I have done in the last 42-plus years as a priest.”
Broglio compared the role of the catechist in missionary situations, in some ways, to teachers at Catholic schools.
“Truly your situation is different, but the role of teacher is essential to the mission of handing off the faith, and of course that also applies to coaches and administrators and support staff that is everyone that makes up what is a family of a Catholic school,” he said.
Broglio mentioned the increasing need for faith in a world that he believes is becoming less receptive to its message.
“You and I live in a very constrained world. Those who determine and police the politically correct do not offer much in the way of space or freedom for other opinions. If you stray from their rather limited and restricted vision of reality, you run the risk of being ostracized,” he said, adding that, “We recognize the reality of our world and the opposition to the message of faith nurtured by the growth of secularism, hedonism and materialism.”
Broglio said that to lead others to better actions, one must demonstrate benevolent and virtuous actions themselves – “actions speak louder than words,” he simplified.
As for actions, Broglio recommended starting each day with a prayer and offering of good intentions to serve God and a period of reflection upon recent actions you have taken.
“And that is never to lead us to despair, but rather a renewal and a recognition that the Lord always opens another day for us and holds out good opportunities for the future,” he said.
In coming out from underneath the darkness and “evil” that accompanies the ongoing Catholic sex abuse scandal, which Broglio described as “painful,” he said that now is the most important time for good Catholics to lead by example of “authentic virtue.”
“If you look around at the time of some of the greatest Saints within the church, you will see that the institution was at a low point,” he said. “Our world today needs the cultivation of authentic virtue on the part of believers…If you and I fail to respond to the call, then we can blame no one for the sorry state of our world.”
He provided a resounding message of positivity to drive home his overall message.
“Love is the light, and in the end the only light that can always illuminate the world growing dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working,” he said, “Love is possible because we are able to practice it, because we are created in the image of God."