Alexis Hernandez, a special education teacher, learned a critical classroom tip last month, after being asked to help a special education teacher for disabled and mostly non-verbal children with cerebral palsy halfway around the world in Uganda. “Look into their eyes. See how their bodies move. They might lightly smile if they like the game that they are playing,” said Hernandez, 24. From Aug. 5 to 19, she and seven other young adults from the Diocese missioned in Uganda, volunteering with a local nonprofit there, Imprint Hope.
The Paterson Diocese recently hosted a gathering of the N.J. Province with the directors of catechetical offices in the Newark Archdiocese and the four Catholic dioceses in the Garden State, which was held at the diocesan Evangelization Center at St. Paul Inside the Walls in Madison.
For most of his life, Rich Sokerka has been on a newspaper deadline every week. That changes next week. For the first time in a long time, Sokerka will not be dreaming of printing presses in his sleep. After 32 years with the Diocese, he is retiring as editor and general manager of The Beacon. He also steps down as Communications Director for the Diocese of Paterson.
This will be my last issue as Editor/General Manager of The Beacon and as the Diocese’s Director of Communications. That was a difficult sentence to type. You have seen my face and read my editorials on this page each week for the last 32 years, but the time has come for me to say farewell and begin my retirement and my next journey in life.
Greetings from Rome! This is the third opportunity I have had to visit the “Eternal City.” My first trip was in January 1989, as a seminarian during my first year in college. I then visited in October 2008 when I was serving as Vocation Director in the Diocese of Brooklyn and two of our seminarians were to be ordained Deacons in St. Peter’s Basilica. It is somewhat of a coincidence that, due to scheduling commitments, I will not be able to be here in three weeks, but, on Sept. 29, one of our seminarians, Krzysztof Tyszko, will be ordained a Deacon in St. Peter’s.
Holy Cross Father Walter E. Jenkins got a taste of his future, both as a priest and religious and as a prominent leader in Catholic education, while a biology and pre-med student at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. There, he got involved in campus ministry and got to know several priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross — an encounter that influenced his life and vocation. Father Jenkins’ distinguished ministry as a leader in Catholic high school, college, and seminary education has led him to the Catholic Academy of Sussex County, where he was recently named its president by the Diocese.
From Aug. 15-19, Assumption Parish in Morristown held its Vacation Bible School in the parish center behind the church and outside guided by the theme of “Monumental: Celebrating God’s Greatness.” Each morning campers walked through a make-believe desert in the parish center decorated with models or images of cacti, sunbaked animal bones, and coyotes.
Bishop Zsolt Marton of the Diocese of Vac in Hungary was main celebrant and homilist at a Mass in St. Stephen Magyar Church in Passaic on Aug. 28 in honor of the Feast of King St. Stephen of Hungary. Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney was a concelebrant of the Mass. Also concelebrating the Mass in Hungarian with parts in English was Father Laszlo Balogh, St. Stephen’s pastor, and Father Ivan Csete, a retired Hungarian priest, of St. Stephen Parish in New York City.
In opening their hearts in response to the humanitarian crises caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the faithful in parishes of the Diocese have generously contributed $314,000 as of last month to the diocesan Collection for Ukraine Relief. These funds have been divided between Ukrainian relief efforts by Caritas Internationalis and the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, said Jolanta Londene, controller in the diocesan Finance Office.
Altar servers in the Diocese are invited to Altar Servers Day at the Evangelization Center at St. Paul Inside the Walls in Madison on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., which will end with a Mass and Eucharistic procession led by Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney. This event is designed help young people grow in their appreciation of the Eucharist and of their role at Mass and help them start to think about their vocation, during a day that mixes faith, food, and fun.
“Jesus calls us by name; he looks us in the eye and he asks: Can I count on you?” Pope Francis said in a homily addressed to the College of Cardinals and its new members on Aug. 27. “The Lord,” he said, “wants to bestow on us his own apostolic courage, his zeal for the salvation of every human being, without exception. He wants to share with us his magnanimity, his boundless and unconditional love, for his heart is afire with the mercy of the Father.”
As the new school year begins, there is no doubt that there is nationwide movement among parents to be more directly involved in their children’s education and to what is being taught to their children in schools. However, pushing back against parents are teachers unions, like the New Jersey chapter of the National Education Association (NJEA), which recently released a video on You Tube in which parents concerned about curriculum materials in classrooms are labeled as “extremists.”
In the years that I served as pastor of a parish, one of the responsibilities that I came to appreciate and prioritize more and more each year was the call to collaborate with parents in the religious education of their children. There was a section from the Catechism that I would often share at parent meetings: