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Safe Lodging in His Father's House

By Father Douglas Clark, STL (retired pastor at St. Matthew Church, Statesboro)

One afternoon in the hot summer of 1976, just after my ordination to the priesthood for the Diocese of Savannah, the front doorbell rang at the old Blessed Sacrament rectory on Victory Drive, Savannah. The front door was sort of a ceremonial entrance, right on that busy street, so most visitors parked in the lot and rang the back doorbell.

I answered the doorbell to find a tall, friendly Irishman, from County Cork, who introduced himself to me as Jerry McCarthy, a seminarian for our diocese since 1971. He explained that he had taken a job as a doorman in New York City to earn a little money and to begin to know the United States. He quickly called Savannah home. From that July day, 44 years ago, until August 26, 2020, Jerry McCarthy and I were friends, associates, collaborators and, after his own ordination two years later, brother priests, serving together in that portion of the Lord’s vineyard known as the Diocese of Savannah.

Father McCarthy’s first assignment as a priest was as assistant pastor (now called “parochial vicar”) of Saint Teresa Parish, Albany, where he joined Father Herbert J. Wellmeier, pastor, and yours truly, associate pastor (now also called “parochial vicar”), in ministering to a vibrant parish with a thriving school, in what was then Georgia’s “Good Life City.” As the two young associates, we discovered that we had much more in common than our youth. We were both musical (he was very adept at the accordion and I “played a mean bass”), well educated (he had studied economics and I history before seminary), and convivial.

In Albany, as later in the Savannah area, we socialized with many of the same Catholic families and individuals. Most of all, we enjoyed each other’s company and could engage in serious discussions, cry on one another’s shoulders, and laugh at each other’s jokes. He even used his experience with tractors on his family’s Irish farm to diagnose, correctly, what was wrong with my lemon of an American car—the hoses were connected backwards.

In 1980, I was sent back to Rome for further theological studies. In 1981, Jerry was sent to study canon law in Washington. He spent a summer with me at Sacred Heart Parish, Savannah, in 1982–82, again sharing many friends, and often got together when he was in Savannah at the Tribunal and then at Our Lady of Lourdes, Port Wentworth, and I was at Saint Anne, Richmond Hill. When Hurricane Hugo threatened to hit Savannah on September 21, 1989, my 40th birthday, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard called Jerry and me, who were serving in low-lying areas under evacuation orders, and invited us to take refuge with him at the Cathedral rectory. When it became apparent that the storm would not hit Savannah, Father Bill Simmons, the rector, fired up the grill in the courtyard and served a lovely steak dinner for us all.

From 1993 until 1996, I served in Columbus as Campus Minister of Pacelli High School, and parochial vicar at Saint Anne’s with Fathers J. Kevin Boland and J. Gerard Schreck. In 1995, Father Boland was appointed Bishop of Savannah. A year later he transferred Father McCarthy to Blessed Sacrament Parish, Savannah, as Pastor, and me to the Southern Cross, as editor, with residence at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Jerry immediately “rang me up” and invited me join him for dinner at what became my favorite restaurant in Savannah. Over the years, we shared many confidences, and continued our convivial gathers, often at the kind invitation of Monsignor John A. Kenneally.

In 2010, Bishop Boland assigned me to Our Lady of Lourdes, Port Wentworth, where I was the beneficiary of the renovations that Jerry carried out in the rectory, where he put his considerable carpentry and engineering skills to use. I especially enjoyed what I called the lounge chair in the living room.

In 2013, Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer appointed Father McCarthy Pastor of St. Anne Church, Columbus and me Pastor of Saint Matthew Church Statesboro. Just a year later, during a small meeting of priests in Macon, he stunned all of us with the announcement that he had received a “death sentence” from his doctors. Like his late mother, he had been diagnosed with Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, which meant that his lungs were calcifying, cementing up from the bottom. There is no cure for IPF. At that time, he thought he might live another two or three years. Cautiously optimistic, Father McCarthy applied for a lung transplant through Duke University and was accepted as a candidate despite his age, but the required CT scan discovered lung cancer as well. At this juncture, he retired from the active ministry in 2018, having served our diocese for 40 years.

He then endured the prescribed chemotherapy, losing all his hair. I thanked him for emulating my baldness. At a meeting a month ago, I praised his mane of regrown hair, but couldn’t promise to emulate it. It was the last time I saw Jerry McCarthy alive.

On Thursday, August 27, Father Jerry McCarthy died peacefully in the retirement house which he had renovated by hand over the years. When I heard the unwelcome, but not-unexpected news of his passing, I recalled the wonderful prayer of Saint John Henry Newman:

May he support us all the day long,
Till the shadows lengthen
And the evening comes
And the busy world is hushed
And the fever of life is over
And our work is done—
Then in his mercy—
May he give us a safe lodging
And a holy rest

And peace at the last.

For my friend of 44 years, Father Jeremiah J. McCarthy, the evening has come, the fever of this life is over and his work is done. With confidence, I pray that in his mercy, God will give Father Jerry safe lodging in the Father’s house, a holy rest and peace at the last.

All hands on deck

By Jason Holcombe

Magan and Noah conducted a deck-over last fall, pressure washing and painting our back deck. It looked beautiful, but lost its luster not long after the regular pitter-patter or, as is typically the case, clod hopping, by the revolving door of storytelling and tattle-telling at our French doors.

As a social experiment, I sat beside the back deck to pen this very column about said subject, and the kids have been up to the deck 10 times. Make that 11. Jesse had breaking news he had to share: two of our chickens ate from his hand for the first time. Now 12. He came back in to give me instructions on how to get the chickens to eat from my hands. I’ll take his word for it.

On a good day, most of the visits melt Magan’s heart. Eli will randomly run up to say, “I love you, Mommy,” as he did just a few minutes ago. Or, Simon will pop up to the window with our kitten (like he did 20 minutes ago) and speak for it oddly in a Count Dracula voice?

Most days aren’t like today, though, with the pounding of the play shoes or bare feet on the deck sounding more like the beats of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.

In a worst-case scenario, the trips unintentionally wake Lydia or other little ones from their naps.

He once came bursting in to tell Magan that AnnaMarie had spilled her popsicle on the driveway as though it were someone else’s blood.

Magan finally had to resort to locking the door to the deck, but, ever resourceful as they are, the kids just found their way into the front yard and entered through the garage.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been conducting another social experiment that will hopefully extend the life of our deck and Magan’s sanity.

Any time a child comes to tattle, I’ll ask, “Are you hurt? Is someone else hurt? Is someone about to hurt themselves or someone else?”

If the answer is “No,” then I tell them to go figure it out amongst themselves.

Jesse came running up to me the other day, and, by utilizing a well-honed dad stare, I compelled him to recite the questions, answer them, and turn around. I felt like The Mentalist.

Magan and I aren’t trying to discourage the kids from communicating concerns. What we’re hoping to do is to teach them to recognize what is and what isn’t worth reporting, and to also find ways to resolve issues among themselves.

Jesus taught a similar lesson in the Book of Matthew that begins by saying that “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother” (Matthew 18:15-20).

The verses continue, giving specific examples and instructions about conflict resolution that ultimately teaches us that tattling actually points to the tattler’s own shortcomings rather than any misbehaver’s misconduct.

Our deck will receive some scheduled maintenance in the way of more paint in a few weeks to keep it ready to welcome travelers from far off lands like the creek, the driveway or the trampoline. Hopefully, their tales will be of fantastic adventures with chickens and cats, and not of Eli spilling Jesse’s bubbles (Trip 4 from this morning). Maybe we should consider a screened-in porch instead.

New Beginnings

By Rachel Balducci

Henry and Isabel started school last week. Thank you, Jesus!

Ever since Isabel started preschool, I’ve taken a picture on the first day of school with all our kids lined up in front of the staircase. The very first year we did this, all five of our boys were looking sharp in their school uniform white shirt and khaki pants. Henry had on shorts, part of the elementary uniform while middle schoolers Augie and Charlie stood next to high schoolers Elliott and Ethan. Elliott was to the right of Ethan since he shot up like a weed at the end of middle school. All my little duckies in a row, nice and neat and sharp.

Isabel was first in line, to the left of her brothers. In the picture, she sports a cute little green skort because she did not yet wear a uniform. It is all precious and a sight to behold my entire world, and focus right there in a neat little line.

As the years have passed, the number in the line-up has dwindled. When Ethan graduated high school and went off to college, we had our first year with just five in the picture. And that number has quickly changed since we’ve had four high school graduates in the last five years—the number varies on such a regular basis.

We saw so many changes in just a short amount of time.

The picture I took this year was just Henry and Isabel standing in front of the stairs. No more tiny siblings were standing next to the older, lumbering ones. Isabel is in fifth grade, and Henry is in seventh. For the first time in almost ten years, there is not a Balducci boy in our high school.

I took the picture, and Isabel asked if she could text it to dad and to the four big brothers, all in college now. Instead of sending it to our family group text, she sent it individually, and I got individual responses back from each of the boys. “Makes me sad,” said one of them. Another sent a crying emoji. One brother loved the picture.

How did I feel about it? I wondered, especially after seeing the range of emotions from my sons. We are down to two at home, two whose lives we fully keep track of. It’s strange and more relaxing and different.

It’s wonderful.

There’s a way I could well up with emotion and feel sad and lament the passage of time. I suppose I could focus on those years that all my babies were together under my roof, all going to the same school, on the same sports teams, and riding everywhere with me in my giant twelve-passenger van.

Those were wonderful years, of course! And even though life is much easier now, I really did love washing all those uniforms and making all those lunches (I loved it even when I didn’t!).

When I was a younger mama and so aware of the gift of this full house (even when I wasn’t!), I sometimes feared the future. I could not imagine these babies of mine growing up and graduating high school and moving away. Would they really leave me? How could this be?

And then it started to happen. And I survived.

And better than that, it has been pretty awesome. Of course, there are hiccups and challenging moments, growing pains, and moments of loneliness. I do miss my boys when they are away! I love these children of mine.

But! But, what is so extraordinary is how your world expands as your children get older. I love that instead of one small bubble that we all exist within, there is now a much more giant orb where we circulate. We have more interests and experiences and activities. The world seems more significant, with even more adventures to enjoy!

What was once so scary to me has now become a great joy. New seasons bring a lot of unknown. When I remember to trust in the Lord and his great love for me and my husband and each of our children, I can find peace and assurance that God is there with us as we go about our way.

Augusta, schools

Cradle of Catholicism in Georgia

By Father Pablo Migone, Chanecellor of the Diocese of Savannah

While I was a seminarian in 2004, my pastor at Saint Mary on the Hill in Augusta, Father Jerry Ragan, gave me a unique task during my summer assignment.  He asked me to do the necessary research and paperwork to place a historical marker at the parish to commemorate the Sisters of Saint Joseph who, for many years, staffed the Catholic school.  A few years prior, the parish had purchased the old convent and renovated it into an Adoration Chapel and other space for both parish and school use.  My first step was to contact Sister Laura Ann Grady, CSJ, one of the few Sisters of Saint Joseph, still residing in Augusta.  During our first meeting, she introduced me to the fascinating story of the first Catholics who settled in the state of Georgia in 1790 in an area called Locust Grove.

As I worked on the application for the Georgia Historical Society, I decided to visit this site where English Catholics from Maryland found fertile land and founded the first Catholic presence in the state of Georgia.  It was a hot summer day.  I arrived in the town of Sharon and found the Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (I remembered attending Mass at this somewhat dilapidated country church as a child when my family lived in Washington, Georgia.  Though we regularly attended Mass at Saint Joseph in Washington, Father Ryan celebrated a Saturday vigil Mass in Sharon.)  I drove in every direction of the 4-way stop of Sharon. I did not find the old cemetery, so I stopped at a convenience store on the corner in the single intersection in town. The door was wide open, and an elderly man sat motionless on a reclining chair.  The temperature decreased a few degrees by stepping inside. Yet, it remained hot enough that all the candy bars for sale were kept in a small refrigerator.  The man explained where to find this old Catholic cemetery.  “When you get to the dirt road, keep going.  It’ll be on your right.”

Last week I had the opportunity to return to Locust Grove for the fourth time.  This time the cemetery was well maintained, and the gravestones were clean.  A beautiful stone wall enclosed the area.  In the same way that Bishop England of Charleston visited the faithful in this remote Georgia settlement, Bishop emeritus J. Kevin Boland and Bishop-elect Parkes both walked among the graves of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.  The Purification Heritage Center led by Mrs. Betsy Orr has performed a considerable amount of work to restore the area and ensure that its story is told.  Catholics arrived at Locust Grove a few years before any arrived at the city of Savannah or any other place in the state.  This is the birthplace of the Diocese of Savannah.  The Church of the Purification is one of the original three parishes In Georgia, including Saint John the Baptist in Savannah and Saint Patrick (Most Holy Trinity) in Augusta.

In 2005, Bishop Boland dedicated a historical marker outside the old convent at Saint Mary on the Hill School.  These first Catholic settlers, along with the priests and Sisters of Saint Joseph that served them, endured considerable hardships, yet the faith persevered.  As Georgia Catholics, this heritage belongs to each one of us. In the practice of our faith, we join our ancestors in faith by professing the same one faith in Jesus Christ.

 En Espanol (below):

Cuna del Catolicismo en Georgia

Cuando era un seminarista en 2004, mi párroco en Saint Mary on the Hill en Augusta, el Padre Jerry Ragan, me dio una tarea peculiar durante mi asignación de verano. Me pidió que hiciera las investigaciones y los trámites necesarios para colocar un marcador histórico en la parroquia para conmemorar a las Hermanas de San José que durante muchos años trabajaron en la escuela católica. Unos años antes, la parroquia había adquirido el convento antiguo y lo había convertido en una Capilla de Adoración y otros espacios para uso parroquial. Mi primer paso fue contactar a la Hermana Laura Ann Grady, CSJ, una de las pocas Hermanas de San José que aún residían en Augusta. Durante nuestro primer encuentro ella me presentó a la fascinante historia de los primeros católicos que se establecieron en el estado de Georgia en 1790 en un área llamada Locust Grove.

Mientras completaba la solicitud para la Sociedad Histórica de Georgia decidí visitar este lugar donde católicos ingleses de Maryland encontraron tierras fértiles y fundaron la primera presencia católica en el estado de Georgia. Era un día de verano extremadamente caliente. Llegué al pueblo de Sharon y encontré la Iglesia de la Purificación de la Santísima Virgen María. Recordaba haber asistido a Misa en esa iglesia rural algo decaída cuando era un niño y mi familia vivía en Washington, Georgia. Aunque asistíamos regularmente a Saint Joseph en Washington, el Padre Ryan celebraba una Misa de vigilia los sábados en Sharon. Conduje en todas las direcciones desde la intersección principal de Sharon y no encontré el cementerio antiguo, así que me detuve en una pequeña tienda ubicada en la misma intersección. La puerta estaba abierta y un señor mayor estaba sentado inmóvil en una silla reclinable. La temperatura bajó unos pocos grados al ingresar al establecimiento, pero aún estaba lo suficientemente caliente que las barras de chocolate en venta estaban guardadas en un refrigerador pequeño. El anciano me explicó dónde encontrar el cementerio católico. “Cuando llegues al camino de tierra, continúa. Estará a tu derecha”.

La semana pasada tuve la oportunidad de retornar a Locust Grove por cuarta vez. Esta vez el cementerio estaba bien mantenido y las lápidas estaban limpias. Un hermoso muro de piedra rodeaba la zona. De la misma manera que Monseñor England, Obispo de Charleston, visitó a los fieles en este remoto asentamiento en Georgia, el Obispo Emérito J. Kevin Boland y el Obispo Electo Parkes de Savannah caminaron entre las tumbas de los que nos han precedido marcados con el signo de la fe. El Purification Heritage Center dirigido por la Sra. Betsy Orr ha realizado un considerable trabajo para restaurar el área y asegurarse de que se recuente su historia. Los católicos llegaron a Locust Grove unos años antes de que llegaran a la ciudad de Savannah o cualquier otro lugar de Georgia. Aquí nació la Diócesis de Savannah. La Iglesia de la Purificación es una de las tres parroquias originales de Georgia, entre ellas Saint John the Baptist en Savannah y Saint Patrick (Most Holy Trinity) en Augusta.

En 2005, Monseñor Boland dedicó un marcador histórico junto al antiguo convento de la escuela de Saint Mary on the Hill. Estos primeros agricultores católicos, junto con los sacerdotes y las Hermanas de San José que les servían, sufrieron dificultades considerables, pero la fe perseveró. Como católicos de Georgia, esta herencia nos pertenece a cada uno de nosotros, y en la práctica de nuestra fe, nos unimos a nuestros antepasados ​​en la fe al profesar la misma fe en Cristo Jesus.

 

Light from Light

By Monsignor Fred J. Nijem (retired pastor emeritus, Sacred Heart Church, Warner Robins)

Many folks find topics about religion out of touch, if not irrelevant. They feel that issues, such as how the Pope is elected, or even the distinction between mortal and venial sin, esoteric and have no bearing on real life.  And so, I dare to add fuel to the fire by consideration of a heresy that seems far away and long ago.  Consider the heresy of Arianism. 

 A little history:  The doctrine of Arianism began around the year 318 AD.  A priest named Arius began teaching that Jesus Christ is not (equal to) God.  Arius taught that the Son is not eternal but was created out of nothing.  He further taught that Jesus, the Son, is different in nature from God the Father.

 As I say, this teaching seems far away and long ago.  But it has a very serious bearing on what we profess and proclaim every week in the Nicene Creed at Mass and in our lives. What the story of Jesus means in our life only has ultimate impact because we believe the articles we profess in the Creed.  And there is one article in particular that has the Arian heresy in mind: “Jesus is light from light, true God from true God, consubstantial with the Father”. 

 The novel (and subsequent movie), The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown, caused quite a stir.  In that novel, Brown would have us believe that Emperor Constantine, 313 AD, invented Jesus’ divinity.  Brown then asserts that the emperor imposed that doctrine on the Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  But Mr. Brown’s reading of history is skewed by his religious bias, namely, Arianism.  It is this ancient heresy that the characters in Dan Brown’s novel ramble on about.  At its heart, the novel is an Arian manifesto.  This heresy, then, is not so long and far away.

It is true that Arianism was widespread in the 4th century.  St. Jerome, a Doctor of the Church, wrote that the Church went to sleep and woke up one morning to find it was Arian.  But Christians of the fourth century knew that Arius’ teaching was a dangerous one.  And we, seventeen centuries later, should also understand what is at stake.

If Christ is not God, one in being with the Father, then the Gospel story is no longer compelling.  If Arius is right, then God did not so love humanity so as to enter the world himself and rescue it.  If Christ is not God, then we are not redeemed at the price of God’s self-sacrifice, and the Eucharist is not God’s abiding presence.

Contrary to the Da Vinci Code, Arius’ teaching was a radical departure from the Christian tradition.  Jesus’ divinity is proclaimed by scripture and the early Church fathers several centuries before Emperor Constantine.  There was not a relatively close vote at the Council of Nicea.  Of the 318 bishops in attendance, when the Arian Creed was proposed, the whole Council rose in protest against it and tore up the document.  Only two Arian bishops had the nerve to dissent from the teaching that Jesus is one in substance (Gk. “Homoousion”) with the Father.

It took another five decades of resisting military and political pressure before the Nicene Creed was again affirmed by the Church at the Council of Constantinople, (385 AD).  At that same Council, the divinity of the Holy Spirit was also affirmed.  Thus, two councils affirmed what is our Catholic belief today:  God is a blessed Trinity, Three persons, in one God.

I can appreciate Arius’ problem.  How can a human being be both divine and human?  It took one more Council, Chalcedon, 451 AD, to address this issue.  The Council wrote:  “Jesus Christ is a single Person in two natures, which exist in this one Person without confusion, without change, without division or separation”.  The Council does not to try and explain the mystery, but only tries to articulate it.

It reminds one of the story St. Augustine tells.  He was pondering the mystery of the Trinity while walking at the seashore.  He saw a young lad digging a hole in the sand and putting water from the sea into the hole.  When Augustine asked the boy what he was doing, he replied, I am trying to put all the water of the sea into this hole.  When Augustine told the lad that was impossible, the child said, no more impossible than you trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity.  Whereupon, the boy vanished.  

There are many stories about what life means and many heroes and heroines who embody that meaning.  But when all is said and done, the story of Jesus is the one story that is worth hearing and worth living.  The well-known piece, One Solitary Life, by Dr. James Francis, puts it this way (in part):   “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village.  He never wrote a book, He never owned a home, he never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born.  He had no credentials but himself.  He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.  He was laid in a borrowed grave.  Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today he is the center of the human race.  I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies… navies…parliaments…and kings…put together have not affected the life of man as powerfully as has this one solitary life.”

This solitary life was God from God and light from light, true God from true God, one in being with the Father.

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