Seeking peace in a world of violence

– July 20, 2014  Juneau Empire column, ‘A Bishops’ Perspective’

From time to time, I notice the sound of the Alaska or Delta jetliners that fly overhead on their departure or arrival at our airport. But since Thursday, every time a plane flies overhead I can’t help thinking about the passengers on that Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down over eastern Ukraine days ago.

This last Thursday morning, I had just checked the breaking news on my computer. A few moments later, I checked again and there was the terrible news. In the space of just a few moments, almost three hundred people had lost their lives.

Our days seem to be so defined by news of wars and natural disasters, of conflict and terrorism, that a tragedy such as the deaths of the unfortunate passengers on that airliner will soon be eclipsed by future events just as shocking and terrible — or worse.

We cannot overlook the latest episode of violence from the Holy Land, where for the past two weeks Hamas fighters in Gaza have been indiscriminately targeting nearby Israeli towns and cities with hundreds of missile strikes daily. In retaliation, Israeli fighter bombers and artillery have attacked over 1,600 targets in Gaza, leaving 230 Palestinians dead. The latest news is that Israel has launched a ground invasion into Gaza, a tiny enclave of only a 139 square miles inhabited by 1.82 million Palestinian refugees, which will inevitably result in even more death and destruction.

Mrs. Vicki Runnels named new Holy Name School principal

Vicki Runnels

Vicki Runnels

Holy Name parish in Ketchikan is pleased to announce that Mrs. Vicki Runnels will be joining the Holy Name community as the new Holy Name school principal. Mrs. Runnels, a Catholic, brings to Holy Name many years of experience in Catholic education, and an energy and passion for educating youth.

Mrs. Runnels served as an elementary school teacher for over fourteen years, and as a director of religious education for three years. Mrs. Runnels worked closely with teachers and school leaders to design engaging units of study focused on fostering student critical thinking, collaboration, and inquiry. She also served as the coordinator of after school enrichment programs for grades three through six. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

As a former classroom teacher, Mrs. Runnels has a deep appreciation for students’ cognitive and social-emotional development and is eager to support our teachers as they collaborate with each other to prepare all Holy Name students for their future endeavors. Additionally, having endured the hardships of a devastated community after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mrs. Runnels knows the importance of making the best use of limited resources, as well as appreciating the creativity and ingenuity that often accompanies a unique demographic, such as our own.

Sixty is the new Sixty

By Deacon Charles Rohrbacher


St. Francis of Assisi at Prayer, by El Greco.

For a number of years I have been puzzled by the increasing popularity of the new idiom, “bucket list.” I would overhear people refer to their “bucket list” and wonder what they were talking about, especially since I had a difficult time understanding what finally getting around to reading Proust or traveling to New Zealand had to do with a bucket. Fortunately, a kind person more in touch with the zeitgeist than myself, gently explained that this was a short-hand way of referring to the various things a person hopes to do or experience before “kicking the bucket.”

Which helped me to grasp the appeal of the genre of books which end with “Before You Die” in the title (e.g. “100 Places to Visit Before You Die,” etc.) Given that our capitalist consumer culture exalts acquisition and consumption as our purpose in life, there is a certain demented reasonableness to the idea that we should do everything possible to fill up our remaining years and days with more stuff and more experiences.

Not, of course, that I’m in any way exempt from the cultural undertow of life as consumption. As I celebrate my sixtieth birthday this year, I have to resist understanding the happiness of my life and of my future in terms of what I have consumed and what I may fail to consume. It is difficult to resist the relentless logic of consumption, which recognizing that mortality is inevitable, admonishes us all to “grab all the gusto we can.” Or at least finish “Remembrance of Things Past” before drawing our last breath at some distant day in our future.

Sr. Marie Lucek, OP, celebrates Jubilee


By Mary Stone

Sr Marie in front of Cathedral

Sr. Marie Lucek celebrates her Golden Jubilee on July 13, 2014 — 50 years in ministry as a Sinsinawa Dominican.

Sr. Marie Lucek celebrates her Jubilee anniversary this summer; fifty years have passed since she agreed to a ‘lifetime membership’ in the Congregation of the Sisinawa Dominicans, and a lifetime dedicated to ministry.

Women religious were the cornerstone of the Church in its early years in Southeast Alaska; many of our hospitals and schools were founded and staffed by women religious in the early 1900’s – the Sisters of St. Anne in Juneau and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Ketchikan. But today, with resources stretched and religious vocations decreasing, women living a professed religious life within the Diocese of Juneau have become a highly valued resource and a special gift to the community – as is Sister Marie Lucek, OP.

In July, the Diocese of Juneau and Catholic community celebrate with Sr. Marie and thank her for fifty years of commitment to religious life. Her ministry here in Southeast Alaska has been primarily based out of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau. Characterized by a combination of physical separation from her Sinsinawa Dominican sisters in the lower 48 states and a learned dependence on the support of Alaskan friends and community members, Sr. Marie describes her time serving the Catholics of Southeast Alaska as one of personal growth and many blessings. On July 13 she will celebrate with 12 of her Dominican sisters at the Sinsinawa Mother House in Wisconsin, where they will gather to remember those who have died, and share in a festive meal and a joyous celebration of the Eucharist at which they will renew their vows. Shortly thereafter, Sr. Marie will travel to Strasbourg, France to attend a spiritual retreat with other Dominicans from the USA and Ireland. Later in the summer she hopes to celebrate with the Diocese of Juneau Catholic community.

Post-Synodal Pastoral Letter to the Faithful of the Diocese

July 5, 2014 BurnsCoatofarms small

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, with this edition of the Southeast Alaska Catholic I am pleased to present to you my latest pastoral letter, “To Know, Love And Serve Jesus Christ Through His Body – The Church.” This pastoral letter is a result of the Diocesan Synod that took place November 21-24, 2013 at St. Paul the Apostle Church. As you may recall, representatives from around the Diocese gathered for this event and discussed a number of resolutions that came from individuals like yourself either through the mail, the parish staff or during one of the town hall meetings I conducted during the Year of Faith. The Synod was a tremendous moment filled with good discussions, sacred liturgies and a renewed commitment to the mission of the Catholic Church here in this diocese. All of this was done to help chart a course of direction for the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

The Diocesan Synod revealed that the Christian faithful of the Diocese of Juneau care deeply about alienated and inactive Catholics and desire to bring them back into the family of the Church. It also revealed that the New Evangelization, especially the missionary and catechetical dimensions, are essential to the renewal of the Church in Southeast Alaska. The New Evangelization is to be the foundational reference point for our commitment to the ministry of Christ and the Church. It calls us to embrace the mission that focuses on the conversion of souls to Christ through joyful fidelity to the Catholic faith with the same zeal illustrated by the early apostles. This will require an analysis of our ministerial efforts to determine what we need to do to be faithful to the call of the universal Church for a New Evangelization here in our local diocese. This commitment must be oriented toward fostering and promoting occasions to encounter or re-encounter Christ, and must be oriented toward receiving the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith in Christ ever more fully. In every aspect of pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Juneau, we must ask ourselves how to encourage and foster relationship with Christ and never assume that this task is finished, for any Christian, let alone those who do not yet know Christ.

Immigration reform urgently needed


A BISHOP’S PERSPECTIVE in the Juneau Empire, June 22, 2014

On the front page of Thursday’s New York Times was an article entitled “Border Centers Struggle to Handle Onslaught of Young Migrants”, which reported on the growing number of unaccompanied children and young people who have been apprehended crossing illegally into the United States from Mexico. The arrest and detention of so many children and young people has put great strains on the Border Patrol and other federal and state agencies responsible for protecting minors in detention from violence and exploitation, while providing them with shelter, food and sanitation.

Migrants disembark from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus in Arizona

Migrants disembark from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus in Arizona (CNS photo).

The article notes that since January, an estimated 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended on the Mexican border, mostly along the Rio Grande in Texas. Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that number will grow to 60,000 by the end of the year.

The children who have been coming north through Mexico to the United States are mostly from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. These countries, which are still struggling to overcome the devastating effects of the state violence and civil wars of the 1980’s, are now experiencing unprecedented levels of criminal violence and coercion by transnational drug cartels and gangs that exert increasing control over everyday life.

A growing number of impoverished families in Central America are being forced to make the otherwise unthinkable choice of sending their unaccompanied children north to the United States in the hope of protecting them from being recruited into the criminal underworld of trans-national drug trafficking and gang violence. These unaccompanied children are crossing our borders in the hope of somehow finding refuge and safety in the United States despite the risk of being kidnapped, raped, robbed and murdered at every stage of their journey. All of this demonstrates how desperate the situation is in their home countries.