Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Diary of Catholic Charities USA O'Grady Institutem Freiburg and Rome

I am reporting today from Freiburg Germany, the site of the University of Freiburg that has offered master level degrees in management and theology for Caritas personnel for almost one hundred years. It is also the home of Caritas Germany. I am on this trip under the guidance of Father Larry Snyder, President of CCUSA, and Kathy Brown of CCUSA/Director of Mission, with 6 other diocesan directors. We begin our class in theology and Catholic identity tomorrow. This is the initial group starting the Catholic Charities USA O’Grady Institute.

Today we celebrated Liturgy in the Munster of Freiburg -- the cathedral -- which celebrated its dedication day today. We had the Auxiliary Bishop who is the Vicar of Caritas Freiburg who presided at the celebration. He noted in his homily that this cathedral, built in 1330 and dedicated in 1513, is a living building not a museum. In fact birds flew in the high romanesque and gothic style vaults while several bats flew through the crowd during Mass. It was definitely alive with 5 boys choirs and a girls choir singing the high Mass.

Two features were noted by our host Father Klaus Baumann who heads the department of Caritaswissenschaft at the university.

First, this cathedral is the first to have a stained glass in its building depicting the seven corporal works of mercy. I took some photos of the glass...hope they come out. It is a beautiful stained glass over the North transept of the main altar. It is a spectacular piece of art. This city had always been known for its charitable works, and was the founding city of Caritas Germany and a leader in developing the future Caritas Internationalis.

Second, now posted on my facebook page, is the main entrance. Above the main entrance, in stone relief, is a depiction of the Last Judgment found in Mathew 25. The reason that the Last Judgment is there is to remind people as they leave Mass and the Church building that they are to continue the work of building the body of Christ by serving those in need around us. Father Klaus told us that in the 1400-1700s there was a hospice for the poor directly across the street from the main entrance to the Cathedral, reminding everyone to serve those in most need.

Now, why the O’Grady Institute? Msgr. John O’Grady was the second president of CCUSA from 1920 to 1961. He was one of the founding members of Caritas Internationalis in 1952 and visited Freiburg on numerous occasions to help with post war reconstruction. Oh yes, the City was completely destroyed in late 1944 except for the Cathedral. The pictures of the devastation and destruction from the war were unreal...the cathdral stood all alone -- intact.


Greetings from Freiburg still.

Yesterday we spent four hours in a class on the scriptural foundations and social scientific arguments about social service-charity led by Fr. Dr. Klaus Baumann, the director of the Caritas Wissenschaft (or charity science) department of the University of Freiburg. We spent the majority of the time analyzing in detail the story of the Good Samaritan.

Klaus provided also a historical analysis of the development of this school for caritas is a master level program in Church agency administration and theology with much inter disciplinary work between various university departments, led by Theology.

After those talks, and lunch, we went to St Peter in the Black Forest, a former Benedictine Monastery, currently used by the archdiocese of Freiburg as a center for spirituality...this monastery was built in has one of the oldest libraries-scriptoriums in Europe. We saw some amazing illuminated manuscripts from the 10th century, books of maps without any mention of the Americas much to the delight of the director of the monastery as we were Americans....Fr Arno Zahlauer was very hospitable and greatly welcoming but did enjoy showing us many ancient maps in their collection without note of the Americas existing....but he wants to visit us. He circulated one of the first bibles printed in German that exists from the first printing press, and he passed around for all of us to touch and look at the first original print of St Thomas More's UTOPIA. Cool...

Fr Arno Zahlauer took us all around the monastery and explained the symbolism of the structure of the building, its layout, its art work -- it all revolved around the mystical reflection of time, space and eternity. Clocks were everywhere as we walked the halls of the vast monastery -- several famous monks here were mathematicians...this is the home of the design of the black forest clocks…or cuckoo clocks....they were everywhere....but since we are in time, and space, the building led us to reflect through its arrangements and art, that we are spatial creatures, finite in this time, all aiming to eternity, but we do touch eternity through our celebration of Eucharist and knowing God, so the Church is that space between eternity and time.

Today we had a 2 hour meeting with Msgr. Georg Hüssler, the former General Secretary of Caritas Germany and president of Caritas Internationalis in Rome. He knew Msgr. John O’Grady personally who visited him here in Freiburg on occasion. Msgr. Hüssler told us many stories about Msgr. O’Grady, the origins of Caritas Internationalis in 1952, and current politics of Church and State. He told us specifically that he remembers how O’Grady provided much leadership in the international level, and that the US Catholic Charities (started in 1910…Germany started in 1897 and Switzerland in 1903) provided much technical know how to European Caritas agencies.

Fr. Larry then discussed in detail the Cadre Study and Vision 2000 which captured the attention of the leaders from Caritas Germany since they only had heard about these documents...We were asked to leave our English copies of our documents there for them to reflect on and use. It was an interesting historical review driven day.

Now we are off to Colmar France to visit a medieval church-monastery which houses one of the world's largest and oldest collections of altar my facebook for photos......

Greetings from Freiburg. Today we met for 3 and half hours with Dr. Ursula Nothelle-Wildfeuer, the Professor of Christian Ethics of the University of Freiburg who is connected with Dr. Klaus Baumann at the Caritas Wissenschaft. Ursula presented an in depth systematic and moral theological reflection on the basis of Catholic social doctrine: Christian anthropology, the Incarnation and Resurrection, and the Eschaton. We focused on the principles of dignity, subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good.

After time with Ursula, we meet with some senior leaders of Caritas Germany at their national headquarters. Caritas Germany is equal to the combination of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Health Association. They work in 28 Dioceses in Germany for social welfare and in over 100 foreign countries in long term disaster related development and response. They run many hospitals and nursing homes. Caritas Germany has over 500,000 employees and 500,000 volunteers world wide.

The President of Caritas Germany, Monsignor Peter Neher, provided warm hospitality in their 8 story national headquarters in Freiburg and provided a detailed review of their programs and funding. They get 96% of their funding from the federal German government.

We discussed differences between CCUSA and Caritas Germany, and focused on the common thread of Catholic identity and mission. It was an excellent conversation.

After several hours there, we traveled to Lake Titisie for dinner and some evaluation time. This Black Forest resort area was beautiful and breath taking.

Tomorrow we head to Strasbourg for a tour of this ancient city known for many international diplomatic encounters and a view of the European Union operations in that city.

Hope all is well at my prayers, please keep me in yours...peace, brian

Greetings from Rome. Sorry for the brevity but relying on my blackberry for this update since internet connection at the religious house we are staying at located in Vatican City is limited.

On Sunday we celebrated Mass in the Clementine Chapel located next to the bones of St Peter. We went to the noon Angelus and then solemn vespers in the chapel of the Chair of Peter located below that wonderful picture made of alabaster of the Holy Spirit. At Mass we remembered all of our fathers and, in a special way, those who asked to be remembered from the CCUSA website.

On Monday we met with Leslie Anne Knight the general secretary of Caritas Internationalis. She gave a great presentation on role of NGOs in global poverty reduction. We also had a great presentation on human trafficking especially related to domestic workers.

The Bishops of Sudan were meeting at Caritas also.

We then toured the sites of ancient Rome. We saw the Mamortine prison, the site of Peter and Paul’s imprisonment and the church dedicated to St. Mark the evangelist who wrote the gospel while in Rome. Then we had a private tour of the Vatican museum. Today we visit the major basilicas and Christian sites of Rome.

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