Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9/11: Reflections and remembrances

Firefighters from Engine Co. 205 and Ladder Co.
118 listen as names of their fallen comrades are
read in at a New York memorial service marking
the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
(Credit: CNS Photo/Bob Roller)
This week, we begin a 13-part series leading to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, "9/11: Reflections and Remembrances," presented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USCCB has gathered some reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy.

One firefighter spared twice that day

By Kenneth J. Zaveckas

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a New York City chief fire officer on duty at the 35th battalion in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Although assigned to Manhattan, I was "on loan" to Brooklyn for two weeks.

This probably saved my life, as a majority of the men I would have been working with that day lost their lives. Even in Brooklyn I would eventually come to feel that there had to be some divine guidance for me that day. That Brooklyn unit should have been one of the first units to respond over to Manhattan, yet we remained in Brooklyn.

My inquiry to our dispatching headquarters verified that we were in the midst of a terrorist attack and that a third plane's destination had not yet been determined. The 35th battalion is in the middle of the largest Hasidic Jewish community outside of Jerusalem, and it was suspected that this community was the next intended target.

As we heard other Brooklyn units respond over the Williamsburg Bridge — and some to their deaths just a few blocks away — I was left with a lone ladder company and its six men for a portion of the day to protect the approximately 2.1 million citizens of Brooklyn. This was to be my second possible escape from death that day that cost the loss of 343 of my brothers, including a personal loss of 24 members that I knew very well.

Over the next three months, besides the normal 48 hour/week shifts of fire duty, I accumulated an additional 144 additional hours performing what was first designated the "rescue" effort. For those of us with the seniority and knowledge to know better, it wouldn't take long to realize that it would have to be a miracle to find anything alive in that mess.

Squeezed in between my usual 48 hours were 9-, 15-, and, in one case, 24-hour straight tours, where I had the honor of supervising some of the bravest men in the world as we clawed and dug our way through what by now was a "recovery" effort. Don't ask me what we had to walk through and handle or what we had to send home to mom and dad, or the wife. Don't ever ask me.

In 2006 "nodules" and other various particulate were found in my lungs. I became a "guinea pig" along with the approximately a thousand other members of the responders who were diagnosed with this condition. I was deemed unfit for fire duty and retired. I subsequently moved to Gettysburg and St. Francis Xavier Parish.

I still try to figure out what God was thinking and why I deserved to be spared twice that day.

Kenneth J. Zaveckas of Gettysburg, Pa., is a retired battalion chief from New York City. He was among the hundreds of firefighters and police to respond to the two plane crashes into the World Trade Center.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

9/11: Reflections and remembrances

Beverly and Tom Burnett, Sr. hold a
photograph of their son Tom Jr.
who died during the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks. Tom Jr. has three daughters
who are pictured behind Beverly
and Tom Sr. From left, Madison and
Halley, 15, and Anna Clare, 13.
(Credit: Jim Bovin/Catholic Spirit)
This week, we begin a 13-part series leading to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, "9/11: Reflections and Remembrances," presented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USCCB has gathered some reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy.

Choosing action in the face of evil

By Beverly Burnett
and Thomas E Burnett Sr.

Ten years ago we suffered the most devastating loss imaginable — the death of our son, Tommy. It is still impossible to describe our grief. Tommy did not die in vain. While we would give anything to have him back, his final actions in life provide us with immeasurable hope and inspiration, a gift to a nation facing new and unprecedented challenges.

Tom was a hero on Flight 93. He and his fellow passengers were drafted unknowingly as the first citizen-soldiers in the war on terrorism. From the four telephone conversations Tom had with his wife Deena, he calmly assessed the life-or-death options they faced, developed a well-organized plan with his fellow passengers, and then acted.

Tom's last words were, "We're going to do something." And they did. Thanks to the extraordinary decisiveness, leadership and character he and his fellow passengers showed, thousands of lives were spared in Washington. Little more than one hour into the war, America won its first battle against terrorism.

Tom was a man of faith, integrity, wisdom, wit, compassions and courage.

He was born prematurely on May 29, 1963, at St. Mary's Hospital. He had to fight for his life in the beginning and he fought for his life on Sept. 11, 2001. Tom was baptized, made his first communion and was confirmed at St. Edward's Church, Bloomington, MN. He attended Mass regularly, prayed and believed in prayers by others. He had a close relationship with the sisters known as Poor Clares, who received a letter from him on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tom attended the Bloomington Schools, graduated with honors from Jefferson High School and played quarterback on the Jaguar football team. He was appointed to the Air Force Academy, graduated from the University of Minnesota, was president of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and earned an executive MBA from Pepperdine University.

Tom would have been a success at whatever he chose in life. He was bright, driven and competitive. He had a very strong sense of right and wrong and was solidly grounded in the strength of his own convictions. He provided sound leadership as chief operating officer and senior vice president with Thoratec Corporation. Tom was very proud of his company and its mission in the medical device industry.

Tom always said the best summers of his life were spent as a child near Brainerd, MN. He was an outdoorsman and enjoyed countless fishing and hunting rips with his father and a close family friend, Monsignor Joe.

Tom was an exceptional husband, father, son, brother and uncle. Even with a busy schedule and living on the west coast, he did whatever he could to minimize the distance. The frequent trips to Minnesota, phone calls and e-mails kept him close to his family in Minnesota .

Tom's keen wit and humor could lighten any situation. The impromptu impersonations of Bill Murray were a classic family favorite. Every Christmas, Tom would insist the family watch "It's a Wonderful Life."

In August 2001, Tom traveled to Minnesota. We were fortunate to have the time together as a family. That weekend, Tom truly touched each of us with his presence. He spent time at his farm with his father, dined with the entire family, cheered for his niece at a soccer game, attended church with his mother and shared a glass of wine, and sang and dance to a Neil Diamond program on cable. These recent memories live on in our hearts.

Tom was an avid reader, and family members could always expect his gifts would be books.

Tom passionately studied the lives of many great figures in history. One of his favorites was Winston Churchill. Tom appreciated his quote: "I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."

Tom had just read a biography of John Adams, who once said, "A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man."

We hope every American finds his or her own way to contribute to the war on terrorism — and to act with the courage Tom showed from this day forward. "We're going to do something."

On this 10th anniversary, let us all pledge to "do something," something hopeful, something kind, something bold, and something right.

Beverly Burnett and Thomas E Burnett Sr. are the parents of the late Thomas Burnett Jr.vone of the heroes of the on-plane revolt against the hijackers of Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, PA. The Burnetts are members of St. Dominic's Parish in Northfield, MN.

Monday, August 29, 2011

9/11: Reflections and remembrances

Flag flies at half-staff during 2008 memorial
dedication at the Pentagon on an
anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
(Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring)
This week, we begin a 13-part series leading to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, "9/11: Reflections and Remembrances," presented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. To mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USCCB has gathered some reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy.

A Muslim serves her country

By Shareda Hosein

The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, turned my life into a whirlwind of activities and intense soul searching to better understand how people of my faith could declare war on my country all in the name of my religion, Islam. As a Muslim and a military officer, my world changed for the worse because we were at war, and the enemy caused a distrust of the global Muslim community and scrutiny of American Muslims serving in the Armed Forces and in government agencies.

At this point in my military career, I had served over 20 years of active and reserve duty and was never ever so uncertain of my role in the military or in society.

Although, I was born a Muslim, my level of practice was limited until I became the youth leader within my Muslim community. During this time, I discovered my calling to become a chaplain as a way to serve my Muslim and military communities with the same career field rather than have two distinct career fields. Needless to say, my chaplaincy education began with great urgency because it was my second day at Hartford Seminary when 9/11 occurred. This was the first day that I felt any degree of fear since I came to the United States in 1972. I immediately knew the life I once had with all its freedoms was gone with uncertainty and unease as my new paradigm.

I was immediately confronted with the demands of becoming a representative for Muslims to help others better understand Islam and help explain why Muslims attacked America in the name of Islam. Despite the many Americans who reached out to help Muslims relay their panic and fear, the rhetoric of the media seemed to undo all this good will with their beating of the drums of war and unrest.

I lost hope in dreaming of a brighter future because of the sense of uncertainty of what could happen to Muslims. It was reported that many Muslims were taken to prison without anyone knowing where they were and not being afforded the right of counsel. I wondered if we all would be rounded up and placed into camps like the Japanese people and be treated as second-class citizens. Or would I have to leave the military because I couldn't be trusted? It was surreal living in the United States with the perceived negative media coverage against Muslims, the hostilities from fellow Americans and the flag waving to determine if we were patriotic Americans. A military colleague asked me why I wasn't waving a flag in my car and I responded, isn't it enough of a symbol for me to be wearing my military uniform in defense of my country?

I had the dual life experiences of being celebrated and despised depending upon which uniform I wore. When I wore my military uniform, people shook my hand and thanked me for my service to my country, and when I wore my Muslim garb with my head cover or hijab, people stared at me with comments like "go back to your country," which made me very sad and angry at the same time. At times, I wanted to whip out my military ID and say "please don't judge a book by its cover, because you don't know who is defending your freedoms." However, as a chaplain in training, I said nothing and walked away. My greatest lesson and gift came from the way people treated me, and I began loving people for the sake of God as the effects of shock and fear overtook our country. I realized the best thing I could do was to believe in myself, support people and continuously called upon God to help us restore the hope.

Along with God, four Muslim comedians called "The Axis of Evil," came to my rescue and gave me an extra degree of support to cope with the hopelessness and fear. Their humor helped me shake off the doom and gloom I felt and gave me permission to believe that all would be well again. I was able to laugh at the absurdity of what was happening around us and believe that this too shall pass. My personal experiences of being mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom also increase my compassion and appreciation of my fellow military personnel putting their lives in harm's way along with the pluralistic faiths communities of America taking a stand for Muslims. Living in a post 9/11 world, I again began to see the gifts and blessings that showered us rather than focus on the negative rhetoric and actions of others.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, as I reflect on the changes that have occurred in my life, I feel the resiliency of my faith as the biggest strength in helping build bridges of understanding with my fellow Americans. I have persevered with patience, loving kindness, non-judgment and taken a stand to live in a pluralistic America that has liberty and justice for all no matter what race, gender, religion or personal affiliation.

Shareda Hosein is a graduate of Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Conn., with a master's degree in Islamic studies and Christian/Muslim relations and a certificate in Islamic chaplaincy (equivalent to a master's in divinity). She is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has been mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, serving as a cultural adviser and a personnel officer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Looking ahead


By Father Perry D. Leiker

As we honor and celebrate our patron we recall his wonderful contributions to the church and his considerable influences.

Although coming from a very noble and wealthy family he chose the life of a monk. He lived in a cloister for more than 40 years. He founded 163 monasteries in different parts of Europe.

He was the first Cistercian monk to be placed on the church’s calendar of saints.

He was the confidant of popes and bishops and was instrumental in resolving a horrible historic moment when the Catholic Church had two men claiming to be pope.

He defended the church’s doctrines in an age when many heresies were springing up, and he eloquently preached and wrote of the deepest beliefs and mysteries of the church.

He was a profound reformer of monastic life and ultimately won over many, if not most, of his critics and those who initially disagreed with him; he reformed with charity and with clear purpose.

His writings were deeply appreciated and so significant as to "earn" him, by papal declaration, the title of doctor of the church. In the 63rd year of his life Bernard died, having had an enormous influence in the church, in society, in monastic life, and in the spirit and faith of countless men and women. Bernard was greatly blessed by God and shared those blessings abundantly throughout his life!

Nearly 1,000 years later in Glassell Park, he continues to bless!

Father Perry D. Leiker is parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Teach kids to protect themselves at home

We consider our homes to be safe places for our children. But being home alone, especially during the summer months, can pose risks for children.

Here are a few tips to teach kids that will help keep them safe when you are not with them at home:
  • Never answer the door if alone. 
  • Do not invite anyone in the house without the permission of a parent or babysitter.  
  • Don’t tell anyone on the phone that your parents are not home. Instead tell them that your parents can’t come to the phone, and take a message.
For more tips, visit For particular help, call Assistance Ministry at (213) 637-7650.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

World Youth Day 2011: Welcome ceremony address of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI smiles for a photographer after
answering reporters' questions during a news conference
aboard his flight to Madrid Aug. 18 for World Youth Day.

Given at International Airport of Madrid Barajas

Your Majesties,
Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished National, Autonomous Regional and Local Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Madrid and of all Spain,

I am grateful to Your Majesty for your presence together with the Queen, and for the kind and deferential words with which you welcomed me, reviving in me the unforgettable gestures of kindness which I received during my previous Apostolic Journeys to Spain, and most particularly during my recent Visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona. I greet very cordially those of you gathered here at Barajas and those of you following this event on radio and television. A very grateful greeting also goes to those who, with such commitment and dedication, from the ecclesiastical and civil spheres, have contributed with their efforts and work so that this World Youth Day in Madrid might unfold well and bring forth abundant fruits.

With all my heart I also wish to recognize the hospitality so many families, parishes, schools and other institutions which have welcomed young people from all over the world, firstly in various regions and cities of Spain, and now in the great cosmopolitan and welcoming city of Madrid.

I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid? While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith.

Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives. The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected. Here on this Day, they have a special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence. But they are not alone. Many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfill their entire lives. That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world.

Of course, there is no lack of difficulties. There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood. Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected. Moreover, many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain. There are others who need help either to avoid drugs or to recover from their use. There are even some who, because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries. They are harassed to give him up, depriving them of the signs of his presence in public life, not allowing even the mention of his holy name. But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.

In this regard, the young followers of Jesus must be aided to remain firm in the faith and to embrace the beautiful adventure of proclaiming it and witnessing to it openly with their lives. A witness that is courageous and full of love for their brothers and sisters, resolute and at the same time prudent, without hiding its Christian identity, living together with other legitimate choices in a spirit of respect while at the same time demanding due respect for one’s own choices.

Your Majesty, as I reiterate my thanks for the kind welcome which you gave to me, I in turn wish to express my esteem for and nearness to all the peoples of Spain, as well as my admiration for a country so rich in history and in culture through the vitality of its faith, which has borne fruit in so many saints over the centuries, in numerous men and women who, leaving their native land, brought the Gospel to every corner of the globe, and in people through all this land who act with rectitude, solidarity and goodness. It is a great treasure which should be cared for constructively, for the common good of today and in order to offer a bright horizon to future generations. Although there are currently some reasons for concern, the greatest one is the desire for the betterment of all Spaniards with that dynamism which characterizes them and to which their deep and very fruitful Christian roots have contributed so much down through the centuries.

From this place I send very cordial greetings to you all, dear friends of Spain and Madrid, and those of you from other lands. During these days I will be with you, thinking of all young people in the world, in particular those who are going through various kinds of trial. Entrusting this Meeting to the most holy Virgin Mary, and to the patron saints of this Day, I ask God always to bless and protect the sons and daughters of Spain. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Experiencing Spanish Mass

A woman and a small boy knell in prayer during Spanish
Mass. (CNS photograph/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island

From Busted Halo ...

This summer, we were lucky enough to spend a week in El Paso. Apart from the obvious great things that come with being in El Paso — La Lupe, La Lupe’s food, La Lupe’s hospitality, the descendants of La Lupe — one of the things I look forward to the most is going to Mass.

Whenever we are in El Paso we attend Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. When we lived in El Paso we were so loyal to this church that I actually thought it was the only church in all of El Paso until I was about 9.

... Continue reading: "Experiencing Spanish Mass"

Monday, August 15, 2011

From around the world, pilgrims arrive in Madrid, tired but excited

Stephanie Mascari, 24, of Milwaukee carries
the U.S. flag as she walks with other U.S. 
World Youth Day pilgrims for check-in in 
Madrid Aug. 15. (CNS/Paul Haring)
From Catholic News Service ...

MADRID (CNS) — Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across the globe descended on the Spanish capital Aug. 15 with an array of colorful T-shirts, bloodshot eyes and a unified spirit of excitement about World Youth Day.

On the eve of the festivities' official opening, pilgrims with their specially designed World Youth Day backpacks crowded the streets, Metro cars and cafes. Many were exhausted, having arrived only hours before.

... Continue reading: "From around the world, pilgrims arrive in Madrid, tired but excited"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Looking ahead

By Father Perry D. Leiker

Before you know it, it will already be Christmas! Is it me or is time moving faster than ever? It seems we just started summer and school already opens tomorrow at St. Bernard’s.

The good news is that we are ready for another year. We are all polished and manicured and looking forward to a new technology project. Are we excited? Completely! Even the parish staff and religious education and school staff and the priest were rewired and refitted for these technological advances. It is our hope that it will improve our communication and connection among all of the entities here at St. Bernard’s.

There is no doubt about it, there has been more change in the last 100 years than there has been in the 1,000 years before that. Technology has forever changed our way of living. We have even zoomed ahead of "Get Smart" shoe or watch phones to little Blue-ray devices that nestle up to our ears almost like a big ear-ring, and through it we can hear and talk and communicate with someone across the world.

We are in a different age. It is in this age that we need, more than ever, a truth and message and words and actions to live by – a Gospel way that can help us to navigate spiritually in a very materialistic and technologically complex world. We are reminded: "For what good is it if we were to gain the whole world and in the process loose are very selves." (One more reason for the beautiful gift of a Catholic education!)

Father Perry D. Leiker is parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Friday, August 12, 2011

World Youth Day 2011

Nine youth and two facilitators are in Madrid, Spain, 
this week for World Youth Day 2011. 
Please keep them in your prayers, 
as well as the millions of youth around the world 
who will be attending.
For those of us not going to World Day in Madrid, Spain, below are some usefeul links of interest.

Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival:

The pope will arrive at World Youth Day on Thurday, Aug. 18. He is scheduled to arrive at Madrid-Barajas International Airport at noon, Madrid time, 3 a.m. Los Angeles time. We will post the Address of the Holy Father on our blog when the address becomes available on the Vatican Web site.

The Vatican will offer live television coverage of the pope’s visit to Madrid via its Vatican Player.

The pope’s message to the youth of the world on the occasion of World Youth Day.

World Youth Day social media:

Follow World Youth Day on Facebook.

Follow World Youth Day on Flickr.

Follow World Youth Day on Twitter.

Follow World Youth Day on YouTube

World Youth Day schedule:

Keep up with World Youth Day events.

World Youth Day multimedia:

Stream World Youth Day events and view images of the events.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mother of Perpetual Help Novena, Mass

Come to our Mother of Perpetual Help Novena and Mass tonight at 7 in the church.

St. Bernard offers three novenas, held over nine days, per year: A Father’s Day Novena, Mother’s Day Novena, and a All Souls Novena.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Novena is so called because the public novena services are held on a specified day each week, such as Wednesday, and continue all through the year. Thus, a novena of Wednesdays can be begun or concluded at any time during the year. A private novena can be undertaken by a family or an individual at any time.

Looking ahead

St. Bernard youth to attend World Youth Day Madrid 2011

This week, a group of 11 pilgrims from St. Bernard’s will be going to Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. This pilgrimage is being made by thousands of youth from around the world.

What a blessing and opportunity for them to experience the church through the eyes of youth from every continent. Youth from everywhere go to spend a few days with our pope in prayer, at Eucharist, and singing their hearts out, praising God!

Many come home transformed. Some vocations are born during these days. Wonderful experiences occur that are never to be forgotten. Catholic youth become truly “Catholic,” that is, universal, because they experience the universal (Catholic) church joined together with our spiritual leader, Pope Benedict XVI.

Let’s keep them in prayer during these days. When they return, we will expect them to give us a brief sharing at our Sunday liturgies so that we can share a piece of their joy and faith.

— Father Perry D. Leiker,
parish administrator

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bishop Gerald Wilkerson's message to World Youth Day pilgrims

Dear friends,

As you prepare to depart from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Yours is a pilgrimage of faith. You will meet Catholics from all over the world. Together, you will pray for our church and our world. You will be nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus himself.

You will also meet Pope Benedict XVI, the successor of St. Peter. May your hearts be open to his words, and may you be strengthened by his leadership to come to a deeper love of Jesus Christ.

Please pray for me and for all the members of our church family, especially those here in the San Fernando Pastoral Region.

— Bishop Gerald Wilkerson

Bishop Gerald Wilkerson is Archdiocese of Los Angeles San Fernando Pastoral Region auxiliary bishop. Reach him at