You are the Light of the World

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

14 May 2019

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

On May 7 Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi”, “You are the Light of the World”.
In this action, the Holy Father has modified Church law that mandates every diocese in the Catholic
Church follow the outlined procedure regarding allegations of abuse by a bishop, clergy or member of an
institute of religious or apostolic life.

This decree is a result of the gathering of representatives of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences from across
the world that was convened by Pope Francis in February 2019. Our Holy Father has taken sexual abuse
of minors and vulnerable adults very seriously.

The Diocese of Fairbanks has had a very sad history of abuse of minors which resulted in a bankruptcy
process. While abuse survivors were compensated, this in no manner addresses the profound wound of the
evil perpetrated against them. These innocent victims daily live with the effects of such crimes committed
against them.

As our Holy Father has indicated in this document, “We are the Light of the World.” We includes each
one of us. Yes, each and every person is created in the sacred image and likeness of God. No person can
ever take this away. We as a diocese, and particularly as priests, religious and Church personnel are
committed to accompanying abuse survivors. I know our Church personnel in the diocese regularly
accompany abuse survivors helping them see that they are “The Light of the World.” This prayerful
accompaniment brings hope and healing.

On May 1, I was invited by two clergy abuse survivors who work with Spirit Fire, to attend a gathering of
bishops and survivors in Washington, D.C. The gathering was most powerful. We heard some horrible
stories of abuse. The pain and suffering casts a long and dark shadow that affects people to this day. I was
deeply touched by the fact that clergy abuse survivors wanted to dialogue with bishops, and truly want to
be part of a solution bringing healing and hope to other abuse survivors who are in our communities.
Also, they want to proclaim the sacredness and holiness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ because in their
words, “they experienced the worst.” I truly saw the power of the Holy Spirit working to bring hope and
healing as it pushes against the darkness and evil of our Church and world.

The Diocese of Fairbanks takes most seriously our Safe Environment Policies, but in order for these
protections to be implemented and effective it requires the cooperation of all the faithful in their
respective parishes. I thank you for your concerted efforts to make this a priority. Our children and
vulnerable adults need to know our churches and schools are safe places where their sacred dignity is
honored and protected.

I truly believe that as the Catholic Church addresses its own failures of negligence of leadership, crimes
committed by Church personnel and becomes more proactive promoting safe environment, we can be a
“light in the world.” It is most sad to see more abuse stories surface in the news from various sectors of
society. There is a wound in our world that is calling out for the light of Christ and the protection of our
children and vulnerable adults. While laws to address abuse are necessary, more importantly, we need to
announce to our world that beauty, goodness and truth of God lives in every person and that all of us have
a responsibility to honor and protect it.

Sincerely in Christ,

 

 

†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks

Fr. Bala Gangarapu Departure

OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

28 February 2019

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Fr. Bala Gangarapu will be returning to his home diocese of Hyderabad in India by 1 July 2019. In June 2014, Fr. Bala was granted permission to work in the Diocese of Fairbanks for a total of five years from his Archbishop.

Fr. Bala traveled to many of our remote villages, and recently served at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Immaculate Conception Church (Fairbanks). He made several trips down the snowy and icy roads to care for the parishes in Healy and Nenana. Thank you for your generosity in serving the good people of God in the Diocese of Fairbanks. It has been an honor and privilege to work with Fr. Bala and we will all miss him dearly.

Sincerely in Christ,

 

 

†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are quickly approaching a time when our nation provides us the privilege to cast our vote.  The diocesan offices and parish offices will have received several voting guides provided by various organizations.

As a newly ordained priest, I innocently passed out various voting guides and the result was we were approached by an organization with potential legal action if the voting guides were not removed. I ask that our parishes provide as handouts or post on their respective websites only materials provided on the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship USCCB website.

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – usccb.org

Catholics Care. Catholics Vote. “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”

This has been reviewed by their legal counsel. Thank you for taking your time to vote with a well formed conscience.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Chad Zielinski

Gaudete et Exsultate Talking Points

An new apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis on “the call to holiness in the contemporary world.”

“Gaudete et Exsultate” is the Latin title of the text, which translated into English means “Rejoice and Be Glad.” The words are taken from the Gospel of Matthew (5:12) at the end of the discourse on the Beatitudes.

Gaudete et Exsultate Talking Points

“I want to insist primarily,” the Holy Father writes, “on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you….” (emphasis added, no. 10).  In this exhortation, Pope Francis discusses the mission of each Christian – which is to grow in holiness (chapter 1).  Two false understandings of holiness still confound us to this day – Gnosticism and Pelagianism. The first can be described as knowing all the doctrines of the faith, but not the Mystery. The second can be understood as living what looks like a holy life, but is lacking in humility, the knowledge that everything comes from God (chapter 2).

These false ways are countered by a genuine understanding of holiness, which the Holy Father presents by a reading of the Beatitudes. These instruct us in how to be holy. Here, at the center of the exhortation, some of the Holy Father’s strongest words are found. Holiness does not just involve prayer, but also by how much our life has been transformed and lived out in the light of mercy. “Our Lord made it very clear that holiness cannot be understood or lived apart from these demands, for mercy is ‘the beating heart of the Gospel’” (no. 97) (chapter 3).

The Holy Father then offers five great expressions of love for God and neighbor that speak directly to our current times. These include illustrations of perseverance, patience, meekness, joy a sense of humor, boldness and passion, community and family life, and constant prayer (chapter 4).

Pope Francis describes how holiness comes out through the daily struggles each disciple of Christ faces. This spiritual combat is not only with worldly values and our own weaknesses, but is also with a very real enemy, the devil. To aid in that fight, the Holy Father concludes his exhortation by addressing discernment. Discernment is … “about recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism” (no, 174). And that mission, of course, is to be holy (chapter 5).

Chapter 1

  • The call to holiness is inspired by the saints, “the great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12.1) (no. 3), but each person is called to holiness “each in their own way” (Lumen gentium, 11) (no. 10).
  • What we are called to imitate from the saints is not their specific actions (no. 11), but their desire to “being open to God,” turning to him in every situation (no. 15), listening to God in prayer, discerning the signs he gives you (no. 23), and to living out to the full, the mission given to you – reflecting the life of Christ and his self-sacrificing love (no. 22, 31).
  • We are not saved alone; “We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people” (no. 6).
  • “Do not be afraid of holiness” (no. 32). “We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer…. We are called to be holy by living our lives with love and bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves” (no. 14).
  • The constant “noise” of new gadgets, new pleasures, new experiences, does get in the way of holiness. “How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God?” (no. 29).

 Chapter 2

  • Two enemies to holiness are modern manifestations of two old heresies – Gnosticism and Pelagianism. These were taken up in the recent document Placuit Deo from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • The Holy Father expounds on how these are false paths to holiness that have returned within the culture and can even be found in our own attitudes.
  • Gnosticism is manifested in those who believe they have the truth, and see themselves as “already saints, perfect and better than the ‘ignorant masses’” (no. 45). True holiness lies in seeking the truth, but realizing that “God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises” (no. 41).
  • True holiness, true charity is when “we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions” and not just those who agree with our way of thinking (no. 42).
  • Gnosticism is where one believes he or she is saved by the power of their intellect, by what they know. Pelagianism is the same thing, but instead of the power of the intellect, it is the power of the will, of human effort, that brings one to holiness.
  • This neo-Pelagianism expresses itself in many varied ways: “an obsession with the law, an absorption with social and political advantages, a punctilious concern for the Church liturgy, doctrine and prestige, a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters, and an excessive concern with programs of self-help and personal fulfilment” (no. 57).
  • “[W]e cannot celebrate this free gift of the Lord’s friendship unless we realize that our earthly life and our natural abilities are his gift” (no. 55).

 Chapter 3

  • “The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card” (no. 63). “The word ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ thus becomes a synonym for ‘holy.’ It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness” (no. 64).
  • “The Beatitudes are in no way trite or undemanding, quite the opposite. We can only practice them if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride” (no. 65).
  • “In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (vv. 31-46), Jesus expands on the Beatitude that calls blessed the merciful. If we seek holiness pleasing to God’s eyes, this text offers us one clear criterion on which we will be judged” (no. 95). “Holiness, then is not about swooning in mystic rapture” (no. 96). “Our Lord made it very clear that holiness cannot be understood or lived apart from these demands, for mercy is ‘the beating heart of the Gospel’” (no. 97).
  • There are two harmful errors that come from ideologies, and that misconstrue holiness. The first is when we separate the Gospel demands of mercy and our own personal relationship with the Lord treating them as two separate things (no. 100). The second is when we relativize the concerns of social engagement or when we believe only one particular issue to be import (no. 101).
  • We cannot see issues such as migration, bioethical questions or other concerns as secondary issues (no. 102).
  • “Hedonism and consumerism can prove our downfall, for when we are obsessed with our own pleasure, we end up being too concerned about ourselves and our rights, and we feel a desperate need for free time to enjoy ourselves” (no. 108). for Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice” (no. 109).

 Chapter 4

  • Today “we see a sense of anxiety, sometimes violent, that distracts and debilitates” and the marketing of all kinds of inferior substitutes to genuine spirituality and holiness (no. 111).
  • Expression # 1 of Holiness: perseverance, patience, and meekness – a fidelity born of love (no. 112-121). This can only come about through humility, without which, there is no holiness (no. 118).
  • Expression #2 of Holiness: joy and a sense of humor – “the saints are joyful and full of good humor” (no. 122- 128). “The necessary result of the love of charity is joy” (no. 122).
  • Expression #3 of Holiness: boldness (parrhesía) and passion – “an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world” (no. 129-139). “How often we are tempted to stay close to the shore! Yet the Lord calls us to put out into the deep and let down our nets (cf. Luke 5:40)” (no. 130). “Complacency is seductive; it tells us that there is no point in trying to change things” (no. 137).
  • Expression #4 of Holiness: in community – “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others” (no. 140-146). “The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is made up of small everyday things” (no. 143). “Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details” (no. 144).
  • Expression #5 of Holiness: in constant prayer – “though it may seem obvious, we should remember that holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration” (no. 147-157). In the silence of prayer “we can discern, in the light of the Spirit, the paths of holiness to which the Lord is calling us” (no. 150).

Chapter 5

  • “The Christian life is a constant battle” (no. 158). It is a battle not only against “a worldly mentality” and “our human weaknesses and proclivities” but also “a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil” (no. 159).
  • The devil is more than a myth. The devil “is a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from him, lest his power prevail over us” (no. 160).
  • “For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach” (no. 162).
  • “The gift of discernment has become all the more necessary today, since contemporary life offers immense possibilities for action and distraction, and the world presents all of them as valid and good” (no. 167).
  • “For this reason, I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily ‘examination of conscience’” (no. 169).
  • “We must remember that prayerful discernment must be born of a readiness to listen: to the Lord and to others, and to reality itself, which always challenges us in new ways” (no. 172).
  • “Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it” (no. 173).
  • “Discernment is… about recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism” (no. 174). That mission, of course, is to be holy.