Archives for February 2018

NFPC This Week, #747: February 11-February 17, 2018


In honor of President’s Day, February 19, 2018, the National Federation of Priests’ Councils will be closed.  The office will reopen on Tuesday, February 20, 2018.


Father Tony talks ‘Priest Burnout’ with Gary Zimak on Spirit in the Morning, February 12, 2018

National and International News

Ash Wednesday – February 14, 2018

2018 Chinese New Year

Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign Revived After 50 Years

Open letter calls on Vatican to rethink China deal, calling it a “regrettable mistake”

Flu Season Prompts Dioceses to Take Measures at Mass

FEMA Shift Opens Door to Disaster Funds for Religious Groups

Priests in the News

Bishop of Saginaw Asks for Prayers Following Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich and Amoris Laetitia Developments


Professional Development Webinars for Parish Ministers

February 20 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm CST



FEMA Shift Opens Door to Disaster Funds for Religious Groups

Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reversed its long-standing policy of excluding religious organizations and houses of worship from applying for federal aid following natural disasters.

This policy reversal followed a major First Amendment decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri. Trinity filed the lawsuit against the State of Missouri because it was excluded from a state program that reimburses the cost of rubberizing the surface of playgrounds.

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court sided with Trinity ruling that “excluding churches from state programs for which other charitable groups are eligible is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion.“

In addition, houses of worship in Texas and Florida, seeking federal aid to repair damages caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, also filed lawsuits against FEMA’s.  These two disasters prompted several members of Congress, as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to push for legislative changes allowing disaster relief funds for houses of worship.  Congress passed the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act on February 9 and it was later signed into law, paving the way for houses of worship to apply for federal disaster relief.

Review further details in Crux

Flu Season Prompts Dioceses to Take Measures at Mass

In the wake of the current flu epidemic, several United States Dioceses have issued precautionary guidelines to avoid parishioners spreading or coming into contact with the flu virus while attending Mass. Under these guidelines, parishes are being advised to skip the sign of peace temporarily and exchange a verbal greeting instead of the traditional handshake.   Other measures include suspending distribution of the Precious Blood from a common cup during Communion. Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are also being advised to wash their hands before Mass and avoid touching the hand or tongue of each communicant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current flu season is approaching the peak of the 2009 pandemic, with a high hospitalization rate and more than 53 pediatric deaths so far. The CDC says all U.S. states, except Hawaii and Oregon, are reporting widespread flu, and the number with a high incidence of flu-like illness has risen to 42, plus New York City and the District of Columbia.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is also advising Catholics who have the flu to stay home and not attend Sunday Mass.

Click here to review the National Catholic Register article.


Open letter calls on Vatican to rethink China deal, calling it a “regrettable mistake”

During the past week, several news stories have been circulating reporting that the Vatican has reached an agreement with the Chinese Communist government regarding the appointment of bishops for several dioceses in China. To date, there has been no official acknowledgement from the Vatican confirming such an accord.

In another development related to the proposed Vatican/China agreement, a Hong Kong group, consisting mostly of attorneys, human rights activists and scholars, published an open letter on February 12, 2018, addressed to the bishops’ conferences of the world.  Their letter requested the world’s bishops to appeal to the Vatican to “rethink the current agreement, and stop making an irreversible and regrettable mistake.”

On Sunday, February 11, Chinese Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin, stated his willingness to step down and respect any agreement worked out between the Vatican and China.  Guo is one of the two Chinese “underground” bishops recognized by the Catholic Church but not Chinese authorities.

Click here to review the Crux article on the open letter.

Click here for Crux report on Vatican/China agreement.


Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign Revived After 50 Years

Fifty years following the memorable strike by Sanitation Workers in Memphis, Tennessee, two social justice advocacy groups have revitalized Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign.  On Monday, February 12, 2018, more than 500 people marched from Clayborn Temple to Memphis’ City Hall, the same route striking sanitation workers walked in 1968. This demonstration was one of thirty held nationwide to commemorate the historic strike and re-start the Poor People’s Campaign, now subtitled “A National Call to Moral Revival.”

Rev. William Barber of North Carolina, and Rev. Liz Theoharis of New York, two of the leaders of the new campaign, announced an upcoming six-weeks of direct actions and non-violent civil disobedience initiatives.  Starting on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018, demonstrations will be held across the country to address issues of racism, poverty, militarism and ecological destruction.

Dr. King announced his Poor People’s Campaign in December, 1967 calling it “a trek to the nation’s capital by suffering and outraged citizens who will go to stay until some definite and positive action is taken to provide jobs and income for the poor.” During the final planning of the campaign, Dr. King left the group to support the striking workers in Memphis, which lead to his assassination on April 4, 1968.

>>>Review complete details in the National Catholic Register<<<

2018 Chinese New Year

On Friday, February 16, millions of people globally (particularly in the Far East) will welcome in the 2018 Chinese New Year, designated by Chinese astrology as “The Year of the Dog.” Because it is based on a lunar calendar, Chinese New Year occurs on a different date each year between January 21 and February 20.

Lunar New Year celebrations are high-spirited events, marked with bright lights, music, bell ringing, firecrackers and traditional lion dances.  Chinese families also customarily gather on New Year’s Eve for a reunion dinner, followed by house cleaning on New Year’s Day to sweep away bad fortune. Children’s gifts are usually red envelopes stuffed with “lucky money” and positive wishes on New Year’s Day.

Father Tony talks ‘Priest Burnout’ with Gary Zimak on Spirit in the Morning, February 12, 2018

Gary introduced Fr. Tony as the President of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, and welcomed him back to the show. His first question was why burn out is happening in our parishes.  Fr. Tony responded, “It’s actually one of the side effects of the priest shortage.”

Fr. Tony continued, with many priests retiring and dying, and fewer coming up to replace them, those left in the middle take on more responsibilities.  As parishes cluster, it also puts priests physically further away from their brother priests, and with their increased workloads, the amount of time available for brother priests goes down.

“We really build in this kind of loneliness that causes us to lose the support system that we were used to when we were young and in the seminary.”

Fr. Tony is himself in charge of four parishes, and when Gary asks how he does it, he referenced his great staff. But when people point out to him that he works hard, he says he doesn’t feel he is working hard, he feels he is just doing his job. However, research has shown one of the symptoms of burn out is when a very busy person doesn’t even know he is very busy, because it’s become a way of life.

Gary points out that much of priest’s duties are in administration, which most priests are not necessarily trained to do.  Fr. Tony agrees and further says that often when he does meet with brother priests, the administrative struggles are what they talk about, instead of spiritual or pastoral matters.

“I think there’s something missing now because we used to have that leisure to be able to talk about our spiritual lives….” and that contributes to the burnout because they don’t have that time to connect with others. “Very often now we are alone in dealing with these things and they pile up.”

Gary asked what laity can do to help prevent priestly burnout.  Fr. Tony discussed three areas:

  1. One thing that contributes to burn out is feeling unappreciated. Let your priest know you appreciate him and ask if there anything you can do to help.
  2. Make him a meal or invite him to dinner. “That’s an amazing thing, to be able to talk to somebody over dinner.”  If you are concerned your priest is too busy, invite him anyway. “The trick is to keep asking!” If he is too busy and says no, keep asking, suggested Fr. Tony; someday he’ll say yes.
  3. Pray for your priests – that should be the first thing. “… pray for your priest, especially if you don’t like him.” They have still dedicated their life to God, and they deserve our prayers.  If they know you are praying for them, that helps soften hearts.
  4. When there is a need to merge parishes, Fr. Tony said, “My advice would be to really think outside the box, think outside your boundaries. I know it’s hard…” He acknowledged there are emotional connections to the church buildings. “But we have to remember the church is bigger than that. It’s bigger than us. So, we really have to embrace the idea of our new brothers and sisters that worship in another building.” Gary summarized that the key is to remember the bigger picture, and that our attitude should be ‘what can we do to help.’
  5. Another way to prevent burnout and bring priests together is the upcoming NFPC Priests’ Convocation, April 23-26 in Chicago. Father Tony shared that it is NFPC’s flagship product, held once a year, open to all Catholic priests, not just Priests’ Council members. “I personally love it because I’ve met over the years priests from all over the country. And we trade best practices and we pray together and we have dinners together; and it really is that wonderful thing we just talked about…seeing church as bigger than just us.”

Gary encouraged all to check out for more information.

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich and Amoris Laetitia Developments

Chicago’s Archbishop, Cardinal Blase Cupich, was invited by the Von Hugel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry to be the Guest Lecturer at their 2018 annual series on February 9, 2018.  The Von Hugel Institute, affiliated with the University of Cambridge (England), is an interdisciplinary research center inspired by Catholic thought and culture.

In Cupich’s talk entitled “Pope Francis’ In Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity,” he referred to the 2016 Apostolic Exhortation as “nothing short of revolutionary.” Further, he encouraged all Catholic leaders to support the Pope’s “call to action” by welcoming “a new way of relating to the lives of families today.“

During an interview prior to the lecture, Cardinal Cupich remarked that the invitation to speak at the Von Hugel Institute presented an opportunity for him to share his thoughts on Amoris Laetitia “in such a way that might bring some clarity for people who have raised questions and then also to raise a challenge for them to also take a second look at the document.”

Click here for complete details in the National Catholic Reporter.

In another Amoris Laetitia development, on February 12 an announcement was made that plans are underway for a series of day-long seminars to assist U. S. Catholic Bishops with understanding and implementing Pope Francis’ exhortation on family life in their respective Dioceses.  The announcement was made by Fr. James Keenan, a Boston College theologian, who is one of the seminar organizers, along with Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s Discastery for Laity, family and life.

Forty-seven U. S. Catholic Bishops will attend the seminars, which are scheduled to begin within the next week or so. The seminars will follow a similar format as the two-day conference hosted by Keenan and Cupich at Boston College last October.  During this conference, the two Cardinals, twelve bishops and twenty-four other invited participants discussed “the new momentum” that Amoris Laetitia gives bishops to renew their pastoral practices toward families.

Click here to review complete details in the National Catholic Reporter


Ash Wednesday – February 14, 2018

“Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion.”  Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.”

Pope Francis – 2018 Message for Lent


Bishop George Rassas, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Chicago

Bishop George Rassas, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Chicago

Main Celebrant and Homilist, Convocation Eucharist


  • Date of Priesthood Ordination: May 2, 1968 in Chicago, Illinois
  • Date of Episcopal Ordination: February 2, 2006, Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois

Academic Background

  • BA degree in philosophy, University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein
  • MA degree in counseling psychology, Loyola University, Chicago
  • Participant in Doctor of Ministry program, University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein

Parish Appointments

  • Deacon: St. Thaddeus Parish, Chicago (1967-1968)
  • Associate Pastor: Queen of the Rosary Parish, Elk Grove Village (1968
    1974); St. Genevieve Parish, Chicago (1974-1983), St. Norbert’s Parish,
  • Northbrook (1983-1988); Sacred Heart Parish (1988-1990).
  • Pastor: St. Mary Parish, Lake Forest (1990-11/29/2004)

Archdiocesan Appointments

  • Archdiocesan Board of Consultors:  Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee
  • Board of Advisors, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein
  • Episcopal Vicar for Vicariate I (2008 to present)

Previous Archdiocesan Appointments

  • Archdiocesan Board of Consultants
  • Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago (Nov. 30, 2004-Feb. 20, 2006)
  • Chairman of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (1999-2002),
  • Director of the Office of Family Ministries (1984-1990),
  • Assistant Director of the Catholic Family Consultation Service (1975-1984) and Associate Moderator of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (1976-1984)


  • National Pastoral Initiative on Strengthening Marriage Subcommittee
  • Laity, Marriage, Family & Youth Committee
  • Certification and Accreditation Committee

Cristo Rey – St. Martin de Porres High School – Waukegan

  • First Founder
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors