April 3, 2009 Bishop Morlino – thank you for coming tonight to meet the people from St.

Thomas and to hear their stories as well as my own. God works in mysterious ways! This fall I told Fr. Steve that I would be retiring in five years and that we need to prepare for that time. We have been working with the Pastoral Council to shore up our committees or, in some cases, to work at developing committees. Our plan was to work on one committee each year so that the people would be empowered to carry on the tasks of the parish in a well-organized manner. At that time, I had no idea that just a few months later I would not even be working for St. Thomas at all. It was like a tsunami hit me—totally unexpected, whisked me off my feet and threw me on shore – homeless! My life has been radically changed from that point on. In the past three weeks, I have been showered with letters, emails, and phone calls – people sharing their concerns and offering their support. The people signing our online petition are from all over the world as were some of the emails and phone calls. I have been swirling with emotions – confusion, anger, sadness, bewilderment – while at the same time I have been completely embraced by love and showered with prayers. This is what has sustained me in the past three weeks. I might have had a fitfull night of sleep only to wake the next day, surprised by flowers sent by someone I’ve never met. I know, to the depth of my being, what real love is. I’ve experienced it day after day these past three weeks. Two days after I was fired, I received an email from someone who was in the confirmation program 10-15 years ago and now living in the state of Washington. Her family since moved from the parish and they were history – or so I thought – and then I received this email: Dear Ruth, I’m not sure if this is the correct e-mail address but I’m writing in the hopes that it is. I found it through an Internet search. Hopefully, you remember me. I was confirmed at St. Thomas in the 90s and was a parishioner with my parents for many years. I heard recently that you may have lost your position at St. Thomas

and I’m wondering if what I heard is true. I sincerely hope not since you were so important to me in the formation of my faith, which has had such a positive effect on my life. I would hate to think you were a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Please know that while I am too far away to join in the protest of your dismissal, I am in 100% support of you and know you are an amazing woman. I wish everyone agreed with me. Peace and love to you. Jessica. Almost two weeks ago, I cleaned out my office. The things that had accumulated since we moved into our new offices about 11 years ago were like a history book to me – the pictures on the walls each had their own story; the clowns – all 66 of them – brought warm memories; the souvenir items from 1st communions, baptisms and quinceaneras – memories of the rich tradition of our growing Hispanic community. Going from a colorful office to bare walls was very difficult. It was as if I was packing away my years of ministry with the people here at St. Thomas. These past three weeks have been a time to reflect on just what have I done at St. Thomas and what about those accusations that have been made against me. Have I taught teenagers that it is OK to use contraceptives? NO. Do I encourage non-Catholics to receive communion? NO. Did I teach that life is to be respected from conception to natural death? YES. Have I taught that women should be ordained? NO. Have I taught that homosexuals should be allowed to marry? NO. Do I entertain thoughts about any of these items? Of course I do as do lots of people. But do I teach these things? NO. When I began youth ministry in the parish in 1983, my goal was that children and teens would develop relationships within the parish so that when they came to Mass they would be happy to see each other. The children of this parish attend schools in three different school districts. The elementary students could attend any of 15 different schools. I felt it was important for them to have an opportunity to get to know each other. I also thought it was important that they would learn to serve

from the very youngest children all the way through high schools – that service would become a way of life, not just a requirement for confirmation. Catechesis for our younger children is lectionary-based. That means, they learn from the scriptures that are proclaimed at Mass. They learn who Jesus is and then how they are to follow Jesus in their every day lives. I prepare catechists who lead the children by going over the scripture readings and talking about what they mean for us so they are prepared to lead the children in discussion. When I was responsible for middle school and high school youth, each topic that was covered was developed always on the basis of scripture and tradition – what does Jesus say and what does the Church say – and then how are we to live this in our daily lives. When I visit with shut-ins, I bring them the gospel for the week. We share our thoughts about the gospel, bring our needs together in prayer and then I share Eucharist with them. As I said in my letter to parishioners, my ministry is my life’s work. I love my Catholic faith and I love helping people meet the Risen Christ in a life-changing way. Through my nearly four decades of being actively involved in the Church, I have had the blessing of meeting many faith-filled people in ministry who have helped to shape who I am. In my position as Pastoral Associate, I am blessed to work with people of all ages – from young families to the elderly, to assist the poor who come to our door and to work with organizations to change systems that keep people poor. And in the more recent years, I have delighted in serving the growing number of Hispanic families who have joined our parish. I asked Fr. Steve if I might continue to work with the children and parents of five families who have been preparing for baptism this Easter Vigil – work that began last May. What a joy it has been to get to know the children and the parents and to bring them to this time of excitement about being baptized. Bishop Morlino, as I said in my letter to you in early March, I apologize if I have caused any harm or confusion based on my actions. This has never been my intention. I learned from this experience that, as a Church employee, I am never off duty. I must be careful at all times that my

words and actions are consistent with Church doctrine. As stated in the “frequently asked questions” communiqué made available Wednesday by the diocesan Office of Communications, “the collegiate and university settings are often the acceptable place for discussion of Church teaching and discipline. However, the parish and the work of a parish employee can never be the setting for such debate, especially when it involves established Church doctrine, which will not and cannot change.” I think there may have been a misunderstanding that I entered into debate on these issues in my professional role in the parish. I enjoy exploring ideas but I know that the parish is not the place to do this. I have confined such exploration of ideas to friendships outside of my parish ministry. Bishop, since March 12th, I have been helping at St. Thomas as a volunteer so as to provide continuity for the children for whom I am responsible and to help with details for Holy Week. It has been somewhat awkward going from full-time employment to volunteering again. I ask you tonight and throughout Holy Week to prayerfully consider everything you hear tonight and reconsider the decision you made to dismiss me from my position here at St. Thomas. Again, thank you for coming to be with us tonight.

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