Below are excerpts from the April 2016 issue of The Long Island Catholic Magazine.
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The Power of Liturgy: Father Seth Awo Doku
By Paul McAvoy
Back in 1998, when Father Seth Awo Doku first came to Long Island for a vacation, he never imagined that he would end up returning here to live out his ministry. Seventeen years later, that is exactly what happened when Father Seth was released from his Diocese of Accra, Ghana, and was accepted into the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He couldn’t be happier about his vocation, his service to the people of the diocese and his new work as director of the Office of Worship.“I have been working as an associate pastor at St. Joseph’s Church, Babylon, for nine years,” Father Seth said, “and I wanted to prolong my stay here on Long Island, so I applied for incardination.” Shortly after his incardination, Father Seth moved to Rockville Centre. He also serves as an associate pastor at the cathedral parish of St. Agnes.
Father Seth was born and raised in Ghana, on Africa’s west coast. He was ordained, a priest on July 21, 1990. “A year after I was ordained, the archbishop of Accra [Ghana’s capital city] called me to serve at the cathedral. I thought it was a big job, but I didn’t say no!” A couple of years later, Father Seth was asked to be the archbishop’s master of ceremonies, where he assisted the archbishop and helped arrange all the details for pontifical liturgies. This led to a growing interest in the liturgy, and, after a few years, Father Seth came to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to further study the theology and practice of the Church’s liturgy, earning the licentiate and doctorate degrees in sacred theology, specializing in liturgical theology.
Father Seth knows the power of liturgy. “As a boy, I sang in the youth choir at my parish,” he said. “Once we were invited to go to the cathedral and sing at an ordination Mass for a member of our parish who was being ordained to the priesthood. I remember every detail of that Mass; it seems that was when God touched my heart, and I had a strong desire to become a priest.”
Father Seth is the youngest of nine siblings, and his family has always been devout Catholics. He remembers holding on to his dream of becoming a priest. In high school, he went on to become an altar server, and describes how he has been serving at the altar ever since. After high school, his oldest brother encouraged him to enroll in a minor seminary to pursue his vocation. From there, he went on to the major seminary.
“That was my path to the priesthood,” he recalled. “My vocation came from my childhood and from my activity in church as a child. My love for the priesthood today is even stronger because of it.”
From that early experience as a boy, Father Seth has understood how God can speak to the faithful through the rituals, sacraments, music and words in the liturgy. Each part and element of the Mass is meant to show God’s love and concern for his people, culminating in the celebration of the Eucharist. As the director of the Office of Worship, Father Seth enjoys teaching about the Mass and helping to prepare and coordinate special liturgies, such as the Chrism Mass, the Wedding Anniversary Masses for married couples and ordinations. “The Church is essentially liturgical, and the liturgy is the lifeline of the Church,” he explained. “Our office assists parishes with liturgies, prepares the major diocesan and pontifical liturgies that are celebrated by the bishop and the episcopal vicars and assists with the formation of ministers.” Being able to shape the formation of lay ministers is something that brings great joy to Father Seth.
Father Seth would like to encourage people to participate lively in their parish liturgies, in the spirit and teaching of the Second Vatican Council. He explained, “The Church desires that all the faithful be led to a full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, because it is the source from which all the Church’s power is derived, including her true Christian spirit, and the summit toward which all her activities are directed. Each person’s participation in the liturgy benefits not only that individual but also the whole Church, as the liturgy has the power to strengthen one’s faith and also call others to conversion and, ultimately, salvation in Christ.”
Believe and Profess
By Bishop William Murphy
POLITICS, SOCIETY AND OUR WITNESS
Every year in March, the bishops of New York go to Albany to meet with the governor, the leader of the Senate and (though not this year) the speaker of the Assembly. We also, in various ways, seek out an opportunity to talk with our local representatives in both houses of the Legislature to discuss issues of concern for the Church. High among these, for example, would be the Education Tax Credit for private, including Catholic and Jewish, schools. The New York Senate has already passed its budget, which includes this provision. Senate Majority Leader Flanagan of East Northport and the entire Long Island Senate delegation deserve our thanks. Please take the time to thank your state senator.
The governor continues to support us, and he, too, has placed it in his budget for this session. The challenge is in the Assembly. There, the speaker and many members accept the position of the teachers’ unions that private, religiously-based schools are, somehow, a threat to public education. This is patently false. Yet the combination of money and political pressure places the reasoned and reasonable position we hold at a disadvantage. The members of the Assembly need to hear your voices — the voices of Catholics, especially Catholic parents, and principals and teachers in our Catholic schools.
The New York state bishops have issued a very important request to all Catholics. Our request is to all of you who have not registered to vote. Please register. Please vote on April 19. And when making a decision about the person you choose to vote for, keep in mind that the Education Tax Credit is a blow for justice for our schoolchildren. By your vote, you support those who support our schoolchildren.
While we bishops were meeting in the State House, we could hear the chanting of pressure groups outside. Whistles, cheering, shouting. This is part of the American system of politics and it has served us well as one expression of a free people to express their preferences publicly and even loudly.
We ourselves use these activities every year in the March for Life in Washington and when we rally for the cause of religious freedom. Yet I hope you will agree with me that much of the shouting and much of the posturing has gotten out of hand. Cardinal Dolan told me that a parent told him she was ashamed to let the children watch the presidential debates of both parties because of the tone and the low level of the discourse. Presidential debates that used to be civics lessons for us all have become tawdry and juvenile displays of coarse language and vulgar innuendo.
What makes such bad behavior even worse is the reaction of the people who cheer and jeer, laugh and applaud no matter how unseemly the remark, no matter how outrageous the statement. Is this what our country has become? Is this another triumph of all the forces of salacious gossip and Hollywood misdeeds dressed up as glamour? Are we really so coarse that we cannot speak a sentence without using expletives? Are we so obsessed with ourselves that we can rejoice at the misfortune of others or be callous to those who are suffering?
Ours is a country that is floundering because too many of her citizens have lost any sense of virtue and any sense of honor and dignity. No other western country has enshrined abortion as a “right”. In no civilized society would “gender theory” receive the kind of breathless support and be so imposed on their citizens as has been this misguided and false argument.
My professor at the Gregorian in Rome, Bernard Lonergan, wrote about the longer and shorter cycles of decline. It begins with a false premise, for example the child in the womb is not human, but a blob of tissue. Then the spiral of decline begins because defending a falsehood takes more and more energy. Truth has a way of recommending itself. Falsehoods have to be defended. And thus we have to have more and more laws, more and more regulations to cover up and protect the original bad decision. Small wonder we have so much confusion, so much rootlessness, so much breakdown in family life and so much tragedy, from drug use to suicide, among young people.
Is there an alternative? Yes. Without being “culture warriors,” without becoming counter-cultural, we, Christians, Jews, Muslims, men and women who love truth, can be one in setting an example by our speech, by our manner, by our choices and by our deeds. It is always tempting to join in the fray. But we have received from the examples of the patriarchs and prophets, from the Torah and Gospel and Koran, from Moses and Jesus a way of life and an attitude of mind and heart that can be the antidote our society needs. Let’s not descend to the level of speech laced with expletives. Let’s not speak ill of other people. Let’s reach out with kindness and compassion. Let us “walk in the light” that dispels darkness. The lonely sin that cannot be forgiven is the one against the Holy Spirit. That happens when we call darkness light, evil good and falsehoods truth. It is not an easy way, but it is the only way to justice, harmony, mutual respect, human dignity, freedom and peace in a world of solidarity and respect for God’s law and our own human nature.