Selected Text from the January 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander
The Magazine of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
Most Rev. Herbert Bevard - PUBLISHER
Father John Matthew Fewel -EDITOR
Sarah Jane von Haack - MANAGING EDITOR
Brother James Petrait, OSFS - WEBMASTER
Msgr. Michael Kosak - PROOFREADING, Advantage Editing
Deacon Emith Fludd- CIRCULATION

Scroll below for the text from the following articles from the January 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander:

From the Editor's Desk: When a soul converses with God, we don't interrupt - from page 4
Cover story: Mary, the Mother of God, and the year of Grace - from page 12
Carpenter for Christ: Gene LaPlace - from page 14
Saint of the Month, St. Thomas Aquinas, Feast Day: January 28 - from page 15
Theology 101 - Sharing the Good News - from pages 16,17
The Eighth Annual Keys and Sword Award Benefit Honors - from page 19
Indulgences Beyond the Year of Mercy - from page 20

From the Editor's Desk,

By Father John Matthew Fewel

When a soul converses with God, we don't interrupt.

     There is a very solemn and holy reason why, when you enter a Catholic church you almost always encounter a tabernacle — a kind of tent or booth.

     In the ancient Jewish feast of Tabernacles or Boothes, tents were set up for all the people, among whom, the Lord kept his own dwelling or tent. In a similar fashion today, the Lord keeps a place for himself in which to dwell among us. In today's dwelling, more than in the ancient dwelling, the presence of the Lord is fully and physically present: in His body, blood, soul and divinity.

     Because of this real presence in the most holy Eucharist, everyone who enters a Catholic church in which Jesus dwells in the Eucharist in the tabernacle, is under the direct gaze and specific attention of Jesus Christ, present in all His humanity and in all His divinity. It is here that Christ evangelizes, and here that He makes new converts, as well as brings back home the straying sheep. God Almighty, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, gave Christ for us to be in our midst so that His great mercy may be shown.

     People come to pray, to weep, to ask for mercy for themselves or on behalf of loved ones, or even enemies. They even enter out of curiosity.

     Even the person who just happens into the church — perhaps a tourist — has an appointment with destiny that has brought them into the Holy of Holies; though they are perhaps unaware.

     The soul cries out to God in words that may not be uttered. Giving grace to the wayfaring soul, even unbeknownst to them, the Lord reaches out to their soul, fashioned and having had life breathed into it by Himself, and ministers to in a supernatural and mystical way; in a communication for which there are no speakable words.

     This sacred conversation must be held sacred. It must be enthroned and washed in silence. God seeks us in silence, away from the noise and the clamor of the world.

     When you enter any Catholic chapel, church, cathedral or basilica, observe silence. Speak softly and only briefly. God may be drawing, with great patience and infinite care, an important and delicate response from a soul whom He so desires to reach and we must not interrupt. Or someone may be reciting the holy rosary, or some other prayer or a novena and struggling to keep out distracting thoughts.

     And we must never forget that Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist is seeking you and me, too.

     At the post office, the grocery store or the beauty parlor, we speak freely to each other. There, we may enter with the customary greeting of the day enjoying the gratifying salutations that come back to us. Such pleasant conversation is most appropriate — in that time and in that circumstance. In God's presence, before the tabernacle, something far greater is occurring.

     Out of our most profound love and respect for God and His supreme right to our love and attention, and that of our neighbor, we must be careful to guard and protect His right to the undivided attention of each soul in His midst.

     We must take the greatest care, not to interrupt Him when He is speaking


Cover Story: Mary, the Mother of God, and the Year of Grace

By Father John Matthew Fewel

         The first of January is most fittingly dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. This day is so sacred to all the world because in her motherly affection, Mary cares for all the living. She offers help, assistance and intercession to all who seek her, irrespective of race, religion or status. Mary truly leads all who will come, to Jesus, her divine Son

     So important is this dogma of the Church that every Catholic who is able and of age must attend Holy Mass on this Holy Day of Obligation.





     Gene LaPlace of St. Thomas is known to many people around the island for his carpentry and home maintenance work. What you might not know is how important his Catholic faith is to him, and how much he goes out of his way to help the Church, the people of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Ss. Peter and Paul School.

     “I was blessed to have a positive influence and strong influence of the Catholic faith from the very beginning,” Gene said, “from both sides of my family, but especially from my mother’s side. Even as a young child growing up and getting into young adolescence, I always had that strong, positive influence of our Catholic Christian faith.”

     Gene grew up on St. Thomas with four sisters and strong women in his life, including his maternal great-grandmother and grandmother. He began at Ss. Peter and Paul School in kindergarten and continued through to his high school graduation, a family tradition as his mother (and, later, his daughters) also attended there. Gene also credits the nuns who were teaching and the priests in his life with being good influences on his faith. “Every now and then, when the Lord saw fit that I be redirected or in need of a little help, the right leader came by and was able to set me right and get my footing back,” he said.

     Things didn’t always go smoothly, though. Difficulties are present in every life, and Gene’s was no different. He watched as alcoholism took its toll on his family, affecting his father and straining their relationship. It also affected Gene personally, and he struggled — but, thanks to his faith and those around him, he was able to persevere. “Even at that huge challenge,” Gene said, “I saw where, even in that dark time, the Lord was talking to me. Even in those times that I wasn’t really listening or even aware of His presence due to all the side effects of alcoholism. It challenged my faith ... but because of a strong, faith-oriented family, I was able to not give up.”

     Gene emerged with a stronger faith and a desire to help others with his gifts and talents. He took on projects at the parish and the school, as well as helping out other people in need. He married and has two daughters, now in their 20s, with his wife Shirley. Another difficult time befell him when he was injured at work and found himself on the receiving end of assistance — which was humbling — but Gene was also very grateful for all the help that poured in from all over.

     Today, Gene is feeling better and keeps his positive attitude about God’s work in his life. “I constantly keep in prayer that I’m able to be open and give myself to our Lord to use me in whatever way He sees fit,” Gene said. “Sometimes, I may question ... but I don’t feel that I know his ways, and I trust totally in Him on what his motives are really about. And I stay open to his will.”

     Throughout his life, Gene has sought to help other people in the ways that he could, as a way to thank God for the ways he has been blessed. Gene said, “Sometimes, we get so caught up in our daily routine, we just speed by the people who need our help. But even to express concern or be available and let them know that you’re here, you’re needed. We all need to be a little bit more aware of the simple things, the simple needs, because people [around us] are in need of that, too.”





     Thomas lived in the 13th century. He was the son of a noble family of Italy. He was very intelligent, but he never boasted about it. He knew that his mind was a gift from God. Thomas was one of nine children. His parents hoped that he would become a Benedictine abbot. The family castle was in Rocca Secca, just north of Montecassino Abbey, where the monks lived. Thomas was sent to the abbey for schooling when he was 5. When he was 18, he went to Naples to finish his studies. There, he met a new group of religious men called the Order of Preachers. Their founder, St. Dominic, was still living.

     Thomas knew he wanted to become a priest. He felt that he was called to join these men, who would become known in popular language as "Dominicans." His parents were angry with him. When he was on his way to Paris to study, his brothers kidnapped him. They kept him a prisoner in one of their castles for over a year. During that time, they did all they could to make him change his mind. One of his sisters, too, came to persuade him to give up his vocation. But Thomas spoke so beautifully about the joy of serving God that she changed her mind. She decided to give her life to God as a nun.

     After 15 months, Thomas was finally freed to follow his call. St. Thomas wrote so well about God that people all over the world have used his books for hundreds of years. His explanations about God and the faith came from Thomas' great love for God. He was effective because he wasn't trying to make an impression on anyone. He just wanted with all his heart to offer the gift of his life to Jesus and the Church. St. Thomas is one of the greatest of the doctors of the Church.

     Around the end of 1273, Pope Gregory X asked Thomas to be part of an important Church meeting called the Council of Lyons. While traveling to the meeting, Thomas became ill. He had to stop at a monastery at Fossanova, Italy, where he died. It was March 7,1274. He was only 49. He was declared a saint in 1323 by Pope Benedict XI. St. Thomas' learning, writing or teaching are not what made him a saint. He became a saint by doing everything for God with love. He will help us do the same, if we ask him.


By Doug Culp


     This year, Theology 101 will focus on the topic of evangelization. Specifically, the task will be to offer some ways of approaching various questions Catholics may encounter from co-workers, family and friends regarding the practice of the faith. Of course, this undertaking represents only possibilities, and we must remember that nothing can replace the power of witnessing to the Good News through our own actions and words, combined with our willingness to accompany others on their faith journey. This means patiently engaging others in dialogue, asking questions and truly listening to responses and, perhaps most importantly, not insisting on “winning” a debate.


     My co-worker told me over lunch that she was raised Catholic and used to go to Mass, but gave it up because she found it boring. She said she wishes she could get out of it what I do — what can I say to encourage her?


     This is an interesting comment. On the one hand, this co-worker has given up going to Mass because it was boring. In other words, she lost interest in the Mass. On the other hand, she looks at her colleague, who presumably attends Mass regularly, and sees in her something that she desires. The question, of course, is what is it that she finds so desirable in terms of what she thinks the practicing Catholic gets out of Mass? So the starting point is going about the work of identifying what has actually piqued her interest, rather than focusing on the reasons she found the Mass boring.


     Boredom ultimately involves problems of engagement. Albert L. Winseman, in his book Growing an Engaged Church: How to Stop ‘Doing Church’ and Start Being the Church Again, writes that engagement is ultimately tied to how deeply one feels about something, a feeling that leads to commitment. It involves getting and giving; belonging and growing.

     Winseman also identifies indicators of engagement. These indicators range from knowing what is expected of us, having spiritual leaders who care about us as people, having our spiritual needs met, feeling that our participation is necessary for the mission, having opportunities to learn and having a best friend in the parish.

     Boredom, or disengagement, can occur when these indicators are in short supply. This is why it is so important to focus on the spark of desire expressed in the co-worker’s statement. For example, if it is the peace the practicing Catholic seems to get from the Mass that is attractive to her, to what does the practicing Catholic attribute this peace? What does peace mean to each of them? Why is this peace missing from the co-worker’s life? It is upon this spark that the practicing Catholic can begin to engage her co-worker in dialogue, deepen their friendship, learn about her and, hopefully, grow with her.


     Once there was a marvelous concert pianist. After a show, during a meet and greet, one enthusiastic fan proclaimed, “I would give anything to play the piano like you.” Without missing a beat, the pianist responded, “Would you give up your youth, forgo playing with other kids and participating in other extracurricular activities so you could practice six to eight hours a day year-round for years on end? Would you give up dating and all other desires for a single-minded commitment to the art?” The fan slowly lowered his head as the enthusiasm of the previous moment left his face and he turned and walked away, dejected.

     Sharing is critical, but we must take care not to overwhelm by giving an inexhaustible prescription for action out of our enthusiasm. Everything is subject to a growth process that must be respected lest the life of something be uprooted or cut off prior to maturity.


     The practicing Catholic’s engagement with her co-worker about what it is the co-worker believes she gets out of Mass can provide an opportunity to evangelize, or share the Good News, about the Mass. Of course, she wants to evangelize in a way that will hopefftlly lead to the co- worker’s desire to re-engage with the Mass (which means keeping in mind the aforementioned indicators of engagement).

     For example, the catechism teaches us that the word “liturgy” originally meant a “public work” or a “service in the name of/ on behalf of the people.” For the Christian, it means the “participation of the People of God in ‘the work of God.’” (ccc #1069) In other words, Christ continues the work of our redemption in, with and through the Church, which is his body. Notice this means our participation is necessary for this mission, and there are clear expectations for us. It means belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

      Also, the Mass is a sacrament of communion between God and humanity and of communion between neighbors. Ideally, the Mass, in the sharing of God’s word and Christ’s body and blood, builds a community that cares for one another, belongs to one another and supports the spiritual growth of its members. In other words, the Mass involves getting and giving; belonging and growing.


     When someone expresses the desire to get from the Mass what you get from the Mass, consider the following:

1. Invite them to attend Mass with you.

2. Suggest books or courses (there are many online courses) about the Mass and its meaning. Read the book with them and discuss it. Offer to take the course with them.

3. Invite them to a prayer group or a Bible Study.

4. Encourage them to explore a Catholics Returning Home program, and go with them.

5. Create a safe space for them to continue to discuss their faith journey with you. In other words, offer your friendship and presence without conditions or pressure.

Accompaniment and dialogue are the keys, as the faith journey of each person must be respected and honored.


     Which pope said the following? “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”

a. Pope Francis

b. Pope St. John XXIII

c. Pope St. John Paul II

d. Pope St. Pius X

The answer appears at the bottom of this page.



The Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta of the Virgin Islands area


     Come and enjoy this elegant “white tie” event that begins with the bishop’s 6 p.m. Champagne Reception. At 7 p.m., the ballroom doors open for seating and personal plated service at your table. There is complimentary shuttle service from the Havensight Shopping Mall at Red Hook Ferry Dock to and from “The Reef,” fabulous prizes, our famous 60/40 raffle, a memorable program with this years’ special entertainment and dancing to the fabulous music of Milo’s Kings.

     So, make your tax-deductible dinner ticket purchases at any of the parish church offices, as well as from designated ticket sellers listed in the church bulletins and website.

     For those worshipers who reside on the U.S. mainland who want to send a monetary donation, please mail your tax-deductible contributions to: Most Rev. Herbert A. Bevard Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Island P.O. Box 301825 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 00803-1825


Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church

Jerry Woodhouse, KM

Christine Woodhouse


John Foster, KM

Claire Foster, DM

Carroll Rourke, DM


Holy Cross Church

Rita de Chabert-Schuster, OCDS, DM

Dr. Rizalina Batenga, MD, DM

Current projects of the Order of Malta Virgin Islands Area

• Rosary Garden

• Natural Family Planning

• Halfway House

• Nana Baby Home

• Prison Ministry

• Lourdes Pilgrimages

• Haiti Support

Refer to your church bulletin for ticket seller names or visit our website at




By Father Kevin MacDonald, CSsR

     The close of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy does not mean an end to the immense treasury which is in the hands of the holy Catholic Church to dispense from her storehouse of graces, blessings, and indulgences. Being in a continual state of grace is so important, if we want to gain eternal life. The gifts of the Church will go on until the end of time, so that we may take advantage of these many and precious benefices which are hers to give us freely.

     Jesus said, “Be alert, you do not know the day or the hour.” He did not say to worry or to be anxious. We must be alert. In other words, we acknowledge there are pitfalls that can damage our communion with God and our relations with our neighbors. We need to be alert to the ways we can improve ourselves and grow to full stature in Christ.

     The Church does not leave us to face these uncertainties on our own. Catholics can gain a partial or plenary indulgence by making a parish mission or retreat. Redemptorist missionaries, for example, during the recent anniversary year of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, had the privilege of bestowing a plenary indrtlgence to anyone making at least a three day retreat, receiving sacramental confession and Communion, and saying prayers for Pope Francis’ intentions.

     Indulgences are not in the lexicon of the ordinary Catholic church goer, but perhaps that should change. Indulgences, which were abused by some commercially-minded ministers of the Church during the medieval ages, are still a valid way of spurring us on to acts of piety and selflessness. Here are some of the ways that they can be gained:

1. Raising one’s mind to God with humble trust while performing one’s duties in life and bearing with life’s difficulties, and adding, at least mentally, a pious invocation.

2. Devoting oneself or one’s goods in a spirit of faith to benefit someone in need.

3. Freely abstaining in a spirit of penance from something that is licit and pleasant.

4. Freely witnessing to one’s faith.

5. Reading or listening to Scripture for at least a half an hour a day.

6. Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament for at least a half an hour.

7. Performing the Stations of the Cross.

8. Reciting the rosary with a group of people.

     Indulgences also can mitigate some of the fears and anxieties that naturally occur when we face end of life issues. For example, we might wonder if all our sins have been confessed adequately? Or, if we have done all that God expected us to do? These are real fears and can, in their worst case scenarios, cause immobilizing fear and block our sense of wonder and joy as we prepare for eternity.

     A plenary indulgence remits all the “temporal punishments” due to sin. Our eternal punishment is forgiven when we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, but there is still the matter of making up for the damage our sins have caused in our relationship with God and neighbor. As an elderly priest pointed out to me recently, “When you break a window, your father forgives you, but you still have to pay for the window.”

     A plenary or partial indulgence is just another way that we attend to the wounds that our sins have caused. And, in case you are having trouble in recognizing your sins, most of our offenses against God are sins of omission; things we could have done, but, for many reasons, we have let these opportunities pass.

     As St. Alphonsus used to say, “As long as there is breath, there is hope.” Our God is not waiting to pounce on us for our sins and failures. God encourages us to tap into the super abundant graces that are available to us. We stand before the treasury of the infinite merits gained by Christ, as well as the merits and prayers of the Virgin Mary and all the saints. We do not have to be afraid any more. We will always be co-heirs to the kingdom with Christ. Trials and tribulations must come first, but, for those who persevere, the halls of the heavenly banquet await.



Answer to Evangelization Quiz

Answer "c" - Pope St.John Paul II at his address at World Youth Day in Rome, August 19, 2000