CHERRY HILL — “The door of faith is always open for us.”
Referencing Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 apostolic letter, “Porta Fidei,” (“The Door of Faith”) that introduced the Year of Faith, Bishop Dennis Sullivan began his evening with young adults here at Dubh Linn Square Sept. 10, as part of the Camden Diocese’s Theology on Tap program.
With a crowd of 80 young adults listening intently, Bishop Sullivan reflected on his nearly seven months as bishop of the Diocese of Camden, on understanding faith and – speaking on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – recalled his experience as a pastor in New York City at that time.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Bishop Sullivan was celebrating morning Mass in the lower church of St. Teresa’s on the Lower East Side as hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, 10 blocks away, at 8:46 a.m.
Soon, countless individuals, covered in ash and with eyes burning, came running to St. Teresa’s for refuge. And for months, the parish and the city were on lockdown, with the army encamped outside the front door.
“The world began to collapse,” Bishop Sullivan recalled.
However, the then-pastor saw acts of heroism and goodness revealed through the destruction, in the acts of the parish’s Cabrini Sisters, who comforted and cared for, and even held up, suffering visitors; and in Mitchell Wallace, a 34-year old Court Attorney who died while trying to save the lives of those trapped in the World Trade Center.
To those asking “Where was God” during 9/11, Bishop Sullivan remarked: “He was in the relief efforts, locally, nationally and internationally.”
“The light of faith shines, even in darkness. Goodness was revealed in the thousands of saints during that time.”
In understanding faith, he said, one has to “look to faithful people,” such as St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who converted to the Catholic faith as a teenager.
It is in her conversion, by French missionaries as she lived among her Mohawk tribe, that we realize that “even within our culture, it’s possible to know, find, and love God, and be attracted to Jesus Christ,” Bishop Sullivan said.
In St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Francisan Friar who sacrificed his life in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz to save the life of another man, we find a man who was “an example of a light in the darkness; he was able to make known that he followed Jesus Christ and was willing to sacrifice himself.”
Near the end of the evening, Bishop Sullivan took questions from the young adults.
As one man asked, what is most important for young adults today, Bishop Sullivan responded with, “prayer. Time in prayer, time with God, focuses our thinking, centers our lives and anchors us.”
Another young adult remarked that soon he and his wife would be the parents of a newborn baby boy, and in a world that has become increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, how could they make sure their son would come to know and love that faith?
“Be a good Christian example through your own life,” the bishop responded.
For young adults in attendance, Bishop Sullivan was an inspiring example.
John Bevilacqua, from Prospect Park, Pa., and a member of the ACTS Young Adults Group at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown, remarked that it was an “honor to have the bishop come and speak with us.”
“Bishop Sullivan was absolutely wonderful,” said Kathryn Wallace from Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill. “In speaking of the events and aftermath of 9/11, he told us how ordinary people were saints to those around them, and how we are called to act in the same manner and be saints to everyone around us.”
Theology on Tap, a discussion series for young adults in their late teens, 20s, and 30s, will next be held on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m., at Lazy Lanigan’s in Washington Township. Father Kevin Mohan, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown, will speak on “How I Met Your Mother: Mary’s Role in the Faith.” For more information, call 856-583-6122, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or join “Theology on Tap- South Jersey” on Facebook.