By Fr. David Foxen, MSC (Our Lady of Solitude Church-Palm Springs, CA)
Palm Springs is used to welcoming visitors from all parts of the world. It is one of the exciting things about living here. This coming week we are getting ready to welcome Cardinal John Ribat, MSC. He is coming to visit our MSC Community here in California. Forty years ago John Ribat, a young man from Papua New Guinea, made his profession of religious vows as a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. After being ordained a priest in 1985, he began his ministry as a parish priest in his native country. With a capacity for pastoral leadership, he was made bishop of the Diocese of Bereina. Six years later he became the archbishop of Port Moresby, the nation’s capital.
On November 9, 2016, Pope Francis made him Cardinal John Ribat, MSC. This made him the first person from Papua New Guinea and also the first member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to become a cardinal. He chose for his motto “Peace through Jesus’ Heart.” These words tell us much about how he lives his priestly ministry. He sees the way to healing that brings genuine peace in the compassion visible in the human Heart of Jesus.
Cardinal Ribat is anxious to share his concern for the environment and climate change. He has a great appreciation for Pope Francis’ encyclical letter (Laudato Si) on the environment which recognizes the earth as our common home. For Cardinal Ribat, climate change is personal. The climate changes are having a great impact on the people of his native Papua New Guinea. Many of the people in that part of the world live on islands or along coastal land which is near sea level. Rising seas are putting many of the families in danger of losing their homes and land. Some are already experiencing being forced to abandon their homes or are experiencing salt water coming into the wells they depend on for drinking water. He realizes that climate change needs the cooperation of all nations, and he is deeply concerned that the United States has withdrawn from the Paris climate accord. For him and his people climate change is here and now and is disrupting lives and uprooting people.
Cardinal Ribat knows some of the MSCs working here in our California Community from when they were missionaries in Papua New Guinea. He is going to spend a few days here with us in Palm Springs and with the MSCs working in the Riverside area. We are hoping he will be able to visit our three parishes here in Palm Springs. We are planning to invite him to celebrate a Mass at Our Lady of Solitude on Friday, March 29, around 6:00 PM and then go to our Lady of Guadalupe for a reception on the patio. On Saturday he will celebrate the 5:00 PM
Mass at St. Theresa. He will go to St. Catherine of Alexandria, the MSC parish in Riverside, for the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday, March 31. It is a quick visit but we are deeply honored to have him visit us. It will remind us that we are all part of the universal Church and that we are united with all our brothers and sisters in all the parts of the world.