October 14, 2011

Loving God and neighbor must be at foundation of beliefs, St. Thomas More Society members reminded at Red Mass

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, gives Communion to a member of the St. Thomas More Society during the legal organization’s annual Red Mass on Oct. 3 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, gives Communion to a member of the St. Thomas More Society during the legal organization’s annual Red Mass on Oct. 3 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

Scripture tells us that the greatest law is to love God and love your neighbor, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, reminded St. Thomas More Society members during the legal organization’s annual Red Mass on Oct. 3 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

Lawyers, judges, other legal professionals and law students have unique opportunities to do that in daily life, he said during his homily on the goodness of God, who is truth and justice.

“It’s the basic theology that in all things we seek to love God and love our fellow human beings,” Bishop Coyne said. “We seek to lift up those around us. We seek to bring everything towards God. … Those things serve as a foundation for us in our life of faith.”

The bishop acknowledged that he “can’t begin to imagine the kind of complexities that you all face in a pluralistic society, trying to make just laws, trying to make just judgments, trying to live that call to love God and to love neighbor.

“Sometimes that involves making hard decisions,” he said. “Sometimes that involves perhaps making choices that, in the grand scheme of things, we wish we didn’t have to make. … But in the end, each of us, in our own ways, seeks to love God and to love neighbor.”

If we make that Scripture passage the foundation of our beliefs, Bishop Coyne said, “starting with the way in which we live our lives, it seems to me that even when it is most difficult for us to find our way, we can be helped, we are helped—by the Spirit, by the teachings of the Church, by all the things that God gives us—to find our path” amidst the complexities of life.

“Thanks be to God,” he said, “we have the teachings of the Church, the sacraments that we share and the Eucharist that we are able to receive to strengthen us … in our daily life and our lives of prayer.”

Marion County Superior Court Judge David Certo of Indianapolis welcomed society members and guests to the annual dinner following the liturgy.

“When we treat people with dignity and compassion and respect,” he said, “we serve them and Christ in them.”

St. Thomas More, while facing martyrdom, described himself as “the king’s good servant, but God’s first,” Certo said. “That is a lesson to all of us, particularly when we’re confronted by the little choices that lead us off in the wrong way. Confronted by the greatest of choices, he gave us a model to follow.”

Abigail Kuzma, director and chief counsel of the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, received the organization’s 2011 Woman for All Seasons Award for her distinguished legal service to the poor.

Kuzma served on U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar’s staff in Washington before moving to Indianapolis to raise four children.

In 1994, she co-founded the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic then served as its executive director for 15 years.

“While I was there, the St. Thomas More Society was very much a partner to us,” Kuzma said. “From my perspective, I feel like service is something that they really know how to do well.”

She said several Scripture passages inspired her and other clinic staff members.

“They really are, I think, still to me part of why I do what I do,” Kuzma said, “and why I think most of us do what we do.”

Psalm 82 speaks of the need to “defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed, rescue the weak and the needy, and deliver them from the hands of the wicked,” she said, quoting from Ps 82:3-4.

“What a privilege to be able to feel like you’re part of that Scripture [passage],” Kuzma said, and to be able to continue that kind of compassionate service for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

“We’re absolutely seeking to serve those who cannot defend themselves,” she said. “… We’re doing a big initiative with respect to … protecting victims of human trafficking.”

As a legal professional and state employee, Kuzma said, “I just feel so grateful to have that opportunity to represent those folks who need help, maybe the lowest of our population.”

Kuzma also assists Attorney General Greg Zoeller with efforts to protect people facing foreclosure of their homes as well as assist enlisted men and women struggling with financial, legal and family challenges while serving their country at times half a world away.

“It’s very meaningful and rewarding,” she said. “This is something we need to be involved in. The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic is a partner in this endeavor as well so I’m very grateful for that.”

Kuzma also cited Scripture passages from the Letter of St. James about the need to combine faith and action (Jas 2:14-17) as well as a verse from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which speaks of how God prepared us to do good works (Eph 2:10).

“I felt the Lord leading me to take that risk and to be involved” in 1994 in the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, she said, which started small and was only open on Saturday mornings.

Last year, Kuzma said, the faith-based, nonprofit, neighborhood legal clinic served about 12,000 people in need with a budget of more than $1 million.

“Only the Lord can do that,” she said. “We’re all grateful to go along for the ride and be a little bit of a part of it. It was very much a blessing. … We are created to do good works. He has figured out what it is that we need to do to serve him, and all we have to do is find that work that he wants us to do.”

Before his closing prayer at the dinner, Bishop Coyne reminded the legal professionals that, “This, more than anything else, is a time when we need to be people of hope and joy. We need to say to people that we’re all in God’s hands always, and that God’s hands are my hands and your hands.” †

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