Archive for March, 2008

Entry for March 29, 2008 – Not Too Late To Say Happy Easter!

March 29, 2008

I’m back after a one-week Easter hiatus from blogging.  However, I can still wish you a Happy Easter!  You may be thinking that I’m a week late, but of course on our liturgical calendar, the Easter season lasts seven weeks.  So if there is someone you failed to wish a Happy Easter to, don’t worry, you still have plenty of time!  One thing my family was wondering about: the old legend says that if it rains on Easter Sunday, then we are in for seven straight Sundays with rain.  Does that mean then that since it snowed this year on Easter, that we are in for seven straight Sundays with snow?  Obviously this is a far-fetched notion, but with our strange weather patterns,  you never know.

Father Gene steered me to a very cool website.  It is a perpetual Easter calendar.  When you go to the page, you can type in any year, and it will give you the day of when Easter falls, and all of the other liturgical dates surrounding Easter.  To access it, go to our webpage, www.maryhoc.org, click on the “links” tab, and you will find the link under the “Catholic Links” category.

This week is “dinner/auction” week.  Many of our parishioners will be extremely busy this week preparing, setting up, helping on Saturday evening, and cleaning up afterwards.  I sincerely thank everyone who has any part in making our dinner/auction a continued success.  You have heard it said in the past that we need a great dinner/auction to help us pay our bills, and this year is certainly no exception.  It is no secret to anyone that our economy is going through tough times, and consequently all of us, especially families, are going through tough times.  People have to make difficult choices to make about spending.  Our parish is no different.  Our expenses continue to climb while our income has leveled off and recently decreased.  This has forced our parish into a deficit for the year and we owe the diocese a considerable amount of money.

It is so difficult to talk about finances, especially when so many in our parish are already giving so generously of their time, talent, and money.  However, the time has come to address the situation before it gets out of hand.  Over the coming weeks you will be asked to sacrifice a little more for our parish on the financial side, whether it be through a one-time gift, or increasing your weekly contribution, or both.  Again this will be difficult for many of us to do.  However, we have been through difficult times in the past and persevered, and I am confident that now will be no exception.  If many would sacrifice a little more, it would make a huge difference.  It may mean something as simple as eating out one less time per week, or not getting the “jumbo” soda and “king” sized candy bar at the convenience store.  Let us pray for a successful dinner/auction, for a solution to our deficit situation, and for all of us that our tough financial times will be eased shortly.  Again, you will hear more about this in the weeks ahead.

Finally, congratulations to our 2nd graders as the make their First Holy Communion this weekend.  Also we continue to pray for our 7th/8th graders as they are in the final stages of their preparation for Confirmation on April 28th.  Thank you for your continued support of our parish and this website.  Keep checking our website as I continue to add new features and update things.  As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Peace.

P.S.  Go Cardinals!

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March 15, 2008 – Keeping This Week TRULY Holy

March 15, 2008

Doesn’t it seem like Lent was just beginning, and now here we are at Holy Week?  They say that time goes faster as you get older, and I am a believer!  I hope to see you for at least some of the Holy Week services and activities that are taking place this week.  Visit our website, www.maryhoc.org, for a full schedule of all of the happenings this coming week.  In particular, I hope to see you at the community Holy Week service on Tuesday evening at 7:00PM here in our church.  I haven’t been to as many of these in the past as I would like, but I am clearing my calendar for this one.  Bonnie and the Sodality are providing refreshments following the service in the cafeteria.  Let’s have a great St. Mary’s showing!

One piece of advice for Holy Week – particularly Easter:  If your schedule permits, please try to attend the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday Evening.  With the change in our Mass schedule from last year, the 9:00AM Mass on Easter Sunday is sure to break all of the fire codes!  The Easter Vigil Mass is some longer and it starts later (8:00PM), but the rituals that take place and scripture that is read truly usher in the Easter Season and new life in Christ.  Just my humble piece of advice, but don’t say you weren’t warned (ha, ha)!

In the midst of what should be a time of prayer, reflection and and celebration, it was saddening to see that the newspapers and TV newscasts were once again having to report on the situation with the hierarchy of our Diocese.  As you have probably read or seen, a group of about half of the active diocesan priests met on Wednesday to discuss conflicts and lack of trust with our Bishop, Edward Braxton.  The result of the meeting was a statement requesting that the Bishop resign his position.  The statement said that these priests are acting as “advocates for all of the people of God in the Diocese of Belleville, whom we are privileged to know, love and serve.”  I, of course, was not at the meeting, and so my thoughts on the motivation for this statement by this group of priests would only be speculation.  I can only comment on what I do know:

As a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, I have attended several meetings with the Bishop.  I have also been in contact with him on a couple of other occasions.  I have found him for the most part to be cordial, and I think it would be unfair to say that he is “mean-spirited” in any way.  He is a man who deeply loves his church and his faith.  That being said, there has been periodic frustration in his leadership style.  He has given the impression that the opinions of those who he is supposed to consult with is not valued.  Our prior bishop, now Archbishop Wilton Gregory, took the advice of his consultors to heart, particularly the Diocesan Pastoral Council.  He considered lay people in the pews to be “soldiers in the field”, and the people to whom he ultimately had to answer to.  Bishop Braxton clearly takes a different approach, following Canon Law to the fullest degree, and being much more reserved in consulting with us.

I am certainly understanding of the priests’ frustration.  Our clergy are under a great amount of stress as it is, with all of them pastoring in multiple parishes and performing multiple tasks.  To not have a Bishop who offers his full support of their ministry and who is many times unavailable for consultation is disheartening.  My only disappointment is that I fear this will take away from some of the spirit and prayerfulness of Holy Week, and that it will will give those Catholics who are already frustrated and questioning their faith one more reason to stay away from our celebrations.  As we do gather this week, let us pray that a swift resolution to our conflicts can be found.  Let us also pray for our clergy that God provide them strength and support.  Finally, let us pray that we not lose our focus on what this week is about, and on what our ultimate mission is: to spread the message of the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Most likely, this will be my final blog entry before Easter.  Next Saturday, I’m sure there will be many preparations going on for the feast the next day (have you ever noticed that no matter what the holiday, the food always comes to the forefront?).  I wish you a Blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter.  May the Risen Lord guide you in all that you do.  Thanks once again for reading the blog and for supporting our website.

Peace.

March 8, 2008 – An Attitude of Gratitude

March 8, 2008

Well it was our turn for a change to dodge the winter weather this past week.  Do you suppose the worm has turned and that spring is finally on the doorstep?  Or is it too soon to get my hopes up?  Time will tell.

The weather was certainly a life-changing factor for me and my family around this time 2 years ago.  When you hear the date 9/11, you of course immediately think of the horendous, senseless tragedy of the terrorists flying into the World Trade Center Towers in New York and taking thousands of innocent lives.  There is another date that sticks in the minds of my family whenever it is mentioned, and that date is 3/11.  It was on this date in 2006 that our property was devastated by a tornado.  Now certainly I am not in any way comparing the magnitude of the tragedy in New York to our own.  However, I think there are at least some similarities.

I recall 9/11, 2001 being a very nice day here as well as in New York, and I’m sure people were going about there business with no inkling of anything to come later on.  Likewise, I remember 3/11, 2006 being a very nice day, though unusually warm.  I remember that it was a Saturday, and I was running errands and doing routine things like any other day.  In fact, for some reason, I can remember thinking to myself “boy, things are really going well today.  I’m getting everything done I wanted to, and it’s just been a good, successful day.”

The 9/11 tragedy, of course, came with no warning.  Our 3/11 tragedy did have some warning, though I admit I probably didn’t take the warnings as seriously as I should have.  I remember sitting in the living room following the storms on TV that evening, and telling my mom that “oh, it looks like that storm is going north of us.  Nothing to be concerned about.”  However, it wasn’t long after that we heard a strange “whistling” sound, and we decided to go to the basement.  I am convinced that this was God’s “warning” to us to get up and get going!  Of, course, I remained nonchalant and strolled down to the basement with no cell phone, no flashlight, no nothing!  It is hard to say how long we were in the basement, maybe 5-10 minutes before the lights went out and the crashing noises began.  Not being able to see outside, and being pitch black in the basement with no light, we really had no idea what was going on around us.  I”m sure many in the World Trade Center had the same feeling after the planes hit.

It is strange, but I remember events of that day before the tornado hit much clearer than after.  Afterward, everything seemed like a big blur – call it denial, call it stunned disbelief, call it whatever.  But the one thing that I and my family will never forget is the generosity of friends, neighbors, and strangers who helped us that night, the days after, and even the weeks after.  If I tried to make a list, I would be here until tomorrow, but even 2 years later, we are just as appreciative and still in awe of all of the wonderful people who helped to get us back on our feet.  It seems even in the worst of tragedies there are the hidden blessings.  After the 9/11 tragedy, so many firefighters, policeman, and many others converged on the site to try to find victims with no regard for their own personal safety.  I can say we saw a piece of that first-hand.

I did not make this entry for the sake of pity.  I made this entry to once again thank all of those who helped us in any way, and also to share with you that even 2 years later, we carry a much stronger “attitude of gratitude” than we did before that historical night in our lives.  When things are going well for us, it is so easy to say to ourselves “well, this is how it should be.  Why can’t it always be like this?”  It is easy to forget to say “thank you” to God and to those around us for all of the good things we have and share.  Even in the bad times, there are still those “hidden” blessings that emerge for us to be thankful for.  So as we are close to Holy Week and the many events that comprise it, I offer 2 closing thoughts: 1)  Pay attention to those Tornado Warnings! and 2) Don’t forget to say Thank You to God for giving us everything that is good, and to say Thank you to those special people in our lives for making those good things even more meaningful.

Peace.

March 1, 2008 – The Halftime Report

March 1, 2008

Hi again.

I am going to try to squeeze an entry in here while at the same time having my attention on something very important – the SIU Saluki basketball game.  OK, I guess it depends on your perspective as to really how important this game is, or any sports event for that matter.  But having attended SIU, and seeing the success that they have had in athletics over the last 5 years or so, I can’t help but get a little excited.  But alas, blogging detail calls.

We’ve reached about the halfway point in the Lenten season.  How have you been doing with your Lenten sacrifices so far?  Has that favorite dessert or that favorite beverage been oh so tempting?  If you are like me, you have probably reached the point where you may be struggling a little bit with your Lenten pledge.  I pledged to myself as Lent began that I would try to spend a little more time with God each day, whether it be in prayer or reflection or some other means.  I must admit that I have done better some days than others.  I could find a bunch of excuses for not holding up my pledge to the fullest, but they would be just that, excuses.  So I will try to improve and be more disciplined for the rest of Lent.   The good thing about dealing with the Lord is that you can always get a second chance (or third, or fourth).

In my last entry I talked about “unsung heroes”, people who look to help others without seeking publicity or tributes.  Another “unsung hero” I need to mention is Bob Koenegstein.  Bob attends the Methodist church here in town, but is working tirelessly for the whole community.  About a year ago, the food pantry in Koeneman Acres was in danger of closing.  But Bob, with backing of the ministerial alliance, stepped in and not only has kept the pantry on its feet, but is doing so much more.  More and more people each month are being helped at what is now called the Chester Area Christian Food Pantry.  The food collected in our food barrel goes to the pantry.  Also, with Fr. Gene’s help, we were able to secure a $1000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  This money will be used to provide workshops on things such as nutrition, medications, safe food preparation, and other things.  You can go to www.maryhoc.org and click on the Sacraments/Ministries tab for more information about the food pantry.

Kudos also to one of our dedicated parishioners, Linda Smith.  Linda, who among her many other roles in our parish is chairman of our dinner/auction, gave a very informative and reflective talk about our need for a successful auction at this weekend’s Masses.  It takes a lot of courage to get up and to ask for things and money, and I applaud her for her continued efforts and dedication to our parish, as I applaud everyone who works so hard to put on such a great event each year.  Let’s work to make this the best auction yet.

Well March came in today like a lamb, so I guess that means it will go out like a lion.  My hope was that the beginning of March would mean the end of winter, but the forecast for Tuesday is for sleet and snow.  Ugh!  We will be rewarded for all of this winter weather, won’t we?

Be sure to check out our website, www.maryhoc.org.  I have updated the Parish Council page, K of C page, Monthly Calendar, and of course the home page.  Be sure to tell your family and friends out of town about our website, so they can keep up with what is happening in our parish.  Thanks again for checking out the blog.  Peace.