Archive for April, 2008

April 28, 2008 – A Spirit-Filled Evening

April 28, 2008

Did you here a unusual noise about 9:00PM Monday evening?  It may have been a collective sigh of relief from the halls of the buildings that make up our parish.  Our Confirmation ceremony has now come and gone, and as promised, I would like to share my thoughts on the evening.

It was a good omen about the middle of the afternoon when the rain that was forecast never really materialized, the clouds parted, and the sun shined brightly.  You could feel that the Holy Spirit was going to be present in a special way for us this evening.

The Confirmation Mass did not begin until 7:00PM, but the candidates and teachers were in full swing by 5:30PM.  Once the gowns and the name tags are put on, it is time for pictures.  This part, admittedly, is one of my least favorite parts of the evening, but I put on my “best” face and made it through.  After pictures, the candidates returned to school to meet up with their sponsors, and it was time for us teachers to meet with Bishop Braxton.  The candidates each write a letter to the Bishop requesting that they be Confirmed.  The Bishop was complimentary of the letters, and rightfully so.  There were some intriguing and inspiring stories of faith in the letters which left all of us very impressed.  After our meeting, it was time for the Bishop to meet with the candidates and sponsors.  The Bishop did a very good job putting the kids at ease and letting them know what was expected of them.

It was then time for the Confirmation Mass.  I can honestly say that everything went off without a hitch.  The music provided by Del Girard was excellent, and the church sang in a loud voice.  There was a wonderful sense of reverence present in the church.  Bishop Braxton gave a very nice homily, and asked some very good questions of the kids.  The kids did a FANTASTIC job answering the Bishop’s questions.  Teachers, clergy, parents, and relatives had to be so proud.  We may have to sweep the buttons up off of the church floor froom everyone’s chests swelling with pride.  It was then time for the most important part of the evening, when the Bishop sealed the candidates with the oil of Chrism.  Personally, as a teacher, this is the moment that gives me the most pride, to see my class who had worked so hard for 8 months receive their reward.

After Mass, it was time for the reception.  I can remember in years past when there was not a large crowd at the reception, and it seemed that everyone left early.  Not so this year.  Most everyone came over and enjoyed themselves.  Bishop Braxton came in for pictures with the Confirmandi and greeted folks before his departure.  All in all, it was a great evening, one that will be etched in my memory for a long time. 

Many people deserve thank you’s for this blessed evening.  I first have to thank Bishop Edward Braxton for doing a very good job with the kids and for showing a “personable” side that many may have not seen before.  One evening does not cure our ills, and there certainly remain many differences to be addressed and prayed for, particularly between our dedicated clergy and our Diocesan leader.  This does not take away from the fact, however, that our Bishop is an excellent theologian and educator, and these qualities shined through on this night.  Let us pray that this may be a beginning toward a healing that our Diocese is in need of.

I would like to thank Fr. Gene for his hard work in preparing for Confirmation, and for the care he shows to our children in making sure that their faith experience is memorable.  I also personally thank you, Fr. Gene, for your encouraging words to me as we prepared for this day.  I treasure our friendship (and your uplifting e-mails)!

I thank our Director of Religious Education, Cheryl Gross, for the long hours of dedicated work that she puts into not only preparing the Confirmation class, but in overseeing all aspects of religious education in our parish.  We are blessed to have someone with the gifts that she brings to all of us.  Thank you also to Brenda Congiardo, the catechist for our 7th/8th grade school children, for her inspiration to them and the knowledge that she imparts to them.  She has a wonderful relationship with the kids and it truly shows when the chips are down.  God Bless our dedicated staff!

I thank the parishioners of St. Mary’s who were in attendance for our Confirmation ceremony, and those who were not able to be in church but that were there in spirit and prayer.  Our parishioners are tremendous examples to our students, and I know that our students cannot help but be inspired by you.

I thank those who joined us from our cluster parish of St. Boniface in Evansville: Fr. Jack, the catechists, candidates and parishioners.   Their presence truly enhanced our liturgy, and showed that even amidst the declining number of clergy, fewer people in the pews, and other issues, that our Catholic faith can still be inspiring when we come together as one.

Finally, the largest thank you goes to the now newly Confirmed of our parish from our school and PSR program.  They did tremendously well in all aspects of the evening, and I know put in many long hours of studying, and probably hours of worrying as well.  They are deserving of our congratulations and our continued support as well.  If this group is an indicator of the future, our church will be in good hands.  Please congratulate them when you see them and let them know that they will always be a vital part of our parish.  Their names are listed on the home page at www.maryhoc.org.

As it is now past 11:00PM, I close with the words of Pope John XXIII: “Lord, the church belongs to you now.  I am going to bed.”

Peace.

 

 

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Saturday, April 19, 2008 – A Wake-Up Call?

April 19, 2008

Did you feel the unexpected “wake-up call” that we got yesterday morning in the form of the earthquake?  I don’t think that I was awake for the whole episode, but I remember hearing some rattling and just feeling something “unusual” beneath me.  Having been through a natural disaster just a couple of years ago, my first thought was “please don’t let this get any worse!”.  Fortunately, it did not, but we did get another little reminder that anything can happen at anytime, and that we need to prepared – both practically (bottled water, flashlights, radio, batteries, etc.) and spiritually.  God has His ways of reminding us that our time is not ours, but His.

I have been following the visit of Pope Benedict XVI as much as I can.  The only event I saw in its entirety was his vesper service and address to the U.S. Bishops, but I have seen highlights of others.  I have been pleased with much of what I have seen, including his outreach to other religions, and his efforts to express the regret of the Catholic Church in regard to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.  There will be many people who will say that his words and actions regarding this are not enough, and I respect these opinions.  I spent much of my childhood around clergy, whether it was in Catholic school, or serving Mass, or whatever the situation.  I can honestly say that I never experienced a priest make any sort of inappropriate gesture toward me at any time, so I am sure that my view of the situation is much different than someone who has felt victimized.  However, as a Catholic I can make these observations:

No matter what is done now or what policies are made, we cannot go  back and change the past.  What has happened has happened.  The best thing we can do as church is to take steps to try to ensure that it never happens again.  The policies that are now in place and the educational requirements that people who work with youth must go through are very comprehensive.  There will be those who will say that it is not enough, but I can say without hesitation that knowing what we know now, as a parent or guardian I would feel much more comfortable with  my child alone with a priest or other Catholic personnel than I would have 30 years ago.  Is the system perfect?  No.  No system is.  If you suspect abuse by a priest or other diocesan personnel, there is a 24-hour hotline that can be called – (800) 640-3044.  Let us pray that the Pope’s efforts and the efforts of all will bring us healing and that the victims of abuse may be comforted and receive the help they need.

Finally, as you know, we are celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation here at St. Mary’s on Monday, April 28.  As one of the catechists, this a very exciting time, and admittedly a little bit of a nervous time also.  I ask for your prayers for our candidates, as well as those candidates who will be joining us from St. Boniface in Evansville.  I hope if possible you will join us for Mass that evening and also for the reception afterwards in the gym.  With all of the activity surrounding this, I will probably wait to make another blog entry until after the ceremony, and I will give you my thoughts then.

To end: My daily spitritual calendar has this thought today – Got Jesus?  It’s hell without Him!  Another wake-up call?

Peace.

Saturday, April 12, 2008 – The Webmaster’s “Bits”

April 12, 2008

If you are a reader of the sports section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch such as I am, you have probably seen a feature in the Saturday edition called “Bernie’s Bits”.  The columnist doesn’t write about one subject, but gives some brief thoughts about several subjects.  As I’ve been thinking about what to write today, that’s kind of the mindset I am in  – with several thoughts turning in my mind.  So consider this my “bits” entry:

–  I of course was only joking when I mentioned a couple weeks back that since it snowed on Easter, we would be in for seven straight Sundays of snow.  Well lo and behold, the forecast for tomorrow has SNOW.  Careful what you wish for, eh?

– There is still a buzz around the parish about the success of the dinner/auction last Saturday.  We had better be careful, or we may just have to have another one next year!

– Eyes will be on Pope Benedict’s apostolic visit to our country this week.  You can go to our homepage, www.maryhoc.org to find a link to the website with all of the information about his visit.  I can still remember the atmosphere and joyous spirit surrounding the visit of Pope John Paul II to St. Louis.  Hopefully Pope Benedict’s visit will create the same feeling and help to create a positive vibe for our Catholic Church.

– Fr. Gene mentioned a statistic in his homily this weekend that was startling: In the last 35 years, one-fourth of those who were Roman Catholic at that time have left the church.  This stirs many thoughts in my mind.  Why do people not put serving God as the main priority in their life?  Has Vatican II really been successful?  What can we do to turn the tide?  Is it time for us to stop being “closet Catholics” and start to truly spread the word about the Good News of our faith?  Has our leadership been flawed?  Any of these questions could probably be a blog in itself, and worthy of being addressed in the future.

– Shameless plug time: This past Sunday there were 108 pages viewed on our website, www.maryhoc.org.  This is the second-most hits in one day since the website began.  Thank you so much.  Keep spreading the word about our website, and thank you for your support and constructive comments.

– Next weekend our parish will once again nominate individuals to potentially serve on our parish council.  If you receive a letter in the mail saying you were nominated, please consider learning more about our council.  It is a wonderful group to work with, and is a group with a great spirit and dedication.  On the flip side, if you are unable to serve for whatever reason, please do not feel guilty or regret your decision.  We all have many priorities in our lives, and sometimes we have to say “no.”

– As I said, this entry was going to be all over the place, and I think mission was accomplished.  If there is a topic you would like for me to address in the future, or if you have a comment about what has already been written, please leave a note by clicking “comments” at the end of this entry.  Let us keep Pope Benedict in our prayers this week, and all in our parish who are in need of our prayers.

Peace.

P.S.  Cardinals 9-3?!?!  Who would’ve have thought?

April 6, 2008 – Another St. Mary’s “Tradition”

April 5, 2008

I waited until Sunday morning to post this blog for a couple of reasons: Number one of course because our dinner/auction was going on Saturday night, and I seriously doubt if anyone brought their laptops to St. Mary’s Gym, and number two, because the morning after the dinner/auction, another St. Mary’s tradition takes hold – the auction “hangover.”  Many may feel like they have a hangover the morning after the auction because they are worn out from working so hard to prepare and worked so hard the night of the auction.  Some may feel like they have a hangover because they wonder where all of their money went to the night before.  And, of course, there may be a few who, well, actually have a hangover!  So this St. Mary’s tradition goes.  Whatever type of hangover you are experiencing, know that your efforts and generosity are appreciated so much.  May the Lord bless you for everything you do to keep our parish operational and vital.

As our parish turns, our next big event is not far away.  Monday, April 28, we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation with 15 of our 7th/8th grade students from St. Mary’s School and PSR, and also we will be joined by 4 students from our cluster parish in Evansville.  Our students have been preparing since the beginning of the school year for this important step in their faith life, and now the big day is almost here.  If possible, I hope you will join us for this celebration on April 28 at 7:00PM, even if you do not have a family member involved in the ceremony.  This is an event that only occurs once every 2 years, and our young people who have put so much time into preparing for this big day deserve our support.  Kudos also go out to Fr. Gene and Cheryl Gross who have been busy preparing for the ceremony, and to Brenda Congiardo who has been preparing the school children for this important sacrament.

This is my 5th go around in preparing the PSR students for Confirmation, and I still get anxious and excited as the day approaches.  However, there is no better feeling than when you see those young people whom you have gotten to know over the course of the year reach the reward that they have been striving for.  The Holy Spirit is a powerful force among us.  Pray that the Spirit be with us through these final days of preparation.

I have to share a little personal encounter with you.  In my last blog I mentioned something to the effect that in an effort to sacrifice a little more to help our parish’s financial situation, that we may want to consider doing something such as eating out one less time per week, etc.  I neglected to think when I wrote this that my 9-year old niece LOVES to eat out, and she took exception to this.  Let me point out that this was only a suggestion, and that I’m sure all of us will find our own means of sacrifice.  So by all means, please continue to support our local eating establishments on occasion.

Finally, as I always manage to do, just a little reminder to continue to log on to our website, www.maryhoc.org, and check out all of the new features that have been added, including a cluster booklet that has been published by our 5 cluster parishes, and many wonderful photos of our stained glass windows in church.

Thanks again for checking out the blog and for all of your comments.  Thnks also for your prayers for the Cardinals (4-1, who would have thought?).

Peace.