Archive for October, 2008

October 25, 2008 – Thank You …

October 25, 2008

Hi, this is Joe the Plumber (sorry, my lame attempt at political humor).  My Mom asked me the other day what they are going to talk about on the news once the election is over, and I said that they will jump right into the next election, because it seems like this campaign has lasted that long!  Alas, 10 more days and it will be over (for a while).

Normally when I sit down to write the blog I have to cram my brain to come up with an idea, but this week was an exception.  This week was a slam dunk, no-brainer, because this weekend is our appreciation weekend in our parish.  We thank all of our parishioners who support our parish with their time, talent and treasure.  Thank you to our children, especially those enrolled in our school and PSR program who energize our parish with their exuberance and thirst for knowledge.  Thank you to our high school and college age parishioners who have made the decision to continue their faith journey and provide witness to all of us.  Thank you to the Generation X’ers, who despite now having families of their own and bustling lives at home, still find time to graciously support our school and church.  Thank you to our middle-aged parishioners, who still answer the bell when we need anything even though they no longer have kids in school or in our educational programs.  Thank you to our “more experienced” parishioners – I have never been around so many people who give up so much of their well earned free time to help us in any way they can.  Thank you to our dedicated parish and school staffs – so many people who could easily go elsewhere for more pay, yet continue to champion the cause of our parish and the Catholic faith.  And to anyone I failed to mention, thank you so much for everything you give and do.  God Bless all of you!

This weekend is also recognized in our country as Priesthood Sunday, in which we celebrate the gift of the priesthood and say thank you to those men wh have dedicated their lives to the Lord and to their ministry.  I have been influenced by many wonderful priests.  Fr. Kribs was our pastor throughout my childhood and into high school.  His mission was the care of the church and school, always making sure that things were in order.  I never knew what name he was going to call me – it might be Bruce, or Brad, or on the rare occasion, my actual name Brian, but he always let me know how much he appreciated my faithfulness to the church, whether it was as a server or whatever the occasion was.  To this day, he still keeps up with what is going on in his beloved St. Mary’s Parish.

I had 2 priests who were religion teachers of mine in high school – Fr. Tom Stout and Fr. Andy Knopik.  They were more than just my teachers, they were people I could confide in through the complicated teen years.  They were also 2 of the biggest Cardinal fans I have ever met, and if there is ever a bond to draw people together, it is that.

Fr. Dennis came to St. Mary’s prior to my senior year.  I mean this in the highest regard – Fr. Dennis was the Energizer Bunny – he kept going, and going, and going.  I know there were so many times that he sacrificed his leisure time and many other things he would have liked to have done in order to stay caught up on the parish business.  He taught me the real importance of prayer and how it can impact your life, and that miracles come in small ways, not just in huge, impactful ways.  His contributions to our parish will never be forgotten.

Fr. Gene came to us 4 years ago.  I knew from the very beginning that our mutual loves of food and the Cardinals would allow us to have a great relationship.  His dedication to Catholic education has been a true blessing for us.  Whether it be a history lesson, or a good joke, I think we can all say we have learned something from Fr. Gene.  We appreciate all you do for us, especially throughout the past year which I know has been difficult.

The thing about these men and the other priests who have helped shape my life is that they were not just mass-sayers, or ministers, or guys who dressed in black.  They were true friends, people you could put your trust in, people who you knew had your best interest at heart, people who you wish you knew more of.  So thank you again to all of our priests for touching our lives in so many ways.

Do you have someone in our parish you would like to thank, or a priest who has touched your life in a special way?  Feel free to leave a comment.  Peace.

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October 18, 2008 – Imagine If …

October 18, 2008

One of the great pleasures (and at times challenges) that I have had over the last 10 years or so has been teaching the 7th and 8th grade PSR class.  I still enjoy it very much because it is a good feeling to see kids take an interest in religion and in how God can play such a prominent role in their life.  I also receive a great benefit from it because I think at times I learn just as much or more than the kids do about my faith.  When I am preparing for a class and I come across an interesting story or a scripture passage that I don’t quite think I have a total grasp of, it motivates me to learn more about it.

In our class the past few weeks we have been discussing the topic of “Meeting Jesus”.  We have been taking a look at Jesus life here on earth in terms of the friends that He had, the people who He hung around with, the compassion He showed toward the less fortunate, and other aspects of His life.  This past week we talked about Jesus as a teacher.  We looked at how He would many times teach in parables, and His courage to teach despite the protests of the elders and scribes.  We also talked about how amazing it was that He could draw a large crowd of people without the benefit of any type of communication device except for word of mouth, and of course without the benefit of any type of transportation besides going on foot.

Can you imagine if Jesus would appear on earth now with the powerful communication devices that we have at our disposal?  With the internet, we can reach the world with virtually the push of a button.  And of course there are cell phones, faxes, etc.  Could you imagine receiving a message on your voice mail saying that “This is Jesus, I will be preaching at the town square at 3:00PM today, and I would love for you to be there.  Hop in your car and follow me.” 

I guess the point I am trying to get at is that if Jesus could draw a massive crowd of people under the conditions of His time, imagine what we can do with the technology available to us.  We can spread the word of Jesus’ message with virtually the push of a button.  We also have access to so much wonderful material that can enhance our spiritual life.  On our website, www.maryhoc.org, we have an extensive links page where you can link to prayer pages, scripture reflections, websites dealing with marriage, charitable organizations, etc.  I plan in the near future to try to re-organize this page to make it a little easier to navigate around, but I encourage you to see what is there and take advantage of it.  With as many links as we have on there, I’m sure there are many others that I am not aware of yet.  If you have a favorite website that you enjoy, let me know and I can link people to it.

One of the things I like to do once in a while is to link to the website of the Belleville Diocese.  If you click on “parishes”, you can get information about each parish, and they also provide a link to the parish website if the parish has one.  I find it fun and interesting to see what is going on in other parishes, read their bulletins, and to get some ideas from websites that are much more impressive than mine.  The word “Catholic” means universal, and the internet is certainly a convenient and powerful way that we as church can stay in touch with one another.  The internet is of course filled with offensive and inaccurate material, but it is also filled with valuable information as well, so we shouldn’t be afraid to delve in and see what is there, and to support those websites that are providing us material that can enhance our spiritual lives.

I hope you continue to check out our little website and see what is new.  I have just added a page of photos from the “Salute to the 90’s” reception that was held last Saturday for our “more experienced” parishioners.  You can access the page by going to our homepage, or by clicking this link:

www.maryhoc.org/90ssalute

Thank you to Mary Brown who provided the photos for us.  Thank you also to our ladies and KC members who made all of last weekend’s events so special.  Don’t forget about our appreciation brunch next Sunday the 26th after 9:00AM Mass.  Even if you didn’t have a chance to submit the number in your family that were coming, you can certainly still join us.  We appreciate all that our parishioners do!

Happy web surfing!  Peace.

October 11, 2008 – More Miscellaneous

October 11, 2008

This seemed like a good time again to just touch on a few things that were floating around in my head.

This weekend is a real “social weekend” in our parish.  Today (the 11th) the ladies of the NCCW (or as many of us probably continue to know them as – the Sodality) are hosting an open house/tea party for the ladies of the parish who are 90 years young and above, and they are also holding their annual rosary rally.  Then tomorrow (the 12th) the Knights of Columbus are being recognized at the 9:00AM Mass and are hosting a breakfast for members and their families.  These two organizations have been a vital part of our parish for many, many years and they continue to support our parish in so many ways.  Not only do they provide an avenue for our women and men to get together on a social basis, but they provide generous support to our parish and other charities through their fund-raising and volunteer efforts.  They are truly deserving of our appreciation.  If you are not a member of the Knights of Columbus or have not participated in the activities of the NCCW, they would be thrilled to have you join them.  You can log on to the homepage of our website, www.maryhoc.org, and click on the links for the Knights of Columbus and Ladies’ Sodality to find out more about the activities of these organizations.

Another group of folks who need to be recognized are the retirees of our parish who spend much of their free time volunteering for the parish, helping out in the various committees and organizations, and of course offering their time in prayer.  They again are very important in keeping our parish vital and afloat.  I’m sure there are many other ways they could spend their well-earned free time, and we are grateful for their help and wisdom.

If you are like me, you probably becoming more and more afraid to turn on the television and watch CNN or other national news outlets.  99% of the stories now seem to involve either the steep decline of the stock market and the failing economy, or the presidential race.  As I have watched Congress debate and finally pass legislation that no one seems to be sure is going to work or not, and as I have watched these corporate CEO’s testify as to what their philosophies were as they saw these warning signs coming yet did nothing to change their policies, and as I have watched the presidential campaigns try to dig up some sliver of dirt that will harm their opponent, I wonder to myself whether our government and business leaders really have the best interests of the people at heart, or whether their motives are more toward self.  The more I observe, the more I lean toward the latter.  I cannot put all of these people into this category, but I can tell from statements made and actions taken that many of them are thinking “What can I say to make myself look good, or what can I say to keep my extravagent lifestyle, or what can I say to get myself re-elected?”

The question this week has been “How did we get ourselves into this mess?”  It is of course a complicated matter, but a good starting point to an answer is simply GREED; not being satisfied with what we have, not looking out for what is best for society as a whole, and not being willing to live within our means.  If you are a believer in fate, as I am, then you may subscribe to the thought that this may be God’s way of telling people to wake up, and to be more appreciative of what we have.  Despite our current problems, we still live in the land of plenty, and the vast majority of the world is much worse off than we are.  As Catholics, we are asked not only to believe in the one true God, but to follow His example and perform good works for others.  There would seem to be no better time to show that example than now.

On the lighter side, there is no better way for me to put my mind off things or to step away from the realities of life than watching sports, and there are few times of the year better than now – football, baseball playoffs, hockey season starting, and basketball will be getting started in a few weeks.  And as an added bonus, I have been able to provide grief to every Cub fan in my sight.  By the way, have you heard that there is a new Cubs soup?  You take two sips and you start to choke! (All in good natured fun, of course).

With all of the social events happening this month, if you have any photos of events that I can put on our website, or if you like to advertise an event on our website, please e-mail me at webmaster@maryhoc.org.  If you just have regular paper photos, I can easily scan them onto the website.  Just drop them off at the parish office, and I assure you I will get them back to you.

Enjoy the beautiful October weather, and say a prayer for our farmers that they can have favorable weather to stay in the fields, and for a fair price for their crops.  Peace.

October 5, 2008 – Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

October 5, 2008

My apologies to those who checked the blog on Saturday and didn’t find one – I was on the road much of the day yesterday and didn’t get a chance to make an entry until this morning.  For some reason I thought about the old Johnny Cash song “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” as I sit here on a Sunday morning, so here is the Sunday Mornin’ “Blog” Comin’ Down:

Part of my day yesterday was spent in Belleville, where I attended a meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council with Bishop Braxton.  This is a group of about 15 people that gather to meet occasionally with the Bishop to discuss issues affecting the Diocese.  Much of the conversation focused on the recent court ruling against the Diocese and what the next steps will be.  I give the Bishop credit for being very candid with us concerning the legal process.  You may have read that the Diocese has begun an appeal process.  At this point that is not necessarily true.  Before the Diocese could do anything, they had to file a motion within 30 days for a new trial to take place.  The judge will then determine whether there are grounds for a new trial to be held.  If the judge rejects this motion, then the possibility of an appeal would come into play.  Other avenues are also being explored, including the continued possibility of a settlement, and seeing if the Diocesan insurance policy would cover all or part of a judgement in this case.

If you have read the newspapers, etc., you have seen that groups such as SNAP have claimed that the Diocese makes about $3.5 million per year on its investments.  This again is not accurate.  That figure comes from something called the Catholic Community Foundation, which is a pool of investments from churches, schools, and other agencies which was formed to try to maximize return on investments.  This is completely seperate from the operating fund of the Diocese.  And actually, because of the poor performance of the stock markets, that foundation has probably lost about $5 million this year.  The diocese publishes their full financial statement in the Messenger each year, and it is always available online at www.diobelle.org.  It is estimated that the Diocese could perhaps absorb one judgement without having to take drastic actions such as selling off assets, etc.

I do not want this to sound like that I am unsympathetic to victims of abuse.  Obviously tragic acts were done and grave errors were made.  Most victims basically want 3 things: an acknowledgement from the Diocese that there were acts of abuse and that errors in handling the situation were made, an apology from those involved, and compensation from the Diocese for counseling, etc.  None of this is certainly too much to ask for.  Abuse victims of course deserve our prayers as well.  I suppose it is human nature that some people feel that the Diocese should have it “stuck to them where it hurts” for allowing these acts to occur.  So let’s suppose that a $5 million judgement is awarded.  Does this automatically begin the healing process?  These are complicated matters indeed.  Studies on this issue have shown a couple of things: 1) The rate of sexual abusers in the priesthood is no higher than the rate of the general population, and 2) The great majority of acts of abuse are done by men.  I am confident that the screening process of seminarians, the disclosure of abusers in the priesthood, etc. have improved the situation.  It is 100% foolproof?  Of course not, no policy is.  And of course it does not undo what has occurred in the past.  Please pray for the victims and for our Diocese as this complicated issue continues to be deliberated.

The Bishop also talked about the “Dialoge of Renewal” that is currently taking place in order to improve communications between priests and the Bishop.  The Bishop acknowledged that this process will not solve all of the problems, but would hopefully be a first step in the right direction.  I was somewhat disappointed in the Bishop’s comments because most of what he said focused on the need for priests to communicate better amongst themselves.  There was little mention of the fact that it needs to be improved between himself and the clergy.  He basically said that he has an open-door policy and priests can contact him at anytime.  I am fearful that this process is not going in the direction thatit was originally intended for, and that the hierarcy of the Diocese is not as fully engaged in it as they should be.  If there is not an admission of shortcomings from all sides, then the mission will fail.  Please pray that as the process continues, that concrete progress can be a reality.

I hope that when you read things like this that you do not think to yourself “boy, things are sure a mess in the church”.  Even after sitting through meetings such as this, I walk out thinking how fortunate I am to be a Catholic, and how the church and my faith have held me up through good times and bad.  This council is a wonderful, dedicated group of people, and as I have said before, that is what church really is: the message and the people who take it to heart.

I’m always curious as to what you think.  Feel free to leave a comment.  And be sure to be sympathetic when you see a Cub fan this week (after you have a chuckle, of course!).  Peace.