Archive for March, 2009

March 27, 2009 – Just To Update You

March 27, 2009

Well I know that many folks will be busy on Saturday with our dinner/auction, and I doubt if anyone will be toting their laptops to the gym, so I am going with the late Friday night blog this week.  I have one eye on my computer and one eye on the basketball game on TV, so my thoughts may not be as clear as usual … not that they were all that clear to begin with.

As I flipped on the weather this evening, I could not believe my eyes and ears when they uttered the words “Winter Storm Watch” for Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I think the watch area is a little north of us, but still, it is March 27th, right?  We’ve had a nice spring week to this point, right?  We are in the midst of global warming, right?  Just asking.  In a serious note about the weather, we pray for the folks in North Dakota and Minnesota who are dealing with flooding that it turns out not to be as serious as feared.

We had our parish council meeting this past Wednesday, and one of the things I reported on was the status of our cluster.  You have probably not heard much about our cluster lately, so I thought I would update you as to why and to what the future of the cluster is.  This clustering process began back in 2003 as a means for parishes to work together and to better deal with the shortage of clergy.  The diocese was divided into 30 clusters at that time.  Our cluster includes our parish as well as St. Mary’s in Ellis Grove, St. Boniface in Evansville, St. Pius in Walsh, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Sparta.  We began to meet at that time as a cluster several times a year to develop a plan as to how we would deal with the situation if we were to lose clergy from our cluster, and also how we could minister together.

When we began to meet, our cluster was ministered by 3 priests as well as a deacon who was a parish life coordinator.  At that time it was projected that by the year 2008, our cluster would lose one priest.  However, to this point this scenario has not occurred.  The main reason for this is that Bishop Braxton has been able to obtain the services of a number of international priests to minister in the Diocese.  We must be cautious however, and realize that this is not a long-term answer to our shortage of priests.  These international priests generally are here on loan from their home dioceses, and generally are only here for a period of about 3 to 5 years.  Also, there is no guarantee that we will continue to see an inflow of these international priests.  Ideally, we need more men from our own diocese to pursue the priesthood.

Anyway, because we still maintain the same number of clergy in our cluster, and due to other reasons, we have for the time being ceased to meet as a cluster council.  This disappointed me because I felt there was an opportunity for us to begin to work with other parishes on things such as youth ministry, RCIA, etc., and to make our individual parishes stronger as a result.  I could go into a long opinionated piece about why this did not occur, but I think it best to just say that some parishes were less willing to engage in this type of activity than others.  I hope at some point we can begin to dialogue again as a cluster.

This is not to say that we do absolutely nothing as a cluster.  For example, we had our Confirmation ceremony with the candidates from Evansville last year, which was a neat experience.  Also, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I was in contact with the person who maintains the website for the Sparta parish and we have linked to each other’s websites.  You may also remember a while back that we published a cluster “booklet” that has a brief history of each cluster parish as well as the Mass schedules for each parish.  So when you browse our website some time, I encourage you to re-visit the cluster page and to read the cluster booklet if you have not done so.  You can view it at this link:

www.maryhoc.org/cluster

I also encourage you to go to our links page and click on Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Sparta to check out their activities as well as some of the other links to Catholic websites, etc.

I am still humbled by the compliments that I continue to receive about our website, and as always, I am always open to suggestions; and if you see something that needs to be corrected on the website, please inform me of that as well.  Drop me an e-mail at webmaster@maryhoc.org.

If you read this before the auction, please pray that the weather will cooperate at least until the auction is over, and if you read this after the auction, I hope your “auction hangover” isn’t too serious.  Thank you again to everyone who played any part in putting on the auction and to those who donated items, those who attended the auction, and those who purchased items.  You all are the greatest! 

I can’t believe that next week we begin Holy Week!  Just a couple of weeks to go until a lucious Dorito touches my tongue again!  Cripes, am I sick or what?!?  Have a great week.  Peace.

 

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March 21, 2009

March 21, 2009

Welcome to the first blog of spring!  The rites of spring are all around us – the national college basketball tournament, baseball season starting in a couple of weeks, hockey season winding down, oh and of course not to mention the budding of the trees and the greening of the grass.  Even though we only had one major snow/ice event this past winter, it still seemed like a long winter and I think everyone is ready to burst out of their shells.

Well by my count I believe we are a little over halfway through Lent.  How are you doing with your Lenten routine?  I am proud to say that I am still Dorito-free.  However, as far as my wanting to do a little more reflection during Lent – well I’m afraid that I have dropped the ball a few times on that one.  I need to make a renewed effort to do that.  It’s always easier to come up with an excude not to do something than it is to do something.  Another test of Lent came yesterday – the winds were just right around lunch time so that I could smell the barbecue at the bank parking lot right outside of my office.  But the fish from the K of C last night more than made up for it.  Delicious!

I thought several times yesterday about what I was going to write about in the blog this week, and each time I got a case of writer’s block.  There was just nothing coming to my mind (not that this is an unusual occurance for me, but frustrating nonetheless).  I should have known that there is a topic that has been out there all week long – i just didn’t realize it until last night.  This past Sunday we heard the 10 commandments read to us from the Book of Exodus.  Then this past Wednesday the scripture readings once again reminded us that it is our duty as Christians to not only obey God’s law, but to love God’s law and to pass it down to the future generations.  Then last night as I was preparing for religion class, part of the section included a review of the 10 commandments.  Gee, i think maybe I’ll talk about the 10 commandents.

In doing a little research for the reflection I gave at our communion service the other night, one of the authors of a piece I was reading said something to the effect of that it seems that we do not talk about the 10 commandments as much as we used to – that our focus is more on local, state and federal laws.  I think there is some validity to this.  As far as the media goes, it seems the only time we hear about the 10 commandments is when the discussion turns to whether they should be posted in public schools, etc.  We do not here anything about why it is such a good guide to live our lives by.

It is human nature that we wish we were not burdened by so many laws – speed limits, tax laws, etc.  I think people feel the same way when they think about the 10 commandments.  They see the commandments more as a punishment instead of as a guide to live our lives by.  They see it as a list of “can not’s” instead of a list of “can do’s”.  But God is a loving God who does not want to see us harm ourselves by doing things that break the commandments – worshiping false gods, being angry all of the time, not keeping Sunday as holy, not honoring our parents, engaging in the act of killing – not just the act of physical killing, but killing people’s spirits with our harmful words and actions, having relations with someone other than our spouse, stealing property and money, being dishonest, being jealous of someone else and their possessions.  All of these things are not only harmful to us and to those around us but also harm our relationship with God.

The 10 commandments are another wonderful example of how something that has been around for so long can still apply to our world today.  Every time we turn on the news we see people engaging in the harmful acts mentioned above.  So what can we as Christians do to make the commandments more prominent in people’s lives?  Well, we can certainly pray that people will be more accepting of them, and we can also perform our duty as Christians in passing them on tho the next generation – by telling our kids and grandkids that these are not just laws to keep you out of trouble, but these laws will provide you a full and happy life if you follow them.  The commandments are a gift, not a burden, and they are to be embraced, not dreaded.

OK, enough preaching for one blog.  Just wanted to recognize all of our parishioners who willbe extremely busy this week in our fund-raising activities this week.  First, thanks to Mike Heffernan and those who helped organize the braggin’ rights game this evening, and of course thanks to the players who will be competing (pray that no life -saving measures will be needed).  And of course this coming Saturday will be our gala dinner/auction.  Thank you in advance to the auction committee who once again has done a fantastic job in organizing the event, and thanks to all of those who will be giving up some of their valuable time this week to help pull off this important fund-raiser for our parish.  Pray that in the midst of our struggling economy that people will still be generous in their donations.

Till next week… peace.                                                                                                 

March 14, 2009 – Our Sacred Space

March 14, 2009

This week was another week in which we saw more senseless tragedies unfold with the shootings in Alabama and Germany, and of course the shooting of the Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, IL.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families and friends.  The shooting in Maryville gave me the most pause because it was fairly close to our area and because the shooting occurred in a church, in a place that is supposed to be “sacred space,” in a place where we are supposed to be able to take sanctuary from the rigors of our everyday life.

In my religion class one of the videos that I show the kids is the scene from the Gospel where Jesus enters the temple area and finds that it has basically been turned into a marketplace.  Jesus became very angry and began to turn over the tables and chase away the vendors.  This scene kind of “shocks” the kids because they have this image of Jesus as a kind, caring and gentle man – which He normally was – but this scene puts an emphasis on the value that our “sacred space” should hold for us.

It is hard to imagine the thought that someone would walk into our church with the intent to harm or kill people.  But incidents such as the one in Maryville change one’s thought process from “nothing like this could ever happen here” to “well, what if something like this did happen here?”  There are no easy answers to this difficult situation.  I’m sure very few people would want to walk into church and have to walk through a metal detector or have to empty their pockets.  I know personally for me, I have a paranoia of metal detectors.  When Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the event.  As is my luck, as I walked into the America’s Center I set off the metal detector and was whisked over to the side by security.  I don’t think we ever really did figure out why it went off – whether it was my watch or belt buckle or something else.  I could just see the headline – “Chester man arrested during once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Holy Father.”

But seriously, any thought of having to erect some type of “security” measures would completely ruin the notion that this space of worship was “our sacred space.”  Unfortunately, we now live in a world where real-life tragedy can spill into our space, but our faith as Christians motivates us to believe that this space will always be sacred, and that if someone did try to ruin the notion of this concept, that it can indeed be re-claimed, just as the members of the Baptist Church in Maryville are doing, and just as Jesus did in the temple.  One of the positive things I saw from this tragedy was that many of the congregants they interviewed still spoke of a message of hope that their church would continue to grow stronger, and they also offered the hand of forgiveness to the gunman.  Another sign that God’s message will always rise above all else.

All of this talk of church reminded me that there is a group of dedicated guys I don’t believe I have ever recognized – our ushers.  Each Mass they keep us in our place, collect our offerings, do the counts for the Diocese, and many other functions that go unseen.  Thanks for all you do guys!

Finally, just a little website note.  This past week I was in contact with one of my fellow “webmasters”, the gentleman from Our Lady of Lourdes in Sparts who maintains their website.  He has linked our website to theirs and also added the cluster page on our website to their links.  We also have the link to their website on our links page.  Just another way we can maintain contact and exchange ideas with our neighboring parishes through technology.

By the way, the term “webmaster” is a commonly used term for someone who maintains a website.  I certainly did not assign myself that name.  “Webman” or “webdude” would certainly suffice.  “Master” I definitely am not.

Enjoy St. Patty’s Day this week.  Peace.

March 7, 2009 – It’s Hitting Home

March 7, 2009

I type my blog today under the influence of Vitamin C and Zicam as I try to fend off a cold.  The spring-like weather is nice, but these temperature swings are not a friend to one’s sinuses.

First off, I am happy to report that we have eclipsed the 10,000 page view mark on our website!  Considering that this just a small little church website, I think that is a pretty good number to achieve in less than two years.  Thanks again to everyone for visiting and using it.  Keep spreading the word about it!  Another interesting statistic – I had reported a while back that besides the home page, the most viewed page on the website was the weekly bulletin.  This is still the case, but slowly creeping up to overtake it is the blog, which is now only about 25 page views behind.  Who would have thunk it.

The news continues to be dominated by the economy, and rightfully so.  All of us have been affected by this recession one way or another, whether it has been a loss of investments, decline in business, or in worst case scenarios a loss of job or closing of business.  I consider myself fortunate, especially in times such as this, that I have a secure job that brings a steady income stream.  There are many people right now who cannot say that.

To this point I had not really known anyone close to me who had lost their job or had their income greatly reduced.  However, this past week you may have seen in the Messenger some very disappointing news that came from the Diocese – because of decreased investment income and decreased donations, that some Diocesan staff were being laid off, some were being reduced from full-time to part-time status (which means not only reduced income, but loss of benefits), and that all Diocesan staff would see their pay cut.  I was saddened to see this for a couple of reasons – first and foremost this is going to leave some very dedicated, talented people in a tough position.  I had gotten to know some of these people over my time on the Diocesan Pastoral Council and through other committees.  It breaks my heart to see that despite the fact that these people had put their heart and soul into their jobs, that they are still being cut loose or are seeing their roles reduced.

I was also saddened to see this because during my time on these various committees, much of our work was spent putting some of these people in place in order to better serve the pastoral needs of our Diocese.  To see this work now being dismantled is shocking and disheartening.  Could this have been avoided?  My heart tells me yes.  Are their fingers of blame to point?  Probably.  But the cold hard reality is that it is happening, and that even the church is not immune from the hard times we are facing as a nation.

So where do we go from here, and what does the future hold?  Well, of course only God knows that.  We certainly need to pray that our economy can begin to turn around in the near future.  We also need to pray for those who have lost their jobs that they can find employment and a new source of income.  And pray that our leaders, both our leaders of government and leaders of church, make decisions for the benefit of the overall common good.

Finally, I wanted to give a shout-out to those who came to our communion service this past Wednesday evening.  There appeared to be about 20 or so folks.  And I especially want to thank everyone for not running out of church when I “attempted” to sing.  Larry Gross will lead the service this coming Wednesday, and he will do a great job, so come if you can.

Enjoy the temporary spring fling.  Peace.