September 16, 2011 – Deserved Thank Yous

Well even though autumn doesn’t officially begin until next Friday, many of the signs of fall are already here.  Popeye Picnic has come and gone,  the weather has cooled off,  I’m seeing locally grown apples in the store, and of course football is in full swing.  Around the parish also, you can tell that the slightly more leisurely pace of summer has ended and things are in full swing again.  Of course school has been back in session for about a month now, our parish school of religion begins its classes this Sunday, RCIA begins in a couple of weeks, and groups that had not met over the summer are gathering again.

We of course cannot emphasize enough how important our priests are in the life of the church.  They are teachers.  They are leaders.  They are there during some of the most intimate moments of our lives.  But as we see the activity in our parish increase again, we also see the importance of lay people in the parish, particularly those who voluntarily give of their time, talent and treasure.

This past week Pope Benedict XVI greeted over 100 new Bishops who gathered in Rome.  He emphasized several things to them, but one of the points he made was to be sure to “welcome the gifts of the laity for the sanctification of the church and the vitality of the apostolate.”  It is reassuring to those of us who give of ourselves to the parish that the hierarchy of the church recognizes and appreciates the contributions of lay people to the life of the church.  Perhaps  our local shepherd is in need of a reminder of this concept (I’m just sayin’).

This past week we held our second of four meetings dealing with the Parish Renewal and Restructuring process.  This gathering included the parish council, finance council and school board.  We went through a process of evaluating different areas of parish life.  It was interesting to discuss with others their thoughts on our parish vitality and what direction they see us going in the future.  But there was an unexpected aspect of the meeting that I also took satisfaction in.  I enjoyed seeing the different committees gather as one group.  Though I feel that I am pretty active in parish life, I certainly do not belong to every committee and do not have a hand in every task.  It struck me that there really is a large, dedicated group of lay people who are doing many things to keep our parish and school vital and functional – even larger than I probably realized.

I do not want to get into individual names because I know I will leave some out, but I think the dedicated volunteers who continue to sacrifice of themselves need to be recognized.  So here goes: To the altar servers, ushers, lectors, extraordinary ministers, PSR catechists, RCIA team, Parish Council, finance committee, school board, maintenance committee, liturgy committee, cemetery committee, Council of Catholic Women, Knights of Columbus, Parent/Teacher Organization, those who minister to our parishioners who are shut-ins, nursing home residents and hospital patients, food pantry volunteers and donors, and all of the other groups of volunteers that I know I have missed – thank you for your care and dedication to our parish.  The present and the future is in good hands in large part because of all you do.  We are proud of all of you!

Just a couple other random things this week:

This coming week the priests of the diocese will gather in St. Louis for their annual convocation.  They will be discussing the Parish Renewal and Restructuring plan.  Pray that they have a productive gathering and that they enjoy their time together.

We are drawing a little closer to the time when we will begin the “Fanning the Flame” program that is being offered by the diocese as part of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Belleville  which we will celebrate next year.  The Fanning the Flame program will be based on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.  This book will be offered at a discounted price of $12.99 when ordered through the parish.  The book contains 36 chapters, and the program is designed to focus on one chapter per week throughout the year (there will be some weeks such as during Holy Week and Easter, when we will take a break from the program).  The diocese will also provide guides for each chapter which contain reflections and discussion questions.  Fanning the Flame may be done on a small group setting, or may be done individually.  We will be providing you more details as the time draws closer.  You can certainly also go to the Fanning the Flame website for more information.  The link is www.ftfdiobelle.org.  This program should be a great opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with the teachings of the Catholic faith and to renew ourselves in our faith.

Other than that, there’s really not much going on (lol).  But it would certainly be more worrisome if there were few activities going on.  The Holy Spirit is certainly at work here.  Enjoy the week ahead.  I’m keeping my slim hopes for the Cardinals alive (my confidence in the Rams took a hit last week).  Peace.

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