April 12, 2013 – Clerical Sacrifices

First and foremost, I once again have to say thank you to everyone who played any part in making the 17th annual Dinner/Auction another huge success.  Every year I continue to be amazed at how well everything is run and staffed.  From the efforts of the auction committee who spend so much time planning and setting up, to those who prepare the food (a true 5-star meal), to the courteous wait staff, to the auctioning staff, to those who give so generously as far as items, money, time, etc., and of course those who attended and bumped up those bids (and anyone else I forgot), mere words cannot express how thankful and impressed I am.  It is a true credit to the spirit and generosity of our parishioners and all who attend and are involved with the auction.  And my evening was made because I came home with a couple more electronic gadgets.  I got a bluetooth speaker system, which allows me to just sit in my chair with my cell phone and program whatever song I want to play, and the house is filled with great sounding music.  And I got a Ninja food processor, which in my hands may be extremely dangerous, so just giving fair warning.

I haven’t heard a lot of reaction to the Diocesan Restructuring Plan which came out last week.  Most of the people who have said something to me about it are not people from this parish.  This would indicate to me that either not a lot of people have read it yet, or that all in all we have done a pretty good job of keeping people informed of the situation and what will have to happen in the future.  Again, if you haven’t read any of the report, I would encourage you to begin to at least read it in parts, beginning with the opening cover letter from the Bishop (this was included in the Messenger this past week along with an interview with the Bishop).  I also ask for your prayers as several representatives of our parish along with St. Mary’s, Ellis Grove will gather this week for an initial meeting.  I anticipate that this will not be a meeting in which a lot of decisions will be made – rather, it will be a first opportunity to share feelings and concerns and to set a base for future meetings and planning.

We know that whatever plan comes forth from our discernment, there will be challenges and it will take a lot of cooperation in order to make this work.  However, my hope is that those involved will also see new opportunity.  I can foresee a chance for our youth to get together for activities.  I can foresee our ladies’ groups getting together and helping each other out.  I can foresee a common RCIA program and common education programs.  I can foresee a common website packed with even more information, photos, etc (you knew I would get that one in).  In other words, I can foresee an opportunity for evangelization that would not be possible from just one congregation.  As we begin to meet, please pray for us and all in the diocese who are facing similar uncertainty, that the Holy Spirit will guide us on the right path.

Throughout this process, we will have to do all we can to support our priests.  We know how dedicated our clergy are to their ministry, but we may not realize the personal tolls, both physical and psychological, that they currently endure and how much more that they will have to endure in the months and years ahead.  Many of our priests who were counting on retiring at a reasonable age continue to be full time pastors – not just having to keep all of their current duties but rather taking on more and more.  Many priests who have been attached to the same congregation for a number of years will now have to get to know a new group of people and discern their pastoral needs.  They will become involved in even more of the intimate moments of people’s lives – baptism, marriage, the death of a loved one, etc.  They will have to find a balance between their sacramental ministry along with management, meetings, personal committments, etc.  We will all have to sacrifice something to make this work.  We may lose our favorite Mass time.  We may have to attend a different church on occasion for Mass.  Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest may become a more frequent occurence.  But we cannot forget the enormous sacrifices our priests will have to make, and so we have a duty to our God and to our Catholic community to do our part to remain a community.

Speaking of priests who have made sacrifices, yesterday Capt. Emil Kaupan, a priest from Kansas and army chaplain during the Korean war, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House.  He was recognized for helping to carry an injured American for miles as Chinese captors led them on a death march, and for risking his life to drag the wounded to safety while dodging explosions and gunfire.  In November 1950, after Chinese soldiers overran U.S. troops near Unsan, Fr. Kapaun defied orders to evacuate, knowing it meant he would most certainly be captured. He pleaded with an injured Chinese officer to call out to his fellow Chinese to stop shooting, an act that spared the lives of wounded Americans.  As Kapaun was being led away, he came across another wounded American in a ditch and an enemy soldier standing over Sgt. Herbert Miller, ready to shoot.  Kapaun pushed the enemy aside and helped Miller as they were taken captive. They arrived days later, by foot, at the village in Pyoktong, where a POW camp eventually was established.  At the camp, Kapaun cleaned others’ wounds, convinced them to share scarce food, offered them his own clothes and provided spiritual aid and comfort. On Easter in 1951, he defied his communist captors by conducting Mass with a makeshift crucifix.  He died on May 23, 1951, at age 35, after six months in captivity.  You can hear more about this heroic priest by watching “The World Over” program from EWTN.  Here’s the YouTube link to it:

Have a great week.  Peace.

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