Archive for July, 2013

July 28, 2013 – World Youth Day

July 28, 2013

I’m running a little late with the blog this week.  No good reason – it just felt like a weekend to not have to follow a schedule too closely.  I think the weather may have something to do with it.  What a gorgeous run of days we have had!  After baking like a lobster on the beach last year, I think we deserve it.  Evidently, some of our parishioners decided to take advantage of the beautiful weekend as well:

winery

And who said Catholics didn’t know how to have fun!  I love my Facebook friends and their posts (although after this, some of them may not be my friends anymore).

On to other business, I want to thank everyone who complimented me on how nice the picture directories came out.  It was a lot of fun to see it come together into a finished product.  Someone asked me the other day if I was glad that the process was over.  Well, with our directory being online and being able to keep it updated, I hope that my job actually will continue.  The most time consuming part is certainly over, but we still want to keep it as current as we can.  So if you address or phone number or e-mail address changes, please let me know and we can still find you (well, maybe that’s not necessarily a good thing, LOL).

As you know, one of our beloved parishioners, Martha Maes, went to be with the Lord this past week.  Martha had been in poor health for a while, but her family kept hope for a long time that they would be able to bring her to church in order to have her photo taken for the directory.  When it became clear that it would not be possible, they asked me to come to her home and take a photo, which I was more than happy to do.  Shortly after, she suffered a stroke and eventually was relieved of her suffering.  This turned out to be the last photo of her, so that will always be a lasting memory for me.  If you have not seen the directory, here is the photo I will always treasure:

maes 002

The eyes of the church this week of course were on Brazil and the World Youth Day celebrations.  If you heard polka music and smelled the scent of sausage coming from the rectory, it was probably Fr. Gene celebrating the announcement that the next World Youth Day in 2016 will be in Krakow, Poland.  Seriously, I think it is a great choice, especially considering the fact that World Youth Day began under the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, and that by that time he will have been canonized a saint.  What a wonderful way to celebrate his heritage!

Despite the fact that around 3 million people were in attendance for the prayer vigil last night and for the closing Mass this morning, the star of the show was Pope Francis, who made his first trip back to his home continent since his election as Pontiff.  He kept a very rigorous schedule throughout the week, and made stops at places that have come as no surprise given his humble demeanor, including one of Rio’s “slum” areas and a hospital which attends to drug addicts.  The impressions of the Pope continue to be that he is a man of great humility – a man who keeps the needs of the poor first and foremost on his agenda.  he is a man who believes that the message of the gospel was truly intended for everyone.  He also re-iterated the fact that we must carry our religion outside of the church walls.  In one of his homilies this week, he told the crowd of bishops, priests and seminarians that “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They too are invited to the table of the Lord.”

Francis appears to be drawing praise because he is not afraid to speak against the status quo.  One part of his speech to the same audience gave the message that the church has become too “intellectual”, that ordinary Catholics simply don’t understand lofty ideas and need to hear the simpler message of love, forgiveness and mercy that is at the core of the Catholic faith.  He tells us that  “At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people,” he said. “Without the grammar of simplicity, the church loses the very conditions which make it possible to fish for God in the deep waters of his mystery.”

More and more it appears that God has given us a Pope that we need for these times.  When Blessed John Paul II died, the church was in a state of uncertainty – not knowing what direction it needed to go.  Pope Benedict was the right choice at that time in being willing to keep the church on course and to remind us of our deep-rooted history.  However, Pope Francis has brought a renewed spirit of inclusion – an invitation to everyone.  He is not abandoning the doctrine of the church, but is reminding us of the true mission of the church.  The Holy Spirit has truly worked in a marvelous manner.  Hopefully all of us in all corners of the world will look at the example of Francis and re-dedicate ourselves to the mission of evangelization.

Have a great week.  It’s a big week for the Cardinals – 8 games in 7 days.  We need some wins!  Have a great week.  Peace.

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July 20, 2013 – Partnership Progress

July 20, 2013

One of the characteristics of summer time around the parish is that it’s usually a little bit of a slower time in terms of there being no school, and also fewer meetings and functions (although if you told that to our new Vicar Forane, Fr. Gene, he would probably look at you as if you had 2 heads).  But as usual, the summer season goes by very fast, and lo and behold we find ourselves only about a month away from the school year.  Likewise, we are getting back into the swing of our regular meeting and ministry schedules.  This coming “parish year” has a little bit of a different feel to it because in addition to the usual parish business, we are also continuing to sort through our new parish partnerships. In particular, we continue to examine our own partnership with St. Mary’s in Ellis Grove, and the implications that this will have for our future.

As I mentioned briefly in my last blog, this past week our Parish Council along with the Council from St. Mary’s, Ellis Grove held another joint meeting to discuss our partnership, what the future may hold and how we are going to approach things in the short-term and the long-term.  In beginning our discussions a few months ago, I had a couple of concerns.  One is that, of course, none of us know what the near future will bring, so it would be difficult to come up with a specific plan.  In an ideal world, we would keep our priests wrapped in bubble wrap, then break them out when we need them for a Mass, wedding or funeral.  We also ideally would have growing numbers in the seminary, and we could try to maintain what we have until the number of priests would start growing.  Unfortunately, neither of these are imminent.  We certainly must continue to pray for vocations, and we hope that the fresh “energy” that Pope Francis seems to have brought will coax a few more guys to the seminary.  Bishop Braxton has also taken the step of appointing Fr. Nick Junker, currently administrator of the parish in DuQuoin, to full-time vocations director beginning September 1.  Hopefully, each of these things will result in an increase in the number of priests, but this would not be felt for 10-15 years down the line.

The other concern I had was whether folks would be open to the changes that would need to be made in order to continue to function as a viable parish or parishes.  Would people accept a revised Mass schedule when we lose a priest?  Would they be willing to attend Mass at another church at times?  Would they be willing to work together jointly in ministries such as RCIA?  Answers to these questions will be found out down the road.  However, if our first few meetings are any indication, we will not only be willing to accept these necessary changes, but we will be at the forefront in implementing them.

We have already seen a little bit of this happen.  Last month, Fr. Gene and Fr. Ben, Administrator of Ellis Grove, did a “pulpit exchange” in which they celebrated Masses at each other’s parishes.  This will be done a couple more times over the next few months.  The Communal Penance Service for the season of Advent in December will be a joint service held at Ellis Grove.  It was also felt that we should begin to involve both congregations a little more in this process, so we are discussing a couple of possible activities.  One that is set in stone is on Saturday, August 17.  On this day there will be NO 5:00PM Mass here at Chester.  Instead, we are invited and encouraged to attend the 6:00PM Mass that evening at Ellis Grove.  Fr. Gene and Fr. Ben will concelebrate.  Following the Mass, all will be invited to stick around for some refreshments, fellowship, and discussion of our parish partnership.  This will be an opportunity for folks to start to get to know each other and to share their concerns as we move forward in this process.

Another activity that may possibly be coming in the future is a Valentine’s Day gathering on February 15 of next year at our parish.  This would include 5:00PM Mass, some munchies afterwards and also a dance.  This is still very much in the planning stages.

There are of course the real nitty-gritty things that we are in the process of being worked out such as what our Mass schedule will be when we lose a priest from our partnership.  The initial proposal calls for a Saturday evening Mass here at Chester, one Sunday Mass at Ellis Grove, and one Sunday Mass at Chester.  This is only an initial proposal, and is something that we must discuss further.

As you read all of this, you may be thinking that this appears to be happening very fast.  I agree.  As we sat in the meeting the other night, there were a couple of times when I felt like saying, “maybe we need to slow down a little here and take a deep breath.”  However, there are a couple of reasons why we need to continue to move forward.  One is that we are expected to have an initial progress report turned in to the Diocese by September 15, and a final report by the end of the year as to what our plan will be when our partnership is ministered by just one priest.  Also, I think it shows everyone just how critical the situation has become.  Our people have heard a lot of “The time is coming when …”  Well, with the implementation of this plan, we have gotten to the stage in which  “The time is now.”

As I have said before, there is always loss involved with change.  There is always apprehension in having to do something different than what we have become accustomed to for so long.  However, as we said at our meeting the other night, there is also a sense of excitement in welcoming new people and ideas to our parish family.  After all, we are all Catholic.  We are a universal church.  We are one family in faith.  This is an opportunity to show this.  Pray for us and support us as we continue on this journey.

Have a great week!  Peace.

July 13, 2013 – Summer Reading

July 13, 2013

This has been one of those weeks when inspiration was pretty hard to come by.  Not sure if it’s just the dog days of summer, or just nothing catching my eyes and ears this week, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve done almost 250 of these and the creative well is bound to run dry at times.  I’m not sure, then, in what direction this blog will go to, but you are welcome to join me on this mysterious journey (if you dare-lol).

Those that know me are familiar with my addiction to electronic gadgets.  If it’s something that lights up and has to be charged up every 8 hours or so, I’m willing to give it a try.  If I were to ever be pinned down and asked to choose one favorite one, well, my gosh, that would be like a parent having to pick out their one favorite child (ok, I’m being overly dramatic – I’m just illustrating a point here).  If I would have to pick out one, I would say it is my Kindle Fire, because you can do so many different things with it.  You can surf the web, listen to music, play games, take photos, etc.  Also, you can download books normally at a cheaper price than the printed version, and you don’t have the added clutter of more books sitting around.  Lord knows I do not need any additional clutter sitting around my house.

Anyway, I’ve downloaded a few books recently that I have found interesting, and wanted to share a few thoughts with you about them.  My most recent read is from someone who has become a true favorite of mine, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.  He has written a short book titled “Praying in Rome: Reflections on the Conclave and Electing Pope Francis.”  It is simply written and gives a true personal insight into his first experience of electing a new Pope, from the day it was announced that Benedict XVI was resigning, to the moment when Francis walked onto the balcony and introduced himself to the world.  I especially enjoyed some of the “personal” tidbits he interjected into the book.  For example, when the communications director for the Archdiocese of New York phoned him early in the morning to tell him there were rumors that Benedict had resigned, Cardinal Dolan chuckled and told him to have a Bloody Mary and go back to bed.  He also told of when the conclave began, and the Cardinals took an oath upon the book of the Gospels.  Cardinal Dolan did not realize that this was on live TV, and his secretary joked later that while most of the Cardinals approached the Book of the Gospels solemnly with their heads down, Dolan looked like a little kid gawking around at the Sistine Chapel – to which he replied, “wouldn’t you?”  He also tells of the walls in the hotel where the Cardinals stayed during the conclave not being thick enough to drown out the snoring in the adjacent rooms.  I would urge you to download this if you can.  It was only $1.99 and is a very entertaining read.

I also this past week downloaded a book called “Waking Up Catholic.”  I have just begun to read this one, but it is written by a gentleman (Chad Togerson) who converted to the Catholic Faith, and he journals about his journey and the many questions he had.  It also attempts to answer many of the common questions about the Catholic Faith.  It appears to be a good read for anyone who may be considering looking more closely at Catholicism, but also is a good read for Catholics, because no matter what we do, how often we go to Mass, etc., we always have questions about our faith.  And when people ask us about our faith, we always feel like we could be more prepared.  In electronic form this book was $4.95, and can be ordered in printed from as well.

There is one more book I downloaded recently.  It is not necessarily of a religious nature, but it caught my eye because, kind of like I said earlier, for whatever reason I haven’t been feeling the “inspiration bug” lately and things have seemed sort of mundane.  I think we all need to remind ourselves sometimes of all of the wonderful things around us, and how marvelous creation really is.  This book is titled “14,000 Things to Be Happy About.”  The author (Barbara Ann Kipfer) has been jotting down little things that make her happy since grade school and she shares many of them here.  As you read them, it helps you remind yourself of happy things that you have experienced.  Some of her examples are getting a really good haircut, the taste of cake batter, prizes you have won, church bazaars, leaves starting to turn, reading a favorite magazine, squeezing one more brushful out of the toothpaste tube, and on and on.  You may not need a book to remind you of the things that bring you happiness, but I think we all need to take a time-out once in a while and remind ourselves of those things.

Well as I said in the beginning, I wasn’t sure how this was going to come out, and it basically turned out to be a book review.  There is one other thing I needed to mention.  This coming Wednesday our Parish Council has another meeting with the Parish Council of St. Mary’s in Ellis Grove to continue to discuss our Parish Partnership, and to make plans for the future when our two parishes will most likely have only one priest.  Please pray that we will all remain open to going in the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading us, and that all of us will embrace an attitude of cooperation.  The ultimate goal is to continue to provide the sacraments and to spread the Gospel to as many people as we can while the number of priests continues to decline.  We certainly hope and pray that the “momentum” that Pope Francis has brought to the Catholic Church will result in an increase in vocations, but even so, that impact will not be felt for years down the road.  We will all have to make some sort of sacrifice in order to make this work, but if we are all willing to do that, the burden on everyone will not be as great.

Thanks again for checking out my “ramblings”.  Have a great week.  Peace.

July 5, 2013 – Good News!

July 5, 2013

I hope you had a good Independence Day yesterday (note that I said Independence Day, not the 4th of July that this important holiday has morphed into for some reason).  My recent blogs seem to have ended up focusing on the continued challenges of being a Catholic – the Supreme Court decisions concerning marriage, the struggle to preserve our religious freedom, how to effectively evangelize while at the same time seeing the number of priests decline, etc., etc., etc.  So I am happy to shift gears for this edition as the last couple of days have been GOOD NEWS days for Catholics.  No, the regulation to have meatless Fridays during Lent has not been lifted, but still, the news has been pretty good.

Yesterday (Independence Day) I was able to watch most of the Mass from the National Basilica in Washington, D.C. which marked the official closing of the Fortnight for Freedom.  Obviously the spirit of the day could not be captured on TV as well as it would have been in person, but it was still uplifting as 5500 people gathered on a holiday to celebrate Mass, and to make known that we will not let the continued erosion of our religious freedom stand.  In his homily, Cardinal Donald Wuerl noted that we see a tactic today in which “the Church is denounced as prejudiced, narrow-minded, or even un-American simply because her teaching respects human life, upholds marriage and calls for health care for the most needy in our country.”  However, he reminded us that “to speak out against any form of discrimination, social injustice or the redefinition of marriage, marital relations, or threats to the dignity of life is not to force values upon our society, but rather to call our society to its own, long-accepted moral principles and commitment to defend basic human rights.”  He also reminded us that as Catholics there is a time when we gather for the Eucharist that we fall on our knees, but there is also a time that as witnesses to Jesus’ message that we need to stand – to stand up for our values and convictions.  Here is a link to his inspirational homily:

http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/2013/07/fortnight-for-freedom-homily/

Today my twitter feed blew up with much good news from the Vatican.  First of all, Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made a joint public appearance as a statue of St. Michael the Archangel was blessed in the Vatican Gardens.  The Vatican was also consecrated to the Archangel’s protection.  Here is a link to more information about the ceremony and Pope Francis’ remarks:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/07/05/benedict_xvi_joins_pope_francis_in_consecrating_vatican_to_st_michael/en1-707709

Secondly, as was announced earlier in the week, Pope Francis’ first encyclical Lumen Fidei, or “the light of faith” has been published.  An encyclical is a kind of letter that usually deals with matters of church doctrine.  They are written when Popes feel they have something urgent to say about particular teachings.  The first encyclical of a Pope is usually watched closely as it may give signals on how he intends to govern the church.  However, this encyclical was written largely by Benedict XVI, and finished by Francis, so this particular one may not give as clear indications to Francis’ governing style.  This encyclical was begun by Benedict to commemorate the year of faith and also to complete a series of encyclicals he had been writing on the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity.  This is not the first time that a Pope has completed the work of his predecessor.  Benedict’s first encyclical was, in, fact, based partly on writings that Blessed John Paul II had begun but was unable to complete.

It is estimated that the encyclical takes about 2 hours to read.  I’m sure in the days to come there will be a lot of commentary on it as people read it and pick out the important points.  Some of the commentary so far indicates that Benedict’s influence is definitely prominent as there are many references to history and the thoughts of historical figures.  Benedict is indeed a scholar and student of church history.  It does, however, touch on some of what we struggle with in today’s world.  The final chapter emphasizes that faith is fostered within the family, particularly within the union of man and woman in marriage.  The encyclical is available online to view.  Here is a link:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei_en.html

Finally, the Vatican was abuzz with yet more good news this morning as it was announced that Pope Francis had signed the decrees to canonize both Blessed John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to the sainthood.  A date for the canonizations has not been set, but could both occur during the same ceremony.  It is also being speculated that the canonizations will take place before the end of the year.  One date discussed is November 24, which is the Feast of Christ the King and the closing of “The Year of Faith”.  However, Pope Francis wants to hear opinions of Cardinals first before setting a date.

The decree to canonize John Paul II contains the approval of a second miracle attributed to his intercession.  It involved the healing of a 50 year old woman from Costa Rica who suffered from a brain aneurysm that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011, the day of John Paul’s beatification (the step prior to being canonized).  Doctors had given her only a month to live and could not scientifically explain the sudden cure.  In the case of John XIII, the approval of a second miracle was not forthcoming, however Pope Francis approved the recommendation of a commission of Cardinals and Bishops to proceed with the canonization process.  I have a couple of links for you concerning this story.  First is the announcement of these canonizations:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/07/05/pope_francis_signs_canonization_decrees_for_john_xxiii_and_john_paul/en1-707814

Also, here is a link which explains the normal process of making one a saint:

http://www.usccb.org/upload/making-saints.pdf

I expect a report on all of this reading by the end of next week (lol).  In seriousness, I hope you do get the opportunity to read some of this material and share in the joy that all Catholics should feel in the events of the last couple of days.

Have a great week.  Peace.