Dear Parish Family:
Today, a good friend asked me, “Are you ready for Sunday? You going to be OK?” It took me a minute to realize what he was referring to—Father’s Day. My heart sank a bit. As many of you know my dad passed away a few months after I arrived here. I dreaded last year’s Father’s Day and to be honest it was not as bad as I feared. In some ways, I am finding this year’s Father’s Day a little more challenging.I find that it’s not the big things that I miss—though I do. It’s the small things that I miss the most. If you have lost a dad—through death, perhaps to divorce or separation or abandonment or neglect or whatever—you might be able to relate. You know it’s the small things that often tug strongest. For me, I remember my dad always be so gracious and humble. Never drawing attention to himself. Always looking to make sure everyone else was comfortable or at ease. Even in sickness and suffering, he never worried about himself. “What’s the latest?” I remember him asking whenever I would see him or “ Keep me posted” as I would leave. Not the scenes of dramatic movies but I think it’s those small things I miss the most. You know some of those small things too—a regular phrase, a warm gesture, a card given, a note shared and so on. It is also those small things that I can most quickly lose sight of in all areas of my life. I think that is what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel. God works that way, in the small and simple. We can so easily miss it. Caught in sight — what we want to see —we fail to see with eyes of faith. St. Paul reminds us, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Yet we see with human eyes, human things instead of longing for the vision to see far beyond the “things” of this world.
I hope you can see some of those mustard seed moments as we journey together through the Novena of Spirit and Truth. Through praying, fasting and even planting, we are coming together to see it is often in the small and simple ways that God makes his presence known. The week ahead we will be invited to forgiveness (Monday), fun (Tuesday), prayer and remembering (Wednesday), service (Thursday) and offering (Friday). The opportunities in this Novena of Spirit and Truth are not meant to be “big” things. They are simple mustard seed opportunities for each one of us see the presence of God here and now with those eyes of faith.
As I reflect upon the journey of this year, there have been some big moments, for sure. Some of those moments were positive and some a bit negative. I tend to let those go a little more easily than the smaller moments. I think of the altar server who asked after all that happened in the church, “What about the statues?” I remember the phone calls and texts from friends from all over on May 17, 2017. I remember people coming forward offering whatever they could in those first days. I think of the many kind, simple words to me over the year. It’s the not the big things. It is the simple, quiet moments that take hold. Those are signs of God.
For from these small moments, I pray that new life as Jesus puts forth about the mustard seed may take hold for each of us and for our parish community. Keep me posted!
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
To be honest, I did not read ahead to this week’s readings when I wrote last week’s bulletin column. It’s the same title without the adorable picture. Check www.sjecm.org if you’re not sure what I’m writing about.
The first reading today begins with the question from God to Adam and Eve — “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).
While I know the rest of the story is discouraging on humanity’s part, I always find great comfort in this opening part. God was looking. He was searching. He wanted to find them. I think he wants the same with you and me. Yet, like Adam and Eve, we’re pretty good at hiding. Pretty good at finding some place else to be. Perhaps making God’s job a little harder. I think God is asking that question of me pretty often. I hide well. “John, where are you? Come on! Let’s get things together here.” Maybe the same for you?
This week, I hope you will take some time to be found here at SJE! There are two areas I want to highlight.First, this Monday, we are sponsoring a Narcan training for all in the parish.
As you know, I am a social worker. My primary area of work presently is with young men addicted to heroin. Narcan is a drug that saves lives. Period. No, it doesn’t address the larger issues and it is not a solution to the heroin epidemic. It is a life saver. I can speak of least six young people whose lives were saved because of Narcan. Many of them have turn to a life of recovery and wellness. Let God find you here doing what you can to save the lives of others.
Second, I hope you will join in the Novena of Spirit and Truth. It begins this Thursday with an East End Holy Hour. We are so happy to welcome back Fr. Walter who will preach and help us to kick off the Novena (see page 4). On Friday, we invite everyone to participate in a Day of Fasting as we remember those who struggle and battle mental illness (see page 6). Fasting can be tough. Whenever fasting gets hard on Friday, say a prayer for someone you know who struggles with mental illness. Unite your hunger with their hunger here. Let God find you as you draw near in prayer to the suffering and wounded in our midst. Then, this weekend, we need you to step and help us make our grounds look beautiful. We are looking for individuals, families and ministries to help maintain our grounds. We would like you to plant on a certain area and maintain that area. You can read more about it on page 5. Let God find you doing what you can to restore good and holy ground here at SJE!
This week, you should receive a mailing from SJE about the summer. The mailing includes a Novena of Spirit and Truth prayer card. Please begin praying this prayer on Thursday as together we pray for the restoration of our church building and more importantly that we may restored to a “building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
So when God comes looking and asking “Where are you?” you and I can respond, “Right here!”
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
Today we celebrate the last of our “First” Holy Communions on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The First Holy Communions have been wonderful celebrations and it has been affirming to see many second, third and fourth Holy Communions in the weeks since.
I cannot help but remember my own First Holy Communion at Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip on May 7, 1983. (I know I was adorable and you don’t have to tell me :)!). I remember weeks of practicing and preparing and the excitement of receiving First Holy Communion on a Saturday morning. We were prepared by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood and prepared we were! They were exciting days. While I’m not sure I knew any more than any other second grader, the years that followed allowed me to grow in deeper and deeper awareness of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. (By the way, glasses were big in the 80s!)
I think of our journey over the past year. There have been a lot of liturgical challenges worshiping as we presently do in a temporary space that also serves as a “Gymatorium”. It hasn’t been the easiest time. With a change in the place comes a change in routine and then often comes some disorientation with our routine and things become less reverent and easily bad habits can creep in. I know it has happened to me—maybe to you, too? As we prepare to return to the restored church building, maybe it’s a good time for a little “check-up” on our habits and preparation for Holy Communion—before, and after Mass. Each can be summed up in our answer to one question— “Where are you?”
Where are you—before Mass? How are you and I coming to Mass? Are we rushing in at the last minute? Getting there late? Or perhaps we make excuses about parking and hide behind those? How are we dressing for Mass? Is it any different than going to the local softball game? Shouldn’t it be? Yet would we ever think about being late to a grandchild’s dance recital or son’s baseball game or dressing poorly for our niece’s wedding reception? Probably not. How about praying quietly and taking some time— say five or ten minutes before Mass begins—to arrive? Have we forgotten about the communion fast and taking that time to prepare ourselves for communion? What about confession? (There are plenty of opportunities here—see bulletin page 12.) Even better, what about reading the readings ahead of time at Mass? Come prepared!
Where are you—during Mass? You ever find yourself tuned out? Maybe not listening to the readings or becoming distracted by the comings and goings of the Auditorium? Perhaps not singing because you don’t care for this hymn or that one? Maybe not even praying the Eucharistic Prayer and allowing your mind to wander? Maybe not receiving the Eucharist in a proper manner? Have we added rituals and symbols to our reception of communion that are not in line with the liturgical practices of the Church? Do we do things at Mass to get attention or notice instead of praying communally as the church calls us to pray? Have we made our reception of communion our own personal act, and not a communal act of the assembly gathered? At times, maybe we’re thinking about leaving early, convincing ourselves if we receive the sacred host, it’s enough of Mass? (It’s not, by the way!) As we enter the restored church building, let’s be fully present to the liturgy and the eucharist giving everything we have got to the celebration!
Where are you—after Mass? We are often in a rush. What if we made an effort as a parish to stay a little longer after Mass? What about a quiet personal prayer of thanksgiving in the pew (yes there will be pews! And kneelers! Yeah!) after Mass is over? By how you live, have you and I become “what we have received—the Body of Christ”? Or have we gone back to life like the Mass didn’t even happen? Be prepared to be sent forth from the Mass!
The return to the restored church building is a great opportunity for each and every one of us! We will have a new physical answer to the question, “Where are you?” Let’s pray that when it comes to the deeper call of the Eucharist, we will have a deeper answer to the question “Where are you? By responding, “Here I am, Lord, present to you.” Who knows? You might even become as adorable as that kid in the picture!
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
Last Friday, many of us came together for a powerful evening of prayer as we marked one year since the tragedies in the church building. The celebration of the Eucharist brings us to the encounter with the Paschal Mystery. I am so grateful for the presence of local agencies that support the mentally ill and their families who prayed with us and offered resources.
Fr. Michael brought us great hope and reassurance in his preaching last Friday (see box below). Speaking of his visit with Pope Francis, I am mindful of his words in most recent Apostolic Exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad”. He writes: Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others. We see this in some holy communities. From time to time, the Church has canonized entire communities that lived the Gospel heroically or offered to God the lives of all their members…living or working alongside others is surely a path of spiritual growth.” “You are living with others in order to be fashioned and tried”. (114)
I hope and pray that the days ahead will continue to see us walking side by side with one another and with Jesus. In that walking, may we continue to grow well on the path of spiritual growth.
Follow up from Fr. Michael’s homily last Friday at the Mass of Remembrance
About a month ago, I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I was able to go with Msgr. Vlaun and a small group from Telecare to Rome. While we were over there, we wound up having a private audience with Pope Francis, which lasted about 5 minutes. During this meeting I was able to speak one-on-one with the pope. I told Pope Francis about what happened in our parish about a month before my arrival, how a tormented man set our church on fire and took his life. I told him that we are reconstructing our church and then I asked him for a favor.
It is a custom for the pope to trade his white zucchetto (skull cap) with those who bring their own to him. I asked the pope if he would trade his zucchetto with me so that we could put one that he physically wore into our renovated church. As I was speaking with the Holy Father, he looked me in the eyes, his expression grew serious and I began to get emotional. He prayerfully took the zucchetto I had brought with me, placed it on his head, spent a moment of prayer with his eyes closed, and handed it back to me.
I am happy to announce that we will be putting this zucchetto into our newly renovated church building as a tangible sign of the Pope’s spiritual closeness to our parish. In the midst of this past year, filled with great pain and frustration, we have been given as a parish family so many reasons to hope. It is my prayer that this sign of hope, given to us by the pope himself, may serve as a reminder of that personal renovation and renewal we are always called to in our own journey with the Lord.
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
Today, we celebrate Pentecost. With this feast, the season of Easter draws to a close and, I hope like the disciples in the locked room, we start to move out even further to bring the power of the Spirit to all we meet. One of the reading options for today’s liturgy is St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. If you need a little checklist to see how “Holy Spirit filled” you might be in these days, see what St. Paul says: “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The truth? As I pray with this week’s readings, I’m not as a spirit filled as I know the Lord is calling. I could be more fruitful in my presence and practice, in my mission and ministry. From the Acts of the Apostles, we know the early disciples weren’t perfect when they left on that first Pentecost. Same for me. Maybe the same for you. Consider those signs that St. Paul gives us to consider. Maybe it’s all too much to take on. Perhaps one stands out that is most in need of work. It might be one way to see the graces and blessings of Easter all year long.
Another way to continue these graces and blessings is to make use of FORMED. This past April, the priests of the diocese were invited by Bishop Barres to consider using FORMED in our parishes. For the first year, a grant has been provided to absorb a large part of the cost of the program. Even before this meeting some parishioners had spoken of FORMED and last Fall, Fr. Michael also brought it up as something to consider. I hope you will consider using FORMED. A multitude of Catholic resources is now at your fingertips and mine! Maybe there is an area of theology or ministry you wanted to learn about but never had the time? Perhaps you’re not sure what the Church is teaching on this issue or that one? This would be a good place to turn. Let’s give it a shot as a parish and see if one sign of the fruit of the Spirit might be you and I getting FORMED in the year ahead. (Look on page 2 of this week’s bulletin and for more information in the weeks ahead!)
One sign of the many graces and blessings of the Spirit at work at St. John’s has been the generosity of so many over the past year through the 2017 Summer Appeal, the Catholic Ministries Appeal and most especially through the Fund a Foot Campaign. We would be in pretty dire straights with the church building if it had not been because of your generosity and faithfulness to the Fund a Foot campaign. Because of all the funded feet we have been able to improve our lighting system, add stained glass marking this time and beautify our church building, install a new state of the art sound system, repair our piano, increase lighting outside of the church building, make some needed parking lot repairs, repair the damage to the cupola from recent storms, examine ways to increase the number of security cameras and more (and more to come!). Without your generosity, this would never have been possible. We would likely have to deplete our savings and would find ourselves in a perilous situation with the reconstruction work of the church building.
I can find myself so often filled with fear related to many aspects of this building project — when will this get done or this product arrive or this person respond, etc. Fortunately, because of your generosity with those funded feet, that lack of fear has allowed good fruit to prosper. If I’m honest, like the early disciples, the fear related to certain aspects of ministry can leave me pretty frozen and not just when it comes to finances. Your generosity and gentleness, your kindness and love make a great difference in so many ways. Great signs of the Spirit at work. Thank you!
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
I hope you are as excited as I am about the rededication of the Church building on June 23 at the 5 p.m. mass. The announcement itself is a bit of a “turning point” for us. We’re starting to move in a different direction with a new focus. I have formed a Steering Committee to help lead us through these days. When I first met with them last week, I divided our work into three areas: a) remembering, b) transitioning and c) celebrating.
As I reflect on these three areas, I cannot help but think of the apostles in these days during Ascension and Pentecost. I often imagine them “all in one place together” (Acts 2:1) with Mary, Queen of the Apostles (Acts 1:14) perhaps talking about what had happened from Jesus’ death and resurrection to ascension, wondering how they would change and be those witnessing (Acts 1:8) and celebrating the power of the Spirit on Pentecost.
I hope we can begin to unite our own story to the story of the early Church. That story is not only about the rededication of the church building and not only about our journey as a community. I hope it will be good ground for reflection about our journey of faith.
Remembering. Throughout the next weeks, we’ll be called to remember. I hope you can pray with us this Friday at the Mass of Remembrance and Healing. And in the weeks ahead, I’m sure we’ll remember so many who have been part of our parish’s story not just throughout this year but throughout the history of the parish. I think of the prayer cards of those who passed away who are on the inside of the church building. I hope we, too, can remember. We should be good at it! It’s what we do each time we gather for the Eucharist. Let’s try to take some time in these days and weeks to consider the many ways God’s consolation has touched each of our lives in the past year and far beyond.
Transitioning. The weeks ahead will see some times of change and transition for our parish community. We are in the process of preparing for a Novena of Prayer in the days leading to the rededication (beginning June 14th) helping us to transition well. Like the disciples, we need the help of the Spirit. So look for more information about the church building and activities bringing us together in these days. Let’s take some time, too, to make some space for the Spirit to dwell in our own hearts. If you haven't been praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit, let’s go! Pick up a book at the doors of the Auditorium or outside Seton Chapel.
Celebrating. I look forward to our prayer and coming together on June 23rd and I know you do too! The disciples leave the “one place” touched by the Spirt. What do they do? They celebrate. They celebrated by preaching, teaching, serving, building, loving, challenging. I know we’re going to have a great day on June 23rd! I’m even more excited about what June 24th and beyond will bring for our parish family. I hope you are too!
So in these “in between” days, let’s pray that as a community and as individual believers, we can remember, transition and celebrate well!
Come Holy Spirit! Our Lady Queen of Apostles, pray for us!
You might remember a few months ago — before Easter — we had the first part of our Saint Survey and hundred of parishioners participated. If you were one of them, thank you! I apologize for the delay in this second round of voting. Between Easter and some of the other things happening here this part of the restoration project did not get the attention it deserved. I want to share two updates about the potential new saints in the reredos of the Church. Both relate to an article from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. This is, if you will, the guidebook as to how to celebrate Mass and to address issues related to the Mass, including church buildings. In Article #318, the General Instruction states: Thus, in sacred buildings images of the Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, in accordance with most ancient tradition of the Church, should be displayed for veneration by the faithful and should be so arranged so as to lead the faithful toward the mysteries of faith celebrated there. Care should, therefore, be taken that their number not be increased indiscriminately, and moreover that they be arranged in proper order so as not to draw the attention of the faithful to themselves and away from the celebration itself. There should usually be only one image of any given Saint. Generally speaking, in the ornamentation and arrangement of a church, as far as images are concerned, provision should be made for the devotion of the entire community as well as for the beauty and dignity of the images. One thing I should I have included in the original survey was the information underlined in the article above.
There really should only be one image of any given saint in the Church. Some of the saints selected were saints we already have in the Church (i.e. St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, St. Therese). So those were not included in the survey below. Second, I originally proposed adding three new statues for the reredos which would include moving the image of the Blessed Mother that was in the reredos to the Rectory Office area. Members of the Legion of Mary presented another idea which I think is awesome! They suggested perhaps incorporating an image of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles into the reredos. This will be a nice connection to the regional school and another image of the Blessed Mother for us to venerate. We’re in the process of trying to find a statue of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles. More to come! So below are the top six saints from our recent Saint Survey. I would ask now that you pick out your top “TWO” saints and return your survey no later than May 12, 2018.