Fourth Sunday of Easter: April 22

St. John The Evangelist
Roman Catholic Church, Center Moriches, N.Y.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

4/22 Bulletin     4/15 Bulletin

St. John's Pastor: Father John Sureau

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Catholic Ministries Appeal:Supporting Dramatic Missionary Growth

Catholic Ministries Appeal Link. Please consider donating.

Dear Friends: “Faith illumines life and society” - Pope Francis: Through your support of the Catholic Ministries Appeal we are able to pass on the treasures of Faith to a new generation of Jesus’ disciples. Teaching religion and sharing the Faith with young people – this is Jesus’ message – to proclaim the word of God. We do that by living the message every day. There is something so rich in spreading our Faith – you want to go out and share it with other people. That’s the Apostolic message.” Please consider donating to the Appeal and making a difference in the lives of our young people. Thank you! Maggie Martin, Director of Religious Education. St. John of God, Central Islip. Pledges to date - $97,230. Donors to date - 299

Fund-A-Foot Improvement Campaign

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4th Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherds and Seminarians

Dear Parish Family:

Traditionally, on this 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. Each liturgical cycle –whether we are proclaiming readings for Year A, Year B or Year C, we listen to some story from the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel about the good shepherd. It is also traditionally a day when we take some time to reflect on vocations to the priesthood and religious life (though this should never be relegated to one weekend!).

We see many signs of the vocational life of the Church here at SJE! We see it visibly in the presence of good and holy priests. We are blessed by Fr. Felix’s gentleness and graciousness (and even his cooking if you live in the rectory :), one who approaches you with a shepherd's heart. This year will be his 40th year of priestly ministry. We are touched by the power of the Spirit through Fr. Michael who brings us a tremendous passion and drive that draws us closer and closer to Christ and His mother. We are witnessed to by Sister Ann—who this year celebrates 60 years as a religious sister—who cares for the poor and vulnerable with the heart of compassion and mercy. That’s 101 years of ministry right there!

Over the past year, we have been privileged to be part of the formation process of a seminarian—one who is discerning to be a priest— Paul Clores. Paul will offer a reflection at most of the Masses this weekend about the call to priesthood and the journey of responding to God’s call. What a gift to be ministered to by Paul throughout this year and to also be an active part of his own formation. I, like you, was so happy when Bishop Barres agreed to allow Paul to stay with us beyond his original summer assignment for the entire pastoral year. What a sign of faith he has in our parish and in all of you! Paul will take leave of this assignment on May 6th. Be sure to pray for Paul in these days. Moving is tough especially when you’re leaving a community like SJE! (We will not be seminarian-free for long, though! I received notice late last month that Bishop Barres is assigning another seminarian to St. John the Evangelist for another year. On Wednesday, May 16, we will formally welcome Joseph Catafago, a seminarian for the Diocese of Rockville Centre studying at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie. More to come in the weeks ahead.)

These are signs of God’s spirit alive and well here at SJE! I wonder, though, if we can do more. The diocese is sponsoring Camp Quo Vadis for young people. If you know someone from SJE who is in high school and would be open to a weeklong retreat that includes faith, fun, formation and fellowship, reach out to me. (You can learn more by clicking here.). Young people who were part of the camp last year loved it! We have a beautiful prayer group that prays each Monday evening for the well-being and continued support of priests. I have often wondered about having a small vocation group perhaps of young men and women who have even considered a religious vocation just to know they’re not alone. (A priest friend of mine ran such a group and they affectionately called themselves the “Holy Rollers”!) And, simply, starting with me, we need to talk about the possibility of religious life and priesthood more and more!

Many ask “Why did you become a priest?” The first answer is, of course, it’s what God wants, not what I want. But if I am honest, it was people like you who did not even know my name when I was a kid who said, “Have you ever thought...” or “You know, you’d make a great priest…” and so on and so on that nurtured the seed God planted in me. It took me years to respond but they never stopped asking. I know there are many other young people in our parish who have that seed planted in them. It’s up to you and me to help make sure they discern God’s call for them and respond!

Peace –
Father John

Incredulous for joy and were amazed: Luke 24:41

Dear Parish Family:
The stories of Easter often have a line similar to the one in today’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel states the disciples were “incredulous for joy” (Luke 24:41). We’re told the disciples were “perplexed about this” (Luke 24:4), “alarmed” (Mark 16:5), “locked for fear” (John 20:19). The disciples leave the “tomb quickly with fear and great joy” (Matthew 28:8). Incredulous for joy is how Luke describes it in today’s Gospel. I read that as they were not quite so sure what to make of it all. Perhaps—well, maybe definitely—they were in a stack of shock, disbelief, uncertainty. For some, this is disappointing. How could they not respond more affirmatively?

As I returned from retreat last Friday, after a week of reflecting on some of the Easter gospels, I would be dishonest if I did not find myself “incredulous for joy” when it comes to our life and ministry at SJE. I find some hope in the Easter gospels. Maybe you will too.

The Restoration of the Church. You can read more on page 8. I walked in last Friday and was amazed at all that had been done. You see the color and many of the pieces of this project coming together more rapidly than we had hoped. I also learned of a significant leak in the windows and roof of the cupola. I could feel the breath come out of me. It will prevent us from working on the sanctuary area of the church a little longer but our contractors will focus on some other parts of the church building in the meantime. It’s also a significant new expense, one not covered by insurance (I tried :)!). Yet, because of the amazing generosity in the “Fund a Foot” campaign we should be able to handle this expense without moving into savings. “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).

Finances and Infrastructure. The financial challenges of a Catholic parish are not lacking here at SJE. We find ourselves in a good position when we look at savings and specific areas of our parish life, especially our commitment to the poor and vulnerable. Yet, day to day work and expenses - not to mention maintenance of our campus buildings and grounds—can easily bring us to lower balances than we’re comfortable with, particularly in these days. Plus, the pressure of things like the Catholic Ministries Appeal and figuring out how we’re going to handle some of the “summer projects” can quickly overwhelm. Yet, we have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of many, our CMA goal is in reach (see page 2) and so many have offered to help in many ways big and small. “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10).

Education and Formation. We are blessed with a huge faith formation program and a vibrant Catholic school. There are challenges in trying to share the faith during a one hour class and, to be honest, with less than stellar presence on Sundays. Our Catholic school is doing well but the commitment to build a Catholic community of educational excellence while balancing finances, enrollment and standards can be a bit frightening. Yet, we are in the midst of doing many wonderful things for our young people. Our Confirmation retreats begin today, youth ministry programs are expanding in number, young people are an integral part of our parish life and more and more families are getting involved in the parish. Vacation Bible Camp is going to be amazing! Our school is on the cusp of implementing an exciting middle school program and more and more people are visiting OLQA to find out more about the Catholic school in Center Moriches. “Remember, I am with you always…” (Matthew 28.20).

Caring for the Poor. We find ourselves with so much to offer yet the need can, at times, engulf us. Because of your generosity, we often have the financial means but not necessarily the resources to provide long term and lasting solutions for those in need who sometimes only want a quick fix). Because of our physical location, we are probably not able to support as many people as we would like, particularly those who struggle to get to the end of Center Moriches. Yet, we go out. We find those in need and are working to become even betters keepers of our brothers and sisters. Ernie’s Place is supporting hundreds of people each month. Our Street Ministry is caring for hundreds each month. Our newly reinstated Community Meal ministry is flourishing. The Thrift Shop amazes and supports the parish in beautiful ways. And we are always looking to develop new means to support and care for parishioners in need. “After this he said, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19).

The Brokenness Within and Around. Probably like you, I can get weighed down by the “everyday” of my own life and those I seek to care for and minister to here in the parish and beyond. I find myself struggling to have answers or decent solutions, disappointed in my own failures and those of others, hurt by my actions (or lack of them) and those of others. Yet, there are always signs of hope. Whether it be the gift of mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation, the humility of another to seek forgiveness, the courageous action of a parent to challenge their child or the movement of one in jail to a process of restoration, the new life of Easter is happening. Jesus said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:21, 26).

So are you “incredulous for joy”, perhaps just not quite there yet? Good news! We’re in good company! Now let’s pray, especially through our encounter with the risen and glorified Christ in the Eucharist that as individual disciples and members of this community of faith here at SJE that you and I can be “witness of these things” (Luke 24:48).

Please pray for me.
Father John

Ash Wednesday to Easter - Of Lovers and Fools

Dear Parish Family:

You might remember that we began this Lenten journey — Ash Wednesday– on February 14. We gather today for the culmination of the Lenten journey and the mysteries of the Triduum on April Fools Day, April 1st. There are connections to be made on both ends.

The Lenten journey is a journey of love—a journey of recognizing God’s profound love for us that the sent us His only Son to save us (John 3:16). I hope and pray that Lenten days, perhaps with help and activities of the parish here, have helped you to better recognize the passionate - even foolish—love God has for you and me and our need to be ambassadors of that love to all meet.

Some might look at us and our celebrations of Easter and say we are fools. To believe that someone could rise from the dead? To believe that because of the dying and rising of Christ we can move through the many deaths of our lives? To believe that the empty tomb is a symbol of a new beginning? Maybe they’re right? St. Paul writes about it in his first Letter to the Corinthians. He says, “We are fools for Christ... when reviled, we bless; when persecuted we endure; when slandered we speak kindly” (4:10, 12). Why do we bless? Endure? Speak kindly? Because we know Christ!

You know, we act pretty foolish sometimes, even here at SJE! It’s what disciples do! I’m not speaking about jokes or teasing around (we do a lot of that too!). Flip through the bulletin and see…

• We’re fools to work incredibly hard to support a vital Catholic school on our campus and in our community. It’s a place that maximizes students’ academic potential while transmitting the faith and values so important to us. Others look and say “Why bother?”

• We’re fools to desire to instill the faith in the young people of our community—even when others says religion is dying. Crazy to try things like Bible Camp, Youth Ministry, Faith Formation. Others might say, “It’s too late. Kids are too distracted to serve and learn in Church.”

• We’re fools to create many opportunities to pray when maybe many may not participate. From the celebration of the Eucharist, to daily Confessions, to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Men’s Prayer Group, Divine Mercy Novena, East End Holy Hour and much more. Others might say, “We’re too busy to pray at Church or even at all.”

• We’re fools to pour out our time, talent and resources to serve the poor and vulnerable among us through Parish Social Ministry, Ernie’s Place, the Thrift Shop, Street Ministry, Community Meal and so much more. Others might say, “Save that money and time. Things will never change.”

Yes, we are fools! In the eyes of the “world” and to many who do not understand, it just doesn’t make sense. They’re right. It takes a risk to believe. It takes a risk to teach. It takes a risk to serve. It takes a risk to respond. It’s a risk well worth it!

So have people called you a fool or something like it? Good news! You have a place here. Even better news! We’re looking for more fools to join our parish family by actively responding to all that the Resurrection calls us to do. We’ll never do it without you. So what are you waiting for, fellow fool? You might just fall in love again.

Peace –
Father John

Holy Week 2018: A Week for Losers

Dear Friends:
I was coming down the stairs in the Rectory this evening and Fr. Michael saw me and said, “Are you OK?” I guess I had a look. I said, “Yeah, I just had a lot of losing today.” Honestly, it was just one of those days — especially on a Monday. I wouldn’t say anything major just tons of smaller things. In the midst of a few hours, we had some challenges with the contractors on our restoration of the church building, advocacy and restorative justice work for a young man in jail is taking a longer time than I hoped, a young person I work with cannot catch a break and the challenges of all of these changes in the Catholic schools on the East End are causing some understandable distress for faculty, families and students at OLQA. Not to mention a looming early bulletin deadline :). Just not a lot of wins today.

It’s a good week to look at losing. For most of this Holy Week, we focus on what are apparently losses in the life of Jesus. Betrayal, denial, suffering, pain, abandonment, grief, loss. What a week to call “HOLY”. Yet if we approach this week as we are called, it might just be the week we need, particularly if we feel like we’re in a bit of a losing streak. We come today — Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord — to enter the story of the Passion. A story of losing. Yet, we do so, knowing that “We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts. Living, now we remain with Jesus the Christ” (refrain from our Communion Hymn this week). Remaining with Him, we are not going to be defeated. We have the privilege this Monday to admit the losses that are our faults — our sins. Throughout Long Island,

Queens, Brooklyn and New York, churches will be open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. to hear your confession and mine. Here at St. John’s we’ll be hearing confessions in Seton Chapel (in the Convent building - the white house).

We enter the Triduum this Holy Thursday evening mindful of some of the ways we are called to serve and to be strengthened. Undoubtedly, there are some losses in this work (see the first paragraph). Jesus washes the feet of his betrayer and the one who denies him. Talk about taken advantage of? Yet we come to be mindful of our need to serve, to wash feet, to lay down our lives at all costs. We recell the strength and nourishment to do this, to enter the garden, to embrace the cross through our Celebration of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night.

We come to celebrate the greatest sacrifice made for us on this Friday we call “Good”. We listen again to a story of passion. It is a story we enter into ever aware of the “deaths” - the crosses, pains and struggles - of our own lives. We “behold the wood of the cross” uniting our prayers for Mary and John and its foot. In Jesus pain and suffering, we are redeemed. Perhaps not losers after all? And we come to Holy Saturday and the celebration of the Easter Vigil. Darkness turns to light. Filled tomb to an empty one. Despair to hope. Death to new life. Sadness to joy. Wins to losses.

We prepare and bless a new Paschal Candle, listen to the story of our salvation proclaimed, celebrate the new life in Baptism of the Elect and celebrate the Eucharist renewed in Easter joy! Alleluia is once again our song.

So now it’s Tuesday morning – very early. It’s a new day. I began today in prayer and am now finishing this letter. Hopefully, there will be a few more wins today. If not, it’s a great week ahead for transformation from losing to winning. I hope you can be a part of it. It might just be the week you need.

Peace –
Father John

Catholic Schools on the East End: Tough Week

Dear Parish Family:
This week has been a tough week for Catholic schools and for the Catholic Church on Long Island. Bishop Barres announced Monday afternoon that McGann Mercy Diocesan High School will close at the end of the year and Our Lady of Mercy in Cutchogue and St. Isidore’s in Riverhead will merge into a new school – St. John Paul II Regional School – on the grounds of St. Isidore’s. (You can read more by visiting www.eastendcatholicschools.org to understand the reasons behind these difficult and heartbreaking decisions.)

The fact is that it is a real tough time for many in our parish and throughout the East End. Many graduates of St. John’s Elementary School and Our Lady Queen of Apostles Regional Catholic School went to Mercy which later became McGann-Mercy. It is a school with a long, rich tradition established by the Sisters of Mercy and later led by the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

It is a loss on a lot of levels. Whenever schools close – whatever the reason – Catholic identity and presence us challenged. Whenever things like this happen, we are all affected on some level. For the teachers in these schools, it is the loss of work and a challenge to their vocational identity. For students it is the loss of a second home, a place to which they belong and feel connected. For parents, students, alumni, and friends, it can be a time of real anger and pain. In a very real way, it is a time of dying.

In preparing to preach this week, I could not help but think of part of the Gospel for this Sunday – “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” It is hard, even for me right now, to see the fruit that will come from all of this. I believe something fruitful will come though. The Scriptures call us to search for this.

In the midst of writing this column, I had the privilege to take a break and visit the first graders of Our Lady Queen of Apostles – The Catholic School in Center Moriches. Each week, we meet to talk about different sacramentals in the Catholic Church. We toured Seton Chapel today and they were very intrigued by the convent building. Before that, I presided at Mass with our 7th and 8th graders. This week, I witnessed the great work our school is doing for the poor and vulnerable during the season of Lent.

Thinking about these great experiences on our own campus reminds me of the need to work even harder to support our regional Catholic school and Catholic education overall. Catholic schools, steeped in the tradition of the Church, make a difference in the lives of young people. Yes – they are safe and secure environments. Yes – students thrive academically and are given opportunities to succeed in ways other schools cannot provide. Yes – there small size creates an intimate learning atmosphere. Yes – we have the chance to minister to students in a more personal way. Yet, I hope that’s not the reason most come to a Catholic school. What’s most important? Each day, our young people have the chance to encounter the Christ who loves them, who calls them to life, through experiences of prayer, learning and service. Each day, our young people come to know of the Church, their role in it and their need to be the Church to a world in need. Catholic schools make a difference.

This week, let’s pray for good fruit to come from the dying of this week. Let’s look for the signs of new life that Jesus tells us about in the gospel, signs of new life present in our parish and school communities at SJE and OLQA.

Please pray for all those impacted by these school closings and merger. May they have all they need in these days of transition ahead.
Peace –

Father John

From Mission to Mission: Lenten Check Up

Dear Parish Family:

As you read this letter, it’s Laetare Sunday. The title is taken from the Entrance Antiphon at Mass today— Rejoice, O Jerusalem! It might seem odd to hear these words in the midst of the Lent. Yet, if we take our baptismal covenant seriously, it’s pretty hard not to rejoice in the realization that we are the “beloved” seeking again and again to regain our baptismal dignity. As I write this letter, I’m preparing for the final night of our Lenten Mission—snow and all. It’s been pretty hard not to rejoice after these three days led by Fr. Kevin Cronin.

The hope, for the parish, is these days of Lenten Mission inspire us in our missionary work far beyond these three days. From our communal prayer and worship this week, we pray that we might carry that out not just for the remaining days of Lent but far beyond. Are there signs this is already happening? You bet! Here are a few:

• The response to the Lenten Mission has been overwhelming! Both in numbers and in spirit, we have come to “Love God Gladly” through prayer, listening, reconciling and healing. St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

• Our Men’s Prayer Group is growing as men come together on Saturday mornings for prayer and worship.

• Our second East End Holy Hour served as a great way to take another step on our Lenten journey.

• Our Adult Faith Formation class is packed!

• The Street Ministry is serving record numbers of people.

• The SJE Lenten Bag Challenge is overwhelming Ernie’s Place and the Street Ministry. This is a good thing! Keep those donations and filled bags coming. Special thanks to our Faith Formation students for making a difference in this project.

• Our Catholic School, Our Lady Queen of Apostles, is building around the Lenten theme of “Hands of Mercy”, focusing on the corporal works of mercy. We’re blessed to be in the midst of a Catholic learning environment where religion is a part of each and every day.

• More people are coming to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Monday evenings and Thursday afternoons as well as Stations on Fridays.

Are these reasons to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Good job, St. John’s”? No way! They should be signs of encouragement and challenge for you and me to take another step on our own Lenten journey. It might be about taking part in one of the activities above. Maybe it’s about beginning your Lenten practice again – you know the one we promised to take on Ash Wednesday. Maybe it’s just slowing down a bit.

It can sometimes be a little depressing when we come to the middle of Lent. We’re quick to look at what we haven’t accomplished or how we have come up short! Rejoice! The Church tells us to rejoice! There’s still time and always a chance to better remember all that God wants for you and me.

Please pray for me.

Father John

From Seat Surveys to.... SJE Saint Survey

Dear Parish Family:

You might remember that we began the First Sunday of Lent a little differently than we normally do at Mass. We sang the Litany of the Saints seeking the intercession of the saints on the journey of Lent. The Church encourages this practice. The Congregation for Divine Worship writes, “(The) First Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of the annual Lenten observance. In the Mass of this Sunday there should be some distinctive elements which underline this important moment, e.g., the entrance procession with litanies of the saints” (Paschalis Sollemnitatis, The Preparation and Celebration of The Easter Feasts, 23).

With the saints on our minds during the Lenten season, I am asking for your advice and input. With the restoration of the church building, I would like to add the statues of three saints to the reredos. You might remember two statues adorned the upper left and right sides of the reredos. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was on the left hand side and the statue of St. John the Evangelist on the right hand side (when facing the altar). We are going to move the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to our “Blessed Mother” wall in the Rectory/Parish Office. The south wall of the Parish Office is filled with a variety of images of the Blessed Mother from throughout the parish grounds. This statue will be another beautiful addition for all who come to our Parish Office. The large statues of Mary in the Northeast corner of the church building and the chapel will remain where they were before the incidents of May 19th.

This will leave us with three spaces for the statues. The statue of St. John the Evangelist will remain in the reredos. This leaves us the opportunity to add the statues of three saints and I would like all of us to be a part of the process. So over the next two weeks, I would like you to consider your “top three” choices for potential new statues in the reredos. Take some time. Pray about it. Consider perhaps some saints who highlighted our celebration of the Eucharist as they look upon the altar and surround the tabernacle. Consider perhaps saints in the Gospel of John or perhaps saints who are most appropriate for our community or even a saint you to whom you might have a particular connection. So over the next two weeks, I ask you to complete the survey below.

You may only complete one! No election rigging, no collusion, etc. Fill it out —name, parish ID (found on your envelopes or recent church mailings), phone # and email required. You may return this via the collection or drop it off in the parish office no later than Sunday, March 18th, 2018. Then during the weekends of April 1st and 8th, there will be a ballot with the top choices. Hopefully, right after Easter, we’ll have our selected saints! So take some time over the next few days and select your top saints! All holy women and men....pray for us!

Peace -

Father John

Second Sunday of Lent: Pick Up the Phone

Dear Parish Family:
I don’t know about you but I am not too much of a phone person. I speak to one priest friend every night, usually, but that’s about it. If someone calls me I do my best to call them back in a timely manner (I try to do it in 24 hours but have come up short many times). Other than that, like many of you perhaps, I text, email, and now sometimes send a picture on some social media app. It’s a lot easier. I can be done with it in a few seconds and honestly, there’s no risk of getting “stuck” on the phone.

A member of the Pastoral Team pointed out to me that I probably rely too much on e-mail and those ways of communication. “What would it take to pick up the phone? We have all these extensions now. Why not use them?” they countered. They’re right. I’d rather keep moving than taking the time to talk to someone. It’s so busy I have convinced myself I have no time. It’s not true.

This Monday, February 26, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are “calling” on each one of us to pick up the phone and to flood the offices of local congressional leaders about doing something to support the “Dreamers” and comprehensive immigration reform. I’m sure, like you, I listen to the teachings of Pope Francis and the bishops when it comes to the formation of conscience. So when the Church tells me its teachings about abortion or marriage or euthanasia, I allow that to form my conscience and, I hope, those of others. So when the United States bishops, in line with the teaching of Pope Francis, call us to be advocates for immigrants and immigration reform, I had better listen up. (It’s easier to read the web page or see the flyer and then move on.)

In listening to the teaching of the Church on comprehensive immigration reform, I am challenged to move past some of my own insecurities and judgments — and even biases — to embrace the teaching of the Gospel especially when it comes to the vulnerable. The approximately 1.8 million dreamers—those who were brought here as CHILDREN by their parents who were seeking, in most cases, a better life for their families— were protected temporarily by the DACA program which will end on March 5 without some congressional intervention and presidential leadership. The USCCB encourages us to call “to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process.” You can—and we all must— learn more at www.usccb.org.

Honestly, I can probably write a good e-mail or send off a good letter or even say a powerful prayer about this issue. Picking up the phone? That’s a little more personal. I may be rejected. I might have to defend my opinion. I cannot just take my “shot” and hit send. I might have to have an interaction that can be uncomfortable. Yes. I may. But I must. How can I not stand up for the dignity of families? How can I not risk discomfort on behalf of those human beings in my midst who may be forced back to countries of poverty and violence? What kind of disciple of Jesus would I be if I didn't pick up the phone?

Is that enough? No way! Is it a start? You bet. Some of my best encounters of friendship, ministry, service and compassion started with a phone call. So this Monday—pick up the phone!

Please pray for me.

Father John

First Sunday of Lent: Drowned by Temptations - 2/18

Dear Parish Family:

Lent is only about four days old! How are you doing with your Lenten practices? Are you like me? I’m presuming, even though I’m writing this letter on Ash Wednesday, that I may have started coming up short and tried to figure out a way to justify getting around this act of almsgiving or fasting. It starts small, right? If I have chosen to give up a bad habit, say not eating dessert, or promised to take on a renewed effort at prayer or service, have I started to move away from it bit by bit? (I bet I have!)

I met a former student this week. He is married now with a family. He’s a great role model of faith and charity. In his 30s, he is involved in his parish, a good husband, a faithful father. As a student he had the privilege of having me as a classroom teacher in his freshman and senior years. He was very lucky :). I remember one of the first times I met him in ninth grade. He spoke to me about all of the things he would “never do”. He did so with a sense of immature arrogance not uncommon to many 14 year old freshmen. When I had him in class as a senior, he had done most of those things and more. I know because I was his counselor for all four years. We have spoken many times since. He’ll often say to me “I never thought that would be me” or “I’m not really sure how it turned so bad so fast.”

Temptation is a reality in our lives. Evil dwells in and around us and we would be quite foolish and naive to consider otherwise. People speak often of Pope Francis and his messages of joy and hope (and that smile!). Yet, if you read his homilies and talks there are very few that do not, in some way, come back to the reality of evil in our world. Evil is not in the form of a guy in a red outfit with horns. In some ways that would be a lot easier. Simply stay away from that guy.

Rather evil works in often more insidious and subtle ways. Sometimes we’re not even sure where it came from, right? We find ourselves doing things, saying things, feeling things. We stop resisting temptation. We get distracted. We fall. How did this become my sin? How did it go so bad so fast?

One of my favorite spiritual writers is Fr. William Barry, SJ. I have written and preached about him before. He writes, “The discernment of the spirits rests on the belief that the human heart is a battleground where God and the evil one struggle for mastery. Jesus of Nazareth himself believed this. In the desert he had been tempted by the evil one masquerading as an angel of light.”

We need to pay attention and maybe that is the best Lenten practice of all. To pay attention to the movement of the Spirit within us and the lack of that movement at times. To see the signs of temptation winning. To see where we are drowning from the onslaught of the waves of this life (see 1st reading). Lent is a good time to practice that discernment, to do that reflection. To see “how it got that bad” or “how I couldn't see it coming”.

As a social worker and even at times as a priest, I often meet people after it has gotten “that bad”. It’s a process to understand the journey and the path. Sometimes its clear. There was an event, an encounter, an incident. Often it’s not. It’s muddled. It’s hidden. It’s hard to see.

I’m not writing this as a social worker. I’m writing it as a Catholic priest. There is a huge difference in how we look at that journey. We can stay in the clinical and analytical. Or we can be humble and vulnerable enough to allow the Lord to help us to see. We can ask him to pull us out of the water and warm us with the rainbow of his love (Genesis 9:16). We can speak to him about the temptations in our own deserts. We can confess to him both in our private prayer and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can discern with his help to make the next right decision. If we’re open to it, we can count on his mercy and compassion to pull us through.

Please pray for me.

Father John

From Father Michael: Men’s Prayer Group (Totus Tuus) - 2/11

If you’re anything like me, right around this time of year you start thinking about something you can give up for Lent. While giving up stuff can be a healthy, spiritual practice for Lent, a lot of times we miss out on good things that we can take on and incorporate into our lives afterwards too.

Starting this Lent, St. John’s will be offering a new men’s prayer group in our parish. The Totus Tuus Men’s Prayer Group will seek to offer men a place to deepen their relationship with Christ and grow as Catholic brothers.

I know what you’re probably thinking right now…what the heck does “Totus Tuus” mean and why did Fr. Mike put a picture of some guy shaving in the bulletin? The guy that’s shaving is actually a young Karol Wojtyla, later Pope St. John Paul II, on one of his many camping trips with his friends. His motto as a bishop in Poland and later as Pope was “Totus Tuus” coming from a prayer by St. Louis de Montfort, which literally means totally yours. Totally whose? Mary’s.

Back in October, our parish was blessed with the awesome graces of so many here at St. John’s making the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Remember that? It’s my hope that this new men’s prayer group will begin and grow as a fruit of that consecration. Didn’t make the consecration back in October, but kind of interested in this? No problem. Totus Tuus is looking to all of the men in our parish to join it’s ranks, young and old, single guys, new dads and grandpas. Taking the protection of Our Lady and St. John Paul II as our patron, we’re looking to offer guys a place of belonging, fraternity and strength to live our faith in the world today.

Every saintly man has also been a very real, normal man who has done normal things…even shaving.. Every saintly man has had to deal with real life and everything that it brings with it.. The truth is real life can be a lot sometimes and coming together is a great way of breaking out of isolation and experiencing the strength that comes from communion. Living out our baptismal calling to holiness doesn’t mean having to say long lists of prayers every day or start acting “weird”, but looking at my relationship with Christ, getting back to basics and having a place to belong.

Our first meeting will be held in the IHM Room in the Convent (the White House) at 9 a.m. on Saturday February 17th. Please contact me if you have any questions. You can reach me at 631.878.0009 or email to mplona@sjecm.org.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Fr. Michael

From Feet to Hands…. More Hands Needed - 2/4

Dear Parish Family:

This week, I’ll speak at all of the Masses about two areas where we are in need of your help and assistance. To be honest, I’m uncomfortable about the first topic because it is a bit of risk to talk about, particularly with all that we are journeying through as a parish family. I’m uncomfortable because we have been asked to do a lot as a parish over the past months and it seems almost unreasonable to ask more. I know this.

Yet, you and I know that our work as the parish of St. John the Evangelist is never, can never, should never be about us as individuals, families or even a parish. It must always be about building up the larger Church here in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and throughout the world.

It’s in that spirit that I announce that the work for the 2018 Catholic Ministries Appeal is beginning this weekend in parishes throughout the diocese.

The theme this year is “Hands of Mercy” aware of the many ways the Church on Long Island is called to bring the mercy of God through formation programs (we can testify to this with Paul Clores and Fr. Michael in our midst), the work of Catholic Charities and so many other works of the larger church. This involves administration of the diocese and the numerous offices and works of the diocesan church.

Last year, we made our goal in about a month and a half. This year, I know it may be harder. After all, we have together supported the Summer Appeal and recently nearly 1,000 individuals, families and corporations have supported the Fund a Foot campaign. How can I come to you again?

I do so because each one of us knows our responsibility to support and strengthen the larger church on Long Island under the leadership of Bishop Barres. We know of his great support for us in prayer—after the destruction of the church building and at Thanksgiving, specifically, and in many other ways generally. We are linked with and support the larger church when things are going exceptionally well within our local parish and when things are challenging as they are in these days here at SJE.

As a parish we have a set goal of $100,600. This is set by the diocesan office of advancement. (I wrote in November 2017 to have the goal reduced and am awaiting a response). Even if our official goal is reduced I hope that we can still reach it. Here’s why...it’s helps us! Last year we earned nearly $30,000 for St. John the Evangelist from the Catholic Ministries Appeal. This was a huge help to us in many, many ways! I would like us to hit (and exceed) goal if possible this year again.

Can I make a one request? We are really good with feet here! Did you know that because of the nearly 1,000 contributors to the Fund a Foot Restoration campaign as well as others who made donations to the work of the Church, we raised just under $200,000 (and monies are still coming in).

I am hoping we can be good with our hands in this “Hands of Mercy” campaign. Last year, approximately 350 parishioners or families supported the Catholic Ministries Appeal. This year, I would like to see if we can increase this to 400 or even 450 individuals and families! So if you have never participated in the Catholic Ministries Appeal would you be able to help us out this year? In a real way, become a “hand of mercy”, support the larger church on Long Island and help our own parish in the midst of what has been an overwhelming year!

Here’s my second hope! I would like us to be finished with the appeal (i.e. reaching our goal) as quickly as possible. We have so many other things to work and focus on—see the pages of this bulletin for a start– that I want our focus on those things. So can I ask you to get your “hands moving” and become a hand of mercy via check, online donation, envelopes, whatever works to help us reach our goal and bring the CMA to conclusion?

Thank you for reading this letter and for listening today at Masses. I’m grateful for your understanding and openness. You make a tough job and talk a lot easier. Please pray for me.

P.S. Now what’s that second things with eyes and mind? You’ll find out at mass this weekend!

Our Lady Queen of Apostles: The Catholic School in Center Moriches - 1/28

Dear Parish Family:
It’s late on Wednesday evening and the bulletin deadline is about an hour away. Part of the reason I am writing this letter at so late a time is because I have spent a good time of my day connected to our parish’s regional school, Our Lady Queen of Apostles—The Catholic School in Center Moriches. What a gift! As I think about today and my experiences there today—and this is just one day—I am filled with gratitude to be part of a loving community.

It began at 7:43 a.m. A parent called to speak to me about some concerns with their child’s behavior in school. The parent wanted to speak to me and the principal about some important issues in their family. Within two hours, they were meeting with both of us for nearly an hour. Together, we tried to come up with solutions and brainstormed ideas about ways to address some difficult issues. I do not know too many other schools where parents are supported and responded to in such a personal way. OLQA’s small size and individual attention make this outreach possible.

After that phone call and before that meeting, I had the chance to speak to a class of seventh graders about my own journey to priesthood. Organized by Ms. Tess Austin, our campus minister and middle school religion teacher, I had the chance to talk about my own journey of faith and of responding to God’s call. The kids had great questions and weren’t afraid to talk about their own faith journey. A recognition of God’s call in the midst of the school day is a regular occurrence at OLQA. Today was no exception.

Following that I met with Mrs. Waller’s third grade class in the Church. We prayed and talked about what happened to the Church last May. Then they took some time to walk around the Church and signed their names while recalling significant moments. One student wrote, “I sat near here for my First Holy Communion”. Another wrote a prayer for his “Pop-pop” who passed away a few years ago. We gathered again to pray together and then had time for questions. They had some pretty awesome questions.

The day concluded with a meeting of our newly reformed and refocused school board. Both Mr. Erlanger and myself are committed to having a board that is empowered to lead our school in the years ahead. Already they are working on developing a new mission statement, taking the next steps in the creation of a middle school and examining ways to better engage our parents. This kind of commitment and dedication comes from a strong belief in Catholic school and OLQA particularly.

What was the center of the day? Celebrating the eucharist at noon in Seton Chapel. On Wednesdays our seventh and eighth graders attend mass. What a privilege to pray with them. Attending mass each week is part of the life of OLQA. Here they not only come to know the Church’s prayer but the power of the Eucharist to transform them forever. Again, not sure there are too many other places this is happening.

As we celebrate this 'Catholic Schools Week', I hope you will come to know more about OLQA and all it has to offer your child and your family. Catholic schools are simply different and their difference is something to celebrate. I hope in the days ahead—especially this Catholic Schools Week—you’ll come to know that difference at Our Lady Queen of Apostles, the Catholic School in Center Moriches. I have come to know that difference and am better for it! May the same be true for you and your family.

Peace—

Father John

Sanctity. Signing. Stained Glass. ...that all life is sacred and every human being unique - 1/21

Sanctity: The headline of this column is part of the mission statement of the group home where I volunteer each week. The ministry reaches out to the addicted, the homeless, single mothers, victims of domestic violence, prisoners seeking to reconnect to the larger society and more. I think of this as I write today as hundreds of thousands will participate in the March for Life and even more pray for the sanctity of all human life in the days ahead. The Church is adamant in its support of human life, beginning with life in the womb. While we seek judicial and legislative changes to address these issues, including abortion, we also know that will never be enough. It’s about a conversion of heart. It requires that we speak the truth, yes! It requires we speak that truth in love, absolutely!

While the teaching of the Church about the unborn is unwavering, it is also a good time to remember that the Church does not hate people or want to disown people who have had abortions or been a part of obtaining an abortion. The Church and its ministers – especially this one – want to be present to you, to support you, to help you find whatever healing and consolation you may need. Please let us be present to you, to walk with you, to serve you.

Signing: Today we take another step in our own healing and restoration as we are invited to sign the studs of the Church building. While the building itself is an instrument to give praise and honor to God, it is also a sign of the People of God coming together as community. I hope our signing and place of prayer cards might be a statement not to the restoration of a building but to ongoing conversion, transformation and renewal of the community of faith here at SJE. May our signing show that each one of us is unique in God’s eyes. Together, with all our uniqueness, we form a community of faith - the parish of St. John the Evangelist.

Stained Glass: I want to write about something I had briefly addressed at the time of the Annual Report and in the bulletin over the summer. I have proposed to the Pastoral Team and to members of the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council that we add four new stained glass windows to the Church building, marking not only the events of May 19th but our great devotion and confidence in God’s healing presence. The four windows – images of which you will be able to see in the Church building today - are:

  • St. Michael the Archangel – the patron saint of police officers, remembering those who sought to keep our community safe on May 19th.
  • St. Florian – the patron saint of fire fighters, remembering those who responded so quickly and were present to prevent further damage.
  • St. Dymphna – the patron saint of mental illness. With this window, we remember the person who carried out the acts of violence on May 19th and all who suffer with the pain of mental illness and those who care for them.

Repair + Restore + Rebuild: taken from the words of the Old Testament, this window will incorporate Isaiah 58:11-12, a passage we have been referring to throughout these months. It will serve as a reminder of how God has worked through each one of us in these days.

In presenting to the Pastoral Staff and members of the Pastoral Council and Finance Council, it is my desire that these windows not be individually memorialized but come from the funds raised from the “Fund a Foot” campaign. (Of course, if you’d like to make an additional donation to the Fund a Foot campaign that would be most welcome. Each window will cost approximately $5,000). The windows will go on either side of the ambry and either side of the statue of St. Teresa. The color of the molding around these four windows will be a slightly different color to highlight their connection and this time in our parish’s history.

Whether we are marching, signing or seeing through, these three seemingly unrelated actions speak to us about the uniqueness of each human person and our call to give praise, honor and reverence for all the gifts God has given us.

Peace—

Father John

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Directions to St. John The Evangelist R.C. Church

Street Address: 25 Ocean Avenue, Center Moriches, New York, 11934

Waze map of how to get to St. John The Evangelist in Center Moriches, NY

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