St. John The Evangelist
Roman Catholic Church, Center Moriches, N.Y.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 12, 2018
St. John's Pastor: Father John Sureau
SJE Summer Appeal: Supporting Missionary Growth
John 6: Living Forever - 8/12
Dear Parish Family:
You know the past few weeks – and two more weeks to go – we have been praying with the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We do this every time we are in Year B of the Liturgical Cycle. This fills in some of the space as the Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four gospels.
I hope the weeks prior, today and ahead give us some opportunity to consider our own approach to the gift of the Eucharist. It has been a challenging few weeks, for me, in our parish and turning these pages has given me some “food for thought” if you will. May my thoughts – or better yet – the way God has been calling me out perhaps be a support to you!
“They themselves got into boats…looking for Jesus” (John 6:25). How hard are you and I looking? Are we searching for Jesus in our midst? They seek him and find him (even if they’re not quite sure how he got to where he was). Are we searching hard enough for Jesus? Are we taking advantage of enough of the times we have to “recline” (John 6:10)?
An area I hope we can get more participation in is adoration during our times of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. So far only about six parishioners have committed to taking an hour. I think we can do better than that, no? Are we looking hard enough? I would love to see each of the hours filled and am more than open to adding morning hours of adoration. I am hoping that Seton Chapel can become a place of extended adoration in the months to come. If you have not committed to an hour a week, would you think about it? I updated the form today to see about morning possibilities.
“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life...” (John 6:27). Do I see the eucharist I receive at Mass linked to my eternal life? I hope you notice that each “Prayer After Communion” – the prayer that concludes the Communion Rite often contains a clear link. In today’s prayer, we pray: “May the communion in your Sacrament that we have consumed, save us, O Lord…”. Each time we gather for Mass, we do not receive practical nourishment, but nourishment that saves us, that can lead us to eternal life.
Do I see this connection? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Maybe the same for you? How easy can it be to stay on the level of the “food that perishes”, the things of this world? It’s not to say the things of this world are unimportant. But are they in the right order in my life? In yours? I often catch myself - and probably more often don’t – having things not in the right order. Concerned with details, failing to keep in mind a final destination. Remember, “whoever believes have eternal life” (John 6:47). Taking some time in adoration (see paragraph above) might help to remember well the gift that brings eternal life.
I am often humbled to bring the eucharist to the homebound. I try to visit a parishioner or two weekly to pray with them and to bring communion. I think of a beautiful mom and wife who is moving closer and closer to the eternal life that Christ offers us. After reading the Sunday scripture, I minister communion. She is calmer, at peace. She knows. Perhaps her anxiety isn’t just about her illness and all that comes with this. It’s about her desire to look for Jesus and find him in the eucharist. I never fail to leave overwhelmed by her and disappointed in myself. It reminds me that I’m not looking hard enough. I’m not trusting enough. I’m failing to keep my eye on the life to come.
Let’s pray that we can be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). It is very hard to imitate what we don’t watch, enter into, come to know very well. Let’s consider ways we can look harder, recline in His presence a bit more and see the new life he promises us. Please pray for me.
Change in Youth Ministry - Yellow Arrows - 7/30
Dear Parish Family:
I tend to write these letters on the Wednesday before the Sunday of the “published deadline”. (You won’t be surprised to learn that the deadline was Monday.) Today, as I write, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. James. St. James is known for many things—more than can be written here. A spiritual tradition that has developed in the Church is the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. It’s a spiritual walk that can take as long as thirty days or more to complete. The walk is challenging with a pilgrim walking 20 to 30 miles a day. You might remember that Paul Clores walked part of the Camino last summer.
The walk is a symbolic journey. The ups and downs of the hills, the different directions taken, the need to walk with others and walk alone, embracing the hospitality of others who are on the way are just some of the reflections that many share after this journey. Yellow arrows—some big, some small— guide the pilgrim to know where to turn to get to the next part of the journey. It’s a physical and spiritual journey that I hope one day I can enter. I write today to inform you that Michael Clauberg has resigned his position as Director of Youth Ministry effective this August. Mike has been part of the SJE community for over 21 years serving in youth ministry here while also carrying out work with young people throughout his time here at Mercy High School, Our Lady of Mercy School in Cutchogue, St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, St. John the Baptist in Wading River and serving as a regional leader in Life Teen International (and that’s just part of it!). To say Mike is a force in the field of youth ministry would be an understatement. He will become the youth minister a St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Huntington at the end of August.
I write with a bit of a saddened heart because the “yellow arrow” that brings Mike to St. Patrick’s is a loss for SJE on some levels. Whenever a leader in a parish—who has been ingrained as long as Mike has—moves on, it leaves a significant hole that, quite simply, can never be filled. For many years, Mike has shared God’s gifts given to him to bring many young people closer to Christ and His Church via programs like Life Teen, EDGE, CYO and the like. More so, Mike’s efforts at relationship with young people have made as much, if not more, of a significant impact. I hope and pray Mike’s work with the young people presently in the South Huntington area at St. Anthony’s will carry over to his work at St. Patrick’s. Mike will return to working with Msgr. Steve Camp, the present Pastor at St. Patrick’s. Then Fr. Steve Camp served here for many years at OLQA and St. Jude’s in Mastic Beach in the 1990s.
Where do we go from here? Right now, I’m not sure where the “yellow arrows” are pointing for youth ministry at SJE. There is no “replacement” for Mike and there cannot be one. I am beginning to meet with the members of the Core teams of Life Teen and EDGE and hope to listen to them as we discern the next steps. After talking with members of the Pastoral Team, I think the best thing we can do is to not rush into brining someone on board to fill a position. The role is too important. This will leave us with a gap in the upcoming months in our official youth ministry program.
So the next months will be a time of transition for Michael Clauberg and for our parish community. There is a sense of deep loss for Mike, I’m sure, and for our parish without question. I know God will place good yellow arrows showing us the “Buen Camino” - the “Good Way” - in the months ahead. Please pray for Mike in these days of transition and, if you can, please say a prayer for me.
P.S. We are in the process of planning a “Good Way” celebration for Mike on Sunday, August 19 after the 5:30 p.m. mass. Check future issues of the bulletin for more info. If you would like to be part of the planning, please contact Michelle Pirraglia at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message in the Faith Formation office.
Humanae Vitae at 50: God’s Gift of Sexuality - SUMMER READING
Dear Parish Family:
You might read this headline and say, “Good grief, Fr. John. It’s summer. A little heavy, no?” Perhaps. As you can read in other parts of the bulletin, we mark the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical issued by soon to be saint Paul VI about married life. It has often been reduced to its definitive teaching on contraception but there is much more here than that! Bishop Barres is issuing a pastoral letter entitled, The Supreme Gift: TheGift of Life this week and it is an opportunity to reflect on where we are at with the Church’s call to married love and human sexuality.
Last year, I celebrated Mass on a Friday in the group home where I volunteer. The readings related to chastity and the proper and improper uses of the gift of sexuality. I read from a letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. I may have quoted it in this column before. (It I did, it’s worth a second post!)
“What we do with our bodies matters. Sex is linked intimately to human identity and purpose. If our lives have no higher meaning than what we invent for ourselves, then sex is just another kind of modeling clay. We can shape it any way we please. But if our lives do have a higher purpose – and as Christians, we find that purpose in the Word of God — then so does our sexuality.
Acting in ways that violate that purpose becomes a form of self-abuse; and not just self-abuse, but a source of confusion and suf-fering for the wider culture. The fact that an individual’s body might incline him or her to one sort of damaging sexual behavior, or to another very different sort, doesn’t change this.”
I worry that just as some reduce the teaching of Humanae Vitae to its teaching about contraception, we have done the same with sexuality. We reduce it to a series of actions. We get caught up in one teaching or another. We fol-low some. We may ignore others. We fail to see the whole picture. That’s just not how the Church sees it. It’s not how you and are I to see it. We see this gift of sexuality as so powerful, so amazing. It’s so powerful that it can produce life if it is God’s will. How can you and I do anything that might get in the way of the will of God?
As we mark this 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, maybe it’s a good time to ask a few questions of ourselves. Here are a few:
• What is the Church’s teaching on sexuality? Do I know it? Do I desire to understand it?
• Do I see sexuality and sexual activity as part of my “higher calling”?
• Do I consider the Church’s teaching when it comes to issues related to birth control, marriage, living together before marriage, being married outside the Church?
• Have I talked to my children about the Church’s teaching about human sexuality making sure my values and the church’s values are enforced and practiced or have I chosen to look the other way?
• Do I work hard enough to resist temptations related to sexuality, like pornography, physical relationships, sex-ting, inappropriate conversations and the like? Do I make sure those God has entrusted to me do the same?
I worry that we have “thrown in the towel”. We deceive ourselves saying, “Look at world. How can we ever carry out these teachings?” We settle for certain behaviors in ourselves and others. In doing so, we cheapen God’s gift of sexuality. We cheapen ourselves. We wind up pulling further away from Christ and His Church.
The Chapel was quiet that day last summer. After Mass, while shaking hands, many of the men made it a point to say something to me. Most were challenged and many said, “I needed to hear that.” Maybe in the weeks ahead we can re-examine our understanding of the Church’s teaching about sexuality. We might find out that we need to hear it again too.
Please pray for me.
Wisdom and Grace: Senior Ministry
"Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God, that I may proclaim your might to all generations yet to come. Your power and justice, God, to the highest heaven. You have done great things…
My lips will shout for joy as I sing your praise; my soul, too, which you have redeemed." —Psalm 71
Dear Parish Family:
I have spent most of ministerial life working with young people. To this day, I commit a tremendous amount of time here to the work of OLQA and Faith Formation and do the best I can to be present to the youth ministry activities of the parish. Prior to entering the seminary, I worked as a campus minister at a high school and a youth minister in the parish. As a social worker, my primary work is with young people. As a parish and a church, we commit a great amount of resources and time to the work of youth ministry and we should and we must!
At the same time, I have always struggled with the comparable lack of resources to those at the other end of life—those persons of wisdom who are the foundation of the Church here at St. John’s and everywhere else. For sure, the needs are different. I find that we rely tremendously on older parishioners for their financial support, leadership, experience, wisdom and participation (and we should and we must!). At the same time, I do not know that we always provide enough support and encouragement, presence and resources for the seniors of the Church and, specifically, at St. John’s. I fear, sometimes, we may take older people for granted. We shouldn’t and we can’t.
Over the past few months, I have been talking regularly with Sister Ann about the possibility of starting a more official senior ministry here at St. John the Evangelist. I am excited to announce that beginning today, July 15th, Sister Ann is the new Director of Senior Ministry at St. John the Evangelist. She is excited too! This will be a great opportunity for our parish as we seek to develop new ways to better engage, involve and support those people of wisdom in our parish.
In my two years at St. John’s, I have been overwhelmed by the wisdom and grace of Sister Ann. Because of her tremendous experience and deep love for the Church, I have come to rely on her advice and her presence. What a gift she is going to continue to be as she charts a new path for our parish’s future.
In taking on this new position, Sister Ann will be step-ping away from the day to day of parish social ministry. Beginning today, Alex Finta (pictured left with his fiancé) who has served as the Associate Director of Parish Social Ministry will be the Director of Parish Social Ministry. In the time Alex has been here as a social work intern, Associate Director of Parish Social Ministry and the School Social Worker, he has gained a great deal from his experience here and has brought many great gifts to the life of our parish. He has worked hand in hand with Sister Ann on many projects and I have great hope that even more good things are on the horizon! And good news for him—a person of wisdom and grace will continue to be working with him in this new role (and keeping her eye on him too!).
Please pray for me.
Celebrating God’s Gift of Priesthood: Father Felix At 40
Dear Parish Family:
I first stepped foot on the grounds of St. John the Evangelist as the incoming Pastor on March 15, 2016. I came here to meet Fr. Walter and see just what exactly Bishop Murphy had gotten me into! I remember that day meeting my Spiritual Director in Blue Point (to reflect on the previous sentence) and then driving down Montauk Highway taking in what, for me, was this new part of Long Island.
I arrived early and walked into the church. As I came in I was greeted by a priest who was locking the church building in the early afternoon. He let me stay but said I had to close the door behind me tightly. He did not know who I was and I did not know who he was. However, that day was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and connection. You can probably figure out that I am speaking about Fr. Felix.
On July 2, Fr. Felix celebrated his 40th anniversary as a priest. I think you agree that St. John’s has been blessed well by Fr. Felix’s presence here over the past eight years. In my time living, praying, and ministering with Fr. Felix, I have come to know a man of sage-like wisdom, incredible prayer and devotion, incredible intelligence and a deep humility that always deflects the attention away from him to the other – most often Christ.
I am most humbled and amazed by Fr. Felix’s great devotion to the sick and homebound. A few months ago, we were called together to visit a sick person. He had his whole kit of things and simply said, “Follow me. I will show you.” And he did. It wasn’t what was in the kit. It was the man of deep faith who offered great consolation and hope to one who was dying. I know many call Fr. Felix and he prays with the homebound on the phone and takes time to listen all through the night. What a gift!
I am most challenged by Fr. Felix’s advice and wisdom. I often ask him for it. He has a great ability to see the entirety of a situation or moment. He offers critique, encouragement, support and correction (I need all of it!). Never is it done with anything but a sincere heart and good intention (and usually a good Fr. Felix laugh!). Recently, a young person was sitting in my office waiting to see me about something pretty serious and Fr. Felix seeing him went in, sat down and called out his name and said, “…now you listen to me. I have something to tell you. You need to listen….” The kid did, commenting later, “Fr. Felix made some good points. Too bad you’re not as smart as him, Fr. John.” (The kid was proud of himself!)
A few months ago, I received notice from Bishop Barres that he accepted both my request and Fr. Felix’s request that his assignment be extended here at St. John’s. Fr. Felix’s assignment was not extended for one year but for two! We’re doubly blessed. There have been many signs of God’s grace and blessing my time here at SJE! It all started with that priest I met my first day here on campus!
P.S. This week four of our parishioners/OLQA graduates are participating in the Camp Quo Vadis, a great experience for young people, at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. Led by some of our more newly ordained priests, women religious and seminarians, including our own Seminarian Joe, this promises to be a great week for them and, we pray, for the Church.
Gratitude...Going Forward ONGOING CONSTRUCTION
Dear Parish Family:
As I write this column, we are addressing the final details for our rededication weekend. The Novena of Spirit and Truth has given each of us much to consider in these days of preparation for Saturday evening’s Mass and our return to regular use of the church building. We come to this day filled with great gratitude for the many hands, hearts and minds that have come together over the past 13 months and 5 days to manage, organize, facilitate, encourage and empower this restoration project.
There were more than a few surprises in the process and more delays than we anticipated or expected. We are especially grateful to the Diocese of Rockville Centre for their willingness to allow us carry out this project. The Town of Brookhaven — from the Supervisor Romaine to each person we worked with — has been incredibly supportive and helpful (more than we could have ever hoped for). Our architect, project manager, general contractor and so many various contractors came to see their work here as more than a building project but the work of creating a space of prayer and worship. They got it!
At Saint John the Evangelist, we have many reasons to be grateful. The parish community as a whole has come together in the midst of all of this to find, I hope, a greater appreciation for what church is really all about. We see it in the prayer, devotion, flexibility, openness, patience, understanding and incredible hard work carried out by so many. We see it in the ongoing and growing work of ministry and mission we have been called to enter into over these months. We see it in many who have stepped up to bring about the restoration of the church building and the continuing restoration of the Kingdom of God here and now. Projects like this need a quarterback. They need someone who keeps the ball moving, if you will. I hope you can join me in expressing great gratitude to Katie Waller, our Business Manager. Katie was here on May 17, 2017 and carried us through that day. Since May 17th, she has been the driving force in getting things done at all times and days. If there was a contractor who needed to be challenged, building information needed, direction given, encouragement offered, work to be done, Katie has been the one to bring it all together (and usually with a smile and some good humor too!).
Are we done? Is the project finished? No way. While the work of the church building restoration is largely complete, we know that as a parish we have a great deal of work to do. In the Office of Readings for the Common of the Dedication of the Church, St. Augustine writes, “We are gathered together to celebrate the dedication of a house of prayer. This is our house of prayer, but we too are a house of God. If we are a house of God, its construction goes on in times that it may be dedicated at the end of time. The house, in its construction, involves hard work, while its dedication is an occasion for rejoicing.” So we have hard work ahead if we are going to continue the necessary restoration work that will carry us to the end of time. As individuals, what in you and in me needs to be restored? Where is forgiveness needed or where does it need to be offered? What ways must I grow closer to God in the days ahead? What am I going to do to make that happen?
As a parish, the missionary work of the Gospel requires constant restoration. We need to continue to develop opportunities for prayer and devotion to our God. We need to look at how we can even more powerfully minister to even more of the poor and the vulnerable — both young and not so young — through Parish Social Ministry and Youth Ministry. We have a great Catholic school that needs to grow so more young people can be inspired with the faith. We need to connect to more families so they know about the great things happening here at SJE! Is what lies ahead overwhelming? I suppose some would say yes. For we who have gone through this year of restoration, the ideas above and others should not be overwhelming. To me, and I hope to you, they are reasons for hope.
Father's Day 2018
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.
Narcan...Novena of Spirit and Truth - Where are you? Part II
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.
Remembering First Holy Communion… Where are You?
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.
A Community Remembers and Responds
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.
Fruits + Funded Feet and Formed - More Signs of the Spirit
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.
Remembering + Transitioning + Celebrating: A Pentecost Time
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!
Saints Survey Slowdown
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.