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COVID-19 Updates

from fathers desk

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From Fathers Desk web

My Dear Friends,

We begin a series of weeks with the Bread of Life Discourse. We kick off a corresponding Message Series called “Invited!” If I could encourage one thing, it would be to spend the next five weeks praying with the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In some ways it is the heart of our Catholic Life.

Our Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Source  and  the  Summit of our Christian Life. Sometimes we call it the Sacrament of Sacraments. Saint John Paul also taught that the Eucharist makes the Church (n.26), in that it is and also that it brings about our Communion. We are united with Christ and we are united with one another in the Body of Christ, above all by our reception of holy Communion.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

In our Gospel today, Jesus invites the twelve apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” (Mk 6:31). They had just returned from their first mission. Last week, Jesus sent them out two-by-two to proclaim repentance. For a full sense of the sequence, first pray over Mark’s Gospel 6:7-13 and then move to 6:30-34. In other words, begin with  last week’s  Gospel and then skip to  this week’s.

An ebb and flow exists between work and rest. Constant work leads to burn out; continual rest can lead to restlessness and depression. We have names for those on the extremes: work-a-holics and couch potatoes. During the pandemic many struggled to adjust to a new work-life balance based on new expectations. More time at home led people to recognize what they had been missing, some space to reflect on true priorities. A contingent of the workforce decided to change their form of employment. Some folks are calling it “The Great Resignation” as employers struggle to fill open positions by seeking to attract talent in new ways.

Dear Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you until the end of time” Mt 28:19-20

Kabgayi Diocese is one of nine Catholic Dioceses in Rwanda. It is situated in the central region of Rwanda. It is comprised of 29 parishes served by 123 priests and a population of more than 708 000 Catholics from a total population of 1 065 078 in the region. The Diocese of Trenton in collaboration with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, invited us this year to come and share the mission story of our Diocese and appeal for support both spiritual and material to help in the missionary efforts of the Church in Rwanda and specifically the pastoral programs of Kabgayi Diocese in particular. A few years ago, our country went through very hard times of genocide and violence that claimed over a million people in just 90 days. This situation left very severe consequences on the livelihood of our people: countless orphans left and the destruction of the churches and schools. It is with this background that from 1998 to 2000, the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi conducted a Diocesan Synod to reflect on ways to reconcile Rwandans and to contribute to the country’s renewal through building stronger communities especially caring for the most vulnerable. The Diocese needs help to care for the poor and support the peace and reconciliation efforts. It is with the aim to participate in the reconstruction and reconciliation of Rwanda that the Diocese continues her apostolic mission to contribute to the transformation, reconciliation and the sustainable development of Rwandan society through Catholic education; with particular emphasis on helping the poor students to have access to higher education at a low cost and taking care of orphans, widows and the sick.

Dear Parish Family,

Loads of positive feedback from our parish feast day celebration keeps coming. So many who participated in the event were uplifted and joyful. We really enjoyed each other’s company, and being able to celebrate Mass in our gardens was a special treat. Once again, I extend deepest gratitude to everyone who made the day possible but especially to our Chairperson, Coni Tartaglia, for her dedication and hard work.

Mark your calendars for next year. Based on all the support and energy behind the event, we hope to make it an annual celebration of our parish life. Some folks are even interested in a fall event. If you are interested in joining the “party planning team” please reach out. We do need volunteers and I would love to have a team of people who would host 3 or 4 big events each year. Many hands make light work.

Dear Children of Mary,

This weekend we celebrate Our Lady of Perpetual Help, sometimes called Mother of Perpetual Help. When we think of perpetual, words like constant, ceaseless, nonstop, and even timeless come to mind. Antonyms include spotty, erratic, periodic, or occasional. The sun shines constantly while clouds pass periodically. Similarly, the word help calls to mind aid, guidance, support, assistance, in opposition to hinder, block, prevent and even hurt. Over one hundred years ago, the people of Maple Shade and surrounding areas placed themselves under the patronage of Mary with this title. So designated, the constant aid of our Mother Mary is highlighted. We place ourselves under  the  care  and aid of our patroness this weekend, seeking her constant solicitude.

Mary has many titles and is known by many names. To gain a deeper appreciation, see the Litany of  LoretoGood  Counsel and  Help of Christians are two related titles for our Mother. Even Mary Untier of Knots  shares a kinship, as do all titles that suggest Mary offering assistance. In the grand scheme, our many names and titles for Mary stem from two great branches: (a) Mary as Mother of God, in Greek Theotokos which means God-bearer, (b) and Mary as Auxiliadora (Helper), one who grants aid.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

In the midst of a violent squall on the sea, the disciples panic, seek out the Lord, and find that “Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion!” Mark adds the lovely detail of the cushion, a simple word that reveals comfort and planning in a chaotic situation. Christ Jesus is also at the stern, in the position of leadership, where the one who steers the boat from the rudder would sit.

At times life can feel like a storm, wind blowing and rain coming in sideways, little to no visibility. We can even lose our sense of direction. And at times in our lives, it can feel very much like Jesus is asleep at the rudder. Yet Jesus challenges us with the question, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” He may even command our hearts and anxieties to be still just as He commands the storm.

My Dear Family in Christ,

People tell me I have a green thumb. I love to garden but really can’t take much credit. I merely read the directions on the seed packs and do my best to pay attention. Watching and getting in tune with the plants is the most important; they don’t talk but we can learn how they communicate. Still, almost all the credit belongs to the seed itself. Inherent in the seed, is what God put there for fruitfulness whether tomatoes or spinach or peas, as you please.

Jesus uses many agricultural parables to describe the Kingdom of God. Alongside the parable of the sower, in which the focus rests squarely on the farmer, today we focus on the seed itself, in what is often called “seed growing secretly.” Credit belongs to the seed, not the sower. The farmer merely sows and reaps; all the important steps in between are beyond his control. That is how I feel as a gardener! Sure, I water and weed and pay attention, but in essence my effort just cultivates what is already inherent in the plant. If bad seeds or weeds are mixed into the seeds, I am powerless. So much of life is like that. And as Jesus teaches through the parable, so much of the Kingdom of God is beyond the designs of the sower.

My dear spiritual family,

A full year has passed since we returned to public Masses. June 8th, 2020 public Mass returned to OLPH and to most of the parishes in the Trenton Diocese. In a rare use of ecclesial law, the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey gave a special dispensation. Now almost a year to the day later, they are removing that dispensation. This unique occasion offers a rich backdrop for understanding better the nature of sin and our motivation.

Henceforth, missing Mass on Sunday without serious reason (grave illness, homebound, unavoidable work as essential medical, police and fire personnel) is a grave matter. All grave matter should be confessed and absolution sought in the Sacrament of Confession before returning to the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, should one commit a grave sin, with full knowledge and full consent of the will, then the conditions are met for mortal sin, meaning one has cut oneself off spiritually from God. See here in our Catechism for further explanation.

Dear Parish Family,

First, my heart swells with gratitude towards everyone who came out to assist with the School Clean Up Day. We had about 50 people buzzing around. We moved a ton of items and even vacuumed many classrooms to leave them ready for religious education or meetings. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who helped. Our school building is moving toward its next life as a more versatile space.

Some people have asked, “What will happen to our school building?” In truth, we do not yet know. We discussed the possibility of leasing it to the Maple Shade Board of Education. We have been seeking out other educational institutions to see if they might want to lease it. We have received advice from numerous experts on what it might become. Nothing is certain. During the pandemic businesses are rarely expanding and many aspects of life we thought we understood became tenuous and uncertain. So, we do not yet know. If you have any suggestions or expertise in these matters, please reach out. We would welcome your input.

My Dear Parish Family,

Happy Birthday! Today, Pentecost, is often considered the birthday of the Church. On birthdays, we celebrate the gift of life, we give thanks, and often we look ahead and ask ourselves what we want the next year to be about. Birthdays are a way to mark time but can also help us to identify God’s hand at work in our lives.

The hand of God, the Holy Spirit, is evident in the Apostles at Pentecost. The dramatic difference between the cowardly disciples huddled in the upper room and the courageous disciples proclaiming the Good News in every language amazes me. Filled with the Holy Spirit, these are different men! Hence the “birth” of the Church through the presence of the Spirit and the preaching of the apostles. For those of us who have already heard the Good News and belong to the Church, I feel that Pentecost is more about renewal, giving thanks, taking stock, and looking forward to what God seeks to accomplish in and through us.