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Mercy and Gratitude

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Leprosy was a terrible condition in the ancient world. Not only because it meant a slow and agonizing end, but also because of social norms. Having one of several associated conditions required the afflicted to leave the town. At the time of Jesus, these small villages consisted of close-knit communities, many extended families. It was not uncommon for someone to live her whole life not more than 25 miles from where she was born. So leprosy was not merely an illness but a sentence of isolation! Hence the reason, in part, why leper colonies formed: places where lepers could gather together and help each other to live and survive.

Today (Lk 17:11-19) at the outskirts of the village, at the margins of society, 10 lepers meet our dear Jesus and cry out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” Pity is the same word as mercy in Greek. (I really prefer “mercy” as some other translations render it.) In fact, in the Mass we make the same cry as we ask our Lord to forgive our sins: Lord, have mercy! Or, Kyrie eleison!  These are the only words in our liturgy that carry through from the Greek. Significant… this ancient cry. And the word “Master” here is Kyrios or Lord. So we are very close to the cry of these lepers, and to many others who seek the mercy of our dear Jesus in the Gospels (eg: Lk 18:38 or Mt 17:15).

Jesus cleanses these people from their physical illness, but also consequently, they can be reunited with their family and friends. No longer will they be sentenced a life on the margins, at the outskirts of town. But only one leper returns to give glory to God.

In our first reading, we hear of the most famous leper in all of Scripture, Namaan the Syrian. A foreigner who came all the way to Israel because he heard there was a real prophet there, the mighty Elisha, spiritual son of Elijah. At first Namaan visits the King, who is flabbergasted at his outlandish request. Elisha intercedes, asking Namaan to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Namaan at first resists the simple but belittling request to wash in the measly Jordan, as compared to the noble Damascus, but finally relents at the behest of the slave girl. And Namaan the foreigner is cleansed.

So grateful is Namaan that he vows only to offer sacrifice to the true God of Israel and therefore wants to take two mule-loads of dirt back to Syria with him. Why? This earth will serve as a small “island” of Israel in the foreign land on which Namaan can offer his gratitude and thanksgiving to the one true God of Israel.

Hence, in the readings today we witness the fundamental cry of the creature towards his Creator: Lord have mercy! And we also witness, in two examples, the beautiful exercise of gratitude that is true worship.

Lord, fill our hearts with your mercy that we may live to give you thanks!

Fr. Wilson 

Steward Report 2018-2019

Brothers and Sisters,

Today we have the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened here at OLPH through our first year together, the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Last year, we did not have a talk like this in the fall because our parish was still in the audit process. (Everytime a pastor is changed, the parish is audited.) 

And perhaps in years past you may have received a finance report. This year, we offer a stewardship report - which encompasses more of the life of the parish, rather than just dollars and cents. 

Stewardship is based on four premises: (1) To receive God’s gifts gratefully, (2) To nurture God’s gifts responsibly, (3) To share God’s gifts generously (4) And to return God’s gifts with increase.

This talk also fits into our Message Series: Mercy and Our Response: to receive God’s blessings gratefully and to share those gifts generously. Not only financial gifts, but placing our whole lives at the service of the Gospel.

I do not like to speak about money. Who does? But you know what? This year is the Gospel of Luke. In Luke, Jesus talks about money in one of every 7 verses... more than he talks about heaven and hell combined. So if you go by the motto, “Do as Jesus did,” you see where I am going.

Moving forward, every year in the fall on one weekend we will discuss our parish’s stewardship of the resources you have shared. Resources used to carry out our mission: to spread the Kingdom of God in this corner of the world.

Inserted in our bulletin, you will find the annual statement from our dedicated Finance Council. I also take this opportunity to thank our whole Finance Council, and to make you aware of who sits on our Finance Council, should you have any further questions:

Our Chair: Mario DeClerico. Our Parish Trustees: Joe Dugan and John Napoli. Members: Eileen Bush, Denise Jasinski, and Dick Neely. Our Business Manager: Molly Kohler. Our Principal: Cindy Smith, and Theresa McCloskey our faithful recording secretary.

Improvements:

  • New lighting in Church. Remember how yellow it was in here? LED lights save energy, need less frequent replacement and improve the overall ambience.
  • New paint. Lots of freshening up. In our school, every room has been painted over the past several years.
  • Outside: the yellow safety lines. Railings painted. Powerwashing.
  • Sidewalks: cement work throughout the entire campus, including rebuilding the marble steps, repair/replace sidewalks around our entire campus, repair drains in our parking lot.
  • Roofing Repairs. Not visible but certainly part of good stewardship, we made necessary roofing repairs to our school, convent and rectory this Spring.
  • New parish website for our Church and School. Some improvements remain to be made on the church side. If you would like to help with that process, please let me know.
  • As a part of our 100 anniversary (special thanks to the wonderful committee!) (1) we hosted the Philadelphia Boys Choir. They will be back this year. (2) Also in December, We had our first-ever Christmas tree lighting and decorating. Looking forward to that again this year.
  • June 2nd, we had a beautiful celebration of our 100 years as a parish family! That was a truly blessed and grace-filled day with Bishop O’Connell celebrating the holy Mass with us, and a wonderful reception. Special thanks to all who offered their time, services and donations to make the day possible.

Those are just some highlights of the many wonderful things your stewardship has made possible here at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.

By the numbers…. Last year, (you may consult the bulletin insert)

Revenues: Collections were up almost 10% over the previous year, due to our successful “Increased Offertory” campaign and growing use of the Givelify App. Thank you!

Overall, however, our total revenues were down. A decrease in school enrollment led to less tuition received. Healthy enrollment numbers continue to be a struggle for us, but not only for us. All around NJ, there are less children in school, and less families willing to sacrifice for a Catholic Education.

Expenses: We trimmed expenses due mainly to some changes in staff, and to some careful penny pinching in our supplies.

So although we lost $158k last year, we did decrease our deficit spending. So things are moving in the right direction, but we are not yet on top of it. Our debt to the diocese continues to increase. This year, the total is $5.1 million. As you can imagine, this trend cannot continue. Our diocese continues to direct us to keep a balanced budget. We must strive to live within our means, just like every household.

Before I conclude, it is important to also share with you an update in the Faith to Move Mountains campaign, a diocesan-wide endowment campaign. Our parish receives a rebate for your generosity. We have received about $33,000 of the expected $49,000. Those funds have been set aside for new pew cushioners, kneelers and book holders. Unfortunately, these funds will not cover the improvements desired.

Our sound system still needs some work to improve sound quality. Consultation with experts suggests that what we really need is a whole new speaker system, which will dramatically improve sound quality. That cost is estimated to be $30-40k. Our Finance Council is in favor of reallocating these funds to the sound system. We are in the process of asking the 121 donors who gave to the FMM campaign if we could use their donations toward new speakers.

Like the one leper who returns to Jesus with a thankful heart, I thank you. Personally, I am grateful to be your pastor. My heart is full of gratitude to serve you and I am grateful for your goodness to our community. May our hearts always swell with gratitude to the Lord.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Family has shared its gifts generously for the last 100 years. Yet God is not done with any of us. There is still so much to do to further the kingdom of God in this little corner of the world. Thank you to all who give of their time, their treasure and their talent. May God richly reward you for the sacrifices you make to your Church!

pdfAnnual_Financial_Report_letter_2018-2019.pdf

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