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With Tears, Rejoicing

My Dear Parish Family,

I would be remiss if I did not first share the sad news that this year will be the last for our beloved school. After this year our school will close. Our school has been such a source of life for our parish family. How many times over the course of the past two years have I heard the words, “Oh, I went to OLPH!” Seems at one time all the Catholics in town came here, and this was a very Catholic town!

My heart is heavy as the news becomes known, but also unburdened as more and more people come to see the decision as a natural consequence of a situation long in the making. For example, in October we reviewed our annual stewardship report. It was surprising for some to learn that our parish debt exceeds $4.8 million, accumulated over the past 20 years or so. Couple that with declining enrollment, not only here but throughout the state of NJ and the inability of our parish to subsidize school expenses, it became evident that the noble endeavor to provide children with a high quality Catholic education could no longer continue. We have been failing to make ends meet now for two decades. It is time to say goodbye to a wonderful part of our parish life. This is a poignant moment. We share sadness, grief, mourning, but we also look ahead with courage.

By arrangement of the Holy Spirit, this news falls on Gaudete (Let us rejoice) Sunday. We may not feel like rejoicing. Yet Isaiah guides us with powerful words of promise. He prophesies blossoming and newness in the parched desert. What appeared as a wasteland is in fact fertile, so fear not! Isaiah tells us “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you” (35:3-4).

Those powerful words touch us: no wobbling knees; have confidence that our good God comes to save us! That salvation may not look as we expect, but salvation nonetheless.

This week our O antiphon is: “O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!”  Emmanuel is one of our favorite names for Jesus during this time of the year: God-with-us. He is the God who humbles himself to get right into the thick of things with us and for us.

Our Christmas message from 2018 echoes resoundingly on my heart to share with you. Emmanuel is God-with-us and He comes right in our present reality, as it stands… not as we would prefer it to be. Nor does He even wait until we are all prepared, prim and proper, to receive Him. He is not a guest who arrives fashionably late with a lovely gift for the party. Rather, our good Lord appears early. He comes in the midst of the mess to accompany us, to share with us in our sorrows and our joys. 

This is a season of rejoicing! And we are hosting a great mix of Advent activities to enliven our spirits. Life is not perfect. Timing is never perfect. Yet Jesus comes right among us, despite our sorrow and burdens, our imperfections and foibles. He comes to us with the gift of salvation, and to enliven our hearts with his Presence.

May God bless you now and always!

Fr. Wilson

 

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