From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

Dear Friends in Christ,

Do you remember the Peace Corps advertising from the 80s and 90s: “The toughest job you will ever love!” Remarkable and heartwarming commercials about dedication and change, helping make the world a better place, not only through programs but relationships. Made me want to join, but God had a different path for me.

Still that line resonates deeply with me. It is how I feel about the priesthood, especially being a pastor. This is a tough job; sometimes the weight can even feel overwhelming. If I did not have confidence that God was with me, that the Holy Spirit sent me here and guides me (when I bend my ear to get in tune with his encouragement) I am not sure I would be able to keep going.

Dear Friends,

Since coming here over three years ago, I have participated in several parishioner game watches - mostly the Eagles. One especially contentious playoff game led to very animated fan activity. Some in the room threw things. Colorful language was everywhere. Then in a moment, someone said: “Watch it guys, Father is here!” And the moment passed. Now those who know me well will tell you that I am no schoolboy. From time-to-time certain use of colorful words really gets the job done. For me, proper language is situation specific.

But what brought a smile to my lips was the notion that the rules would be different if I were in the room. I felt like saying: “Don’t mind me, mind God.” The rules are the same with or without me present. Granted, it does hurt my ears and heart to hear God’s name among the cursing, but in the end my presence does not change the reality of what was said. It's not one set of rules with me present and another set of rules with me absent. Still, I appreciated the old-school respect the guys were trying to show.

Dear Parish Family,

In the first chapter of the book, Seriously God? We saw how God answers our prayers in various ways. Consider the stoplight: Red (for no), Yellow (for grow), and Green (for go). Often God seems to place challenges on our road as growth moments, so that we mature in our faith. St. Paul describes this process as moving from milk to meat, maturing in our faith from the food of infants to the sustenance of adults (1 Cor 3:2). But growth can be grueling, uncomfortable, and even distressing in the spiritual life.

The Bible is full of these growth stories. When God raises up faithful followers discomfort is inevitable. Each account offers its own lessons. This week, our readings present one key moment in the story of Abraham, our father in faith, part of the longer story of him learning to trust that God’s promises will ultimately be fulfilled. It takes 25 years, a quarter century, from the moment God first promises Abram descendants to the arrival of Isaac. What a long road! Two quick notes for those who seek to understand more fully God’s timing in this case. First, when Abram leaves Ur at age 75 he does not leave all his kindred behind as God instructs. Instead, he departs with his nephew Lot, a subtle sign that he is hedging his bets by bringing a younger male relative along. Second, later on his wife Sarai encourages him to make an heir with Hagar, her slave. In both instances, we can appreciate how these decisions show a less than perfect trust that God will fulfill his promise. Hence, part of the reason that Abraham is 100 years old with an infant in diapers. Not exactly my idea of being one of God’s chosen ones!

Dear Friends,

My heart is breaking for Ukraine. War is terrible, all the brutality and aggression, not to mention the chaos and death. This war has hit me especially hard. In part because my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Wocjik, left the region of Galicia, between modern day Poland and Ukraine, to settle in Chicago. She is my Catholic relative, amid a host of Protestant ancestors, and I trace my Catholicism and hence my priesthood to her. And in another part, because I see this senseless aggression as a son attacking his mother. Ukraine is the cultural heart of the Rus people. Christianity and culture spread northward from Constantinople along the Black Sea trade routes, up the Dnieper River to Kyiv, and then eventually north and east. So, despite some rhetoric Ukraine is really the motherland of Russia.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Time to begin a wild ride! Really since the beginning of the year, we have been on an exciting adventure of parish life together. Quick recap: we raised over $80,000 toward campus improvements. We introduced our mission statement: “Building up the Body of Christ.” from  Ephesians 4:12 . We embarked on a spiritual campaign for Lent, to supercharge our small groups. And this weekend, we begin an extended message series related to the book,  Seriously God?  Beginning this weekend and moving through Palm Sunday, our groups will be meeting, and our whole parish will be engaged with the very timely topic of this book.

This book deals with some hard questions. Namely, how to lean into the challenging reality of what to do when life does not make sense. These past two years of pandemic have been a time of crisis, soul-searching, and motive-questioning. Why is this all happening? How can we endure and even thrive under these conditions? It has been, well challenging, and wearisome. Everyone I talk to wants it all to be over, just to go back to “normal.” Will that ever be so or are we better off moving forward with a novel acceptance of a new normal?

By John Klarmann

I was driving up to college with my parents when they told me about the Newman Center (Catholic center) on campus. They were overjoyed and told me how great of a time I would have there. I promptly told them “I am never going there”. I was raised Catholic and went to Mass every Sunday and went through 9 years of “CCD” (Now we call it P.R.E.P.) When I got to college, I wanted nothing to do with my faith. I had plenty of disagreements with what the Church believes and I wanted to live my life the way I wanted to.

So, I avoided the Catholic center and anything to do with it as much as possible, but it came time for Sunday Mass, and I knew my mom was going to ask me if I went. So, I figured I had three options: 1) Don’t go and lie to her when she asks, 2) Don’t go and tell her the truth, 3) Go and tell her the truth. It didn’t take long till I found my answer. I didn’t want to lie, and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I went to Mass. When I arrived, I experienced a great welcoming environment and people my age who chose to go to Mass. I was blown away by both. That wasn’t what changed me though. The other 167 hours of the week were still spent with no attention to God.

Dear Parish Family,

Small groups are a new thing for our parish family. Frankly they are a new(ish) thing in Catholic life, which may explain some of our hesitancies. Some have recalled belonging to a RENEW group, which was an effort around the jubilee year 2000 to begin small groups in parishes all around the country.

Personally, as I reflect on my life, I see the profound impact of small groups. This influence begins really in the life of my Mom, Colleen, who for years belonged to a Women’s Group. They met, prayed, cared for, and supported each other in the faith. They journeyed together for years, sharing each other’s burdens. They invited speakers and healers to come to the parish. It was because of this group that I had my first experience with the power of the Holy Spirit as a child. This group deeply affected Mom’s faith, and in turn the faith of our whole family. This wonderful group, for which I am so grateful, also introduced me to spiritual masters at a young age, authors that I still turn to for support and wisdom today.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week we wrapped up our message series on our new parish mission statement:

“Building up the Body of Christ!” These are the words of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (4:13-16), explaining the common work the church undertakes guided by Jesus. Our belonging to Christ includes that mission to grow, foster and knit together the great Christian project of building up the Church in love.

God has placed this word on our hearts and at the center of our common parish life together. We can begin by asking the question: how. How will we engage in this common mission? Or, if you prefer: what will we do? Allow me again to present the vision statement which guides our mission. “As members of one body, we strive eagerly to follow the Lord, make disciples, seek out the lost, share fellowship, love our neighbor and above all worship God.” This one key sentence offers us concrete steps we can take to build up the body of Christ.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

“Building up the Body of Christ” is the new mission statement for our parish family. This phrase comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:11-16). Here, Paul describes how different specialists in the church (pastors, teachers, apostles) are meant to give the generalists (the baptized) what they need for the work of building up the Body of Christ. In Paul’s own words, “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” By “holy ones” Paul means the baptized, the faithful, in other words: each of you!

Often in the New Testament those who belong to the Church are called the holy ones or the saints, (depending on the translation). The whole church is entrusted with the work of spreading the Good News, making known the truth and beauty of the Gospel. The whole church are the holy ones. Saints of God are not just canonized in heaven but walking around in the world. Peter elsewhere admonishes the saints of God, “Always be ready to make a defense of the hope that lies within you.” In other words, each of us ought to be ready to give an explanation or testimony to the secret hope we carry within us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we begin a new year together as a parish family, we have been endeavoring to understand and appreciate what our mission is, and even what it means for us to begin to live out our parish mission statement.

When we say “church” we mean many things. It is the place where we go to meet, the worship we practice in that place, and even the people with whom we gather. “Church” carries all those meanings and more. As the church, as members of the Body of Christ, we are called to gather and worship but above all we are called to be united with Christ our head.