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from fathers desk

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From Fathers Desk web

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.

Dear Parish Family,

Father Wilson is taking a much needed vacation from writing Bulletin articles. For this month of May, please pray the Rosary to ask for Mary’s intercession for the desires of your heart.

fwb051321



My Dear Family in Christ,

First, allow me to wish all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and maternal figures, a blessed and joyful Mother’s Day. Today is a beautiful day to celebrate the moms in our lives, be they biological, adopted, spiritual or a combination! No replacement exists for the embrace or advice of our dear mother figures. We give thanks to God for the gift they are to us!

All mothers share a desire for the happiness of their children. Our moms want us to live happy, healthy and holy lives. Holiness is the real root of our happiness. Jesus shares this desire with our parents for he tells us in the Gospel, “I told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” But what is the this? “Remain in my love” and “keep my commandments.” The path to the abundant life follows the way Jesus marks out with his own life of sacrificial love. For this reason it is so pivotal for Catholics to raise our children to imitate Jesus and follow the ways of the faith, so that they may walk the narrow road to true joy in Christ. It is not the easy life, but the abundant life we seek.

My Dear Family,

Is it just a euphemism to speak about us like a family? During liturgy, when we say “friends in Christ” or “sisters and brothers,” are we just being nice? No, not exactly. But the question helps us to ask just how we are connected. Through Baptism, we have become children of God and members of the Body of Christ, the Church. This week in the Gospel Jesus uses a beautiful analogy to help us see how we are connected. He teaches: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Connection is so important these days. We learned long ago (in the pandemic) that screens are a poor alternative to real face-to-face communication. Granted, 20 years ago, the best we could manage was dial-up internet on the phone line. Remember  that sound? The cool noises the modem would make and then you were probably connected via AOL and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail!” The Instant Messenger program could be considered, I guess, the first version of WhatsApp or another messenger platform. Now, all this and more, even video conferencing, is available on our phones. Yet, for all the blessings of technology, we acknowledge that nothing takes the place of real human connection. Maybe with the advent of VR we might move in the direction of Ready Player  One , but I doubt that anything will ever feel like the sun on our faces or the smile of a friend.

My Dear Family in Christ,

This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of  Easter, we move away from the hours and weeks after the Resurrection of our Lord and more deeply into what new life in Christ looks like. This weekend every year we hear a part of John chapter 10, which contains very memorable lines, such as: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” and, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,” and, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

For me Good Shepherd Sunday speaks strongly of the reality of the priesthood. Pope Francis reminded us that the shepherd must have the “smell of the flock,” a rustic image about being among and close to those entrusted to our care. It reminds me of the obligation to be close to the flock but more importantly of the love needed to serve as a shepherd (not a hireling).

Dear Spiritual Family,

My prayers continue for you and your families as we celebrate new life in Christ during this glorious Easter season. I give thanks to God for allowing me to gather with my brother Sean and father Dave, during part of this week, in a cabin in Cammal, PA. This is the first vacation in a long time and a chance to gather as men, play cards, go hiking and biking, and celebrate Dad’s 65th birthday. Special thanks also to Fr. Michael O’Connor and Fr. Mark Devlin for ministering to our people this weekend. Please offer them a hearty Maple Shade welcome!

Week two of our Mother Knows Best Message Series draws many parallels between the natural and the spiritual. Moms are famous (or infamous?) for striving to keep the house in order. Our Dad would say: “Do whatever Mom told you,” but it was Mom who had the list: clean your room, take out the trash, do not leave your dishes in the sink, pick up after yourself, put yours shoes away, and many other things. I am sure that she got tired of saying the same things. Visits to my siblings’ homes assured me that parents would be even more tired if they did not remind children of their responsibilities, and even scold them, but instead had to clean up after the whole family. Mom was no neat freak, but with these reminders handy, she tried to keep order in the home.

Dear Parish Family,

Today we inaugurate a new Message Series: Mother Knows Best. How many times have we come to acknowledge, if reluctantly, “Yes, mom...you were right!” While we may not like to admit it sometimes, our mothers have imparted to us (and to all of humanity) a rich treasure of human wisdom.

Truth is truth, no matter where we find it. If it is true, it is true. Much of the wisdom we find in the scriptures, exists in other faith traditions. And some of it smacks strongly of things our mothers’ used to say. Deep parallels exist between maternal wisdom and wisdom passed on through the Church. It is no small truth that the Church is our spiritual mother, nor is it coincidental that our mothers - who were largely raised in the Faith - have a treasure of advice to hand on to us that echoes wisdom of the Gospel. So, from today to Mother’s Day (May 9th) we will be spending some time relishing the wisdom of our mothers, mother figures, Mother Mary, our patroness and protectress, and the Church our Mother.

What a Difference a Year Makes

My Dear Spiritual Family,

Happy Easter to you! Alleluia, He is Risen! … He is Risen, indeed, Alleluia! New Life in Christ is upon us. What a difference a year makes! Last year, we could not gather for the high holy days. At OLPH, we recorded the Masses and uploaded them to YouTube. I sang the Exultet to an empty church. We had to finish out the year with remote education as our school closed. Since then, about a year of milestones and hard work have passed.  

Since June 8th, 2020, we have been celebrating Mass again in our beautiful church. We now have live streaming and simulcasting. We celebrated our first wedding during the pandemic, and formulated a new plan for pre-Baptismal formation. I had the honor to confirm our teens on my birthday (and will have that honor again on May 7th!) We have spent a year of remote learning for our PREP (Parish Religious Education Program). We began small groups to assist members to grow in faith and friendship. Our Pastoral Council has undertaken to prayerfully update our parish mission (unattended to since 1991). Our Finance Council has guided us through some tough times. We secured two rounds of the PPP Loan. We have faced so many challenges together. Yet our parish life is a work in progress. Our life in Christ, as a parish family moves along. We have a lot for which to be grateful. But...What a difference a year makes! Alleluia, Christ is Risen. And life in, with, and through Him is the life that awaits us.