Archives: November 2019

I remember the 2016 closing Eucharist for the Holy Year of Mercy well. We were in Rome with our Schola Cantorum to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the liturgy Pope Francis unexpectedly announced the establishment of a World Sunday of the Poor as a way to live out the Holy Year of Mercy into the future. 

In the Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et misera Pope Francis wrote that marking a World Sunday of the Poor on the 33rd Sunday of the liturgical year “would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the 34th and last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy” (cf. Mt 25:31-46). He expressed his hope that it would be a day to “help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace.”

For every World Sunday of the Poor Pope Francis has written a message. In this year’s message, entitled “The hope of the poor will not perish for ever” (Ps 9:19).  Francis holds that our world desperately needs God’s love made visible by “the saints next door.” 

Pope Francis affirms our Christian duty to provide those who are hungry with food and those who are homeless with shelter. It is our Christian duty to work hard to change the systems and politics that favor a few over the many and perpetuate the endless cycles of poverty. However, he also writes that people who are living in desperate situations need more than that. They “need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love.” 

For political and sometimes religious reasons people in need are often reduced to statistics we cite when discussing the success or failure of our works and projects. However, rather than statistics those who are in need are “persons waiting to be encountered;” they are young and old people waiting to be offered a meal; they are men and women who look for a friendly word. In turn they “enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.”

On November 19, 2017, the first World Day of the Poor we dedicated our Homeless Jesus sculpture by Timothy Schmalz. Today, this sculpture can be found in almost 100 cities throughout the world, including Vatican City. On this third World Day of the Poor all of us who are home to a Homeless Jesus will mark this day by rededicating. While doing that we not only express our love for this work of art but more importantly we recommit ourselves to work toward ending homelessness, hunger, poverty and injustice in our world by accepting the invitation to encounter Christ in the face of all those who are in need.

May the Homeless Jesus and Mary, Untier of Knots guide us on our way.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.   As we come close to the end of this liturgical year, which will end next weekend with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel reading focuses on the end times.    It begins with Jesus reminding people that: “All that you see here --- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”   

The people naturally ask:  “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”   In response to this question Jesus tells the people not to follow anyone who comes in his name saying:  “The time has come.”  He then describes catastrophes and calamities that will occur before the end times.   He ends, though, with a note of consolation:  “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that his disciples won’t experience pain or difficulties.  He does promise, though, that ultimately God will triumph.   

Our first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Malachi.   It shares the apocalyptic theme of the Gospel.   Like the Gospel, though, it also offers a promise of consolation and hope:   “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  

For our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.  In this reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians (and us) that while we await the end times, we are not to grow slack or idle.  Rather, Paul is clear that we are to work diligently as we await the return of the Lord and “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. There seems to be a constant ebb and flow in regard to interest in the “end times”   Why do you think this is? 
  2. When have you felt God’s comforting grace in the face of difficulties or pain? 
  3. Has there been a time when you have grown slack or been idle in your faith?   What re-energized your faith?  

“I know well the plans I have for you says the Lord . . . Plans for your wellbeing, 
not your woe . . . Plans to give you a future full of hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Have you heard about the “Nones?” A Pew Research Study identified increasing numbers of young adults who no longer choose to affiliate with organized religion and named them the “Nones.” Critical downward trends face many churches and raise serious questions about the future. Fewer people attending church, downward changes in financial giving habits, and volunteering are just a few of the troubling trends impacting many faiths, especially Catholics.

The Basilica has been successful in attracting young adults and we are grateful for their involvement and that of all our parishioners, but we know we can’t simply sit back and relax. That’s why the work of our volunteer leaders to implement the Our Parish, Our Future strategic plan is so important. 

This fall it’s been exciting as parish leaders have gathered for deep dives into pressing questions about creating a future full of hope for our parish. Fifty ministry leaders have agreed to serve as plan ambassadors, to share their ideas and feedback. Another 25 leaders are serving as a Change Management Team and to shepherd this work. They have focused on critical questions: 

  • What do we want to see in place in 3 -5 years? 
  • What blocks us from realizing these hopes, and how can we deal with them? 
  • What underlying contradictions keep us from achieving our goals? 
  • What innovative, substantial actions will address these underlying contradictions and move us toward our achieving our vision?

In depth conversations have resulted in an initial approach to practical goals. Central to our work is an ongoing commitment to living our Catholic faith in the world through our liturgies, learning, and Christian life. As a dynamic Catholic parish, we are committed to our responsibility to minister to our members and to invite and challenge them to minister to those in need. 

We’ve set a goal to broaden and deepen engagement through a focus (both internal and external) on arts, inclusivity and preventing homelessness through a commitment to a continuous process of improvement and accountability. Our work will move us towards:

  • Increasing engagement
  • Strengthening our presence and partnerships—to leverage and extend our reach and engagement
  • Enhancing belonging and excellence in ministry
  • Stewarding our resources

Staff from all parish departments have participated in goal setting sessions to identify how to move forward practically and successfully. Together, volunteers and staff have identified one year accomplishments and two year success indicators necessary to achieve our goals. The resulting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals will guide our work in the coming years. Our conversations have turned toward ways to evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of our ministries, programs, and operations. 

At the end of the day, our goal is to put our faith into action. We strive to accept the challenge of St. Teresa of Avila to take up the work of Jesus Christ and live our faith in the world – “Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.” 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm  

In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection.   Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible.  As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife.   Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants.   Given this, having children was very important.   In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children.  Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children.   When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”   

Jesus’ response to this question was masterful.   He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees.   This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book.   It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.”   The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife:  “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”  

For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians.   In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife? 
  2. How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife? 
  3. What causes you to live a Christian life?  Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?   
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Archdiocesan Synod

On the Vigil of Pentecost (June 8, 2019), Archbishop Hebda formally announced that our archdiocese will be embarking on a synod, our first since 1939. A synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is the Archbishop’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today – and into the near future.
 
Archbishop Hebda described the local pre-synod and synod process as following Pope Francis’ “listening Church” model. “It’s the confidence that comes from believing that the Holy Spirit works in the faithful, and it’s in sharing those things that are most important to us that we’re able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” 
 
The synod process will begin this fall and winter with prayer and listening events.  After these events, in the spring/summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod.  In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process.   On Pentecost weekend May 21 – 22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly.  Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop  The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.
 
I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese.   It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end--since I first informed you of the synod--we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward.   There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website here.  You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead.  
 
Fr. John M. Bauer
Pastor