Dec. 10th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The True Meaning of Advent | God Comes for Us

by: Stephen Beale – Catholic Exchange

“Seek and you will find”, Jesus told his disciples. This command is possible only through God, who moves us to seek and enables us to find Him. “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work,” as Paul states in Philippians 2:13.

In the Old Testament, Abraham is called out of his home city of Ur to become a desert nomad, where he encounters God. The Israelites wander in the desert before arriving in the Promised Land where they experience the presence of God. Elijah strikes out into the desert and finds God in a mountain cave. Later, an exiled remnant of Israel will return home.

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But this is only half the story. In Advent, the hinges of history turn the other way. God seeks us out. This is what happens in the Incarnation. Heaven comes to earth. The invisible meets the visible. The infinite is inscribed in the finite.

Man could always imagine the ascent to God. He could conceive becoming more than what he was. The limits of his own existence taught him to long for more, as St. Augustine realized.
But it never occurred to man that God might first come looking for him. He never dreamt that God might descend to him. That God would not only do this but also become one of us—in the fullness of our humanity all the while losing none of His divinity—was beyond the imagination of ancient man.

Heaven arrived on earth, but there no armies of angels that stormed the land, no horsemen of the apocalypse deliver God’s wrath to sinners, no fire and brimstone, no earthquakes or eclipses. Instead, angels sing songs to sleepy shepherds. A couple takes shelter in a cave. A woman gives birth to a son.

What makes the Incarnation so great is that it was so small. God did not need conquering armies or avenging angels to announce His arrival on earth. No clouds of fire or quaking mountains accompanied His descent. The kingdom of heaven broke into earth not with a cry of battle but instead the cry of a newborn—because nothing could be more powerful than the fullness of God’s presence in single human being and no voice could echo through eternity like the divine Word Incarnate.

In becoming fully man, God came to us in a way that stirs us to seek Him all the more. He came as a child, born at night, hidden in a cave. This is the lesson of the shepherds watching by night and the three wise men who journey from the East. We do not need to tunnel through the bowels of the earth or walk on the bottom of the sea to find God. He has already crossed the chasm of the infinite to find us. Seek and find Him because He is present to us even now.

“Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God.” – Pope Francis

Nov. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary time (last Sunday after Pentecost), before the beginning of Advent that starts the new Church Year. As the last Sunday of the Christian Church Year, Christ the King Sunday is the climax and conclusion of the Church’s liturgical journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message. Its purpose is to celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of the Earth and his completion of the renewed creation that marks the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That hope is born from the entire life of Christ and his teachings that have been celebrated in the seasons of the Church Year during the past twelve months. In celebrating the Reign of Christ the King, this Sunday also provides an appropriate bridge to the new Church Year that begins the following Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent with an emphasis on hope and expectation, the longing for the coming of the Kingdom of God amid the darkness of a sinful world (see Advent).

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As such a bridge between the completed year and the beginning of a new year, Christ the King services often use Scripture and song to provide both a retrospective and introductory overview of the journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message that the Seasons of the Church Year provides. This offers not only an opportunity for a worshipful reflection on the significance of the life of Christ, it also presents opportunity to remind people of the meaning of the various seasons of the Church Year. It is the newest day in the liturgical year across the Western Church and first added in 1925 by the Roman Catholic Church in response to increasing secularization movements worldwide, but in particular to the plight of Mexican Christians who were being told by their government that only their government was due ultimate allegiance. The Church in Mexico remained faithful, holding public parades throughout the land (with significant governmental pushback!) proclaiming “Cristo Rey!,” “Christ is King!” Pope Pius XI made that declaration the basis of a Holy Day to be observed throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church, “Christ, The King of the Universe.” After Vatican II, Rome moved the observance of this day from October to the final Sunday of the Christian Year, and many Protestants, including United Methodists, who adopted the Revised Common Lectionary and its calendar have followed suit.

So today our voices come alongside those persecuted for their faith in all times and places, including in Mexico in the early twentieth century and the thousands facing persecution all over the world this very day, and with them we all proclaim in many languages, “Christ is King!”

“When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels are with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” Matthew 25:31

Nov. 19th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” PSALM 107:1

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Thank you God for this Thanksgiving Day. God bless each of us with love, joy, hope and memories of those that have passed away.
Thank you for our forefathers, for our religious freedom, for bravely crossing the water to a new land so that we can worship freely as we seek God’s kingdom.
Thank you God for my wonderful friends and family. For the sunshine they bring to my life and the love and support they each give to me.
Thank you God for Your son that died for our sins. For Your unconditional love to each of us and for answering our prayers again and again.
Father, bless us this Thanksgiving day, bless this bounty of food, friends and family and bless each of us with memories that time cannot take away.
Amen

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Nov. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Honor and Remember Veteran’s Day

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month in 1918 when the world celebrated as a treaty was signed ending what was to be “the war to end all wars” – World War I.

One year later, on what came to be known as Armistice Day, Americans came together to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who served during the war. Soldiers who survived the war marched in parades and were honored by speeches and ceremonies recognizing their contribution to peace throughout the world.

Congress declared Armistice Day a national holiday in 1938. By this time, with unrest in much of the world, Americans realized World War I would not be the last war. After the Second World War, which was even bloodier than the first, Armistice Day continued to be observed. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to include veterans of all United States wars.

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Today, Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in the past as well as the present on Veterans Day. The official, national ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A color guard representing all the branches of the military executes “Present Arms” at the tomb, a Presidential wreath is placed on the graves, and a bugler plays “taps.”

In communities across the county, there are parades, ceremonies and speeches. At 11:00 in the morning, Americans observe a moment of silence to remember those who fought for freedom. Let us remember every day the bravery of everyone who has served our country.

Sunday in the Narthex

This is a notice to all Vets that official representatives from The Bureau of Field Services for Florida Department of Veterans Affairs will be available to answer questions about benefits veterans are entitled to that they may not be aware of from 8:30am until 12:45pm in the Narthex this Sunday, November 12th.

Those vets that go to Saturday Mass can come between Sunday Masses to speak to them. They are expert at helping fill out forms, applications and will assist with follow up.

Some may be entitled to approximately $2000.00 per month Aid and attendance Income. Are you entitled to burial benefits? Health services or medications through the VA program? This is the time to ask!

Nov. 5th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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In the end, everyone faces God with ’empty hands,’ pope says

By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — God waits for everyone, even the worst sinner who repents only with his dying breath, Pope Francis said.

“Before God, we present ourselves with empty hands,” he said, meaning that all the good works people have or haven’t done throughout their lives aren’t measured to determine entry into heaven.

“A word of humble repentance was enough to touch Jesus’ heart” and to make him promise eternal life in heaven even to a poor criminal, he said Oct. 25 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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The pope announced the day’s catechesis would be the last in his series of audience talks on Christian hope, adding that the last talk, therefore, would look at hope’s final fulfillment in heaven.

A curious fact, he said, is that the word “paradise” appears just once in the Gospels; it is used when Jesus from the cross promises the thief executed with him that “today you will be with me in paradise.” The “good thief,” the pope said, had the courage to recognize his sins and humbly ask Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“It is there, on Calvary, that Jesus has his last encounter with a sinner, to open to him, too, the gates to his kingdom,” the pope said.

The good thief had done no good works in his life and had nothing to show Jesus that he had earned or was worthy of heaven, he said. “He had nothing, but he trusted in Jesus, whom he recognized as someone innocent, good, so different from himself.”

The “good thief reminds us of our true condition before God: that we are his children, that he feels compassion for us,” that he can’t resist “every time we show him we are homesick for his love.”

The miracle of forgiveness is repeated continually, especially in hospital rooms and prison cells, the pope said, because “there is no person, no matter how badly he has lived, who is left with only desperation and is denied grace.”

“God is father and he awaits our return up to the last moment,” he said, just like the father of the prodigal son did.

“Paradise is not a fairy tale or an enchanted garden,” the pope said “Paradise is the embrace of God, infinite love, and we enter thanks to Jesus who died on the cross for us.”

“Wherever Jesus is, there is mercy and happiness; without him, it is cold and dark,” he said.

Jesus “wants to lead us to the most beautiful place in existence, and he wants to bring us there with the little or immense good that has been in our life, because nothing is lost in that which he has already redeemed,” the pope said.

Death does not frighten those who have put their trust in God, he said, because they trust in his promise and infinite mercy. They know Jesus died on the cross to redeem everyone’s sins, mistakes and failings and to bring all of his children with him to the house of the father.

Oct. 29th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Sue Edwards Reflects on Her Role Within the Women’s Guild

By Colleen Leavy – Bulletin Editor

Guided by faith, prayer, knowledge and concern, The Women’s Guild helps build St. John XXIII’s community through friendship, spiritual reflection, and the support of those in need.
The Women’s Guild’s success is due to the hard work of the many women who give so much of themselves.

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The following questions and answers reflect the newly elected president in her faith, commitment and dedication to her role within The Women’s Guild.

CL: What made you decide to serve?
SE: I grew up in a household where we were taught that the best way to show God’s love was to serve others. Ours was the house that friends and family came for help and comfort. For Thanksgiving and Christmas we included sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base and seniors from the state run nursing home. It was only natural then, that I became involved in the church from an early age. In the churches we have attended I’ve always looked for ways that I was being called to serve. When we moved to Fort Myers and I first attended St. John XXIII, I was happy to see so many opportunities to serve, especially, in the social justice area. I am now involved as a lector in The Women’s Guild, Caring for Creation, and helping with some of the social justice activities such as the backpack drive and the angel tree.

CL: How long have you been president?
SE: As I mentioned, when I come to a new church I look for opportunities to serve. When we were looking for a president, I offered to serve. I have been the president of 2 other women’s clubs so I had some experience. My only worry was that I was new to St. John XXIII and did not have the history of what has been done. Luckily I have a great board who have that history: Barbara Artale VP, Carolyn Hartmann secretary, and Joann Bernstein, treasurer. We took office in July and will serve for 3 years.

CL: How do you support Fr. Bob with your mission?
SE: The mission of the Women’s Guild is in line with that of the church’s mission. We desire that all feel welcome and that we show God’s love by the charities we support and the way we interact with others. We have been supportive of Fr.. Bob especially in the capital campaign and by supporting the charities that are close to his heart. We have tried to respond to any requests he has for our group.

CL: What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering?
SE: There are many opportunities in our parish and within the Women’s Guild for women to choose: helping with collections like sneakers and backpacks, funeral lunches, bake sales for Lifeline and Verity, food for St. Martin de Porres. No matter what your interest or your talents there is a place for you and your skills. By using your God given talents, not only will you get a sense of satisfaction but God will be pleased you are using what He gave you. Plus you can serve others and get the bonus of meeting other great women and also having a good time.

CL: What upcoming events do you have planned?
SE: This Sunday night, October 29th, we have The Pippin Musical at The Broadway Palm. We are excited about The Fashion Show on February 24th. We also hope to include some luncheons after the first of the year.

CL: What do you hope to accomplish in the next 3 years?
SE: The one thing that I would like is for The Women’s Guild to help accomplish making our large parish more welcoming by providing women with the opportunity to meet one another and work together to accomplish God’s work here at St. John XXIII and the surrounding community.

Oct. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Now Moment for America: A Conversation about Racism

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

Racism is one of those topics that can immediately put us on edge. We fear examining our beliefs because to do so could open a Pandora’s Box and we might be judged. The violent outcome of the march in Charlottesville V.A. illustrates that we are at a decision point in America about racial beliefs. People of conscience could not allow the coalition of white supremacists to march there without a counter march of protest since such hate groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis pose a direct challenge to the dignity of human life. To be supportive in any way to such activity is to foster racism. What many folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been developing as the demographics of our country are changing and fear predominates. White supremacy group membership is at an all time high and increasingly vocal. White privilege, which fueled the march in Charlottesville, is a concept waiting to be unpacked for many of us. Concurrently, the issue of color determining one person’s response to another has been festering individually and collectively for the lifetime of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today. Ask any man of color what it feels like to see the kneejerk reaction of a white woman clutching her purse in fear as he walks toward her. For African Americans skin color is the barrier they face to assimilation, unlike other minority groups who have assimilated much more easily in our culture.

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To deny the racial divide in our country is not possible. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism which is addressing the sin of racism in our society and Church, and the urgent need to come together to find solutions. Almost 40 years ago, the USCCB wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism which stated that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

Prejudice can lurk unnoticed in our unconscious beliefs. Without prayerful reflection, it can feed on the fear of what is different and grow into overt racism. Self-reflection is a beginning that must then lead to action. Our bishops are calling us to this moment of self-inquiry and conversion.

To help us with this beginning step of self-inquiry, The Respect for Life Committee is hosting a presentation by Dr. Martha R. Bireda, PhD. on October 17th. She is Director of the Blanchard House Museum of African History and Culture, located in Punta Gorda, Florida. For over 30 years, Dr. Bireda has consulted, lectured, and written about social issues related to race, gender, class, power, and culture. She has contributed many magazine articles that explore critical issues past and present impacting our global society. She believes that awareness and recognition of the universality of social issues can contribute to the resolution of problems that affect all societies, and confirm our human connectivity. She is the author of twelve books.

When asked to describe her presentation, Dr. Bireda responded that we need the opportunity to explore our beliefs in a safe place. Our beliefs often operate on an unconscious level. Examining the beliefs on race that have been operative historically in America is a first step. Identifying those authority figures, educational systems and important others who contributed to our individual belief system is also important. Dr. Bireda’s presentation invites us to ask ourselves these questions: why do I believe what I do about my group and about other groups? Where did this come from and why do I believe it now? If I don’t believe what I was taught as a youth now, how do I express my present beliefs? Finally, she says, “The ultimate question is- how can I demonstrate with my actions what are my ‘now’ beliefs?” Ultimately we take responsibility for solving and not perpetuating the problem,
Dr. Bireda’s interest in raising consciousness began when she was 10 years old in 1955 and heard about Emmet Till being killed. Emmet was a 14 year old tortured and murdered in Mississippi by two Caucasian men. “Emmet was a child and I thought, so am I, …am I going to be killed too?” This question and feeling of vulnerability by virtue of skin color became the foundation for her life’s work.

According to Fr. George Murry, S.J., the Head of the USCCB Committee on Racism: “Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

TUESDAY, October 17th
The Now Moment for America:
A Conversation about Racism
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Martha Bireda

Oct. 8th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Understanding Addiction | A Respect Life Issue

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

On October 10th at 6:30pm, we will have a golden opportunity to increase our knowledge of addictions when Dr. Marguerite Poreda, MD, staff psychiatrist at Park Royal Hospital comes to speak on “Understanding Addiction: My Brain; My Genetics; My Environment”. Dr. Poreda completed her residency in 1982 in Anesthesiology at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston. In 1994, she began her retraining in Psychiatry, after learning about addictions in the hospital setting. She is board certified in Psychiatry with three sub-specialty board certifications and over 25 years in the field.

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Addiction is all about the loss of control over one’s life. We all know someone who causes us to feel uneasy or who has hurt us by their addictions. We can suspect addiction when we see: pre-occupation with using (craving); compulsive use in spite of negative consequences (legal, interpersonal; occupational, physical); using just to feel normal (tolerance); and efforts to control use fail (relapse). Dr. Poreda has a powerful presentation that gives the basics on understanding the interplay of genetics (Native Americans are genetically predisposed for alcoholism and Asians are not), brain issues (addiction is a complex disease process of the brain) and the effect of the environment (culture, family & friends) on developing an addiction and on treating addictions. Other factors leading to addiction include: trauma or stressors that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, the presence of psychiatric disorder with an attempt to self medicate, and distorted beliefs in connection with self, others and God. It seems a slippery slope from use to abuse to addiction/dependency, but there is a way to assess what stage a person may be in.

Dr. Poreda shared some alarming facts with me. She stated that emergency room admissions for opiod addiction are up two and a half times what it was last year. The home medicine cabinet is the most likely place to begin a spiral into drug abuse. Narcan, the remedy for opioid overdoses is now being prescribed for family and friends of addicts. Nearly 1 in 8 adults in U.S. have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder in 2013, a 50% increase from a decade earlier. Marijuana today is 10-15 times more potent than what it was in the ‘70s. Designer (lab/home manufactured) drugs usually are sold mixed in with other drugs. When asked about the consequences of legalizing marijuana, Dr. Poreda focused on our youth. “If there is any susceptibility mental health wise, pot can produce psychosis. Plus pot usually gets handed out with designer drugs. When teens get addicted, they stay stuck at the age they began using and a lot of their treatment is about helping them grow up emotionally.”

How can we improve our approach to addictions and utilize the tools available in the medical community for properly designed treatment? The steps include: prevention, early identification, treatment, relapse prevention and the policy and environmental changes needed to alter our addiction supporting culture. As Dr. Poreda explains it, we can force people into treatment by the Marchman Act, which nationwide, allows the court to order detox and evaluation, but only for a limited time. “Drug addicts are not going to get well with 3 days in the hospital. It’s what’s going to be happening after that, that makes the difference-the aftercare and recovery programs. We are faced with an overwhelming number of people needing treatment and have nowhere to send them and also, who wants to pay for it? As a Christian person, I don’t see a lot of social justice for this issue” according to Dr. Poreda.

Addiction takes an alarming toll on individuals, families and on our country as a whole. It costs taxpayers an estimated 235 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, medical services, and crime. According to Dr. Poreda, part of the problem is resistance at high government levels to fund recovery programs when the top priority is cutting programs to rein in the budget. Funding services for mental illness and addictions is not a high priority at the local level either. Public education is needed to understand addiction, its treatment and recovery, so that we can change attitudes at both a local and national level. Dr. Poreda estimates that addiction related (both substance and alcohol) deaths cost 6,000 Floridians their lives in the past 12 months. Helping those who suffer to acknowledge their addiction is just a first step. Giving them the tools and the time necessary to achieve recovery and return as healthy, productive citizens is something that requires awareness, commitment and action on all our parts. How many lives are we willing to lose? Make plans to hear an informative Respect for Life awareness session on Tuesday night with a dynamic speaker.

TUESDAY, October 10th
Understanding Addiction, My Brain;
My Genetics; My Environment
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Marguerite R. Poreda

Oct. 1st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY | Be Not Afraid

Why do we celebrate RESPECT LIFE Sunday in October?

Back in 1972, the year before the United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe V. Wade to legalize abortion in the U.S., Pope John Paul II set aside the first Sunday of October as “Respect Life Sunday”, also called “Sanctity of Life Sunday.”

The Catholic Church has dedicated the month of October, starting with the first Sunday, to extra time and resources in advancing the culture of life. Such can be implemented through prayer, activism, and education against the falsehoods promoted by the pro-abortion advocates.

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On the matter of abortion, the Catholic Church teaches the following through its Catechism.

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’ [Jer. 1:5] ‘My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” [Psalm 139:15]

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”[Gaudium et spes]

Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,’ ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2270-2272]

Sept. 24th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Hope After the Storm: We are stronger together.

We would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time to help St. John XXIII Catholic Church to be up and running again. We are so blessed to have a wonderful Parish community and staff that is willing to give of themselves for the good of others.

We would also like to thank our President, the Governor, meteorologists, first responders, line men, law enforcement and volunteers who presented a united front before, during and after the hurricane. We are truly stronger together!

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HOW TO HELP
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. has opened 11 Disaster Response Centers to assist with relief and recovery efforts from the devastation of Hurricane Irma in Southwest Florida. All centers are in need of water, non-perishable food, home cleaning supplies, and volunteers. Anyone interested in providing support or items should contact the center nearest you. The locations of the Disaster Response Centers are listed below:

HURRICANE IRMA DISASTER RESPONSE CENTERS

Arcadia
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in DeSoto County
1210 East Oak Street, Arcadia, FL 34266
Office Phone: (863) 494-1068
Contact Persons: Sister Ann DeNicolo/Andy Herigodt

Bonita Springs
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Bonita Springs/St. Leo the Great Parish
28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34134
Office Phone: (239) 390-2928
Contact Person: Chuck Anderson

Clewiston
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Clewiston/St. Margaret Parish
208 North Deane Duff Avenue, Clewiston, FL 33440
Office Phone: (863) 983-8585
Contact Person: Rev. Jiobani Batista

Immokalee
Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities
211 S. 9th Street, Immokalee, FL 34142
Office Phone: (239) 657-6242
Contact: Peggy Rodriguez

Fort Myers
Jesus the Worker Parish
881 Nuna Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33905
Office Phone: (239) 693-5333 or (239) 693-0640
Contact Person: Rev. Patrick T. O’Connor
OPEN 12pm-5pm Volunteers welcome at 11am

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Fort Myers
4235 Michigan Ave. Link, Fort Myers, FL 33916
Office Phone: (239) 337-4193
Contact Person: Charles Anderson

Moore Haven
St. Joseph the Worker Parish
24065 U.S. Hwy 27, Moore Haven, FL 33471
Office Phone: (863) 946-0696
Contact Person: Rev. Marcial Garcia

Naples
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.
in Collier County
2210 Santa Barbara Blvd., Naples, FL 34116
Office Phone: (239) 455-2655
Contact Person: Mary Shaughnessy

Wauchula
St. Michael Parish
408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula, FL 33873
Office Phone: (863) 773-4089
Contact Person: Sister Gema Ruiz

Sebring
Holy Family Youth Center
900 US Highway 27, N., Sebring, FL 33870
Office Phone: (863) 385-0049
Contact Person: Rev. Jose Gonzalez

Lake Placid
Campo San Jose
170 Sun n’ Lake Blvd., Lake Placid, FL 33852
Office Phone: (863) 385-0049
Contact Person: Rev. Jose Gonzalez

Sept. 10th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Remember September: A Teacher’s Reflection of 9/11

By Clayton Atkins – Bishop Verot Teacher

I wrote this piece last year, the day before the 15th anniversary of 9/11. I wrote it because I was curious about how people conceive of historically important events that they do not remember personally.

I teach high school English. When my students come into my room, they are expected to spend the first 5 minutes of class writing in their journals. Usually, I allow them to write about whatever they want, as long as words come out on paper. Sometimes, when I want to get a good read on how my classes think about a topic, I ask them to respond to a prompt that I have written.

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I decided that I wanted to know how a bunch of kids (who were only 1-3 years old in 2001) fit this momentous historical event into their conception of the world. When I started thinking about that day, I realized that I currently teach my classes in the very same room of Bishop Verot Catholic High School that I was in on 09/11/2001, when I found out about the World Trade Center attack. For some reason, this fact was lost on me, even though I’ve taught classes in this room for the last two years of my life. I was attempting to get my students thinking beyond their narrow world of experience. I wanted them to see that their teachers are people too, who were once in high school, dealing with whatever adolescent things we had to deal with. I wanted them to see this event, which to them is nothing more than a section in their history books, or a documentary that airs once every year around this time, as a real thing that happened to people. I wanted to see how people who have no memory of a historic tragedy, conceive of such a thing.

Here’s what I wrote:

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the September Eleventh terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93. Most of you were very young when this occurred.

Me? I just so happened to be seated in this very room. I was a freshman in a World History Honors class.

Looking back on that day now, my memory fails me: I can only summon short flashes of scenes; brief moments in time are all that come to mind. I remember sitting in a desk just like the one you’re sitting in now, in a row just like the one you’re in, staring at the back of some kid’s head, mindlessly doodling in my notebook. Having already completed my response to our current event of the day, I was just about to close my notebook, reach into my backpack, and heave out my World History textbook (we had thick, massive textbooks, which we couldn’t possibly carry around all day, so in that impossibly short four minutes in between classes, we had to use the bathroom, decode a lock, switch out our gigantic tomes, lock everything back up, and scurry through the door of our next class before the bell…so I guess I was exhausted from all of that) when the loudspeaker dinged. This was a normal occurrence. We were at Verot: the loudspeaker dinged just about every day with some special announcement, or some special update about some special schedule or event.

But this ding was different. Normally, the loudspeaker ding was followed by a reasonable second of silence before whatever was to be spoken was actually spoken; but this ding—this ding went off like a gunshot, not because it was particularly loud, but because of the deafening silence that followed it. High above all the normal noise of the classroom—AC churning, fluorescent tubes humming, pens tapping—I could hear the death of authority: whoever decided to ding that loudspeaker, hadn’t decided what he was going to say once he did. I could tell that it was a man. The breathing was that of a man, but it was the breathing of a man at a loss for words. Usually, that ding signified an authoritative decree: “Students, Faculty, and Staff, tomorrow’s lunch period will be shortened by ten minutes to allow for adoration in the chapel”; “Student’s, tomorrow’s dress code will be strictly enforced”; “Good morning Verot, let us join in saying the Direction of Intention.” This ding, however, lingered in the air, attempting to drown out the tortured breathing of whoever was at the microphone.

I don’t know. Maybe the silence only lasted for a second longer than it usually did. What’s important is that, to me, right now, I remember it lasting an eternity. When the silence finally gave way to speech, everyone in the room must have been struck by the gravity in the speaker’s tone: no one spoke; again, there was a silence so severe, that it seeped into my skin and crept into my bones—I knew that this was no normal “special announcement.” I don’t remember how it was phrased, but I do remember snatches of speech, like “…planes have crashed into the World Trade Center…,” “…unsure of casualties…”, and “…pray for the people of New York…”. I don’t remember the loudspeaker voice instructing anyone to do so, but our teacher turned the classroom TV to the news. I remember watching the news coverage and not really grasping what was going on. I remember not grasping what was going on for the rest of the day. I remember everyone on campus filing into the newly constructed Anderson Theater and holding a prayer service. I remember meandering past the library on my way to my locker after lunch, seeing more news coverage on the TVs inside, and my best friend declaring: “Look at that! It’s so fake! Who could believe this?” And, for an instant, it did seem fake. I was born into an America that hadn’t been seriously attacked by a foreign power since Pearl Harbor. How could this happen?

But even in the throes of one of the most significant events in world history; even while I witnessed adults whom I respected—teachers, administrators, parents—break down and cry, unable to come up with any answers, anything that would comfort a young freshman—in the end, I didn’t care. I was so absorbed in my own life, that this momentous event, which would fundamentally alter the course of history, had almost no immediate impact on my daily life.

I remember my mother picking me up from school like any normal day. She must have been upset, but I simply requested that she take me to the comic book store on the way home; there was a new edition of Spiderman that I was anxious to read. Looking back, I suppose that she just appeased my desires, thinking that I’d already been through enough that day and deserved some distraction. But nothing could be further from the truth: I was young, naïve, and hell-bent on living my privileged American life.

It wasn’t until later that evening that things fell into focus. I remember waiting for dinner to be ready, sprawled out on the couch, finishing my Spiderman comic. It wasn’t until I had read the last frame of the issue that I fully realized that the news was on the television. I closed the comic, placed it on the end table, and turned my attention to the screen: footage of the towers being hit, burning, and imploding into a pillar of fire, dust, and ash replayed over and over again. It began to hypnotize me. My thoughts began to shift outside of my narrow realm of existence. I started to think about my relatives in New Jersey, some of whom commuted to New York daily; some of whom probably knew people who worked in the towers. I started to think of the actual people in those towers, and I started to feel guilty for my selfishness.

Then my attention shifted to my immediate surroundings: my mother at the stove, putting the finishing touches on our daily family meal; my father pacing between his office and his bedroom, doing whatever fathers do to earn a living, even in the midst of a national tragedy; but most of all, my eyes were drawn to my brother, nine years younger than I: he was building something. Although his eyes rarely left the television screen, he was meticulously placing one block atop another, constructing two twin towers out of toys. When his towers began to rise above his own meager height, he found a toy airplane, which was given to me by my grandfather when I was young. He held it delicately between his tiny fingers, made a noise like a little boys do when they try to sound like an engine—VROOM VROOM!—and careened that little piece of metal into his tower of wooden blocks, which shattered with an intensity and meaning far surpassing the real thing: the actual destruction of the actual towers did not affect me, but this child’s-play rendition of reality instantly shook me from my reverie: I knew then, as plaything smashed into plaything, that the world would never be the same. For some reason, this innocent child had to register this momentous event before I could.

When historic anniversaries inevitably come along, it’s important that we take a moment to reflect, not only on the moments themselves, but also on how we experienced them, how they felt to us at the time. This exercise has a revelatory potential. It can tell us about ourselves: who we were, who we are, and who we want to become. It also reinforces a point that is often lost on many of us: that some of the most important or memorable moments of our lives are nothing more than stories to successive generations. It is our job to relate these moments to them, emphasizing their historic magnitude, their humanity, and most importantly, how they made a deep impression on our lives.

Sept. 3rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Catholic groups mobilizing to help in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic dioceses and charities are quickly organizing to help in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall with heavy rains and winds of 130 miles per hour late Aug. 25 into the Rockport, Texas area, northeast of Corpus Christi. The National Weather Service said in a tweet Aug. 27 that the rainfall expected after the hurricane and storm are over “are beyond anything experienced before.”The hurricane, named Harvey, is said to be the strongest one to hit the United States in more than a decade and perhaps the strongest one to make landfall in Texas.

Catholic Charities USA, as well as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, announced early on Aug. 26 that they’re mobilizing to help an as-yet-unknown number of persons affected by the hurricane. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has a list of charities helping with the disaster listed on its website at https://txcatholic.org/harvey.

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Authorities reported at least five casualties as of Aug. 27, but because of safety issues, not many emergency teams have been yet able to respond to the aftermath and much of the damage is unknown. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state a disaster area, which will allow federal money to help in reconstruction. Catholic groups said they want to help with the immediate needs of the communities affected.

“We will be sending in rapid-response teams to help our impacted St. Vincent de Paul councils and we are coordinating nationally with the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and (Catholic Charities USA),” said Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Aug. 27 urged “all people of goodwill to closely monitor future calls for assistance for victims and survivors in the days ahead.”

The cardinal also is the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, one of the hardest-hit areas.

“Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in a catastrophic and devastating way this weekend, bringing with it severe flooding and high winds which have taken human life, caused countless injuries, and severely damaged homes and property throughout the region,” said the cardinal in an Aug. 27 news release. “The effects of this storm continue to put people in harm’s way, with horrific scenes playing out all around, such as those of people trapped on their rooftops as water continues to rise around them. Many dioceses of the church in the United States have been affected; many others will be as the storm continues.”

He asked for prayers but also for assistance for those affected. One of the first to pledge help was the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, where Bishop Daniel E. Flores authorized a second collection to be taken up at the diocese’s local churches on the weekend of Aug. 26-27 to send to Catholic Charities in nearby Corpus Christi and “other places hardest hit by loss of power, storm damage, flooding.”

It’s been hard to communicate with other areas, said Bishop Flores in an Aug. 26 interview with Catholic News Service, so it’s hard to gauge the extent of the damage. But he said his diocese wanted to get a head start to quickly divert help where it is needed and as fast as possible.

If the Rio Grande Valley, where Bishop Flores’ diocese is located, was spared the major impact of Hurricane Harvey, then the diocese had a duty to help their neighbors to the north, in the coastal areas of Corpus Christi and Galveston-Houston, which seemed to be hit hardest, he said. Hurricane Harvey seemed to enter near Corpus Christi and affected seven coastal counties in Texas and one Louisiana parish.

“We continue to pray for every for everyone affected by the hurricane and those who are at risk as the storms continue,” said Bishop Flores in a statement.

Though the brunt of the hurricane’s winds has passed and Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm hours after landfall, heavy rains and “catastrophic flooding” are expected for days, said the National Hurricane Center.

“We have to remember … the families affected by flood damage in the next few days in other parts of the state will be in need of relief,” said Bishop Flores. “We will assess better how we can help as we get further information about the needs from the (Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops) and Catholic Charities.”

In an Aug. 26 statement published by the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, Cardinal DiNardo said powerful winds and heavy rainfall have already impacted many lives and homes throughout the region, and many in the southern counties of his archdiocese have already suffered substantial property damage and losses

In Houston, the country’s fourth largest city with 6.6 million residents, many struggled seeking safety in flooded residential streets, which are expected to get up to 50 inches of rainfall by the time the rain stops sometime at the end of August.

“Numerous homes in these communities are currently without power. Several forecasts anticipate additional storm damage and flooding in the coming days, along with high winds and tornado activity,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Up to 250,000 have been reported without power in Texas, a number that’s expected to rise.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a statement that the archdiocese pledged its support to recovery efforts that will start after the rain and wind subside.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Victoria, as well as the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as they cope with the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “The people of San Antonio have opened their arms to welcome evacuees of this historic hurricane, and Catholic Charities of the archdiocese has been assisting and will continue to assist in a variety of ways those impacted by this natural disaster.”

Bishop W. Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said he was grateful to the bishops who reached out to him and to his diocese. He said the true damage around the diocese still is not known and officials are waiting for conditions that will allow a better assessment of the damage.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo asked for prayers for emergency personnel and volunteers who are out and about in dangerous conditions and also “for those residing in our archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

Aug 27th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Bishops ask for peace after white nationalist rally turns deadly

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the aftermath of a chaos- and hate-filled weekend in Virginia, Catholic bishops and groups throughout the nation called for peace after three people died and several others were injured following clashes between pacifists, protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 11 and 12.

A 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a car plowed into a group in Charlottesville Aug. 12. The driver was identified as James Alex Fields, who allegedly told his mother he was attending a rally for President Donald Trump. Reports say the car allegedly driven by Fields plowed into a crowd during a white nationalist rally and a counter-rally the afternoon of Aug. 12.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said early Aug. 14 the “evil attack” meets the legal definition of domestic terrorism and suggested pending federal charges for Fields, who was arrested and was being held without bail. Fields was formally charged Aug. 14 by a Charlottesville judge with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.

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Outside the Charlottesville courthouse where Judge Robert Downer handed down the charges and Fields appeared via video link from jail, white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed, but there were no arrests.The same day, anti-racism rallies were held in several cities.

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, was one of the first to call for peace following the violence in Charlottesville late Aug. 11, which only became worse the following day.

On the evening of Aug. 11, The Associated Press and other news outlets reported a rally of hundreds of men and women, identified as white nationalists, carrying lit torches on the campus of the University of Virginia. Counter-protesters also were present during the rally and clashes were reported.

The following day, at least 20 were injured and the mayor of Charlottesville confirmed Heyer’s death later that afternoon via Twitter after the car allegedly driven by Fields rammed into the crowd of marchers. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when a helicopter they were in crashed while trying to help with the violent events on the ground. CNN reported that 19 others were injured and remained hospitalized Aug. 14 but were listed in good condition.

“In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville,” said Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in a statement on the afternoon of Aug. 12. “I earnestly pray for peace.”

Charlottesville is in Bishop DiLorenzo’s diocese.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the events “abhorrent acts of hatred” in an Aug. 12 statement. He said they were an “attack on the unity of our nation.”

Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 12 when violence erupted during the “Unite the Right” white nationalist protest against the removal of a statue of a Confederate general, Gen. Robert E. Lee. But the trouble already had started the night before with the lit torches and chants of anti-Semitic slogans on the grounds of the University of Virginia.

“Racism is evil,” President Trump said in an Aug. 14 statement. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. … As I said on Saturday (Aug. 12), we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.”

Trump was excoriated by many across the country for his Aug. 12 statement, because he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville and did not specifically target white supremacists then, his critics said.

Other groups, including many faith groups, seeking to counter the white nationalist events showed up during both events. Authorities reported clashes at both instances.

“Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace,” said Bishop DiLorenzo in his statement. “I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, which covers Northern Virginia, tweeted on what was happening in Charlottesville and followed up with a lengthy statement, calling the events “saddening and disheartening.”

“The more we read about the demonstration of racism, bigotry and self-proclaimed superiority made it seem as though we were living in a different time,” said Bishop Burbidge, noting “much progress made” since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “And yet, there are some who cling to misguided and evil beliefs about what makes American unique and remarkable.”

He condemned “all forms of bigotry and hatred,” denouncing “any form of hatred as a sin.”

“We must find unity as a country. Unity does not mean we all believe the same things,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We must be united by a shared interest in freedom, liberty and love for our neighbor. … Without respect for each other, even when we adamantly disagree, we will see more violence and discord in this great nation.”

On Twitter, Jesuit Father James Martin also denounced racism as a sin and said: “All Christians, all people of faith, should not only reject it, not only oppose it, but fight against it.”

Other bishops quickly followed in denouncing the violence.

“May this shocking incident and display of evil ignite a commitment among all people to end the racism, violence, bigotry and hatred that we have seen too often in our nation and throughout the world,” said Bishop Martin D. Holley of Memphis, Tennessee, in an Aug. 13 statement. “Let us pray for the repose of the souls of those who died tragically, including the officers, and for physical and emotional healing for all who were injured. May ours become a nation of peace, harmony and justice for one and all.”

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said Aug. 12 via Twitter: “When it comes to racism, there is only one side: to stand against it.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia called racism the “poison of the soul,” and said in a statement that it was the United States’ “original sin” and one that “never fully healed.”

He added that, “blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity.”

On Aug. 13, Cardinal DiNardo, along with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement saying: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.”

Several other U.S. bishops issued statements or tweeted messages condemning racism, white supremacy and the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori expressed sorrow about the events in a tweet, saying, “Our deepest prayers go out to those killed and wounded in Charlottesville. We must all work together to end the scourge of racism, and unite for the common good of all. Racism must be countered with love & respect.”

“We all watched the violence in Virginia this weekend with sadness and disgust,” Bishop Donald J. Hying of Gary, Indiana, tweeted. “The destructive evil of racism, Nazism and supremist ideologies that have no place in any human society.”

He added, “We join both our prayers and our condemnation to that of millions of people in our country and world who want to build an authentic civilization of life and love.”

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said the Catholic men, women and children of the archdiocese of Newark, “people who trace their roots to every continent of the world and represent every race and ethnicity” viewed with horror the events in Charlottesville and condemned “the racism and vicious rhetoric that contributed to this tragic moment in our nation’s history.”

“We stand in prayer and solidarity with all people of goodwill and we witness to our Christian calling to ‘love your enemies … that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”

“Hatred & vile racist actions defile the USA. Such activity is NEVER justified. Those who planned these acts must be denounced & defied,” said Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory in a tweet.

Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, tweeted: “Pray for an end to the evil of racism. And pray, especially today for its victims. Pray for justice and mercy in our nation.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said what took place in Charlottesville “demonstrates again the racism, hatred, and violence that exists in our world today. This can never be justified and is contrary to Gospel values.”

He urged Catholics “to stand united against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We must be prophetic in speaking about and living the values of Jesus.”

Aug 20th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments

by: Rich Byrne, D.Min. – Parishioner

As Catholics, we have been raised with and attune to the Seven Sacraments. They have a special meaning among us. Yet, why? What makes them so special in our broken world?

These Sacraments, instituted by Christ, are meant to strengthen and to encourage us on our spiritual journeys. The Church, as the People of God, has a God-given role in helping us realize that we are chosen, we are called, we are discipled.

As we move daily among our many challenges, the Sacraments manifest visible signs of God’s Invisible Love for us, for all people and for all creation.

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In order to heighten that incarnational dimension, the Church highlights the physical or tangible dimension of every Sacrament. In earlier times, prayerful theologians realized that there is an undeniable moment in every Sacramental action (ex opere operato) in which one can attest that God, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ is truly present and acting. In Baptism, it is the pouring of the water. In Confirmation, Ordination, Anointing, and Reconciliation, it relates to the moments of the use of hands. In Eucharist, it is the Consecration. In Marriage, it is the communion of life and love between husband and wife. We can see that the tangible expresses the spiritually nurturing love that is present in such graced moments.

As we participate in these sacred moments, heaven and earth merge. They are real moments for multi-faceted healing, for forgiving mercy, for real spiritual nourishment. They are invaluable aids to support us as we strive to follow the challenging teachings of Jesus and of His supportive Church.

A clear challenge for each of us as members of this parochial and the ecclesial community is to grow in such awareness, that God is really alive, loving and present among us and within us. God is acting in every moment, especially (whether we are aware or not) in these great Sacramental moments. These are the signs of God’s longing to communicate His Infinite Love. Yes, we are abundantly loved. Can we wake up to that? Can we experience in prayer and in the Sacraments that we are absolutely lovable?

God created us to love ourselves, to love Him and to love all beings. Using the Sacraments more intentionally in our lives (such as, Sunday Eucharist) helps us realize ever more deeply that we are unconditionally and absolutely LOVED.

Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments Offered by the Faith Alive! Team

Whether you have been a life-long Catholic, have just recently become Catholic, or would like to hear more about the Sacraments, you are invited to join our parish community for this enlightening series. We will meet in the church community room from 6:30-8pm. Come to one session or the entire series. All are welcome! Registration is requested. Please call the parish office or email, jennifer@johnxxiii.net

August 22nd – Overview of the Sacraments:
The Seven Sacraments are central to our Catholic Faith and are the visible signs of God’s Love. During this introductory evening, we will discuss how Christ is the Great Sacrament of our encountering the Presence of God. By more deeply appreciating the Risen Christ, we, the People of God, may experience more fully the many Graces of the Sacraments.

August 29th – Baptism and Confirmation:
We will look at the meaning of our Baptism not only as the first step in our faith life, but also as a continuing journey where we not only face the challenges of life but also encounter the presence of Christ along the way. Confirmation is living life fully in the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is called Confirmation because the faith given in Baptism is now confirmed and made strong with new hope, grace and understanding.

September 5th – The Most Holy Eucharist:
“Do this in memory of me” is the command of the Lord to the Apostles at the Last Supper after Jesus instituted the greatest Sacrament of our salvation. The Holy Eucharist is the center and pinnacle of the Catholic life because it is the sacrament of the real Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and is being celebrated every day.

September 12th – Sacraments of Healing:
By means of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, Christ willed His Church to continue His work of healing and salvation. Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these Sacraments because the new life that He gives us can be weakened and even lost through sin.

September 19th – Sacraments of Vocations:
Matrimony and Holy Orders both involve a lifelong commitment, and their purpose is to bring the light of Christ into the world. This presentation will explore the graces and responsibilities of these sacraments.

Aug 6th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Transfiguration Sunday?

About a week after Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days (Lev. 23:34–42). Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with His disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. The three accounts of this event are found in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.

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Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death.

Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. The One who is the new and living way is replacing the old – He is the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.

July 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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God Bless America

Celebrating Independence Day as a Christian

July 4th is the national celebration of our Nation’s independence. As we celebrate let us remember to pray that God will strengthen and bless America and make our nation a haven of liberty and justice for all — born and unborn.

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How are we as Catholic Christians and Americans supposed to celebrate this great day? John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our country, wrote this about how to celebrate the fourth of July:

“It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with parades and picnics with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and fireworks from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

Well, let’s see how we’re doing in celebrating the fourth of July the way one of the greatest Founders envisioned. Parades? Check. Picnic? Check. Sports? Backyard games count, right? Check. Bonfires? Check. Fireworks? Double check. Solemn Acts of Devotions to God Almighty? Um . . .I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically live up to that calling on the Fourth of July.

But, John Adams set an example for us. After everything’s said and done, we owe God more than anyone else for what occurred 241 years ago. In fact, the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence explicitly points to God as the source of our freedom:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There are many ways to honor God on this special day. Perhaps you can read a passage from the Catholic Bible with your family to kick off the festivities, or pray a family rosary with the special intention for our political leaders and our country’s future.

Not our parents, or politicians, or government, are the source of our most important rights. Only God. As the source of our rights, He deserves the highest praise, honor, and glory on Independence Day and every day.

June 25th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Your Strengths

AT ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

by: Steve Engelman

At some time during the past seven years you may have seen and wondered about those five words near the bottom of parish name tags; noticed upcoming sessions advertised in the bulletin; or were one of the hundreds of parishioners who participated in a Living Your Strengths workshop.

Living Your Strengths, based on a book of the same title and the associated Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, has been a key component for enhancing parishioner engagement by raising awareness and understanding of the unique talents God bestowed upon each of us. These talents are natural ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that can be productively applied for enriching personal, communal, and spiritual lives.

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For the natural talents we are blessed with at birth to develop into true strengths, it requires awareness, understanding, education and practice to transform them from a raw condition to a more fully developed mature state.

The problem is most people do not know what their greatest talents are, or how to go about discovering them, and this untapped potential leads to a lack of engagement and spiritual fulfillment. Gallup’s research shows engagement drives a parish’s spiritual health and, contrary to popular belief, it is actually a greater sense of belonging felt by a parishioner that leads to enriched believing in the mission of Christ and the Church, not the opposite.

The model for achieving greater parishioner engagement, as defined by Gallup, is hierarchical with four stages building upon each other. Imagine a pyramid with the first level, or base, being “What do I get?” and the second level as “What do I give?”. The third and fourth levels are “Do I belong?” and “How can we grow?, respectively. At St. John XXIII, the first two levels are addressed in our Living Christ’s Covenant document originally introduced to parishioners in 2013 and renewed in February of this year. Additionally, the often displayed WORSHIP, GROW, SERVE, CONNECT, and GIVE banners are reminders of the “What do I give?” level and are intended to provide guidance to parishioners seeking to become further engaged and even more spiritual.

The level of parishioner engagement, and thus overall spiritual commitment, is measurable and can be categorized as shown below:

Engaged: These parishioners are intensely loyal with a strong psychological connection to our parish. They are more spiritually committed and more likely to extend invitations to others. They also tend to give more generously of their time, talents, and treasure.

Not Engaged: These parishioners may attend Mass regularly but are not psychologically connected and their connection is probably more social than spiritual. They donate moderately but not sacrificially and if they volunteer they only donate minimal amounts of time.

Actively Disengaged: These members usually attend Mass only once or twice a year, if at all. Some in this group may attend regularly, but if that’s the case, they are physically present but psychologically absent. Some are unhappy and may insist on sharing that unhappiness with just about anyone.

In 2011 our parish, with support from Gallup, conducted a survey to develop a baseline engagement measure and the results at that time were 32% engaged, 47% not engaged, and 21% actively disengaged. While these results were better than the average Catholic Church it was also apparent great opportunities exist.

Living your Strengths workshops address numerous elements of engagement and are designed to assist parishioners, through enhanced awareness and application of their unique talents, toward higher levels of engagement and the resulting spiritual enrichment.

You are invited to participate in the next workshop series where the ongoing journey toward greater satisfaction, throughout all aspects of your life, continues. During three interactive and enlightening sessions, you will transition from learning your unique God-given talents to truly living your strengths with greater understanding, confidence, and personal fulfillment. We will also explore the unique talents of others and the contributions each can make toward greater stewardship and discipleship.

This series of workshops is scheduled for July 11, 18, and 25 from 6pm-8pm

To register or for additional information please contact:

Jennifer Engelman in the parish office at jennifer@johnxxiii.net
or phone (239) 561-2245

June 18th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Events, The 23rd Times | No Comments

A Father’s Day Blessing

Saint Joseph The Patron Saint of Fathers

St. Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is the model of fatherhood. His faith and obedience to God inspired his devotion for his family. As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day on June 19, it might be helpful to study his example. In “Five Lessons from St. Joseph,” author Randy Hain points out attributes that serve as a helpful guide:

  • St. Joseph was obedient.
  • St. Joseph was selfless.
  • St. Joseph led by example.
  • St. Joseph was a worker.
  • St. Joseph was a leader.

“Let’s look to the inspiring example of St. Joseph, patron saint of fathers, workers and the Universal Church for his obedience, humility, selflessness, courage and the love he showed to Mary and Jesus. If we can emulate St. Joseph even a little each day, we will be that much closer to becoming the men you called to be.

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St. Pope John Paul II highlighted St. Joseph to explain the Catholic understanding of fatherhood in his 1989 apostolic exhortation, Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and the Church).

“Commending ourselves, then, to the protection of (St. Joseph) to whose custody God ‘entrusted his greatest and most precious treasures. Let us at the same time learn from him how to be servants of the economy of salvation. May St. Joseph become for all of us an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission, a mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church: husbands and wives, parents, those who live by the work of their hands or by any other kind of work, those called to the contemplative life and those called to the apostolate.”

The significance of St. Joseph’s presence in Jesus’ life reminds us how important fathers are in our lives. The following offers a variety of resources to help you celebrate the fathers in your life on Father’s Day.

Shop AMAZONSMILE and SUPPORT

St. John XXIII Catholic Church

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support St. John XXIII every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. This includes Prime benefits if you are a Prime member. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?
To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Which products on AmazonSmile are eligible for charitable donations?
Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

Can I use my existing Amazon.com account on AmazonSmile?
Yes, you use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same. Your login information will be the same as your Amazon.com account

How do I select St. John XXIII Catholic Church as my charitable organization to support when shopping on AmazonSmile?
On your first visit to AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), you will need to search for and select St. John XXIII to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Our parish will be listed as Saint John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, FL. Please be sure that the parish, along with city & state are correct, as there are many listings. We will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

How much of my purchase does Amazon donate?
The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases. The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. From time to time, we may offer special, limited time promotions that increase the donation amount on one or more products or services or provide for additional donations to charitable organizations. Special terms and restrictions may apply. Please see the relevant promotion for complete details.

Can I receive a tax deduction for amounts donated from my purchases on AmazonSmile?
Donations are made by the AmazonSmile Foundation and are not tax deductible by you.

Contact Jennifer Baumgardner for more information at: jennb@johnxxiii.net

June 4th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Pentecost Sunday?

It is the great feast that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Red is the liturgical color for this day and it is encouraged that the faithful wear red to Church that day. Red is symbolic of the love of the Holy Spirit and recalls the tongues of fire in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles that first Pentecost. The color red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who by the power of the Holy Spirit hold firm to the true faith even at the cost of their lives.

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Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied of the first Pentecost when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26. He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8).

After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).

May 21st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Events, Interviews, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building May 9.

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Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment.

“All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom,” Pope Francis has said. This quotation kicks off the pledge.

The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

“The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been exonerated due to their innocence since 1973,” the organization says on the pledge sheet following space for someone’s signature.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the network added, “The death penalty is not needed to maintain public safety, punishment must ‘correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and (be) more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.’”

After capital punishment was halted nationwide briefly in the 1970s, more than 1,400 people have been executed since it resumed 40 years ago, according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network. “The prolonged nature of the death penalty process can perpetuate the trauma for victims’ families and prevents the opportunity for healing and reconciliation called for in the message of Jesus Christ.”

The idea for the pledge campaign took root in January, said Catholic Mobilizing Network executive director Karen Clifton in an interview with Catholic News Service. It is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign.

Clifton said Arkansas’ bid to execute eight death-row prisoners in a 10-day span in April — four were ultimately put to death — “exacerbated the situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are executing and the reasons why the system is so broken,” she said.

Penalties for crime are “supposed to be retributive, but also restorative. The death penalty is definitely not restorative,” Clifton said. Those on death row are not the worst of the worst, they’re the least — the marginalized, the poor, those with improper (legal) counsel,” she added.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he and his fellow bishops have voiced their views strongly with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where capital punishment is legal and where prisoners have been executed.

Bishop Dewane, in recalling Pope John Paul II’s successful personal appeal to the governor of Missouri to spare a death-row inmate’s life during the pope’s visit to St. Louis in 1999, said the episode offers hope. “It’s a great example,” he added. “You never know how your words will be taken, or accepted.”

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who was one of a number of bishops who signed the pledge following a daylong meeting May 9 at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building in Washington, said the church’s ministry to prisoners is another source of hope. “It’s the ministry of companionship that’s so important,” he noted.

Bishop Soto said the ministry of accompaniment is also necessary to the victims of crime. He recalled an instance when a priest of his diocese, who was expected to attend a meeting of priests, had to bow out “because he had to bury someone who had been killed by violence in his neighborhood. … We are not recognizing that the futility of the death penalty system.”

Capuchin Father John Pavlik, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, told CNS that networking is a key tool in the toolbox in spreading information opposing the death penalty. CMSM, he said, has a person on staff to monitor issues surrounding justice and peace, and has consistently communicated capital punishment information to CMSM members.

Father Pavlik said he takes inspiration from an Ohio woman whose child was murdered decades ago. The killer was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge of capital murder, “and she has spent the last 25 years advocating against the execution of this man.” The priest also voiced his distaste at the “disregard for life” shown in Arkansas, which he said had tried to execute eight death-row prisoners in such a short time because “the drug (used in the fatal injection) was going to expire.”