May 10th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Honoring Our Blessed Mother Makes Every Day Mother’s Day

By Joseph Pronechen, of National Catholic Register

Commercially speaking, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. But celebrating it does not have to be confined to a single day of the year. Every day can be Mother’s Day if we honor our heavenly Mother and, by extension, our earthly mothers.

“One of the things forgotten by a lot of Catholics is that is May is the month of Mary,” says Helen Hull Hitchcock, founding director and president of Women for Faith & Family. “This entire month is named after Mary and is dedicated to Mary. The celebration of motherhood is also in May, and that’s for a very good reason. There’s a strong connection between the two.”
Most people are unaware of the religious connection, Hitchcock explains. In fact, while today Mother’s Day isn’t a religious holiday per se, its origins were.


Since medieval times, May and devotion to Mary were connected, according to the University of Dayton’s Marian Library. Some of the earliest traces go back to the 13th century in Spain. As this devotion spread and developed, Mary was honored with special devotions on every day in May, a custom originating in Italy in the 1780s, then extending as a Marian devotion far and wide by the next century, especially from 1830 on in Europe.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Mother’s Day was celebrated in the United States. But that first official celebration, in 1908, was a religious one. Anna Jarvis, the founder and promoter, wanted this official day in memory of her mother, whom she had taken care of for quite a number of years. Jarvis requested the celebration in the Methodist church in West Virginia where her mother had taught Sunday school for more than two decades. Jarvis then spent years promoting Mother’s Day to honor mothers, but she was appalled by the growing commercialization, which she never intended.

Mary and Mothers

Father Michael Freihofer makes the connection between mothers and the Blessed Mother often in his homilies in Granby, Colo., where he is pastor of a parish composed of three churches.

He explains: “When I preach, I say, ‘Every child deserves to feel God’s love through their biological father and, the Blessed Mother’s love through their biological mother’.”

Father Brian McSweeney, makes the natural tie-in. He explains the relationship builds out of the understanding of our own mother.

“When we can understand that honor and respect due to our own mother, by extension we should understand the love and respect we owe to our heavenly Mother,” he says. “If we love our earthly mothers, how much more should we honor our heavenly Mother?”

“Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers,” writes Pope Benedict XVI in his 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (On Christian Love). “Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavors. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart.”

So how can we confine honoring a Mother like this to only a few days, or even a month?

Father McSweeney says we have a great model for honoring her as we come to understand how Christ honored his mother. “If it’s good enough for Jesus,” he says, “it should be good enough for us.” It was none other than Jesus who gave Mary to John — and us — from the cross.

John Paul II emphasized this truth in his 1987 encyclical Redemptoris Mater (On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church), when he wrote: “it is also true of every disciple of Christ, of every Christian. The Redeemer entrusts his mother to the disciple, and at the same time he gives her to him as his mother. Mary’s motherhood, which becomes man’s inheritance, is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every individual.”

So one big way we can honor our Blessed Mother that carries through the entire year is to spend time with her. “How do you know you love someone?” asks Father Freihofer. “You want to spend time with him or her. That fosters a sense of thanksgiving because it’s really hard to love what you don’t know.”

Father Freihofer points out one important way to spend time with Mary is through Marian devotions, especially the Rosary. “It honors her because she asks us to pray the Rosary,” he says. “Jesus in private revelations even asked us to pray the Rosary.”

St. Louis de Montfort teaches us that the best way to reach Jesus is through his mother, notes Father McSweeney. The more we honor her, the closer we come to her Son, so this should be part of our daily life on our spiritual journey.

Then there’s meditating by using a scriptural Rosary or meditating on Scripture passages. Father Freihofer suggests asking the Holy Spirit to make us small and humble and then asking our Blessed Mother to hold our hand and take us to the foot of the cross to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus.

Hitchcock notes that even women who don’t have children of their own can relate to our Blessed Mother. For example, there are religious who dedicate their lives caring for the people in the Church, and many Catholic women are deeply involved in the pro-life movement, caring in a motherly way for human life, whether children or an elderly relative or friend. She remembers all women in a Mother’s Day prayer.

If there’s any doubt we should keep the honor of Mother’s Day going all year long, both for our Blessed Mother and our natural mothers, Father Harlow offers us one more consideration connecting our two mothers.

“We must also remember that by baptism our mothers were incorporated into the Kingdom of God and were anointed as ‘priest, prophet and king,’ thereby becoming princesses in the Kingdom,” Father Harlow says. “As such, we should never forget the deference which we owe our mothers as ‘princesses.’

“Mother’s Day takes on a whole new dimension when we understand that Our Lady’s intimate and royal dignity has been transferred to that of our own mothers — by nature and by grace.”


Loving God,
We ask your blessings on all mothers.
May they be inspired with your mercy, wisdom, strength and selfless love.
For new mothers with new responsibilities;
For expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
For those who are tired, stressed or depressed; For those who balance the tasks of work and family; For those whose children have
physical, mental and emotional disabilities;
For those who raise children on their own; For those who selflessly place their child for adoption; For those who adopt a child into their family;
For those who have lost a child; For those who care for the children of others; For those whose children have left home; For those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender, and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good.

Jan. 4th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Feast of the Epiphany

The Church has a custom of blessing homes on the Feast of the Epiphany and the week following. Family and friends gather to ask God’s blessing on their homes and those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.


A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk blessed during the Epiphany liturgy and write above the home’s entryway, 20 + C + M + B + 15. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2015 is the year.
January 6, which is 12 days after Christmas in the Gregorian calendar, marks not only the end of the Christmas holidays but also the start of the Carnival season, which climaxes with Mardi Gras. In some European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, children dress as the three kings and visit houses. In their roles as the kings, or wise men, they sing about Jesus’ birth and pay homage to the “king of kings”. They are rewarded with praise and cookies.

Dia de los Reyes Magos is the Latin American celebration of Epiphany. In many Latin American countries, it is the three wise men and not Santa Claus who bring gifts for children. Children write letters to the wise men telling them how good they were and what gifts they want. In France, Le Jour des Rois (the Day of Kings), sometimes called the Fête des Rois, is celebrated with parties for children and adults. The galette des rois, or “cake of kings”, highlights these celebrations. This cake is round and flat, cut into the pantry, covered with a white napkin and carried into a dining room.
Children in Spain fill their shoes with straw or grain for the three kings’ horses to eat and place them on balconies or by the front door on Epiphany Eve. The next day they find cookies, sweets or gifts in their place. The “three kings” make an entry in many cities in Spain on Epiphany Eve, accompanied by military bands and drummers in medieval dress.

On Epiphany (or New Year) you can bless your house. You can make this as simple or as intricate as you like; include (liturgical) greeting (eg. “The Lord be with you…”), song or carol, holy water (sprinkling door, each room), reading (eg. Epiphany Gospel, start of John’s Gospel), more prayers, Lord’s Prayer, incense, and assigning parts to different members of the household. Many homes are the dwelling for one person – the blessing of a home is equally appropriate.


Leader: Peace be in this place.
All: And with all who enter here.

Leader: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. You have blessed the earth with abundant water. May it be for us a pledge of cleansing and protection.
All: Blessed be God forever.
A member of the family takes the water and a sprig of greenery and sprinkles the rooms of the house and the people, while all say together:
All: I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land.;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.

One person makes the inscription with chalk above the door, while another proclaims the corresponding words.
The three wisemen, C Casper M Melchior, and B Balthasar
Followed the star of God’s Son who became man
2015 Two thousand, fifteen years ago.
+ May Christ bless our dwelling
+ and remain with us throughout the new year
Leader: Lift up your heads, O gates!
All: That the King of Glory may come in
Leader: Who is the King of Glory?
All: The Lord of hosts is the King of Glory!

Leader: God of Salvation, incline your ear. Bless us and all those who gathered here. Your angels send us, who will defend us, and fill with grace all who dwell in this place.
All: Amen

July 6, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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People of faith have never accepted a dichotomy between their faith and their work. They believe that their relationship with God and commitment to obeying His commands should impact every area of their lives: their family, their finances, and their vocation.

The Hobby Lobby Decision

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.


It’s Back – Living Your Strengths

Extremely popular group sessions begin soon. It is no secret God created each of us as unique individuals to grow and serve in fulfilling the body of Christ. But just how unique are we and for what purposes can we best utilize our strengths and natural talents?

Through four interactive and enlightening sessions you will journey from learning the natural talents and strengths God bestowed upon you 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. But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Back to School Drive Starts July 19th

The Drive will take place from July 19th to August 3rd and donations will be accepted in the Narthex before and after Mass, or please bring to the Parish Office during the week. Thank you!

VBS Gratitude

We had an amazing time at Vacation Bible Camp this year. 135 campers, over 60 middle and high school students and 30 adult volunteers enjoyed learning all about God’s unconditional love for us. Our thanks to all the volunteers who made the week extra special. They spent countless hours setting up for the event. A special thanks to all our wonderful St. John XXIII parishioners who were so generous with their donations for the camp. You are what makes St. John XXIII the special parish that it is!

Check out the photos here.


June 29, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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The Thursday Morning Friends Group

Father had given a homily and when we spoke about the number of single people in our Parish alone – 577 – we asked what we were doing for them. We realized that probably not all of them were widows or widowers. So here is a group of people that need something, we’re not exactly sure what, but we’re hoping to fill that need. –Mary Bissaillon

Vacation Bible School Photos are already here!



A priest from the United States was visiting a small village in Haiti just months after the earthquake in 2010. The young priest, upon speaking with one of the village elders, noticed a reserved reticence in the man as he was asked his approach to healing the spirits of the villagers. Aware of the urgency of the situation, Father pulled no punches and told the Haitian gentleman, “Don’t worry, my friend, I’m here to help. Why do I sense you lack faith in me?” The Haitian relayed his concern. “Padre, we’ve had trouble with the Americans – the psychologists. They take our young people into dark rooms to talk about their problems. Instead of spending more time in the sun with nature – something that typically cheers people up – they take them by themselves behind closed doors. Instead of surrounding them with friends and family, they do these one on one sessions, where they focus on all the devastation and loss they’ve experienced. Instead of giving them work to do and home-cooked meals, they gave them time to languish, and some even got pills to take! Padre, after a while, we realized none of our people were getting better, and so we sent them away. We are grateful for the Americans’ help, but… our people need something different.”

The young priest thought about for a minute. “You’re right. You did the right thing. What people need most… is other people.”

When we share, we care, and we can only share with other people (cats don’t count). There’s over 500 single people in this Parish, and these are the ones particularly susceptible to the spiritual side effects of loneliness. We are truly social animals. In adults, loneliness is a major precipitant of depression and alcoholism. And it increasingly appears to be the cause of a range of medical problems, some of which take decades to show up.

According to psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, loneliness sets in motion a variety of “slowly unfolding pathophysiological processes.” The net result is that the lonely experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear. In other words, we are built for social contact. There are serious, life-threatening consequences when we don’t get enough. We can’t stay on track mentally. And we are compromised physically. Social skills are crucial for your health.

We function best with a diverse group of people around us, and so a few of our plucky parishioners started the Thursday Morning Friends Group (it is exactly as it sounds). Taking place the first Thursday of every month after the 8:00 am Mass, and lasting until 11:00, the group focuses on the quality of relationships. Numbers aren’t important. Just as you don’t measure the quality of your social life against your tally of Facebook friends, the TMFG isn’t out to set records. To find out what they were all about, we asked them. This is what they said.

Damian: So you started in the Bereavement Ministry, and you recognized the need for connection and how we’re all in some kind of pain…
Mary Bissaillon: And not only that, we’re all different. We all grieve in our own way and the Bereavement Ministry may not be what someone needs – specifically.

DH: And so you started the Thursday Morning Friends Group. This is a good sized parish and the best part of being in a big parish, is the opportunity to join some diverse, small groups. So tell me what you do in this ministry.
Marilyn Marr: Well, I’m not a widow. We just moved here a year ago and just love, love , love this parish. My idea was to get into as many groups here as I could to meet people. It helps me when I go to Church and can look around and say “Oh, I know her or I know him”. It makes it a real community for me. So when I heard about this group I told Mary that I would commit to one Thursday a month and help her get it off the ground. You know, make a friend, be a friend.

DH: So tell me about some of the activities that you do.
MB: The first meeting was a brainstorming meeting with 50 people and we had all kinds of ideas. Unfortunately the second one didn’t attract as many people. So we went into the narthex and had our own brainstorming meeting and we came up with the idea of a Potluck Breakfast. Well that was fabulous, and the turnout was great.

DH: It was fabulous – not huge – but the spirit of the room was alive.
MB: We had 17 people and that was marvelous. It’s nice to build mountains but you can’t always do that if you start with molehills. And I am so fortunate to have met Marilyn, because we bounce well off each other – very compatible.

DH: You mentioned mountains and molehills and sometimes we focus on getting our “numbers” up but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the quality of the relationships within the ministry itself, so sometimes it’s good to keep it small. These ideas that you are referring to – what are those ideas?
MM: Well, we’re going slowly. First of all, a lot of the snowbirds are leaving so I’m not sure what we will accomplish over the summer months but next month we are going to take a trip and visit the Retreat House for the Diocese. I’ve never been there or even heard of it, so we set up a meeting and we will go up for a tour. Father will say Mass. We’ll have lunch together, and it will just be sort a day of fun and activity – and that’s really what we’re all about, right?

DH: That’s very important. So when do you meet and do you have a format of the meeting or how does that work?
MB: It’s kind of informal. Our goal is to just bring people together. We are learning more and more that there are so many people… alone. They want someone to reach out to them but they don’t know where to go, so hopefully we can fill that need.

DH: I think loneliness is like the number one scourge. That’s what our culture does. All the technology, the way our cities are designed to isolate and we go to our homes – our fortresses – and spend time in solitude. But the sharing and the caring is the most important thing. This is all about people.
MB: Yes. Absolutely. I love this parish. As you drive in it says, “All are welcome”.

DH: Is there any sort of spiritual component to this, or is it all just play?
MB: We start with a prayer and end with a prayer, so we keep it pretty light.
MM: My motive is certainly spiritual – the idea of connecting. To me, our Eucharistic celebrations are communal experiences. Being in a community that you can feel part of is what is important. Finding ways to connect as a body to the body of Christ.
MB: But Marilyn, I have to tell you, when I looked around Church this morning, I recognized so many people. So many visitors walk in and say how beautiful the church is, and I say ‘yes, and the people are great too!’

DH: Ha! Well thanks for hanging around and talking. And thank you for bringing more community to our community.

June 15, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Every Child’s Wish | Father’s Day

Prayer isn’t a verse of words you repeat. It is how you live your life… Neither is communication a conversation between two people. You communicate by the actions you take, and in the way you live. –Father Paul Charbonneau

Every man wants to be the ideal father, and every child wants to have the perfect dad – but perfect is impossible. So what would a great father look like? My dad worked hard, but made time for us. He was a great provider, but neither spoiled us, nor used material things as bargaining chips for getting his way. In fact, looking back, there’s no telling what his way might have been – it was all about making his family happy. My father never forgot that his children were going to mimic him in adulthood, and be attracted to people like him as spouses and friends… And that’s what I’m most grateful for – his love and sense of responsibility. Without those two things, there’s no telling what path life may have taken – but with those things – we can have peace, happiness and joy in our lives.

And that’s sort of the gist of the interview with father and son – Jack and Rich Byrnes. At one point, Rich explains that he’s not too concerned with his (adult) children’s careers, but he’s proud of the people they’ve become. Unlike many in our world today, he cares less for the exterior of their lives and more about their internal character. In any walk of life, God can use us to help people, and touch people’s lives in a way that brings them closer to God. And in that way, Rich and Jack have been successful – not perfect – but they laid the path for their children, who will one day teach their children, who will then, one day teach their children…

Interview with Jack & Rich Byrnes


DH: We’re here to talk about what it is to be a father. Tell me, each one of you, what you remember most about your father growing up.
Jack Byrnes: Well, my father was a good role model. He worked many, many years with the railroads and I just took after him as I grew up. I think I’ve passed that on to Rich and my other two sons.

DH: What does it mean when you say he was a good role model?
JB: Well, he was honest and loyal and had all of the Boy Scout-type of attributes. He was loyal to the Church and spent a lot of time in the Church. That’s what we try to do in our family.
RB: I would say the same thing. I think of the amount of time that dad would spend with us. He worked very hard, but also he would take time to spend with us on weekends taking us on lacrosse trips or to hockey games.

DH: So you guys grew up up north? They didn’t have lacrosse here back then. Where did you grow up and what was that like?
Rich Byrnes: My job took me around the country and Rich was born in Sacramento. We moved to Maryland, then to Canada and back to Columbus, Ohio. So we’ve been around. I don’t think they liked it, my family, when we pulled up stakes, but looking back I think it was a good experience – growing up to see different parts of the country and Canada.
RB: And we learned how to adapt to new environments.
JB: And now he’s about to embark on another adventure.

DH: So you’re moving to Tennessee. I grew up in Tennessee. Tell me what you think, either one of you. What’s the most important part of being a father?
RB: I think the main thing is passing on the values that I learned growing up. My kids are grown now. They’re 24 and 26. As a younger parent you’re thinking, I want them to be good kids. But now I’m happy that they’ve grown into great adults and I’m very proud of both of them and what they’ve become. Not as much with their careers – but with who they are as people. And I think that’s the main focus. It’s understanding that it’s who they have become as people that is important. They both have a great faith life and they’re both very helping individuals. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher and my son spends a lot of time with his church in the music ministry. He does a lot of volunteer work in the community. Being a parent and seeing your kids be able to do that in life – that’s what makes it all worth it.

DH: What can kids get only from a father? Like, what kind of masculine characteristics do you bring to the vocation of fatherhood that a woman just cannot?
RB: Dad was the disciplinarian in the family where my mother was more of a comfort blanket to our whole family. My dad was the one from whom you really knew right from wrong. It’s kind of like the priests we have here. They guide you right from wrong. Dad used to crack a belt. He never used it but…

DH: Just that sound, the leather belt, is scary!
RB: Yes, we would get real quiet when we heard the belt crack.

DH: So Jack, did your kids get into mischief? How many kids did you have?
JB: Four.

DH: Were they just garden variety mischievous or did some of them demonstrate serious character defects?
JB: Hah! Well, we tried to keep them busy. That’s the main thing. They played football and lacrosse. Rich was third baseman on the little league team. You keep them busy and out of trouble that way. I’ll give most of the credit to my wife for how they turned out.

DH: You probably didn’t have all boys.
JB: No. I have one daughter.

DH: And Rich, you have a son and a daughter, right?
RB: Right.

DH: What are the differences between raising a boy and a girl?
RB: You have to listen a lot more with a girl. (Laughter)
JB: Well, the girl tends to be impatient as we chase the guys doing their athletics. If they’re on a traveling team the girls have to go along, and not necessarily enjoy it… but she was outnumbered in our case. Three to one.
RB: I don’t know since we had a boy and a girl if it was gender based, as much as it was their individual interests and needs. I think throughout their time growing up, just spending time with whatever their interests were was important. At one time my daughter was a dancer and so we supported that, but then in high school she decided she wanted to play lacrosse, just out of the blue. And so I went from one day never having played sports with my daughter, to spending the entire summer practicing, practicing, practicing. So that was one of my memories, spending that time with her. With my son, he was into sports and music and I was as well. The memory that I have recently is just recording music with him. Those are the memories that will never fade.

DH: What was it like seeing your daughter transition from dancing, which is about grace and beauty, to a blood sport like lacrosse? Sometimes when you watch girls lacrosse, you’re like SCARED for them, right?
RB: Oh yeah. In one of these practices she didn’t have her mask on and the ball missed her stick and bloodied her lip, and I just couldn’t believe it had happened. There she was with a big fat lip and blood gushing out. I’m thinking, what did I get her into this for? I think it’s all in how you adapt to their changes. They’re going to change through life. My daughter early on was more introverted. When she was going into middle school, there was a life teen program at our church in Pittsburgh. I had never thought about being part of the music ministry before, but it was in 2001 that I joined the music ministry and have done it ever since. But my thinking was that I want the kids to get closer to Christ and they both have benefited from that. All of the volunteer work in the youth group programs that they got involved in was a result of that. I didn’t do a lot of that myself growing up, but setting that example, now I see my son is playing music at his church. He’s 24 and it’s kind of neat to see them follow your footsteps.

DH: Jack, you had three boys. Did they just beat each other up mercilessly or did they get along?
RB: (Laughter) It was good to be the biggest of the three – and the youngest!
JB: No. They were all individuals and they complemented one another. They all played sometimes on the same team, like lacrosse, in Ohio. There was competition but I think they all had their own paths. Some were better than others in certain sports but they weren’t too competitive among themselves.

DH: So that was probably a break for you. So you guys are still pretty close and that’s a good thing. Sort of at a deeper level, you see a lot of times families grow apart and whatever mistakes a parent makes with a kid, that kid makes them with their kid. But it sounds like you guys really did it right and you knew how to love your kids. For parents who are at a loss, how would you advise anyone on the best way to show your children you love them, and ensure they have that instilled in them for when they go forward to have their own kids?
JB: One thing that comes to mind is when Rich was out of work in January. I invited him to join me each morning and walk through the prayer or memorial garden and say the Rosary. So we’ve had about four months of being together each morning before Mass. It’s something I’ll miss – not having him with me. But I hope he continues to do it in his new occupation: to do it on his own… I’ll be thinking of him.

DH: And you’re going to Tennessee to do what?
RB: Director of Transportation for Nike.

DH: So how about you Rich, how do you show your kids you love them or how would you tell other parents or new parents with young children the best way to be patient, loving, kind?
RB: I think a lot of it is faith-based. And I think it’s having a strong faith. And my faith in the last three to four months has been built stronger than ever. You think at certain times in your life, well, this is “it” and what I have learned is that there isn’t any finish line in life or after life. You just have to keep on working at things. I try to instill that in the kids. My daughter is going to be moving and she doesn’t even have a job, but she’s moving to Ohio and looking for a teaching job. She doesn’t know what lies ahead but she has good faith and good values, and so she isn’t concerned about what lies ahead because of that. She knows that my son is up there and, like you said, we have a good, tight family and they’re going to help each other out when she gets there. Like I said, in the last three months, through the Church and through saying the Rosary every morning and daily Mass, these are the things that I never would have thought of doing because I was so busy with work. Another great opportunity is the Men’s Gospel Forum on Monday mornings. People had invited me to that many times and I was thinking – oh, that’s not what I’m all about, and now that we’ve both been doing that together for the last six weeks, I’m thinking – the whole Church should be here! All of the men should be here. You can see so many people at different points in their faith. Some people are very knowledgeable about the Bible and other people are very knowledgeable about how to raise a family. It’s just a great way to share. That’s helped me to share with my wife and my kids thoughts that I wouldn’t have normally talked about with them. I think it is important to be a good communicator. Let them know how you feel. Let them know that you love them – and I think they will pass that on to their families.

DH: So, last question for both of you or each of you, what’s been the biggest challenge of fatherhood?
JB: Well, I guess I was adventurous and when there were changes in my career and opportunities in different states, it was difficult to know if I would be successful, but I was a risk taker and it seems like it has turned out pretty well. But like Rich, he’s going to a new job and I’m sure he’s somewhat apprehensive as to whether he’ll succeed. But I think most people are like that when they go to a new situation, and that’s what I was concerned with, that my family would prosper from the change.
RB: I think mine would be, in our family we made the decision early on that my wife would stay home with the kids so I have always had that pressure – having a job and continuing to move on and to move ahead with my work to support the family. So I think that was a big challenge but I think one of the things I wasn’t ready for was having newborn kids and dealing with all of that. That’s a big life changer. When that happened, my dad told me “now you understand what responsibility is all about”. And you take a different attitude towards work. When you’re a young parent, because you say OK, you thought you knew what responsibility was before, now you have a whole family to feed and you really learn that.
JB: I’d like to say one thing that has impressed me about this guy (Rich). He’s a musician and he’d rather be doing that than working, but… he wrote a song. He writes a lot of songs, but he wrote a song about me.
RB: It’s called, What would my dad do? I actually wrote it before the whole “What Would Jesus Do” thing. (Laughter)

DH: So they got that idea from you?
JB: It’s a great song.
RB: I wrote it for a birthday party that he had 27 years ago.
JB: Who’s counting?
RB: I’ll send you the lyrics for that because it really sums up what a father is and when you lie awake at night, trying to decide which direction to proceed I fall down on my knees and figure out “what would my dad do?” I think that’s what it’s all about – being the foundation for the family, being the cornerstone for the family and that’s what this guy was to me and to our whole family growing up. That’s why I wrote the song.

DH: I can identify with that because it’s hard when you’re young and single and selfish but just growing up, my dad is still one of my heros – the selflessness. You can’t even wrap your head around it but he always did the right, loyal thing. Put everybody else first, and so I get that. So thanks for talking to me and Happy Father’s Day. Good luck in Tennessee.

April 27, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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It’s really happening!

This Sunday, April 27th during and after the 11:15 am Mass, we’ll be holding our Canonization Celebration commemorating John XXIII and John Paul II. Come join in the festivities and listen to Father Bob’s reflection on his encouter with our Holy Father.



To all who served during our Easter Services, thank you.  A LOT goes into making the Triduum & Easter so special – namely for those entering the Church. We’d like to acknowledge Catherine Vaughn and her Art & Environment Team. Bob Kirchner and his Choir. Mike Navarro, Marc Bingcang, Vince Knipfing and all other Sacristans involved in the Triduum.

Thank you to Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, Servers, Ushers, Greeters, Parking Attendants, and everyone who made this Easter Weekend special. Alleluia.  Special thanks to Peter Smith, Mike Angellotti, Rob Erp, Stella McCaffery and the gardening committee for making our grounds look so beautiful and welcoming. Thank you to the anonymous donor of the two golf carts – what an amazing gift!

& Welcome!

We warmly welcome the following new members who were initiated into our Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. May Christ always be your focus and may you know the comfort of his love forever. Our new Catholics are: Natalia Amado, Michael Polsinelli, Cuong thi Son, John Willis, Debra Bartha, Jacob Boudreau, Rhonda Crutcher, Donald Lewis, Barbara Martin, Suzie Norfleet, Barbara Sutton, Bill Sutton, and Brad Ward.

Christina Condon was baptized Catholic, and completed the Sacraments of Initiation. Thank you to all the members of our community who helped them on their faith journey; our Catechists: Ginny Whelan, Dan Pieper, Leslie Robertson, Mark Bir, Paul Kielmeyer, Sandy Szymanski, Joanne Macpeek, Margaret McGreevey, Rich Bryne, Deacon Rich Klish, and Pat Nacol. Thank you Jennifer Engelman for all your help keeping us organized and being present whenever needed.

We appreciate and thank Barbara Catineau for her year-long commitment to the RCIA Ministry from Inquiry through to the Easter Vigil.

Thank you to all the members of the Ladies Guild who supplied delicious refreshments on Sunday Morning and Lois Becker and those who helped with the lovely reception after the Easter Vigil. Our DRE Chris Biel, our priests, Frs. Bob, Bernie & Marcin, and to you our parishioners for your prayers and support.

April 17, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Holy Week Blessings from Our Priests

Thank you to all our helpers during this Holy Week. SO MUCH goes into making this holiday special for everyone – namely those entering the Church. We’d also like to thank Rob Erp, Stella McCaffery and the gardening committee for making our grounds look so beautiful and welcoming. What you do means so much to us!! ALSO, remember next Sunday, April 27th during and after the 11:15 am Mass, we’ll be holding our Canonization Celebration. Please come celebrate this momentous event.


A Journey of Faith, to Love Again

by Damian Hanley

“I came from a family that was very fractured. My parents divorced when I was young, and that experience was very traumatic.”

When you’re a child, you’re being taught lessons all the time – lessons on how to love; lessons on how to hate; and lessons on how to be in the world. Adults forget this fact, which is why so many children are abused – not physically, although this does scar young bodies – but emotionally, children remember every dig, and every cut. And they carry those wounds into adulthood. We all know what it is to suffer, and this is why when Easter comes around, we cannot help ourselves but to think about Christ only 3 days before, and how He was tortured. He must have felt double the pain at the injustice of the event. He came to teach us how to love, and we killed Him. I guess one of the reasons why we celebrate Easter is not simply the fact that He rose, but because out of His suffering we found meaning.

Easter is the perfect time for reflection. When we contemplate the suffering and injustice Christ endured, it puts our own in perspective. But, without trying to compare apples and oran…crucifixion, what it also does is prove to us that no matter how great the suffering, or how extreme the misery, we’re called to use these experiences to inspire other people. We’re called to forgive anyway, and use what we learn about the frailty of humans – and the perfect love of God – and use that to better the lives of others. And that’s what Barbara Pascale did.

“I felt abandoned, but as a survival mechanism, I still held within me that there was a God. I see it now, as just part of the fine honing of the person I was to become. If those things hadn’t happened on the journey, there’s no telling I’d have the appreciation for the role of my faith in how I live my life.”

We’ve all felt alone and abandoned at times, but young Barbara was placed in an orphanage by her father at an age so young that she felt absolutely vulnerable, but old enough to know the implication of his action. How could she have possibly felt loved? How could she have felt worthy of love if her own father – unprovoked by any outside force – gave her up? A novel could be written on each of her experiences in foster care, but suffice it to say, it was no picnic.

“As my family fractured, the foundation of my spiritual life became my grandmother. She was always there for me. When my brothers and I went our separate ways into foster care, I began Hebrew school,” she remembers. “I really think I found God in that school, and I clung to that facet of my faith. In fact, I still have my childhood Torah. I bounced around a little and for a short while lived with my father and stepmother. She was a Protestant and at one point I became a Presbyterian. So I went from being Jewish, then becoming a Presbyterian, and when I went back to live with my mother, I started going to a Catholic church with my stepfather’s relative… And that’s when the call became strongest.”

Despite the path of tumult that had become Barbara’s faith life, she arrived at Catholicism in 1962. So many people turn away from religion, faith and God – as reflected in their behavior – because of the pain they suffer as children. Garden variety godlessness is almost too common in our culture to be called a “disease” or “mental illness”. It’s become a new normal for a world in which people (marketers) are literally buying our attention a second or a mouse-click at a time. But by becoming a Catholic, she was answering a call, and finding her way out of pain by looking deeper into her faith life. Not running from it.

“As a survival mechanism, at times, I held in my heart the idea that there was a God that loved me.” Quite possibly it was the pain she felt in her childhood that became the motive force that would fuel her conversion.

She was going to learn to love again.

“I never lost my faith, but it didn’t come easily either,” remembers Barbara. “You know, back then, there was no formal process for becoming a Catholic – no RCIA. I would meet with my pastor, Father John once or twice a week. We’d read through a Catechism that was written for children because no formal program existed – and we did it together. He challenged me. I challenged him. And all the while, this deep sense of peace began to develop within me. It kept getting deeper, and deeper and deeper.”

Slowly the feelings of abandonment that were so pervasive in her childhood began to lift. She could have – and many do – become a hateful person. She could have held the resentment inside and let it chafe her soul. “It took a long time, but in a way I am grateful for the way my childhood unfolded. Had I not felt all that pain, chances are I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

And who is that person today? “I’m a person who has a lot of empathy, compassion,”and she’s a person that gives a lot of herself to people with desperate situations. As part of the Emergency Assistance Team, she reminds people that the Church is there for them in the material world as well as the spiritual. She supports her husband’s work as a Knight, and in an effort to empower the truly disenfranchised around us, she’s president of the Friends of Literacy program in the Lee County Library system, because “when I learned to read, it became the thing I turned to most to expand the world around me. I could go anywhere through the written word.”

We see it in every major faith tradition of our time. Possibly the greatest movement in spirituality of the 20th century was Alcoholics Anonymous, and the variety of 12-step spin-offs it bore in its wake. They all work in essentially the same way. People come in broken. They share with others. They learn about their brokenness and seek God. They amend their lives. They become decent human beings – and here’s the kicker – they carry the message and help other people to find the same peace and serenity which they can only describe as a miracle. It works because, built into the program, is the stipulation that they give of themselves so that others can also find God. And yet, we, in our stubbornness and self-centeredness, blow this off as if it were God’s mere suggestion. When we love people unconditionally and do what we can to help them, God takes care of us. In fact, He grants such profound peace and serenity when we use our pain and experience to help others, it’s as if… Jesus was trying to tell us something when He died on the cross. Could it be that simple? Nah. There’s got to be more to it.

Barbara’s journey wasn’t a “competition” of faiths that Catholicism won out. Her journey started with overcoming emotional pain and feelings of abandonment, and has culminated in a place where the only thing that makes sense is to live a life of service. Punch Card Catholics come to Church because – even if they’re just going through the motions – they know the answers are here. They know that the solution to their suffering is in the Gospel, and make no mistake, we are all suffering in one way or another.

We suffer because of our inability to love – to love like God taught us. No matter how many times we fall – or feel abandoned – our faith that God will send us the person to teach us how to love cannot waiver. He will do it. “I have a prayerful way of being, and I don’t know where this journey will lead, but I believe with every fiber of my being, that it will lead me home.” If we don’t learn how to love… if we don’t learn how to fully live in God’s world, we will have missed the meaning of life. No Ferrari, no McMansion, no amount of pleasure will compensate for that. So when we contemplate the meaning of Easter, please think only of the love God has for us, and get busy emulating it. Our suffering is our greatest teacher, because without it, we cannot grow closer to Him. Be grateful for it.

February 9, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Marriage: A New Look at the Vocation

A Peek Into the Future

Good golly (Miss Molly), what will the future hold for the Church? With the installation of our new, beloved Pope, we can already see the trajectory of the Church changing (for the better). The pipeline of leadership must always be full. Since 1965, priestly vocations are down about 30% according to a Georgetown University study, and there are over 3,500 Parishes in the US without a resident Pastor! Across the world over the same period of time, the exact number of priests has dropped by 7,492 – but the population has more than doubled. However, after decades of glum trends — fewer priests, fewer parishes — the Catholic Church in the United States has a new statistic to cheer: More men are now enrolled in graduate level seminaries, the main pipeline to the priesthood, than in nearly two decades.

This year’s tally of 3,694 graduate theology students represents a 16 percent increase since 1995 and a 10 percent jump since 2005, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

Seminary directors cite more encouragement from bishops and parishes, the draw of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the social-justice-minded Pope Francis, and a growing sense that the church is past the corrosive impact of the various scandals that exploded in 2002.
In this diocese, we have two seminarians attending St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. We like to introduce them to you and show that there are real people coming up through the ranks. One day they could be spreading the Good Word in our Parish, and if they inspire you to walk the path in their footsteps, don’t hesitate make the call (941-484-9543 is the number, by the way, for vocations).




Crawford Bennett

Crawford is 25 years old and was born in Dunedin, Florida. He considers St. Martha’s in Sarasota his home parish. God has always been a part of his life. Crawford has been a Catholic all his life and realized he had a strong calling to the Priesthood while in middle school. He enjoys altar serving because he loves the Liturgy of the Mass. He enjoys reading, language study, and creation. Crawford graduated from St. John Vianney College Seminary in May 2012. He is continuing his seminarian studies by attending St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and is in his second year of Theology. For him, the most rewarding aspect of becoming a Priest will be helping the People of God and being a “Father” to all.



Lawton Lang

Lawton was born and raised in Sarasota, FL. He was active in the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He first felt the call to the priesthood when he was around 12 years old. Lawton enjoys bike riding, fishing, and was an executive chef before entering the seminary. Lawton graduated from St. John Vianney College Seminary in May 2011. He is continuing his seminarian studies by attending St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and is currently on a Pastoral Year at St. Leo Parish. Lawton received the Ministry of Lector in September 2011. He also received the Ministry of Acolyte this past October. Lawton feels his greatest challenge in becoming a priest will be to proclaim the Word of God to the parishioners. He senses that the most rewarding aspect of being a priest will be the saving of souls through the Eucharist.

January 26, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Season is Here – Just LOOK at that Calendar!

Wow! What an unbelievable amount of activity taking place all around us – just in this Parish alone, there’s an event almost every weekend! Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling trapped under the weight of it all? If not, that’s great… just don’t try to drive down Daniels Parkway at 5:00 pm. When we try to grasp the full scope of activity taking place around us, we can start the wheel of ‘stinking thinking’ that turns in our head. “I’m expected to go to THIS conference, or THAT fundraiser.” “Oh no! I have to see THIS person, who’s always at THAT event, and we’re going to end up talking about SO & SO and that stresses me out…” There are 100 forms of fear and stress that can take us out of our spiritual selves, and dump us right back into the ways of the world. But I would argue that there’s an alternate way to look at this wave of activity. Why don’t we try to look at these events, and workshops, and conferences, and speakers, as our community’s voracious commitment to your spirituality. These are opportunities to connect with people, to grow in our faith, and to LOVE more fully. I would argue that Christ wants to teach us how to live the best life we’re able to – and in these seminars, these retreats, these picnics – are lessons on how to be more fully Christian. So don’t stress – stay off Daniels during rush hour – and entertain the thought that you may not have all the answers. That there’s still room to grow. And that every gathering of people is a chance to see the face of God in our fellows. -DH


Short List of Events

  • Scout Sunday is next Sunday, the 2nd, at the 9:15 Mass
  • the Diocesan Apologetics Conference on Tuesday, February 4th
  • the Catholic Medical Association’s speaker on Wednesday, February 5th
  • the Women’s Conference on Saturday, February 8th
  • the Valentine’s Day Tea Party on Friday, Febraury 14th
  • the Anniversary Mass at Epiphany Cathedral on February 15th
  • the Parish Picnic & Talent Show on Sunday, the 16th at 12:30 pm
  • Patrick Coffin of Catholic Answers speaks on Wednesday, February 18th
  • the Marriage Retreat on Saturday, February 22nd
  • the K of C’s River Boat Cruise on Sunday, the 23rd
  • the Men’s Conference on March 1st
  • Paul Todd on Sunday, March 16th
  • the Leaven Conference on Saturday March 29th

Registration Sunday is Here!

For those of you who are new to our Parish this year, and to those who’ve been coming for years without being registered, we need your help in staying organized and planning for our future needs. Having an accurate database of our Parishioners will help us know where and how we need to grow. Here is a short list of the main benefits to registering:

1. Not sure if dual registration is okay with your northern Parish?
It’s more common than you’d think. You can be registered at two Parishes. Registering here helps us plan for the future, plan for events and plan for our variable costs that fluctuate with membership levels. You are part of our Parish Family as a Winter Parishioner.

2. Want to be a Godparent or Confirmation Sponsor recognized by The Church?
In order to be eligible to become a Godparent recognized by the Church, you need to be registered at our Parish – that is – regular attendance and participation in the life of the community.

3. Need your Year-End Contribution Statement for tax purposes?
We can only send you tax statements if we know who you are, so please register.

4. Need a Letter of Registration?
Often people come to us as they are trying to get their child into Catholic school, or they are moving to another state and trying to prove participation in their former Parish – we can only help you if we know who you are.

And finally, register because it’s easy. Here’s how!

1. Go to our Parish website and click on “Join” in the main, parent menu. You can go directly to this link –
2. There will be 4-6 parts to the form, please fill out as much information as possible.


1. Fill out a registration card. They can be found at the welcome center in the Narthex, or at the back door entrance.
2. Either drop it in the offertory basket, bring it to the office during business hours (Mon-Fri, 8:00-Noon & 1:00-4:00 pm), or mail it in to Blessed Pope John XXIII 13060 Palomino Lane,Fort Myers, FL 33912

And that’s it! Thank you for taking the time to do this. Help us plan for those needs so that we can become the community that God wants us to be. Blessings!

With Restless Hearts: How to Live the Gospel of Life in a Secular World

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Learn to Live the Gospel of Life in a Secular Society at this year’s Blessed Pope John XXIII Catholic Church Mission “With Restless Hearts”. Featuring Father Denis Wilde, OSA, Ph.D.  Sunday, January 12  thru Tuesday, January 14 from 7 to 8 p.m. each evening.  Augustinian Friar and Associate Director of Priests for Life, Father Denis Wilde, OSA, Ph.D. will be leading the mission entitled With Restless Hearts:  How to Live the Gospel of Life in a Secular World.

Join us where, as people of faith, we unpack and explore the heartbeat of our Catholic Faith; Who we are and where we’re going (Sunday at 7:00 pm); The means the Church offers us to get there (Monday at 7:00 pm); Our lived responsibility to one another on the way (Tuesday, at 7:00 pm). Find us at 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, FL 33912