Mar. 19th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Faith can’t grow without temptation, pope tells Rome priests

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — Faith is a continuing path of growth and maturity that cannot progress without the presence of temptations, Pope Francis told priests of the Diocese of Rome.

How faith develops in “a man, in a priest” despite his flaws can be seen in St. Peter, the pope said March 2 as he led a meditation with diocesan and religious clergy.

“One thing is clear: Temptation is always present in the life of Simon Peter and temptation is always present in our lives. Moreover, without temptation, you cannot progress in faith. In the ‘Our Father,’ we ask for the grace to not fall but not to not be tempted,” he said.

The meeting, held at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, was delayed for roughly 45 minutes as Pope Francis heard the confessions of a dozen priests, according to the Vatican press office.

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Greeted with a warm applause by the priests, the pope said that he would not read his entire meditation and instead focus on key aspects of his talk, titled, “The progress of faith in priestly life.”

Without a continual growth in faith, the pope said, priests run the risk of remaining immature and living priestly life “halfway.”

“And we priests, if we do not have a mature faith capable of generating faith in others — that is, fatherhood — we can do harm and so much evil. But if faith grows, it does so much good,” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks.

Faith, he continued, must be nourished by three important components: memory, rooted in the faith of the church and “the faith of our fathers”; hope, which sustains faith; and “discernment of the present moment.”

These three components, however, hinge on a “fixed point.” The pope gave the example of a basketball player who, with his foot firmly “pinned to the ground,” moves to either protect the ball, find a way to pass it or look for a path toward the basket.

“For us, that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ,” the pope said. “Faith — the progress and growth of faith — is always based on the cross, on the scandal of the cross.”

Memory, he explained, feeds and nourishes faith, particularly the memory of the “covenant the Lord has made with us” through parents and grandparents.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope recalled a retreat when he found it difficult to be touched by the preacher’s meditation on death and the final judgment.

At that moment, he said, “I remembered a writing my grandmother had on her nightstand: ‘Be careful, God is watching you. Think that you will die and you do not know when.’ And in that moment, I could pray and go forward. It was (my) roots that opened the way. A Christian always progresses from the root. Do not forget your roots.”

Pope Francis said that faith is also strengthened through hope, which helps priests to “find new things” from their past to encounter God in those they are called to help.

“Faith is knowing how to see in the face of the poor you meet today, the same Lord who will come to judge us according to the protocol of Matthew 25, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

To understand the past and sustain hope for the future, he added, discernment in the present is important and it often involves taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

Priests, however, often have the “insidious temptation” of “sterile pessimism,” which seeks to resolve matters quickly and often gives in to the “evil spirit of defeat.”

An example of a progression in faith through memory, hope and discernment, he said, is the apostle Peter, a man who is a “paradox” in that Jesus would often extol the virtues of others while Peter was often reproached for his lack of faith.

Peter’s faith, however, is “faith that is tested,” and through that he has the mission of confirming the faith of the disciples and the church today.

At key moments in his life, the pope continued, Peter is strengthened in his faith. Jesus “prays for him so that his weakness, and even his sin, is transformed into a grace” for him and for all.

Not following the example of Peter, the pope said, “a priest or a bishop who does not feel he is a sinner, who does not confess, who is closed in himself, does not progress in faith.”

Pope Francis explained that the devil’s greatest temptation was to instill in Peter the idea that he was “not worthy to be Jesus’ friend because he betrayed him.”

Although “the weight of our sins makes us move away from the Lord,” the pope said the Lord is always faithful and “confirms us in our shepherding, in leading the flock.”

“The Lord keeps moving forward and Peter’s faith is full. And that sinner, who denied him, the Lord made him pope,” Pope Francis said. “That is the Lord’s logic.”

Mar. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Fasting: Lent’s spiritual practice creates space for prayer

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — There is no getting around fasting during Lent.

Not only is it one of the three pillars of spiritual practice along with prayer and almsgiving, but it also bookends the period of preparation for Easter.

Fasting and abstinence is required of adult Catholics, ages 18-59, at the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and at its end on Good Friday. This means eating only one full meal and two small meals that equal one meal as well as no snacks in between meals and no meat consumption.

Creighton University’s Online Ministries program, “Praying Lent 2017,” says the purpose of fasting is to “experience the effects of not eating. It also serves to be a penance or a sacrifice for the purpose of strengthening us.”

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“When we get hungry, we have a heightened sense of awareness,” it adds, noting that the practice helps people to clarify their thoughts. “It is purifying and prepares us to pray more deeply,” the resource from Jesuit-run Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, points out.

In addition to the two days of fasting, Catholics 14 and older are obligated to abstain from eating meat during Fridays in Lent.

The Friday practice is a sacrifice meant “to help Catholics make much bigger sacrifices,” the Creighton resource says, pointing out that not eating meat doesn’t give someone permission to eat a fancy fish meal. And for vegetarians, it could mean abstaining from a favorite meal.

Fasting, which has deep roots in many religious traditions, is meant to draw participants into deeper prayer and also link them with those in need.

For Christians, the tradition has roots in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples how they should look when they are fasting — not gloomy, not neglecting their appearance and with their faces washed so they do not appear to be fasting.

“Jesus says when we fast, not if,” said Father John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan.

He said the key to fasting is to attach an intention to the practice “rather than seeing it as a flexing of our self-discipline muscles.” It makes the practice “not about me but someone else,” he told Catholic News Service March 1.

“Fasting is heavy artillery,” he added because the person doing it is denying themselves something and trusting that God will use it.

Although fasting is technically not eating food, giving something up can also be a form of fasting.

Msgr. Charles Murphy, author of the 2010 book: “The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice” said there are two forms of fasting — total and partial. A total fast is eating nothing and drinking nothing for a designated period of time where a partial fast involves giving up certain things for a specific period of time.

Partial fasting is a popular part of Lent where people choose to give up something such as soda, candy, beer, television or more increasingly, social media.

The top things people said they were going to give up this Lent, according to OpenBible.info, a Web search engine that examined Twitter posts during the week of Feb. 26, included a mix of social media and food and one wishful thinking: school. The only other top 10 mention that wasn’t a food or drink was to give up swearing.

Partial fasting, just like a full fast, shouldn’t be done to benefit the person doing it. “It’s not to make us more narcissistic, which it can do,” said Paulist Father Jack Collins, who helped Busted Halo, the Paulist website, with videos like “You don’t know Jack about Lent” a few years ago.

“We don’t fast to feel good, but to remind ourselves that half the world goes to bed hungry,” he said, adding that it’s a way of reminding us “we are our brother’s keeper.”

Paulist Father Larry Rice, director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin, is not keen on people looking for a loophole in their fasting practices, for example saying that Sundays don’t count and they can have whatever they gave up that day.

“I get that people want a pressure relief valve, ” he said, “but when I open my missal it says the First Sunday of Lent” meaning Sunday counts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gives a little leeway here. In its fasting guidelines it notes that if someone is giving something up for Lent it is more effective if it is continuous — “kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the church, but by individual conscience.”

Father Rice, who is giving up riding elevators for Lent, said the Catholic college students he works with typically give up a food or social media. “They won’t give up texting. That would be like giving up breathing,” he added.

This age group, and Catholics at large, could take a small step toward a phone fast by following the initiative of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, which urged Catholics to not use their phones on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday this year “as a way to reflect on God and the meaning of the Easter season.”

Fasting: Lent’s spiritual practice creates space for prayer

Mar. 5th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Here I am Lord, Reformed by Lent

ST. JOHN XXIII LENTEN PROGRAM

by: Jennifer Engelman

It is getting busy in southwest Florida! We are into the month of March with Spring Training at two local parks, many out-of-town guests coming to visit, and with so many wonderful events in our communities. Where do you find the time to attend a Lenten program at our parish? Simply schedule it into your calendar. We invite you to come as you are as we offer you time for a little peace, rest and spiritual health.

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As our parish continues to grow, so does our need for growing in our faith and connecting with others in our parish. Join us to take another look at Lent and to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Lenten Program titled, Here I am Lord, Reformed by Lent, helps us observe the 40-day period that replicates Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert. We in turn join Him through fasting, repentance, self-denial and spiritual growth. Most importantly we want to set aside time for reflecting on Jesus, who suffered and sacrificed His life for us all.

This inspirational Lenten Program is offered by our Faith Alive! Team, who are a group of dedicated, faith-filled parishioners that give of their time and talent. The Faith Alive! Team formed about 5 years ago when we met with a small group of interested parishioners. I am blessed to be a part of this team that meets and offers their experience as teachers, presenters and facilitators. We come from varied backgrounds but our love of Jesus brings us forward to present and share. Since the team’s inception we continue to offer well-thought out programs that help our parish come together in small groups to discuss and share their faith with each other. We are all excited about the Catholic Faith and we want you to be too.

Remember that despite our weaknesses, Jesus takes us as we are. Come join us for all five sessions or even one or two evenings. Come grow in your faith and become energized by Lent – and say, “Here I am Lord!”

Feb. 26th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Building a Civilization of Love

PARISH MISSION WITH FR. BERETTA

The news in our world is dominated by turmoil. Violence and political tensions are on the rise at home and abroad.

Last summer, in the midst of many other incidents, an 84-year old French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, was murdered as he celebrated Mass. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, in Poland for the World Youth Day when Fr. Hamel was killed, issued a statement to young pilgrims before rushing home: “The only weapons which the Catholic Church can take up are prayer and brotherhood among peoples. I return home leaving hundreds of young people who are truly the future of humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of violence, but to become apostles of the civilization of love.”

The Mass that Fr. Hamel died celebrating reminds us that adversity, tragedy, and loss do not relieve us of our call to love one another. As disciples, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and turn the other cheek.

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We are called to build the Kingdom of God, a civilization of love, and to do so requires both trust in God and the radical optimism that affirms the goodness of every human being. This trust and optimism is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

As our world is gripped by fear and anxiety, our mission as a Church is that much more vital and necessary. The mission will explore how authentic faith and vibrant spirituality can help to ground us in our challenging and difficult times.

ABOUT FR. BERETTA:

Fr. Chris Beretta, an Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, is the principal at Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE. A native of California, he graduated from Paul VI High School in Fairfax, VA, in 1986, and Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (now DeSales University) in Center Valley, PA, in 1991, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Theology.

As a young Oblate, he taught Social Justice to juniors and helped coach basketball and baseball at Salesianum from 1991-1993. He returned to graduate school and earned a Master of Divinity from the DeSales School of Theology in Washington, DC, and a Master of Arts in Sport Psychology from the University of Maryland, in 1997. He was ordained a priest on May 31, 1997, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, and was assigned again to Salesianum from 1997-1999. In July, 1999, he transferred to Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, FL, where he would spend eleven years, first as campus minister from 1999-2003, and then as principal from 2003-2010, maintaining involvement in the classroom, coaching, and retreat and service programs as he transitioned into school leadership.

In Holy Week of 2008, he made his first trip to Haiti, where the life and work of Fr. Tom Hagan, OSFS, has had a transformative influence on his faith and ministry. In July 2009, he received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and one year later, in July 2010, returned to Salesianum as the school’s 17th principal.

Now in his seventh year at Salesianum, he remains energized by the challenge of building a community of faith and learning, integrating 21st century learning with Salesian spirituality, and working with dedicated colleagues to maintain a student-centered environment that is both reflective of the world’s diversity and authentically Catholic. He has served in Catholic schools for twenty-two years as a teacher, coach, campus minister, and principal.

Feb. 19th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Christ’s Covenant at St. John XXIII

by: Mike Mullin

Bulletin articles over the past 6 weeks have restated our major parish goal of enhancing the spiritual fulfillment of our parishioners. Our parish mission statement commits our clergy, the administrative staff, and our ministry members, to provide the liturgies and support programs which contribute to the success of this faith journey for all our members. A key structure chosen to illustrate that effort over the last 4 years has been the New Covenant of our Lord, instituted at the Last Supper, and foretold in scriptural passages such as “They shall be my people and I will be their God. I will make an everlasting covenant with them and not cease to do them good”.

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Five areas of increased spiritual activity have been suggested to direct our thoughts and help us to identify the actions which could lead anyone of us to a deeper participation in Christ’s Covenant, therefore attaining the graces and spiritual fulfillment it promises.

The 5 areas are:

  • Worship: Frequently, Zealously, Adoringly
  • Grow: Knowledge, Faith, Virtue
  • Serve: Assist, Provide, Establish
  • Connect: Relate, Develop, Conclude
  • Give: Gratitude, Sharing, Sacrifice

We refer to them as the “Pillars of the Covenant” and examples of each of them have been featured in previous bulletins, highlighting many members of the parish who have grown spiritually from their participation in the various ministries and programs offering such opportunities.

Today, just 10 days before Ash Wednesday and the start of our Lenten season, it seems very fitting that we provide the Covenant document once again for your review and prayerful consideration. It appears on page 3 of this bulletin. We hope you will study it at home, go on-line to reread the earlier stories, and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to aid you in forming your response to the offer of mercy and love that God has so freely given. You may choose to make the symbolic gesture of signing the Covenant in ink, but it’s even more meaningful that you live it out after accepting it in your heart and soul. May God bless us all.

Feb. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Ministries Your CFA Dollars Support

The Diocese of Venice serves as the hands of Christ throughout its ten counties of Southwest Florida, with the mission of providing for the spiritual and material needs of the faithful. The following pages highlight the hard work and collaborative efforts of the many dedicated people of the Programs, Departments, and Diocesan Offices who carry out this mission. It is through the generosity of Catholics like you that sharing God’s love is made possible.

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  • Building Department
  • Catholic Charities
  • Catholic Schools Department
  • Child and Youth Protection
  • College Campus Outreach
  • Continuing Education
  • Diocesan Marriage Tribunal
  • Diocesan Retreat Center
  • Family Life Outreach
  • Haitian Apostolate
  • Hispanic Apostolate
  • Marriage Preparation
  • Mass on TV for the Homebound
  • Office of Evangelization
  • Office of Religious Life
  • Peace and Social Justice Office
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Poor Parishes and Missions
  • Prison Outreach
  • Religious Education Office
  • Respect Life Department
  • Safe Environment Program
  • Seminarian Education
  • Stewardship/Development
  • Support for Convents
  • The Catholic Center
  • Vocations Office
  • Worship Office
  • Young Adult Outreach

Jan. 29th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Catholic School’s Week

Receiving the Call to Serve

by: Clayton Atkins

People often speak of receiving a call to serve. The language has become something of a cliché: we hear how “we are all called to serve God in different ways”; how “we are called to serve each other”; or, especially this time of year, how we are called to serve the Church by supporting this or that drive, appeal, or fundraiser. In my case, I received a literal call to service—a phone call that is.

I had just moved back to Fort Myers with my soon-to-be wife, who had accepted a teaching position at a local elementary school. I had spent the last seven years in Gainesville, Florida, where we met, where I studied Literature, where I soon realized that there weren’t many jobs for bookish types who liked to read and talk about literary things, and where I subsequently jumped around from one job to another. I wouldn’t say that I was floundering, but my life certainly lacked direction. My professors at the university had talked me out of pursuing a graduate degree in English, citing poor career prospects for teaching positions in the humanities. I remember one of them telling me that if I wanted to teach English, high school would be my best bet. So I toyed with the idea; I suppose it was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t fully committed. I didn’t have a plan.

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Then I received my call. I had only been back in town for a few months when my phone rang with an unknown number on the screen. Upon answering, I recognized the familiar, yet somewhat forgotten voice of my former English teacher from Bishop Verot. She mentioned an unforeseen vacancy in the English department, said that she had heard that I was back in town, and immediately thought of me.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Great. You got a job. Good for you, but what does any of this have to do with service?” Well, I would encourage you to speak with teachers about their work; I can assure you that even a short conversation about their day-to-day lives would reveal that teaching is nothing if it is not service to others. This is especially true of teaching at a Catholic school.

I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised when I received my call to serve as a teacher at a Catholic school, even if it did seem to come out of nowhere. Although I hadn’t spoken with my former teacher in years, I thought about her often. It was in her classroom where my heart and mind were first captivated by the power of the written word. I remember many late nights in college when something I read would trigger a memory from her class: an oft-repeated phrase, a silly pun, a deep insight. Her passion, understanding, and devotion changed my life, and I hadn’t even recognized it.

I had never given it much thought, but I am most certainly a product of Catholic education: I attended Catholic schools for the entirety of my childhood and adolescence, so I was used to having passionate teachers who cared about their subjects and, more importantly, their students. In my years as a student at Bishop Verot, it wasn’t uncommon to see a dozen or so lonely cars scattered throughout the parking lot as the sun set in the evenings. Today, this is still a common sight. The teachers at Bishop Verot sacrifice their time and energy to serve their students—staying late to help a struggling student, plan a memorable lesson, or read a never-ending stack of college essays.

There is a reason why I chose to use the word sacrifice. The notion of Christian service is intricately intertwined with sacrifice. Perhaps a Bible verse will best illustrate my point. In John’s telling of Christ’s final days, immediately before Jesus serves his disciples his Last Supper, he humbles himself and performs a service for them.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. ‘In all truth I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. (13 John)

What Christ was calling his disciples to do, and what he is calling on us to do by his example, is to serve. It is telling that Jesus chose that particular moment to perform this simple service. He was about to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. To serve another is to sacrifice a part of yourself. Service is an act of giving, and in order to give, we must give something up. However, it is important for us not to think of sacrifice only in the negative way that the word is often intoned. There is a beauty to Christ’s sacrifice, made in service to all of humanity.

In this passage, Christ twice refers to himself as “Teacher.” Teachers sacrifice their time and energy every day for their students. But an important aspect of this passage is Christ’s inversion of the roles of Masters and Servants. Christ, the Master, Teacher, and Lord, humbly serves His servants. An integral aspect of Catholic education is attempting to reverse the role of Teacher and Student. Teachers are called to serve their students, but students are likewise called to serve each other.

I know from personal experience at Bishop Verot, that students learn to serve each other in many ways. This service can manifest itself in small acts of kindness such as tutoring a struggling student, standing up for a fellow classmate, or volunteering for local charities. But oftentimes, this service can also take the form of heartwarming displays of communal sacrifice. Two years ago, when a Bishop Verot student was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo costly treatment, our basketball coach, Coach Herting, organized “Southwest Florida’s largest garage sale” in our gymnasium. Students were encouraged to donate anything of value. The result was an entire basketball court littered with stuff, and hundreds of faculty members, staff, students, and parents sacrificing their time to clean, organize, and sell it. Yes, we all gave something up, but in giving, we received what we always receive when we sacrifice ourselves for others—community, warmth, friendship, and that feeling of satisfaction that you can only get from serving others.

This is just the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about how the Bishop Verot family serves the community and one another; there are countless others.

In light of this year’s Catholic Schools Week, I would like to encourage each of you to speak with current and former students from St. Francis Xavier and Bishop Verot, to get an idea about how they are learning to be of service to our community.

For more information visit their websites:
http://stfrancisfortmyers.org/
http://bvhs.org/

Jan. 22nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Growing in Your Faith Sounds Wonderful… Until the Work Begins

By Damian Hanley

If growing in our faith was easy, everyone would do it. Some days, I feel like stagnation is an accomplishment. But it’s not. Stagnation is a lie. Without concerted effort to become better Catholics, entropy leads us down a path that is so, so easy to walk down. Everywhere we look we see the cheapening of life and the degradation of humanity. And so we go to Church every Sunday and pay our bills. We’re kind to others and we’re patient in our workplace. We forgive telemarketers for interrupting us. Sometimes we even look our waiter in the eye and over-tip because we know his life is hard and we’ve been blessed. But this isn’t growth. This is just common decency.

This week, or month, or year or whatever your stamina can tolerate, we want to challenge you to grow in your faith. What does that even mean? Being a better Catholic means going out of your way to be messengers of Christ. He taught love, tolerance, forgiveness, patience and in general, alleviating the suffering that is everywhere you look… if you look.

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We interviewed Kathy Ogan because she’s an example of someone that didn’t have to change. There are plenty of women in her demographic that play golf and swill martinis and live out their lives in relative comfort because…why not? Let’s face it, most of us need an absolute crisis to get shaken out of our comfort zones. And outside our comfort zones is where real growth takes place. Disagree? Go spend an afternoon on Palm Beach Blvd at our St. Martin de Porres ministry and try to spread the Gospel there. Report back to us.

But by all measures, Kathy had an idyllic upbringing.

“I was the youngest of 6 children and my parents were very involved with the faith. We grew up saying the Rosary during the month of the Rosary and there was a lot of prayer in the home. There were a lot of religious artifacts around the house, and my family was heavily involved with the Church. I went to Catholic grade school and high school, but after high school, there might have been a few years where I didn’t really attend regularly – for no particular reason. But I eventually made it back.”

Dysfunctional parents? Nope. “My mother was my role model. Kind, giving, gentle and faith-filled, she always brought the lessons of life back to her faith.”

For a lot of us, we move through life and take our faith for granted. That is, we make mistakes, we stumble, but we’re surrounded by a social safety net that will catch us before we fall too low. Our appetites are tame because we want for nothing. We have a general sense that the world is a decent place because, well, this is the United States and we believe in fairness and some semblance of a meritocracy.

But somewhere along the way, an inexplicable void antagonizes our peace. Some turn to the drink, others affairs or money. We seek and do not find until we realize that the cure to what ails us is spiritual.

And this is where, whether overtly or in the depths of our soul, we ask our God to touch us and push us in the direction of growth.
Sometimes our need to grow comes later in life, as it did for Kathy. “I was at women’s Catholic retreat in my mid-40’s at my Parish in Indiana. And during that weekend, I heard women share their stories. I heard them talk about serious conflicts in their lives and how they’d depended on their faith to carry them through. It was the first time in my life that I really started considering a personal relationship with Christ. There was also this priest that went through each part of the Mass and explained the evolution of how the modern Mass came to be. It was an incredibly intimate experience.”

Kathy emerged more dedicated and genuinely wanting a closer connection to her faith. She became a Eucharistic Minister and a Sacristan. “It wasn’t even something I was looking for at that time, but I said yes.”

Having that intimate encounter with the women on the retreat – women on the same mission as herself taught her a valuable lesson.
“You see and feel on a deeper level that everyone carries something with them. And you find out how they survive – how they make it. You find out from where they draw their strength. It’s Christ.”

Really, it is though.

“One woman forgave another couple for their son shooting and killing her son. It was accidental, but she knew she had to confront these people and tell them that she forgave them, and that she didn’t hold any ill feelings.”

That experience taught her the vital importance of sharing those parts of ourselves with each other, because we’ve all got something to work on. That’s how we grow. We confront the darkest parts of ourselves. Our culture would have gladly justified her resentment if she were to carry it to her grave, but our faith demands we forgive.

God has a way of covertly touching our hearts when we aren’t expecting it. Kathy is a very poised, elegant woman who you may not expect would jump head first into the gritty side of hospital ministry, but she did.

“I’ve worked on fundraisers and concert committees, and been a Eucharistic minister, but the hospital ministry has definitely provided the most growth in my faith. You walk into a room and you never know what you’re going to find. These are people who are in serious need of communion.”

“I’ve been to many of the women’s retreats and in them you meet so many of the women of the Parish. It makes you feel so connected. You realize we’re all part of this great community… and that’s what I was really looking for. I don’t want to be just a church attendee. I want to be a church member.

Kathy is the community outreach chair of her neighborhood. She volunteers at Lifeline Family Center – a home for at-risk pregnant and new mothers. She’s begun volunteering at Verity, a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. This is the track record of a person who is in “growth mode”.

There have been periods of my life characterized by this path as well. Kathy is purposefully putting herself in situations where the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society reside – the ill and infirmed, the isolated and ashamed. These are the people that Christ would have spent his time with if he were walking the earth today.

Our Parish – St. John XXIII is a faith-filled place, full of believers and those that understand the Path. We know how to walk the path, and we know better when we’re not walking it. But there is still a huge population of people out there – the young, the neglected, and the exploited, who really don’t know what it means to be loved. Christ to them is an esoteric idea that their lack of self-worth won’t allow them to truly accept.

If they were present, their parents were a disaster. Their educational system failed them, and they’re caught in a spiral of chasing hedonistic pleasure until the consequences become too much for them to handle.

The law catches up to them. An addiction overtakes them. They sell the only asset they have, and we, in our gated communities think only about trafficking and slavery when it hits the news or when October rolls around. But sex slavery and prostitution take no days off.

These are the girls that end up in the NICU, or at Verity, or at Lifeline because the $400 they were given to terminate, ended up at the methadone clinic. And it is the Catholic’s job to love these people.

That’s how we really grow. We love the unlovable – the lepers.
“The important truth that I’ve been searching for, for several years is…my purpose… What is my purpose for Christ on earth? And how can I use my experiences for good? Everything I’ve been through in my past – I’ve found – is to be used for his purpose,” Kathy shares. “Something will come through me and touch someone for His purpose.”

“The early stages of my faith journey didn’t really begin until my 40s, but the lesson I’ve learned is that growth only happens with participation… even the slightest bit of participation will take you somewhere. The one thing I’ve done right is I’ve just reached out. I have a list of past and present ministries that I’ve been a part of – like the soup kitchen or the food pantry. I’ll try something for a year and see if it feels right. Our Parish doesn’t care if something isn’t a fit.”

I think the first step to growth is awareness. If you have a roof over your head, a basic grasp of Christ’s message to the poor (of spirit) and are relatively happy, you have MUCH to give. This is your exercise for this week. Jump on your computer. Go to Google, and type in “lee county sheriff arrest yesterday” and click on the top result. Click on their names and look at their faces. Look at the years they were born – 1995, 1998, 1989. Look at their charges – larceny, petty theft, battery, DUI, trespassing, resisting an officer, possession of a controlled substance. Depending on what time of day, there might be 20 or 30 people. Look at their eyes. If you don’t think there are thousands of people in our city that need a Christian, you are telling yourself a lie. These people will end up at the Salvation Army. They’ll end up in prison. They’ll end up in a women’s shelter. They’ll end up in diversion programs, and they will continue this cycle until someone shows up and loves them the way Christ demands we love them. If you want to grow in your faith, this is the fast track. Volunteer at these places and see what happens to your spiritual life.

Be like Kathy. Put yourself in front of the suffering and you will grow. Common decency is nice, but holiness is much, much nicer.

Jan. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Worship as Identity and Purpose

by: Father Russell Ruggiero

When I was a young man, a family member said to one of my co-workers, “That Russell! Man, is he desultory (aimless).” One of the prominent drives in the human person is self-discovery and one’s purpose in life. There are those of us who go through life like a nomadic tribe, searching for identity and purpose in order to give meaning to our lives.

When Yahweh created the first covenant with Abraham and in Yahweh’s covenant with the Israelites with Moses, “I will be your God, and you will be My people” became significant for them. They now possessed an identity and purpose for an authentic and meaningful life. Worship played a salient role in the covenant because it recalled and reminded the Israelites who they were and how they were to be and live in the world. There could exist no covenant without worship and no worship without the covenant.

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Worship and the Sacramental life are two principal components of Roman Catholic Christians for the same reason. The Liturgy/Mass and the seven Sacraments recall, renew, restore, and celebrate our identity and purpose/meaning in life. As Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church), chapter 2, article 11 reminds us: “Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the source and summit of the Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God and themselves along with it. And so it is that, both in the offering and in Holy Communion, each in [one’s] own way, though not of course indiscriminately, has [one’s] own part to play in the liturgical action. Then, strengthened by the body of Christ in the Eucharistic communion, they manifest in a concrete way that unity of the People of God which this holy sacrament aptly signifies and admirable realizes.”

From the Church’s inception, She has reflected upon Her identity and purpose as being defined and lived “through Him, with Him, and in Him.” As the quote above suggests, it is by our participation in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharistic celebration and sacrifice, that we encounter Jesus’ redemptive and salvific action- His Paschal Mystery (Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension). All else (sacramental, liturgical, and devotional acts) flow from His self-donation, self-gift, self-sacrificial love. This is the power of worship.

Without worship to ground and direct us, our Liturgy would be a stage production that would stir emotion but no encounter with the Triune God. Without worship, our ministry would no longer be Jesus’, our mission would no longer be the Father’s, and our acts would be absent of God the Holy Spirit. They would be good and beneficial works of philanthropic and physical importance and change, but the risk would be a loss of our identity and purpose.

St. John XXIII’s commitment to our conviction of Jesus as the new and eternal covenant and worship’s highly unique role for our faith community’s identity and purpose is illustrated in the diversity of our various Worship ministries. Our Worship Committee Team endeavors with our ushers and hospitality team; lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist; altar servers; Art and Environment committee members; the volunteers for laundering the sacred vestments and cloths; Catechists for our Children’s Liturgy of the Word; our cantors, singers, and musicians in our various choirs (Adult, Children, and Contemporary); and the entire congregation to ensure an awareness and openness to the awe and glory that Father, Son, and Spirit come to dwell and celebrate with God’s people.

And our vision of constructing the Parish Life Center and our Adoration/Veneration chapel continue this conviction and commitment of worship’s role at St. John XXIII Catholic Church. All members are contributing not primarily to buildings. Rather, our dedication is continually to build a stronger parish that focuses on availing and increasing opportunities for all worshipers to place and regard worship as foundational to all that we are and do.

Negligence of worship is negligence of who and why we are and to whom we belong. We celebrate and worship because our Triune God has so loved the world that God cannot bear to be apart from any of us. And as the love of God which cannot be bound or constrained by space or time overflows and becomes present in our worship, so the Mass is never over and done, but only ended so that we continue the Mass’ power to be and act as Christ in the world.

Jan. 8th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Christ’s Covenant at St. John XXIII

By: Michael Mullin – Parish Advisory Council President

Throughout biblical history God has been actively and deliberately directing people to Him by establishing “covenants” with them. The first covenant was with Adam and Eve whose sinful action resulted in their banishment from Eden. Today, all who sin still share in this woundedness (Original Sin) and can be saved only by a new birth and life in Christ.

The second Covenant was made to Noah, a righteous man, at a time of great wickedness on earth. The wicked were destroyed by flood, but Noah and his people were permitted to be fruitful and increase in numbers.

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A third covenant was formed with Abraham and highlighted grace through faith, and this covenant was passed on to Isaac and Jacob and their heirs. It provided the early foreshadowing and testimony to the eventual New and Eternal Covenant of Jesus.

God continued to give His love and direction to His people as seen in the covenant made with Moses including the gift of the Ten Commandments, providing the Israelites with a way of living the covenant and receiving God’s salvation. The inevitable failure of some to meet those responsibilities pointed to the future need for a Messiah, an “anointed one” who would offer Himself for the salvation of all.

The final covenant of the Old Testament established the physical nation of Israel with David and his descendants, but also foretold that a spiritual kingdom would later come with the Messiah as king.

God’s great love for all people is clearly seen in these historical covenants, and His desire to form a personal covenant with each of us is found in many passages: “They shall be my people and I will be their God. I will make an everlasting covenant with them and will not cease to do them good”. He then became man, and in his final days, at the Last Supper, Jesus offered us this opportunity: “All of you drink of this: for this is the blood of the NEW COVENANT which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins”.

Isn’t it comforting to know that all of us are covered by an agreement creating and establishing a relationship with God that guarantees our heavenly salvation?! Does it move you to consider what you could be doing right now to enhance your relationship with God, offering you spiritual fulfillment and inner peace?

At St. John XXIII we are committed to a mission statement that says we will actively engage all those who desire to live more fully the message of Christ. As a result, over the last 4 years, we have suggested 5 fundamental areas where parishioners could focus their mental, physical and spiritual efforts to nurture personal holiness by living more responsibly as stewards of God’s gifts. You will see them featured on the banners behind the altar during the following 5 weeks, with one being emphasized every weekend.

The 5 pillars are:

Worship: As we seek forgiveness, acceptance and love, can we increase the fervor and zeal with which we admit our dependence on God and offer a greater expression of our gratitude?

Connect: Are we a supportive and positive influence in the lives of those around us in both the parish and in our community, offering friendship and concern as Jesus demonstrated?

Grow: As we consider our current position, can we expand our knowledge, faith, and virtue, to become a better expression of the person God wishes us to be?

Give: Do we adequately respond out of gratitude for the blessings received and enjoyed by sharing these gifts of God?

Serve: In the midst of a world beset with economic, sociological and spiritual dichotomy, what more should we be doing, and how much more should we be loving those needing mercy and help?

We have recently celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Christmas liturgies which tell of Christ’s birth as the reason for our salvation. Keeping the Christmas message in mind and with the approach of the Lenten season, let us focus on how to receive and live that message as we pray for the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance to recognize Christ’s New Covenant and our role to live out His Covenant.

We pray that the 5 pillars may nourish your thoughts and actions and bring you to an even greater sense of spiritual fulfillment.

Jan. 1st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

We celebrate the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 1st, which is the Octave of Christmas. Only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave, which is an eight day extension of the feast.

The honoring of Mary as the Mother of God can be traced back to the Council of Ephesus in 431. By the 7th century, January 1st was observed as a celebration of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the 13th century, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ had come to replace the feast honoring Mary; however in 1751, after a push in Portugal for an official feast day celebrating Mary’s divine maternity, Pope Benedict XIV allowed Portugal’s churches to devote a feast to Mary on the first Sunday in May. Eventually, the feast extended to other countries, and in 1914 began to be observed on October 11. In 1931, Pope Pius XI extended the feast to the entire church, and in 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar and replaced it with the feast of the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God”, bringing Mary’s feast day back to the first day of the year.

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The feast is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the Greek Theotokos, which means “God-bearer”. On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, God the Father prepared Mary to be the dwelling place where His Son and His Spirit could dwell among men. Christ’s birth was made possible by Mary’s fiat, or sanctioning of God’s plan with her words, “Be it done to me according to thy word”. Calling Mary “Mother of God” is the highest honor we can give to her. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace”, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace”. New Year’s Day is also designated as the “World Day of Peace”, further acknowledging the role of Mary in our hearts and in our world.

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Prayer:
Pray for us, Oh Holy Mother of God. May we be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Dec. 18th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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ADVENT: Celebrating the 4th Week

In this Fourth Week of Advent, our final days of preparation before Christmas, we ask Christ to forgive us for our sins and, through His grace, to create us anew when He comes. This week is also a time to recollect, to reflect on our Advent journey. If we have let the hustle and bustle of the season get in the way of our spiritual preparations for Christmas, we have one last chance to refocus and the light of the candles on the Advent wreath can be a symbol of our focus, as well as a symbol of the light of Christ.

Dear Jesus, may the light of your love always shine in our hearts. As Christmas draws closer, we marvel at your great love for us. Let your love transform every aspect of our lives and touch everyone we encounter. Our hearts are open to you, Jesus. Amen.

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General Announcements

Have you listened to our podcasts? Listen to weekly inspirational messages from Father Bob and homilies from Mass. Visit our site weekly at johnxxiii.podbean.com

‘Like’ our Facebook page! For all the latest happenings and inspirational messages ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Search ‘St. John XXIII Catholic Church’.

Our weekly newsletter! Visit our website, Johnxxiii.net, scroll down to “Stay Connected” and enter your email address.

Interested in serving our Parish family during Mass? Men, women and teens may serve as a Greeter, Usher, Lector, or Eucharistic Minister. Please contact the parish office at (239) 561-2245, if you feel called to serve in any of these areas, we can use your time and talent!

Catholic Physicians Registry: Due to frequent requests for Catholic physicians in the Diocese of Venice, the SW Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association is putting together a list of Catholic physicians whose practice adheres to the teachings of the Church. If you would like to be listed in this Directory for Catholic Physicians, please contact Dr. Steve Hannan for more information at www.floridacma.org or (239)849-6908 or shannan0@comcast.net

Lee GROWS Classes & Tours: Looking for something fun to do? Lee GROWS has openings for the 2017 classes and tours! The program consists of five one-day sessions running consecutively on Thursday’s. We start at 7:30am and return about 3pm.Each class is comprised of about 20-40 participants. Parking and lunches are included at no charge. It’s our hope that you take this opportunity to get an understanding of what happens “behind the scenes” of Lee County government. Registration is now open and always fills up quickly! For more information visit: https://www.leegov.com/leegrows

Liturgy of Remembrance Feast of The Holy Innocents: St. John XXIII will hold a special Liturgy on December 28th at 6:30pm to honor and celebrate the children of all ages that we have lost. Please bring an unframed picture of your child that can be pinned on a display. If no picture is available, we will have available mementos that can be used. If you are unable to attend but would like your child’s name included, please call Kate Lewis at (239) 561-8123 or e mail: cklew00@gmail.com
Women’s Guild Fashion Show: Will take place Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at Lexington Country Club.

If you are hospitalized at Gulf Coast Hospital and would like to be visited by one of our Eucharistic Ministers, please let the Hospital Admissions Office know you are from our parish and contact our parish office, as well. Once you go home, if you are unable to attend Mass and would like to have the Eucharist brought to you, please call the parish office. (239) 561-2245

People Asking For Money Outside of Church: We remind you that if there is anyone asking for money around the Church outside of Mass at our exits, ignore them. We have been contacted by the police regarding a group of professionals who travel to various churches. Be generous in giving to our Poor Boxes. That is where and how we can assist those who are truly in need. Be sure to take your purses with you to communion.

We need your help with keeping our database current: Have you moved, changed email addresses, dropped a landline or changed your cell number? Please email Maryann@johnxxiii.net with any changes or additions to your contact information.

Dec. 11th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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The Season of GIVING continues!

St. John XXIII would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Stella McCaffrey and her group of angels for all their hard work organizing and distributing gifts for the Angel Tree Program.

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You truly will make a difference in children’s lives this Christmas. Thank you for your continued kindness and generous spirit for those among us who are struggling and in need.

Over 800 gifts were donated! We are blessed to have such generous and giving parishioners who continue to support our growing community.

Dec. 4th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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The Season of GIVING

A total of 356 families received Thanksgiving food baskets through the outreach at St. Martin de Porres, and an additional 115 received a hot Thanksgiving dinner at the cafe on Thursday, November 23rd.

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St. John XXIII parishioners provided the vast majority of the food. Working with the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Publix, we were able to maximize the number of people served.

Part of that outreach included 25 complete meals distributed to parishioners at Jesus the Worker Parish on Thanksgiving morning.

We would like to personally thank all of our parishioners for their generosity and support of the Giving in Thanksgiving Program.

May all who are thankful for your salvation always say “How great is the Lord” Psalm 40:16

Nov. 27th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Blessing & Prayer for the Advent Wreath

During the Advent season, families should spend time together preparing for the approaching celebration of the birth of Christ. An Advent wreath can be a great focal point for family prayers and holiday celebrations.

An Advent wreath is a wreath of laurel, spruce or similar foliage with four candles that are lighted successively in weeks of Advent to symbolize the light that the birth of Christ brought to the world.

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Traditionally three of the candles are purple, the color of kings and of penance. A rose-colored candle is used to mark the Third Sunday of Advent as a time to rejoice over the closeness of Christmas and the coming of Christ.

Children love the beauty of the simple traditional ceremony. Lighting candles in an Advent wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home. Those who participate will cherish the experience all their lives.

Prayer:

Each day your family should gather around the Advent wreath, generally before the evening meal. The proper number of candles are then lighted and a prayer is said.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath:

It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath. (The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayer, following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family, then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and other appointed to light the candles.) The following prayer can be used:

Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.
Leader: O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The wreath would then be sprinkled with water.

The following prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week of Advent:

Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The candle is allowed to burn during evening meals for the first week.

Nov. 20th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A Thanksgiving Legacy

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to tell you how grateful I am for each of you- the people of St. John XXIII. I am thankful for you and your families; I am thankful for the opportunity to shepherd you; I am thankful for your generous sense of giving in so many different ways. The people of this parish are an inspiration and gift to me. And now, as you can see, I want to thank you for your contributions and pledges to our Capital Campaign. Such huge strides have been made in the short time since we began this journey.

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The picture on the cover of the bulletin depicts the new Parish Life Center. I want to let you know that included in the estimated original cost, we are able to include an Adoration Chapel (see insert on this page) and additional office space. Both of these things are not only needed, but will prove to be a wonderful blessing to the parish community.

The Adoration Chapel will allow our parishioners a place for private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in a beautiful setting overlooking the lake. This will be a wonderful addition to the parish campus.

I ask for your continued prayerful support and encourage everyone to continue making your pledges. If you haven’t yet made a pledge, please consider this opportunity to Build on Our Legacy. The Diocese of Venice has stipulated a three year fundraising period which will conclude in December 2017. All monies raised by this date are not assessed. As you know, 80% of our total building cost is necessary to break ground.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Bob Tabbert

Nov. 13th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Faith & Wine/Ale & Why Small Groups are Vital to Your Faith

By Damian Hanley

Small groups are the backbone of a healthy and thriving Church. At St. John XXIII, we like to think of ourselves that way. On more than one occasion from the pulpit, Father Bob describes the Church as the “triage hospital on the battlefield of life.” The small group is not just a pleasant addition to our Church, but a necessity for the spiritual health of its members. Without small groups, any ministry will be limited to what just a handful of leaders can accomplish by themselves.

In Exodus 18:21 (NASB), we read “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”

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There is great wisdom in the people of our small groups. We can’t (and shouldn’t) depend solely on our priests for the love and direction we need. Small groups can help prevent what has been called the “Sunday-Only” culture of our faith. We can’t simply sit and listen only on Sunday – faith is an active, all-week way of life. The opportunities to grow closer to God happen daily, and we need other people to help us see them. Faith & Ale and Faith & Wine Lee County are two such small groups that are growing rapidly in our diocese.

“We kicked off our third season on October 27th, and we’re really excited for this year’s events,” shares Sue Ammon, president of Faith & Wine. “In the beginning, three years ago, we got together month after month and planned it, hoping all along that people would actually want to come! On opening night we had almost 300 women. We were floored! We were so excited.”

“Faith and Ale originated from the Men’s Gospel Forum back in 2008 when we were still Blessed John the 23rd. We actually still meet every Monday morning at 7:00am to discuss this week’s upcoming Gospel,” Mike Lancellot shares.

Even if you don’t know a single person going into a monthly meeting, you’ll at least be inspired and entertained by their slated cast of speakers. Just this past November 10th, Faith and Ale hosted Major Ed Pulido, the Sr. VP of the Folds of Honor Foundation a Veteran’s charity which provides the spouses and children of the fallen and wounded educational scholarships. He’s also a Founding member of Warriors for Freedom Foundation – a leadership institute focused on the mental, physical and wellness support of our wounded Veterans and their families.

In August of 2004, Major Pulido hit an I.E.D, or roadside bomb, while serving with the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team under the command of General David Petraeus. Due to the extensive injuries to his left knee, doctors had to amputate his left leg. During his recovery, he experienced depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation, as part of what he describes as a “deep wounding of a soldier’s spirit.”

He then realized that recovery would become a lifelong process, a process dependent upon God, his country, and his close family and friends. He could not do it alone. This further reinforces the importance of small groups within a larger church. Small groups can provide a sense of family for many whose biological family lives far away. Unlike generations past, it is increasingly more common for adults to find themselves living far away from their biological family. Add the growing number of broken homes and dysfunctional families and you have a snapshot of the 21st century. The right kind of small group can play a vital role in providing a sense of family.

“After every single event, people come up to us as they’re leaving and tell us how much the speaker touched them. They were either struggling with an issue, or – and this is very common – people explain that they were thinking of leaving the Church, but something about the speaker convinced them to stay,” Sue shares. “These are the real reasons we started this ministry and we just get so excited when we hear them.”

Something unique happens in a small group setting, and it’s important we recognize it and explain why it matters. It’s cliché to say that we’re less connected in a world that is more connected than ever, but even if things hadn’t changed, it’s still hard to make friends as an adult! We’re set in our ways. We have a backlog of unconscious prejudice we’ve developed as a natural byproduct of living in our culture. We’re lazy and being social takes emotional energy, which we don’t have.

But small groups are the best place to meet new people, care for others and be cared for yourself. The idea that we can grow spiritually while isolating ourselves is insanity. Getting and giving direction based on spiritual principles must be done in dialogue with our fellows. In our childish minds, the myth of the ascetic visiting a mountaintop to absorb divine wisdom must be dispelled. That’s not you. We belong in community with others.

Dialogue is one of the key ingredients of spiritual growth. If every spiritual experience we have is about listening, if it’s all about one-way communication, then we’re going to miss one of the most important developmental aspects of a growing faith.

“We’ve been really excited about what happens at our events,” says Sue. “The women come in and they’re very enthusiastic. They like their glass of wine and connecting with each other, while eating together. And then after the speaker, we again connect in what we call Table Talk, where we usually share how the speaker has touched us.”

“We have a similar format,” Mike explains. “The men have their name tags with their Parish on them, and we definitely do form friendships with men of other Parishes. From 6:00 to 6:45 we have social time and after the speaker, there’s open Q&A. And the guys love it. We’ve really grown through word of mouth. This past season we averaged 216 men per event. Prior to that it was 174 per event and three seasons ago we were at 145 men on average. That kind of growth year after year means we’re doing something right.”

Despite the large number of people at each event, the social time is constrained to smaller round tables of 5-7 people, so that real conversation can take place. So, if you’re not already a part of a small group at St. John XXIII, Faith & Wine/Ale is a great place to start.

Small groups aren’t just a gimmicky church growth strategy. They’re not just the latest innovation. They’re not just something fun to do, nor are they just something to fill up people’s time.

Small groups are the heart of the Church, because without relational connections, the church isn’t The Church. At best, without relationships with Christ and our fellow Parishioners, we are putting on a show. At worst, we’re wasting people’s time, energy, and resources. Relationships with people who want what’s best for us and who are headed in the direction we want to head, and who aspire to a closer connection with Christ – these are what fuel our faith.

For more information on event dates, speakers and the mission of each organization, visit faithandale.com and faithandwineleecounty.com.

Nov. 6th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Vickie Gelardi Reflects on Her Role Within The Women’s Guild

By Colleen Leavy

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.

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The Women’s Guild success is due to the hard work of the many women who give so much of themselves. The following questions and answers reflect Vickie’s faith, commitment and dedication to her role within The Women’s Guild.

CL: What made you decide to serve/volunteer?
VG: I have been involved in volunteer work almost all my life. It comes from the home. My grandmother and mother always opened their home to the poor even though there were times we were the poor ones! I became more involved in St. John because of the people and how the parish is run by Fr. Bob, who makes it very easy for volunteers. I feel I want to contribute in this life to make life better for others. I volunteer my services to other organizations as well, such as St. Martin de Porres which I helped create from the beginning. My daughter and her sons are volunteers as well in church and in St. Martin’s. Like I said, it comes from the home.

CL: How long have you been president?
VG: I have served on the WG Board for almost four years. At first Linda Sayres was president, but a few months after we took office, I took over when she had a kidney replacement. She then resigned from the Board for personal reasons. My term ends next May 2017 after serving 4 years. Being President is a full time job and I give it 100%. I am fortunate to have a good Board to work with: Barbara Artale, VP, Carolyn Hartman, Secretary and Arlene Carlo, Treasurer.

CL: How do you support Fr. Bob with your mission?
VG: We are always supportive of Fr. Bob in whatever he needs us to do. We look to him as our leader in this Parish and try to follow his leadership in serving the poor, and others in need. He has a servant’s heart and so do we. Together we reach out to our community and help where needed. We are fortunate to have a Pastor who allows us the freedom to do our work in serving this community. Right now we are focused on raising funds for the Capital Campaign and we just donated approximately $17,627.58 to that cause.

CL: What would you tell someone who is interesting in volunteering?
VG: Volunteering is a rewarding experience. What is better in life than to help someone else. We do so much in the Guild to help others as you can see from our Snapshot. Money for sneakers, food, funds for Lifeline & Verity, Funeral Receptions, food for St.. Martin’s, etc. I call the Women’s Guild women “angels of the Guild”.

CL: What upcoming events do you have planned?
VG: Upcoming events are the Holiday Rectory Party December 9th, the Fashion Show March 18th, and a cruise in September 2017. Then there’s everything else that pops up in between: we are a busy bunch! Below is a snapshot of our activities. I would like our Parishioners to know what our activities are, how much we raised, and where it went. I would also like to welcome them to join us, we are always looking for new volunteers who want to help others, and have fun doing it!

Oct. 30th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Pope Francis says rigid ideology makes the Holy Spirit sad

While following doctrine is important, those who focus solely on its strict observance can “reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” Pope Francis said Oct. 6 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where he lives.

VATICAN CITY – Christians can fall prey to the enchantments of ideology that adhere to rigid requirements yet ignore and sadden the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.

While following doctrine is important, those who focus solely on its strict observance can “reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” the pope said Oct. 6 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

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“It is true that there are the commandments and we should follow the commandments; but always from the grace of this great gift given to us by the Father, the Son; it is the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus, one can understand the law. But do not reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” he said.

The pope reflected on Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which he reproaches the Christian community for pinning their salvation on obeying the law rather than following Christ.

“I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?” Saint Paul asks.

Saint Paul’s strong denouncement of the community, the pope said, can reveal three possible ways Christians can behave toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

In strongly denouncing the community, the pope said St. Paul reveals their belief of “being justified by the law and not by Jesus,” which is the first of three attitudes Christians act toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

“This attachment to the law makes one ignore the Holy Spirit. It does not allow the power of Christ’s redemption to come forward with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “This was the problem of these people: they ignored the Holy Spirit and didn’t know how to go forward. They were closed, closed in requirements: ‘do this, do that.’ We too, at times, can fall in this temptation.”

The second attitude, he continued, is to “sadden the Holy Spirit” when Christians allow their lives to be led by the “theology of the law” rather than “the freedom of the spirit.”

In doing so, he said, “we become lukewarm and fall into Christian mediocrity because the Holy Spirit cannot do great works in us.”

However, the third attitude is to be open to the Holy Spirit which helps to understand and receive Jesus’ words, he said.

“When a man or a woman is open to the Holy Spirit, it is like a sailboat swept by the wind that goes on and on and never stops,” the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to reflect on whether their spiritual lives are solely focused on observing the law or are “a continuous prayer” that helps them to “understand the doctrine of Jesus, the true doctrine, the one that does not enchant, the one that does not make me foolish.”

“May the Lord give us this grace to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that we do not become foolish, enchanted nor men and women who sadden the Spirit,” he said.

Oct. 23rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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

A Spiritual Solution Until a Medical One Arrives

By Damian Hanley

…In sickness and in health, till death do us part. When we hear those words, we immediately picture a young couple facing each other at an altar, about to take the most meaningful vows of their lives. And they mean it. It’s a black and white agreement. You are my responsibility until you or I perish. Healthy, happy marriages are one of the few institutions that, when we see that two people have it, it renews our faith. But what happens when the death of the mind precedes the death of the body?

Is this still the same person to whom you made vows? It is… and it isn’t. It is in the sense that their physical body has held continuity through time and space, but it isn’t if you’ve ever watched a loved one go through it. I have. I venture to guess many who read this have. Much unlike your vows, it is not a black and white process. It begins subtly, and ends… as American novelist Philip M. Roth attests, “old age isn’t a battle: old age is a massacre.” No matter how it’s caused, how it begins or ends, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their many variants, are tragic.

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If you’ve been with your spouse long enough to witness them diagnosed with memory loss disease, then your love is sturdy. This is not someone you’d abandon because of some garden variety tough times. This is someone who you would die for, but alas, they need more than that now.

When your spouse is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and you are called to become their caregiver, more will be asked of you than you’d ever thought possible. They will become the most vulnerable version of themselves right before your eyes, until the day they no longer remember your name, let alone recognize your face.

And you are a good person. You fear God and take vows seriously. You weren’t prepared for this but knew it was in the realm of possibility. Becoming a caregiver to someone with memory loss disease has unique spiritual and ethical components. How good of a person are you? How patient are you? How deep is your faith? Do you really trust God?

Thousands of people in Southwest Florida find themselves asking these questions. Mary Freyre of the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center wants to help answer them. “We typically get calls when people are in crisis. They say ‘I need help. I need help, now. What can I do?’ And then we start connecting them with resources and people in the community – neuropsychologists, neurologists, other family doctors. If they need a home health agency or respite care, we can help them find that.”

Mary is the Health Education Specialist for the Dubin Center – a community resource that is free to caregivers which was founded in 1995. “When someone finds out that their spouse has been diagnosed, they go through a tremendous amount of grief and loss. We call this anticipatory grief. We try to explain the process they’ll go through, but more than that, we try to get them into support groups.”

As an Education Specialist, Mary finds that a lot of the caregivers think they have to carry this burden on their shoulders by themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you watch the news). “There is a ton of support out there. In these groups, the caregivers form some really tight-knit friendships. It’s a safe place where they can talk about what they’re going through.”

This is not an uncommon example, but imagine if you’ve just retired and you expect to spend the remainder of your life traveling and enjoying life. Or imagine if you’re a husband and wife taking care of a parent with dementia, and you also have three kids in your home. Memory loss disease can affect the entire family, and it affects each person differently. This is how anticipatory grief can become overwhelming. (Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close due to illness but it can also be experienced by dying individuals themselves.)

In reference to the title of this article, the Dubin Center is offering a new program whose origin came in the form of a promise to Mary’s uncle. Before his diagnosis, Mary’s uncle was a pastor of a large Protestant church in New Jersey. Seven years before his passing, during the early stages of his dementia, “he said to me, Mary, you’re a nurse, please be a voice for us. He had to give up ministering, he had to give up home visits, he had to eventually give up going to church. People stopped visiting. Even the other pastors stopped visiting. It was a very lonely and painful time for them.”

Two years ago, Mary got to work on the Dementia Friendly Houses of Worship Initiative. She mobilized a handful of organizations, among them the Lee County Sheriff Department, Dr. Mable Lopez of Mind & Brain Care of Fort Myers, Comfort Keepers Home Health, Right at Home, Shell Point Retirement Community, and Choices in Living Adult Day Care of Cape Coral.

These organizations came together and reached out to local churches with the understanding that most churches do not offer an AD friendly service, or resources for caregivers who generally cannot leave the house to attend a service.

“Many churches have a separate portion of the service geared towards the needs of children. We would help train churches and assist in designing a program or service geared towards the needs of AD patients. This would get them out of the house and give the caregivers a respite. We leave it up to the churches to customize each initiative around their particular denomination.”

But how big of an issue is this really? It’s huge. According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, there are close to 21,000 people diagnosed with AD in Lee County. The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are about 450,000 people currently in Florida with AD, and that number will increase to roughly 750,000 by 2050 if no cure is discovered. Those do not include the seasonal residents or the undiagnosed. Every 67 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that rate will increase to every 33 seconds unless there is a cure. There are about 5.4 million Americans with memory loss disease, and by 2050 that number could be between 13-16 million, barring no cure. Millions of caregivers will need help.

Mary says, “Now do you see why I started this initiative? We offer one-on-one counseling with licensed clinical social workers, education, a safety program, a wanderer’s ID program, home visits, office visits, networking with other community agencies to help the families in coping with the disease. We also offer open support groups for caregivers caring for someone with dementia. The Center also offers a free evidence-based course to help teach the caregivers on how to improve the quality of life for their loved one with dementia and for themselves. All of the Dubin Center’s services are free.”

Individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia will face many decisions throughout the course of the disease including decisions about care, treatment, participation in research, end-of-life issues, autonomy and safety.