The Blessed Blog

News, photos and stories from St. John XXIII Catholic Church.

Apr. 19th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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A Servant’s Heart: Dottie Webster

When you come to Mass on Saturdays or Sundays, you may or may not notice the missals perfectly in order, envelopes neatly placed in the pews and a nicely stuffed bulletin that you grab on your way out the door. Ok, so you probably haven’t noticed any of the above, but there is no doubt that if it wasn’t in order, something just wouldn’t seem right. The interesting thing is, they don’t just stay neat after the weekend, there is someone who week after week — without fail — cleans up all the pews, refills them with envelopes, organizes the missals, and stuffs whatever bulletin, envelope or book needs to be stuffed. Dorothy (also known as Dottie) Webster is the woman behind these great works. The Massachusetts native is one of the parish’s beloved volunteers who sees no task too big or too small, and we couldn’t be more excited (probably more than she) to celebrate her 90th birthday.

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When I told her we wanted to feature her in the bulletin, I had to beg for her to sit down and do an interview; not because she’s shy, but because she said serving is not about her, it’s about Jesus. Without further ado, read about, and celebrate with us, the woman who has blessed us with her time, compassion and smile—and doesn’t plan on slowing down. After all, she says this Tuesday, she’s just turning 12, again.

Danielle Koleniak: Tell us about your childhood.
Dorothy Webster: I was born in Lowell, Massachusetts and was one of six children. There were three girls and three boys. I went to St. Michael’s School. When I was in the third grade, we moved to the other side of town from the school, so we would have to take a car or bus to get to school every day. All the children would go home for an hour during lunch, but since we lived 5 miles away we packed our lunches and ate together at the school. They made great use of us after we ate! We did chores around the school. I guess that’s how I was trained to serve in the church! Haha!
We went from rich to poor. My father was an electrician. He didn’t work for two years. We were grateful to have bread.

DK: You volunteer so much of your time in the church. How did you first get so involved?
DW: I really got involved when my 21 year old son, Brian, died. He was my first born. It was a real turning point in my life. He went in for what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure, and died from doctor error. It changed my whole life. My own flesh and blood was in heaven. And then my mother died seven days later. I put my selfishness aside. I no longer wanted to go golfing on Mondays. I didn’t want to do anything unless it had to do with God. My focus became helping people. I wanted to dedicate everything I did to Him. I also joined a servant group at St. Rita’s in Lowell. Even today, I use my experience to help the grieving by talking about Brian.

DK: You are turning 90 on Tuesday. Happy Birthday! Can you believe it?
DW: No! I’m always 12 years old in my heart. I want to be 12 the rest of my life with God.

DK: In your almost 90 years, what’s one childhood memory that stands out to you?
DW: Every morning my mother would give us a dime so my brothers, sisters and I could take a car or bus home from school. We decided one year to save the dimes she gave us every day. We would run home five miles from school every day, so she wouldn’t notice, or have my dad pick us up at the park. We saved the money all the way to Christmas. Then on Christmas, we gave her the money. She was shocked. It was a lot of money back then and we didn’t have much at all.

DK: What’s the most important thing that keeps you healthy and strong every day?
My God, my Father. My dream is to one day put my head on God’s lap and have him rub my head like a little girl’s. Every day I remind myself, God works straight with crooked lines. You just have to be patient.

Apr. 12th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Never the Same

Last week, the Parish welcomed 16 new members who were initiated into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.David Nelson (pictured below) was one of them. David, his wife Monica, and their family have been members of our parish for five years. You may also know David Nelson as the Dean of Students and baseball coach at Bishop Verot High School. The proud father of two children, Brayden and Grace, is now beaming with joy after getting baptized and confirmed last weekend. I caught up with him four days before the Easter Vigil to talk with him about the RCIA process and his faith journey.

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Danielle Koleniak: Tell us a little bit about your story and what let you to decide to go through the RCIA process?
David Nelson: I grew up in a family who had no religion. My grandma had a picture of Jesus on the wall. I knew she believed, but we never had any conversations. My mom and Dad never went to church. I don’t even know what they really believe in right now. Growing up, I went to church a couple of times for Bible School with my uncle. I remember coloring pictures there. I was little. Other than that, I had no religious background. I knew of God, I knew of Jesus. I believed. There was always something that drew me to religion even though I didn’t have any background in it. When I went off to college, I had a college roommate who was Lutheran. His girlfriend was Catholic. He wanted to become Catholic, and they were planning on getting married, so he started the RCIA process. He asked me if I wanted to join. I didn’t really know much. I told him I wasn’t ready, but he started getting me into Christian Rock. I started listening to the music and it really drew me towards God and Jesus. My roommate and I started having faith conversations and I went to Sunday Mass with him. Fast forward a few years and I end up in Fort Myers and I met my future wife, Monica, who is Catholic. We got engaged and I married into a Catholic family. I eventually started coaching baseball at Bishop Verot and we had our first child, Brayden. He was baptized here at St.John XXIII. We’ve been members of the parish for 5 years. My wife and I started having conversations again about me getting baptized. I work with a coach, Rich, who really encouraged me. I started the RCIA process, in September when my daughter, Grace was born. It was always a goal of mine to become baptized.
That was my journey. Everything happens for a reason. The plan that God had for me was to surround me with Catholicism and because of that, this is the path I’m on.

DK: Talk about what the RCIA process was like for you.
DN: The very first class, I sat down and our leader, Barbara Catineau, was right there. She had such a kind heart and her leadership has been very inspirational to me. The first thing I took from this whole experience was that there were so many different people who go through this process. Everyone with their backgrounds is so different. I’m so happy to be a part of this dynamic community who are all heading toward Jesus.

DK: How has your relationship with God changed from September to now?
DN: There has definitely been growth. I feel like I have always had deep spirituality but nothing like now. I go home and have conversations with my wife, Monica, about what I learned. It allowed us to have a special connection. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen. I wanted this to bring my family closer together and closer to God. I can’t tell you that temptations haven’t gone away, but now I have the strength to be able to push away from them. I always looked forward to the day I would be baptized and receive the Eucharist. Going through the classes felt like home.

DK: What are your expectations of being baptized and confirmed at Easter Vigil?
DN: I expect it to be emotional. In reality, I went through 18 years of my life not truly knowing Jesus. I think by taking the Eucharist for the first time it is really going to connect me with God and knowing that I’m home. This is where I’m supposed to be. That feeling is going to be tremendous. I know now that I’m a child of God and whatever the devil throws at me, I can overcome. I have the tools.

DK: How do you think this experience will change the dynamic of your family?
DN: We want to raise our children in the Church. We want them to know Jesus and for Him to be the center of their lives. I don’t think it’s going to change our family, but it’s going to bring our family together. I also get to set the example for my kids by going to Mass and fully participate in Mass. This will impact their kids, and their kids’ kids. For me, I changed the cycle. I have two sisters and a brother. None of them are baptized… I don’t even know if my parents are baptized. I changed the cycle for my family moving forward. I pray that my kids continue that. I want them, to know too, that learning about Jesus never stops— it is going to continue for their entire life. Sometimes people have a hard time with that because people want to be in control.

DK: Is there anything else that you would like to share about your experience?
DN: I just want to thank Barbara Catineau, Father Bob, the Catechists and everyone who has helped along the way.
I also want to share this story: We recently had a retreat for RCIA. It took place during the same time as the Easter Egg Hunt. We were able to take some time to spend with our families at the Egg Hunt. What made an impact on me was that Brayden came back to me with a basket full of eggs and he said to me, ‘I got to go show Father Bob!’ For me, it just showed me how the Church and community are so great. You can see that the Church and Father Bob have already made an impact on my five year-old son.

When Father Bob says, he doesn’t care where you come from, what you’ve been through, that you’re welcome here, I know that it’s absolutely true. I can attest for that. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by the people at this church.

Easter Edition | The 23rd Times

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An Easter Message from Father Bob:

Dear Parishioners of St. John XXIII and Visitors,

Thank you for celebrating Easter with us today. As we honor and recognize Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and His glorious promises of eternal life for all who believe in Him, be reminded of His unfailing love for you every day.

Following the spirit of St. John XXIII and reinforced by Pope Francis, the Church is a house of Jesus and must always be opened. The Pastoral Staff and I would like to invite you to participate in the ministries and events that take place within our Parish throughout the year. It is our promise to actively engage all those who desire to more fully accept and live out the message of Christ. I encourage you to explore the engagement page on our website, www.johnxxiii.net, to see how you can be part of a community right here at St. John XXIII.

As many of you know, it’s an exciting time in our Parish. We recently launched a $3.9 million Capital Campaign in an effort to build a Parish Life Center. The Parish Life Center will offer a social hall, indoor/outdoor stage with courtyard, catering kitchen, renovated nursery, and most importantly, multi-purpose classrooms for Faith Formation, Adult Education and meeting space. You can learn more about the Building Our Legacy Campaign on our website or picking up a brochure in the Narthex or Front Office. Please prayerfully consider making a pledge to the Building Our Legacy Campaign. It’s crucial we have everyone’s participation to ensure its success.

Again, I thank you for joining us on this Holy Day. May God continue to bless you and your family’s lives during this Easter Season.

With Gratitude,

Rev. Robert D. Tabbert

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Mar. 29th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Palm Sunday

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! -John 12:13

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Capital Campaign FAQs

Q. Various dollar amounts are being mentioned regarding the new Parish Life Center and the Building Our Legacy Capital Campaign. Please clarify.

A. The most critical amount we must all focus on is $3.9 million. This is the amount of cash in the bank required to break ground on our beautiful new Parish Life Center. The estimated total construction cost is $4.9 million and Diocesan policy requires 80% down payment. The 20% balance can be mortgaged.

Lynch Development Associates, a Catholic fundraising firm, is facilitating the Capital Campaign. Based on their research and experience with hundreds of institutions they are 98% confident our parishioners will pledge a minimum of $2.5 million. Knowing we are blessed with incredibly generous parishioners, who always support the great causes Fr. Bob presents, we are prayerful your pledges will guarantee the required $3.9 million needed for funding.

As illustrated in the three-legged stool below, the difference between the $3.9 million required to break ground, and the total amount pledged, will be raised through other means including raffles, ministry events, ongoing new pledges, etc.

Q: What is most important in this project?

A: The priority is classrooms. The six classrooms will serve as space for Faith Formation, Adult Education and meeting space for ministries.

Q: What is a Catering Kitchen?

A: A Catering Kitchen is essentially a shell of a Commercial Kitchen. There will be adequate space for Catering Companies and the Hospitality Ministry to prepare food for events. The space is designed to transform into a Commercial Kitchen with a commercial grade stove, refrigerator and freezer when the campaign goal is met, and then exceeded.

Q: Why must the campaign goal be reached within 3 years?

A: It is a requirement by the Diocese of Venice to meet the goal within three years without being assessed.

Q: Why must we have 80% of the total building cost in hand before construction to take place?

A: This is a Diocese of Venice requirement.

Q: Where will the playground go?

A: The playground will be relocated to another area of the church property

Q: What will happen to the Community Room?

A: When the Parish Life Center is built, the Community Room will be converted back to the original Chapel for weekday Mass, funerals and small weddings.

Q: If I want to transfer stock to the Capital Campaign, what is the process?

A: Contact the Parish Office and ask to speak with Ana or Holly. On the pledge card, indicate the number of shares and name of the stock.

Q: What do I do with my green “Building Fund” Envelopes?

A: For your monthly pledge payments, if you are paying by cash or check, use the green envelope titled “Building Fund.” Beginning in May 2015, the envelope in your monthy envelope mailing packet will state “Building Our Legacy Capital Campaign.” If you do not have green envelopes mailed to you monthly, they are available in the Church Narthex at at the Welcome Center, the back door and the Parish Office. Please indicate “Capital Campaign Pledge Payment” in the memo of the check and on the envelope.

Q: Will we have a separate account for the building fund?

A: Yes, we have a separate account set up with our Diocese titled, “St. John XXIII Capital Campaign Building Fund.”

Please be generous when making a pledge. All parish families, full-time and seasonal, are being asked to prayerfully consider making a pledge of $75-$300 a month for the next 36 months. Your generous pledge is based on equal sacrifice and not equal giving. Pledges and gifts in all amounts are gratefully accepted. Your pledge and sacrifice will make it possible to provide a strong future for our beloved parish. To learn more about the Building Our Legacy Capital Campaign, visit our website, Johnxxiii.net.

Mar. 22nd, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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LESSONS IN FAITH

(from a child entrepreneur)

By Damian Hanley

As adults, we all know what it’s like to be “realistic” about our dreams. Maybe, as children, we wanted to be firemen or nurses or trapeze artists, but alas, the labor market and our formative years taught us to be practical and think about the likelihood of our knees/back holding up and that we’d probably need health insurance, etc. But as children, we dreamt wildly. We shot for the stars because we didn’t know the emotional tax of failing at something. We tried stuff. We lived life, and loved it. Our ideas were exciting and the stakes were low.

nardos2

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Most of you reading this never had a class in entrepreneurship as children – maybe in college, but it’s likely that you grew up not knowing a single person that identified as an entrepreneur. You knew a few small business owners for sure, and corporate types that worked for mega multinationals. But if you had to conjure an image of one, maybe you’d have come up with The Donald, or a similar, self-styled, arrogant high-roller that you didn’t necessarily look up to. In fact, it was only this year that a university (Drexel) founded a school dedicated to entrepreneurship.

True entrepreneurship makes the world a better place. It’s an act of creation, and its become a body of knowledge worth teaching to young people. So when the opportunity presented itself this past year, Father Bob jumped at the chance to do just that in the context of our favorite Catholic Charity. In years past, AFCAAM’s Digital U. program introduced high schoolers to the world of media production. As part of this year’s program, students worked with St. John XXIII Parishioner and AFCAAM Vice-Chairman, John Gamba, to learn the principles of entrepreneurship and to explore ideas for starting a new business. As part of the training, students posted their creative business ideas on a website called MakeYourJob.org.

“We wanted to expand the impact of the AFCAAM Summer Program from learning about technology to applying technology to start a new business,” says John Gamba. “All of these kids have entrepreneurial mindsets. They simply need direction, support and creative outlets to express themselves.”

MakeYourJob (MakeYourJob.org) is a project-based, social learning experience that teaches the principles of entrepreneurship and challenges student entrepreneurs to dream up a new businesses. Middle and High School Students are presented with 16 mini-challenges from identifying a Founder, to crafting a sales and promotions strategy to determining the start-up costs to launch their business. Students create digital assets that are posted on a Virtual Business Canvas for judging by volunteer entrepreneurs affiliated with the Network for Teaching Entreprneurship (NFTE).

“We had a guest speaker come in and ask us if we wanted to win $2500. We were like, YES!” shares Nardos Bekele, this year’s 2nd place winner. “I told him my idea, and he got excited. He thought it was great. I took it really seriously and submitted my idea the same day. I ended up winning $1000 – not bad for second place!”

Nardos came to the United States from Ethiopia in the 6th grade. A native Amharic speaker, she was frightened by the newness of the people and social idiosyncrasies of our culture. “I used to have to stay after school to get extra help writing essays. But math was always my favorite subject, and so stuck me in all these advanced classes.” Remarkably decisive about her future, the 15 year old already knows her double major in college – criminal justice and medicine. These majors will launch her into the 3 concurrent careers she’s chosen – FBI agent working in a Behavioral Analysis Unit, MD and forensic anthropologist. Needless to say, this is someone that’s engaged in life.

MakeYourJob was sponsored by a local education company, MassiveU.com and NFTE which is headquartered in New York City. The program was supported by a grant from Citigroup Foundation. More than 6,000 students from 15 countries registered and competed at MakeYourJob.org over the past 6 months. The competition was fierce, and some of the ideas that came through were legitimately viable for marketing.

Nardos’ idea came from another guest speaker’s presentation on Google Glass. Google Glass is a type of wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display. It was developed by Google as a mass-market computer that displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. Sales were lagging so much that Google has actually taken it off the market, but Nardos – in her infinite wisdom – sort of identified the problem, and her idea could have been the solution.

“First, there wasn’t a lot of real life function to them. As in, there weren’t any apps that would make the glasses useful in real life,” she recalls thinking. “And secondly, they were weird looking. So I thought, why not make them look like normal, fashionable glasses. So that was the gist of the idea. My company would re-design the look of the glasses, and then provide a marketplace for better apps. I would take all the functions of my phone, and put them into the glasses. We thought about developing new apps that could multitask for you too. Like, if you were really busy, the app could answer emails and read books for you.”

Blown away by the creativity of the students that participated, Gamba wonders “how many other Nardos Bekeles are out there – students who want to create, invent and apply what they learn to real-life opportunities to build a business and make money?” That’s a good question – one that can only be answered if organizations like our Parish and Catholic Charities continue to support education entrepreneurs like NFTE and AFCAAM.

As much as some want to connect Big Business with greed and sundry other sins, entrepreneurship at its core is a very Biblical concept. Its foundation is faith and vision – and a genuine desire to make other people’s lives better. She needs to take actions that involve risk, with the faith that, if done honestly, her “talents can be multiplied”. Sound familiar? Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1. And though none of us has made a sacrifice like Christ made for us, humans are capable of sacrifice, and entrepreneurship is one such example of self-denial, undertaken for the benefit of others. True entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick scheme. A successful entrepreneur serves others, often at great risk, difficulty, and cost. Profits are a sign that the entrepreneur has successfully served others, but profit only comes at the end – sometimes never. Along the way she risks financial safety for herself and family, retirement, savings, and possibly the same of friends and family.

When AFCAAM teaches entrepreneurship, it’s teaching kids how to have faith in themselves – something a lot of kids these days need. “I can’t say enough about our Parish’s generosity,” John shares. “They stepped up in a huge way and made a world of difference for students who face challenging circumstances. For 3 weeks, these students got a taste of Silicon Valley thinking, and really push their limits about their possibilities for the future. The sky’s the limit for them.”