August 28th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Amid Louisiana floods, victims become helpers

By Kevin J. Jones | http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-louisiana-floods-victims-become-helpers-95698/

Baton Rouge, La., Aug 16, 2016 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In southern Louisiana, the flooding is perhaps unprecedented. And the local Catholic Charities is stepping up to help, even as its own staff is affected by the disasters.

“This is something that we’ve never experienced before,” David C. Aguillard, executive director of Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge, told CNA.

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“We’re the disaster capital of the world down here. We’ve had oil spills, rig fires, tornados, ice storms, hurricanes, floods,” he said Aug. 15. “The thing about this is it’s such a widespread area. This is basically all of south Louisiana from the Mississippi border to Texas. Everything south of I-10 is flooded.”

More than 30 inches of rain fell in southern Louisiana beginning on Friday, flooding rivers and waterways. Some rivers won’t recede for two days, and any additional rain would risk more flash floods.

At least seven persons have died because of the storms.

More than 20,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and 12,000 were staying in shelters, ABC News reports. Some shelters were over capacity and lacked sufficient beds, and expanding floodwaters caused evacuations at some shelters that were supposed to be safe havens. Some people still need to be evacuated from their homes.

President Barack Obama has declared a federal emergency in the affected areas.

Over 40,000 homes are without power, hundreds of roads were closed, and 1,400 bridges need safety inspections before being reopened.

“Riding Interstate 10 was like riding an elevated causeway through a waterway. It was water on both sides of the interstate,” Aguillard told CNA.

Normally the agency would be deploying its resources, case managers, and mental health workers. But the impact is so broad, many of its staff are affected, too. They and their families are seeking shelter or trying to leave their neighborhoods.

“The water backed up and nothing was draining. In neighborhoods that have never been flooded, people have four, six, twelve inches of water in their house,” Aguillard said. “We were not spared ourselves.”

Some agency staff feel the same emotions as other victims: shock, trauma, sadness, a feeling of loss; but also a realization that, in Aguillard’s words, “it’s time to get to work and help people.”

“I’ve had staff in here who had to evacuate their homes. They’re feeling sad, you can tell, but at the same time they’re here today,” he added. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to help people who aren’t as fortunate to have a place to come to.”

Some shelters are inaccessible from Baton Rouge and relief workers comes in from New Orleans. Catholic Charities is now aiding parishes that need toiletries, food, and even coffee. Case managers and mental health professionals are going to the shelters, which are “full to the brim.”

Cash, though, is the most useful asset in such a situation – and for Catholic Charities’ long-term relief work.

“In the weeks and days immediately after a disaster, there’s a tremendous rush of good will and high energy and compassion. And that is desperately needed,” Aguillard explained. “That is very valuable. But the fact is, there are people who might take years to recover.”

“Their workplaces might close down. They might be one or two paychecks away from losing their house or their lease. That’s where we come in. We’re here for the long term to help with that recovery process that can take two to five years, sometimes longer.”

There are still some people have yet to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Not everybody has a savings account. Not everybody has family with resources to help. That’s what we’re here for,” said Aguillard.

“We go out and we do the work immediately when it is needed. We just pray and we trust and have faith that the resources are going to come. And we’ve never been let down,” he said.

“The generosity of people around the country is just overwhelming. It’s phenomenal. It’s very touching when we start getting donations from the state of Washington or Alaska, not only from within our diocese.”

Baton Rouge Catholic Charities is asking for donations to help flood relief work through its website, www.ccdiobr.org.

August 21st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Vatican Gardens’ gruesome past grows into green haven

VATICAN CITY Today’s lush and immaculately manicured Vatican Gardens were once just a sprawl of mosquito-infested swamps, clay hillsides and hardy grape vines.
The wild, unpopulated landscape on the fringes of early Rome slowly shifted as it changed to accommodate historical events over the course of 2,000 years: the martyrdom and burial of St. Peter; the blossoming of Christianity; the growth of papal power; and the eventual establishment of the world’s smallest sovereign nation.

The gardens make up almost half of Vatican City State’s 109 acres and their colorful evolution is documented in a newly updated volume: A Guide to the Vatican Gardens: History, Art, Nature, curated by historians and experts from the Vatican Library and Vatican Museums. Illustrated with full-color photographs and historic black and white engravings, the book has been translated into English.

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In the first century AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula set up a circus for chariot racing near a villa his mother, Agrippina, had built in the area, which was still far on the outskirts of ancient Rome. Shipping over a red granite obelisk from Egypt, he decorated the circus with the monument, which now stands in the center of St. Peter’s Square.

Emperor Nero expanded the circus, using it to showcase his cruelty against Christians like burning them alive to light his evening parties on the hill’s gardens and crucifying others, like St. Peter, who was then buried in a roadside cemetery nearby.

As the apostle’s tomb became a place of worship, the “circus fell into disrepair, Agrippina’s villa decayed and the uninhabited hill returned to wild scrub,” wrote the book’s co-author, Ambrogio Piazzoni, vice prefect of the Vatican Library.

After Emperor Constantine converted and granted Christians the freedom to practice their faith, he ordered the construction of the first basilica dedicated to St. Peter, which meant razing part of the hill and covering over part of the cemetery.

A few small buildings were constructed nearby over the next four centuries including a monastery, but the popes — the successors of Peter — didn’t start living in this “rustic and unprotected location” by the basilica until the fifth century, Piazzoni wrote.

With the Saracen Raid in 846, Pope Leo IV constructed a fortressed wall to defend the Vatican area from marauders. Inside the walls, there were meadows, vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards while outside — which is part of today’s gardens — were more pastures and woods.

Once popes started residing permanently at the Vatican, they added their own personal touches to the vast expanse of greenery surrounding them.

Pope Nicholas IV had his doctor, Simon of Genoa, cultivate medicinal plants and aromatic herbs in the tradition of the Benedictine monks, who were known for creating treatments for illnesses and distilled liqueurs and tinctures.

This 13th-century papal initiative was to become the oldest botanical garden in Italy and marked the beginning of the formal scientific study of botany as a branch of medicine, “predating by centuries the teaching of botany” in academies and universities, Piazzoni wrote.

Pope Pius V made sure the medicinal plant studies continued in the 16th-century by hiring a Tuscan botanist and geologist to take care of the gardens. The pope gave him the title of “medicinal plant expert of Our Lord” and furnished him with a “safe conduct pass” allowing him to travel anywhere in search of rare plants.

The Vatican medicinal garden gradually lost importance — becoming a humble lawn — after Pope Alexander VII built a newer and larger botanical garden, which is still one of the largest in Italy, along the Janiculum hill in 1660. The Vatican lost that and many other properties after the loss of the Papal States in 1870.

Given the variety of habitat and papal proclivities at the time, the Vatican Gardens were also home to a menagerie of wild animals including the brief upkeep of a leopard during the pontificate of Boniface VIII in the 13th century and Hanno, the elephant, which was a gift to Pope Leo X from Portugal’s king in 1514.

Pope Pius XII found an injured finch in the Vatican Gardens and nursed her back to health. “Gretchen,” the finch, would keep the pope company and sit on his shoulder at mealtime while hopping down to peck at crumbs.

Today, green parrots nesting in palm trees and a small sampling of cats are the only free-range fauna easily sighted in the Vatican Gardens.

The gardens went largely unchanged from its Renaissance heyday at the end of the 1500s to the end of the 1900s, primarily, Piazzoni wrote, because the popes had moved their main residence to the Quirinale Palace — judging it to be “more comfortable, functional and situated in a sunny and healthy place.”

Despite the disuse, the gardens were still cared for and embellished with additional fountains, shrines, statues and exotic or rare plant life.

With the end of the Papal States, the pope moved back to the papal residence at the Vatican.

Being largely confined to the small property, Pope Leo XIII spent a lot of time caring for the gardens and pursuing his love for hunting and viniculture. He reportedly tended his small vineyard himself, hoeing out the weeds, and visiting often for moments of prayer and writing poetry. He had a papal guard on duty with orders to shoot to scare off birds threatening his grape harvest.

Modern-day popes still use the gardens for exercise, restful relaxation and meditation. Retired Pope Benedict XVI takes his daily walk there, praying the rosary along the wooded paths.

Not just for popes anymore, the gardens were opened to the public several years ago as part of an organized tour either on foot or on an environmentally friendly open bus.

The tours highlight the gardens’ blend of art, nature and faith, but also help visitors sense what the book describes as the harmonious co-existence of so many species of flora and fauna, which “reinforce the ideals that constitute the universal mission of this extraordinary place” — the love and care for God’s creation.

August 14th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Pope Says Fallen World Prefers “Couch Potatoes” to Youth Who are Awake

Addressing more than a million young women and men who’d walked almost nine miles to participate in a prayer vigil, Pope Francis called on youth not to be “couch potatoes.”

“The times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes’ but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. It only takes players on the first string, and it has no room for bench-warmers,” Francis said.

Talking to young people on Saturday night in Krakow, Poland, where they’ve been participating in a week-long rally called World Youth Day, Francis warned them against the “sofa-happiness,” calling it the most “harmful and insidious form of paralysis.”

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A sofa, he said, that “makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe,” away from any kind of pain or fear, spending hours playing video games or in front of a computer screen.

He said it’s a dangerous paralysis because as “we start to nod off” other people, “more alert” but “not necessarily better, decide our future for us.”

For many people, Francis warned, it’s better to have drowsy, tone-deaf and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa.

“For many people, that is more convenient than having young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness present in the human heart,” the pope said, adding that they hadn’t come into this world to “vegetate, to take it easy” but to “leave a mark.”

“But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom,” Francis said.

Following Jesus, the pope continued, demands courage and a readiness to change the couch for walking shoes.
“[God] is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different,” Francis said.

Throughout the day, young pilgrims staying in Krakow and in cities surrounding it to participate in World Youth Day (WYD) trekked on foot to arrive at Campus Misericordiae, a field prepared for the occasion on the outskirts of Krakow.

Many made the hike carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, since they’ll spend the night in the field. Along the way, hundreds of Polish people came out from their homes to give them fresh water and, in some cases, even to hose them down to help them keep cool.

At Campus Misericordiae, on a 100-yard-long altar area where the final Mass will be celebrated Sunday morning, Francis led them in prayer, but before and after him, several dozen artists from around the world kept the flow going.

During the night, after the pope left the field, chapels for adoration were set to be open all night and priests available for confession in many designated areas.

“Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history, because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark,” a visibly animated Francis said, responding to the questions posed to him by three youth before the Eucharistic adoration began.

The pontiff was visibly moved by the experience of Rand Mittri, a 26-year-old Syrian from Aleppo, who told the pope and the millions attentively listening to her that her city has been destroyed, and “the meaning of our lives has been cancelled. We are the forgotten.”

Attempting to “share a few aspects of our reality” with those participating in the event, Mittri spoke about the fear that overcomes her when she leaves her home every morning, because she knows it’s possible that when she comes back from work, her family might not be there. “Perhaps we will be killed that day. Or perhaps our family will,” she said.

“It is a hard and painful feeling to know that you are surrounded by death and killing, and there is no way to escape; no one to help,” Mittri said, visibly emotional, before an audience that was equally tearing up.
This young woman shared her personal experience with the ongoing Syrian war, which began five years ago and has caused the death of 400,000 people, and which does not seem to be coming to an end any time soon.

The conflict, she said, has caused her to grow up ahead of time and to see things differently.

Mittri works at a Don Bosco Center in Aleppo, which daily receives more than 700 young men and women who “come hoping to see a smile,” and seeking something lacking in their lives – she called it “humanitarian treatment.”

“But it is very difficult for me to give joy and faith to others, while I myself am bankrupt of these things in my life,” Mittri said. “Through my meager life experience, I have learned that my faith in Christ supersedes the circumstances of life. This truth is not conditioned on living a life of peace that is free of hardship. More and more, I believe that God exists despite all of our pain,” she said. Pope Francis began his remarks talking about Mittri, who was the second of the three who shared their lives with the crowd. He talked about where the pilgrims who took part in WYD come from: from countries at conflict and war, or from countries “at peace” where most terrible things are stories on the evening news.

“For us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience for us are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand,” Francis said. Throughout the week, Christians who are victims of persecution around the world had a special place at World Youth Day, with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Iraq addressing over 20,000 English-speaking pilgrims at the Mercy Center, the largest catechesis spot in Krakow, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Warda came to Poland with 200 pilgrims from his country, some of whom carried the cross during the Way of the Cross prayer on Friday.

Saturday’s vigil was the eve of the closing of a week-long celebration and affirmation of the Catholic faith. Young people from around the globe gathered in the city of St. John Paul II to share their experiences, to pray together and to get to know the reality of Christians living in different places.

For one week, no border divided Americans from Mexicans, Middle Easterners from Europeans, Ukrainians from Russians. For one week, the remainder of what unites them was more important than that which divides them.
As the pope put it, situations that would typically seem distant, “because we see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer,” became a reality for many.

Getting involved, Francis said, is not about “denouncing anyone or fighting” because “we have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror.”

“Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family,” the pope said. “Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer,” Francis said.

Close to the end of his remarks, the pontiff encouraged the youth to take the path of the “craziness” of God, “who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbors who feel abandoned.”

God, he told them, encourages the young to be politicians, thinkers, social activists, and promoters of an economy inspired by solidarity. Amid all the seriousness during these days, with Francis’ visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration cand often talking about some of today’s dramas such as war, terrorism and migration, the pope nevertheless found moments on Saturday to let it all hang out.

For instance, earlier in the day, he had lunch with 14 youngsters, including one from Brazil. Known for his love for soccer, Francis asked the young man who’s better, Argentina’s famous soccer player Maradona or Brazil’s Pele. To which he answered that, “as a Brazilian” it’s another Argentinian, Lionel Messi.

He had a similar relaxed moment at the beginning of the vigil. He was scheduled to go through a Holy Door accompanied by six young people. After doing so, he unexpectedly invited them to join him on the Popemobile, took them for a spin and then asked them to sit next to him on stage.

Towards the end of his remarks on Saturday’s vigil, Francis said that nowadays it’s easier to concentrate on divisions, and asked everyone on the Campus Misericordiae to hold hands, building a “great fraternal bridge.”
“People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity,” the pope said.

August 7th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Intro to Colleen Leavy 101

A new chapter begins in the life of the St. John XXIII Pastoral Team with Colleen Leavy – our new bulletin editor. A true rock star from a small town in Massachusetts, she sat down with me and talked about life as a kid, growing up the youngest of three girls and how she found her balance through design and using her creative gifts. Check out this interview and when you see her, welcome her to our Parish family.

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DH: Where are you from and what was life like as a kid?
CL: I was born in the small town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts and I’m the youngest of three sisters. Being the youngest, yes, I was spoiled a bit. But my sisters and I got along really well. I was a late surprise. My older sister is 10 years older than me so she was more like a mother figure.

DH: What ethnicity were your parents?
CL: Typical Irish/Italians from the Northeast. There are millions of us running around. We favored more the Italian side of our ethnicity. The cooking and family gatherings were all typically Italian. My parents were born and raised and never moved from Pittsfield. My parents were the first to inter-mingle the Irish and Italians, so it was super scandalous!

DH: Have any hobbies as a kid?
CL: My sisters were in college when I was very young, and there weren’t too many kids in my neighborhood, so I learned to entertain myself. I got into performing and writing music. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I was alone a lot, but that gave me the opportunity to hone my talent. I performed in, and won various contests in my local area, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I actually sang in a band. That was in Albany.

DH: So you moved to Albany?
CL: It might as well have been New York City in comparison to Pittsfield being such a small town. I was able to spread my wings when I started collaborating with other people and performing in a band.

DH: What kind of music do you perform?
CL: Dance/Rock n’ Roll… anything from Elvis to Pink. I was more into pop when I was a kid. But when I started in the band, the other members said “You could sound like Janis (Joplin), you know her right?” I was more into dance music, but they really introduced me to classic rock.

DH: So you went to college in Albany?
CL: Yes, I went to the College of St. Rose, for graphic design. Design exposed me to marketing and advertising.

DH: So that was a Catholic school… Did you go to Catholic school in grade or high school?
CL: All of it. Sacred Heart. St. Marks. St. Joseph – you name it, ha! The nuns taught us. They were quite strict. We wore uniforms, but I always accessorized with some striped socks. I knew I was going to be different. We just really didn’t know any better in a small town.

DH: What kind of student were you in high school? Book worm? Rebel?
CL: I was a little rebellious, but not crazy. I was searching for a creative outlet, and they really didn’t have anything back then for people like me. I had to struggle for years to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. Kids these days have so much at their disposal. They have access to everything. They don’t realize how good they have it.

DH: Then you went to College of St. Rose?
CL: It was a breath of fresh air. I was exposed to so many different kinds of people and I could really find my way. College also exposed me to different experiences and subjects. I always knew I wanted to do something creative. The art department had its own building and there were creative people like me everywhere!

DH: So after college…
CL: I met my soulmate Nick, my guitarist, doing karaoke. I was singing “Love will Lead You Back” and he liked what he heard. We performed in a bunch of clubs and venues, and did some touring in other states. And that was the beginning of my band, Electric Lipstick.

DH: How did you get down to Florida?
CL: Nick, the guitar player had an opportunity down here, and there were a lot of different factors that played into it. Basically, we wanted to be in nicer weather (I mean, it was upstate New York) and we found a dream home down here. Unless you have millions of dollars, you’re not getting a house with a yard in the city of Albany. It’s bigger than you’d think up there.

DH: Yes, everyone has this idea of Albany: that it’s this small town (at least I do). So what do you want to bring to this position? It’s obvious you have the graphics skills…
CL: I left my last job doing graphics in February, so I haven’t been doing design work for a few months. I play a LOT of music. My band is booking 10-12 gigs per month, but I think I need to have both art and music in my life. I feel like it makes me a complete person. With my design experience, I hope to bring the bulletin, the other marketing collateral and the communications in general to the next level. I really love to design, so this is going to be fun for me.

DH: Ah, yes, so you need design as a balancing component of your life?
CL: Yes, and music makes me feel alive. I love to make people feel something with my music. When people come away from my shows and they’ve been touched – like, emotionally, it reinforces that this is what I’m put on this earth to do.

DH: Well it’s been great to get to know you a little and we look forward to seeing your work being done in the name of Christ. Thank you for your time and welcome to the family.
CL: Thanks! I would love to meet parishioners at one of my shows. Check out my band at:
www.electriclipstick.com

July 31st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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

Celebrate Faith Formation

The Faith Formation Program at St. John XXIII strives to provide a Christian atmosphere of faith, love, and compassion to welcome children and families into our program. Beginning with the faith received in Baptism, we seek to collaborate with parents and the parish community to teach children the gospel message so they may live their life in worship and service in the love of Jesus Christ. Below are listed some of our programs. Please visit us in the next weekend at our Faith Education Celebration Weekend for more information or to register for classes.

  • Children’s Liturgy of the Word each Sunday during the 9:15 and 11:15 Mass.
  • Faith Formation Kindergarten through 5th grade (formerly known as C.C.D)
  • Sacrament Preparation classes for Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation
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St. John XXIII Youth Ministry

The Youth Ministry at St. John XXIII provides our pre-teens and teens on a path where their faith meets their lives. We “meet our youth where they are” so they can better relate to God as Christians and grow in their Catholic Faith. Faith, love, healthy friendships, character-building and fun teambuilding activities are the focus of our youth group sessions. Please visit us next weekend in the Narthex during our Faith Celebration Weekend for more information and to register for Youth Group.

  • Middle School Youth Group meets during the academic school year on Wednesday evenings 6pm to 7:15 pm
  • High School Youth Group meets during the academic year on Sunday evenings 6:30pm to 8pm

St. John XXIII Young Adult Ministry

All are welcome: married, single, women, men, parishioners, and non-parishioners…anyone seeking to journey toward and with God along with other sojourners.

Our 2 Young Adult Ministries serve to encourage friendship, through a faith- based environment, between those who are post-high school through their 30’s. Each group meets monthly for dinner to enjoy socializing with folks of their own age and to explore current topics, faith topics, and life’s various shifts as it relates to their age group. Whether young adults are involved in educational, occupational or relationship objectives, our ministry strives to empower them to be excited about their faith as it meets their everyday life.

Please visit us next weekend in the Narthex during our Faith Celebration Weekend for more information about our Young Adult Ministries and upcoming Thursday Evening dinner gatherings. CONVERGE – ages 18 to 21 | ROOTED ages 22-30 “Something”

St. John XXIII Adult Faith Education

As Catholics, we are always on the journey to learn more about our faith—even as adults. Our parish’s Faith Alive! Team continually offers a wide variety of programs to assist you. You can participate in a bible study, enhance your prayer life, strengthen your relationship with Jesus, learn more about your faith, or explore your own unique God-given talents. Sessions are held Tuesday mornings and/or evenings with some sessions requiring registration and the purchase of materials.

All sessions are advertised weekly on the Faith Alive! page in the bulletin with dates, times and registration information. Please join us in the narthex the weekend of August 6 and 7, after all of the Masses, to learn more about all the adult faith education opportunities being offered.

St. John XXIII | Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

The Rite of Christian Initiation presented here is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. By God’s help they will be strengthened spiritually during their preparation and at the proper time will receive the sacraments fruitfully.

The initiation of adults is gradual (RCIA). While it recognizes key moments (aha! moments) in the life of faith, it recognizes a certain sobriety in committing to Christ. While we read of disciples leaving behind family and career on the spot to follow Jesus, the reality is that for most all people, becoming a Christian is a serious undertaking. The Church wants newcomers to take this very seriously, aware of the ramifications of what they are doing.

Initiation takes place within a community. There is a realistic notion that people are becoming Catholics, and coming over not just to a campus parish but to a Catholic Church you can live with and grow with in your future adult experience.

The community serves as an example to newcomers. As much as we believers are open to and embrace our continuing conversion, new believers see and align with the example we give. If our example is strong, they will be inspired to adapt to it.

The Trinity, as we see it, is not a compartmentalized thing. The Spirit, for example, doesn’t wait for Confirmation, but is truly active in the life of the unbaptized. We recognize this. We pray accordingly.

The rite of initiation is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to:

  • The many forms of God’s grace,
  • The free cooperation of the individuals,
  • The action of the Church, and
  • The circumstances of time and place.

July 24th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Police chaplains struggle amid summer of pain, fear

By Rhina GuidosJuly 14, 2016 | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – The week had been emotionally draining at the predominantly black parish in Oakland, California. Along with the rest of the country, they had felt the weight of two more fatal shootings of black men by police. Then things got worse July 7 when a sniper opened fire and killed five police officers during a march in Dallas where people were protesting the fatal shootings.

Two days later, Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of Oakland’s St. Benedict Catholic Church, declared there would be no homilies during his Masses that weekend, and instead allowed parishioners to do the talking during that time. What he and those gathered at St. Benedict’s heard was sadness, pain, fear.

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“My voice was not important,” said Landeza, a priest who finds himself in the middle of communities colliding with each other this summer.

As national leaders call for unity and calm, particularly between black communities and law enforcement, it is up to chaplains like Landeza to shepherd their flocks through this tense summer of mistrust and fear of one another. “Everyone is going to their corners,” said Landeza.

Many in the black community have voiced fear, as well as anger toward police. And police feel that “here are these people who hate us,” said Landeza, explaining what some of the police officers feel when they see some of the protests taking place around the country.

What is his role and the role of other chaplains in all of this?

“I’m struggling with that,” said Landeza during a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. “I’m not going to lecture anybody. I’m just listening and facilitating talking, just talking to each other. Both sides are pretty strongly entrenched.”

Feelings all around are raw, he said, and there’s a lot of acrimony. But it’s also important to hear what everyone is feeling.

“I’m a friend to both sides,” said Landeza, who was with Oakland police during a particularly dark moment in the department’s history. In 2009, four Oakland law enforcement officers, two Oakland police and two SWAT team members, were killed by a felon after a traffic stop.

Landeza led the public memorial service for the officers.

In 16 years as police chaplain, he’s learned that cops are mission-oriented and idealistic, people who are generally trying to do the right thing. His brother-in-law is a police officer, so, in a sense, his mission has a personal element.

But he’s also a pastor and he pays attention to what his black parishioners experience.

“There are people in my parish with deep and profound pain that I will never know as an Asian man,” he said.

Some of that pain comes from mothers and grandmothers worried about sons and grandsons, teens, but also men in the 40s and what can happen to them at the hands of police. Outside of those communities, many don’t understand this fear and dismiss it, he said, but it’s important to listen and understand it.

That’s why he allowed his parishioners to express what they were feeling following the recent shootings. Many thanked him publicly and on Facebook for allowing their voices to be heard.

Along with the mourning, chaplains also are dealing with a growing lack of trust for the police communities they serve, and are trying to find ways to build trust and show support for officers.

“I never experienced the amount of distrust that officers experience today,” said Conventual Franciscan Brother James Reiter, a former reserve officer who lives in Castro Valley, California, and who once served as chaplain for the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s critical that all sides find common ground, he said.

“Both police officers and the public would benefit by asking God for the grace to see each other with his (God’s) eyes,” said Reiter.

“The vocation of a police officer is similar to the vocation of St. Michael the Archangel, their patron saint. As St. Michael battled the forces of evil, so, too, must police officers battle the forces of evil to protect God’s people.”

But are there police officers who bring dishonor to their profession?

“Yes, there are,” said Reiter, but there also are complicated situations that police face and that are difficult for a person without police academy training to consider. Reiter said his personal ministry is to pray for police officers daily.

He opened the @brojimr Twitter account, which he uses daily to tweet support and encouragement to officers he’s never met and lets them know that they are appreciated.

On July 12, at a memorial service for the five officers killed in Dallas, President Barack Obama reminded the nation that “despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs like the professionals that they were.”

But he also acknowledged that despite great strides in race relations in the country, “bias remains.”

Landeza, who was attending a conference of police chaplains during the memorial, said that as an African-American, the president is in a unique situation but he also has to be careful about what he says, and what he’s confined to saying as commander in chief.

However, “no one can deny that the president isn’t trying,” he said. But it’s hard to get all sides to listen to one another, Landeza said. Chaplains, however, will keep working at it, this summer and beyond.

In New York, Monsignor Robert Romano, deputy chief of chaplains for the New York Police Department, attended a candlelight vigil after the Dallas killings to show unity between police and community. He urged people to build bridges with officers, to not be afraid of them and greet them when they see them in public.

In Washington, Monsignor Sal Criscuolo, chaplain for first responders, also called on the public to consider circumstances they may not see in a brief video. But consider, he said, that it’s not an easy job and it’s one that asks for the ultimate sacrifice, including saving the lives of people who may not like you.

“I honestly believe they’re called by God,” Criscuolo said. “It’s a vocation, a commitment of going above and beyond. Like Christ himself, you might be called to sacrifice your own life to save the life of another.”

July 17th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Be healers in a hurting world, Catholic bishops say after shootings

Dallas, Texas, Jul 8, 2016 / 02:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid tensions following two high profile police shootings of African-Americans and the subsequent killing of police in Dallas, Catholic bishops have called on Christians to be a force for healing and compassion in response to hatred and inhumanity.

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas said the shooting attack on the police is “staggering.” Writing in a July 8 blog post, he prayed for consolation and healing for the victims and their families.

“We have been swept up in the escalating cycle of violence that has now touched us intimately as it has others throughout our country and the world. All lives matter: black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu. We are all children of God and all human life is precious.”

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“Let us implore God our Heavenly Father to touch the minds and hearts of all people to work together for peace and understanding,” he said.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the United States bishops’ conference, said that “When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another.”

He condemned violence against both the police and those they suspect of crime or stop in traffic.

“The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said July 8. “Jesus reminds us, ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ So too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat.”

The archbishop’s comments came at the end of a week marred by violence and racial tension.

On July 7, five Dallas police officers were killed in what authorities called a “sniper ambush” at the end of a peaceful protest against police shootings of African Americans earlier in the week.

Two days earlier, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot after an encounter with police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Sterling was selling CDs outside a convenience store when a homeless man approached him and asked for money persistently. Sterling showed the man his gun and asked him to leave him alone, according to CNN. The homeless man then called 911 and said Sterling had been brandishing a gun.

Two bystander videos of the shooting appear to show two responding officers tackling him and attempting to restrain him on the ground. Sterling was shot in the chest and the back.

Bishop Robert Muench of Baton Rouge responded to the shooting with an invitation to be “ambassadors of hope and mercy” offering support after the example of the Good Samaritan.

“This week in our community, as in our nation, and as in our world, we find ourselves facing the many emotions that accompany acts of violence,” the bishop said. “We experience sadness, anger, frustration, and fear. To all these, our Lord invites us to renew our trust in his promise of fidelity, to increase our prayer, and to renew our commitment to peace and mercy toward one another.”

“Truly, we are all called to be ministers of healing to a hurting world,” he said. “May fear not lead us into despair. May anger not move us to inflict pain upon others. Rather, moved by the grace of Christ’s suffering for us, may we in turn impart that grace to one another.”

One day after Sterling’s death, an African American man in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was shot four times by a police officer and later died.

Philando Castile, age 32, had originally been pulled over for an alleged broken taillight.

His fiancée, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook as her four-year-old daughter sat in the car’s back seat. The video shows Castille laying in the seat of the car in a state of shock, groaning, with his shirt bloodied. In the video, Reynolds said Castile told the officer he had a firearm and had a concealed carry permit. She said that he was reaching for his wallet when he was shot.

The video, which reached over a million people on social media, shows Reynolds begin to realize her fiancé may be dying.

Both the officer involved in the shooting and the other officer at the scene have been placed on administrative leave as the incident is investigated.

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis responded by offering a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul for the preservation of peace and justice

“As people of faith, we turn to the Lord in challenging times, seeking not only his consolation and healing but also his wisdom and guidance,” Archbishop Hebda said July 7. “In the midst of anger, fear and frustration, we need to come together as God’s family to pray that God’s grace might unite all people of good will and bring light into the darkness of this difficult time.”

He said the Mass would ask God to console Castile’s family, but also to “heal the divisions in our community,” to guide public officials towards the common good, and to “satisfy the longings of those who thirst for justice and peace.”

The two police shootings reignited racial tensions that had already been smoldering in some parts of the country. Protests were held in numerous cities, many linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was after one of these protests that the Dallas ambush took place. Authorities have identified one suspect, who was killed by a police bomb squad robot after negotiations failed. Investigations are underway to determine whether other suspects may be on the loose.

In his statement, Archbishop Kurtz stressed that both police brutality and the killing of police officers must end.

“The assassination of Dallas police officers last night was an act of unjustifiable evil. To all people of good will, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity,” he said.

The archbishop called for national reflection on the need to place “ever greater value and the life and dignity of all persons.”

He called for honest discussion on race relations, restorative justice, economic opportunity, and “the question of pervasive gun violence.”

July 10th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Blueprint of Catholic response to Orlando: Pray, act, show solidarity

By Carol Zimmermann | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As Orlando, Florida, and the nation moves on from the shock of the June 12 nightclub attack, many are finding that there is no set path to find solace.

But in the midst of collective mourning over the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the Catholic Church had something to say not only about the senseless attack on human life but also about finding peace in troubled times and showing solidarity with the suffering.

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Many U.S. Catholic bishops condemned the shooting at the gay nightclub, which left 50 dead, including the shooter, and more than 50 others injured. Some were critical that the bishops as a group had not specifically noted that victims of the rampage were members of the gay and lesbian community.

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich took the lead in expressing sorrow that the gay community was singled out by the gunman. He said he and the Chicago Archdiocese stood with members of the gay community in the wake of “the heinous crimes” in Orlando “motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence.”

Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, and several other bishops around the country similarly expressed sadness for the gay community’s loss and the pain they experienced because of prejudice and hatred.

That’s a start, some say, hoping those messages will begin to diffuse hateful rhetoric that can lead some people to violence.

“Church teaching does not say you should be evil toward people,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, who said the heart of the church’s message is the need to love our brothers and sisters and welcome all.

“We must look at our own conscience” on this, she added.

McGuire said that as the country processes the Orlando attack, it should be “a moment for the church to rise and to be a source not only of comfort but of some advocacy and direction” for the church and the nation.

She urged church leaders to be even stronger in denouncing gun violence particularly as a pro-life issue and also said the church should show “in every way possible, its solidarity with members of the Islamic religion” based on a possible backlash against Muslims because of the shooter’s religion.

The Catholic Church certainly has grounds to speak on such issues based on the catechism and other church documents, said Matthew Tapie, director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Florida.

He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that public authorities have the duty to regulate the sale of arms and Catholic social teaching emphasizes that measures are needed to control the production and sale of small arms and light weapons.

Tapie also mentioned a 1986 letter to the world’s Catholic bishops issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that addressed violence toward gays. The letter said it is “deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

The Catholic Church also has spoken out on the issue of Islamophobia, although there is still work to be done at the local parish level on it, said Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative.

Duffner, a panelist at a June 20 discussion on “Faith, Hope and Courage in a Time of Fear,” sponsored by Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, stressed that Catholics should recognize that they have a great opportunity right now during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and in the middle of the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis to come together even if just in conversation.

Practical tips to continue the relationship, she said, would include praying for Muslims at Sunday Mass and Catholic groups hosting “iftar” meals for Muslims. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and break their fast in the evening with prayer and a festive meal called “iftar.”

Duffner was not alone in tying the Year of Mercy to the Catholic response to the Orlando shooting. Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, said that realization should be first and foremost in the minds of Catholics right now.

The challenge, he said in a June 16 interview, is to ask what it means to show mercy to the victims, those impacted by the attack and even the perpetrator. “It’s a difficult question but something our faith requires us to ask.”

Schmalz also said the often-repeated phrase “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” is a valid one if it is taken seriously.

“A lot of people are saying we don’t need prayer, we need action,” but the two aren’t mutually exclusive, he said. As he sees it, prayer can be a way of making what people do become more meaningful because then it is in light of one’s relationship with God.

This view was echoed in a June16 webinar for Our Sunday Visitor called: “When Disaster Strikes: Helping Children Cope With Tragedies, Disasters and Acts of Terror.” A participant asked how people can support those dealing with the long-term impact of the nightclub attack.

Joseph White, a child psychologist and catechetical author based in Austin, Texas, said the first thing to do is pray, then volunteer or contribute with charities responding to the tragedy.

If you live in Orlando, show support for those impacted, let them know you think and care about them, he said.

And if you don’t live there: “Look for ways to be a peacemaker where you live. Combat the culture of death with a culture of peace.”

July 3rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Francis: British vote to leave the E.U. entails ‘great responsibility’ for Europe

by Joshua J. McElwee of NCR

Aboard the Papal Flight to Armenia – Pope Francis has said the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the 28-member European Union entails a “great responsibility” to respect the will of the British people while maintaining “the peaceful coexistence of the entire European continent.”

In brief remarks aboard the papal flight to Armenia Friday morning — just hours after final reporting indicated Britain had voted by 51.9 percent to leave the EU — the pontiff said the vote was “the will expressed by the people.”

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“This requires a great responsibility on the part of all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom as well as the peaceful coexistence of the entire European continent,” the pope continued. “This is what I expect.”

Francis was speaking Friday as global markets plummeted throughout the morning on the news of the British vote, and as it raised wide fears of a larger fracturing of the half-century of European integration following the Second World War.

Within an hour of the official tally of the British vote, Dutch conservatives called for their own referendum on EU membership and nationalist parties in France and Italy praised the British move.

The vote could also cause a fracturing of the structure of the United Kingdom itself, with both Scotland and Northern Ireland widely wishing to stay in the EU.
North Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a member of the Sinn Fein political party, said that his party would seek a vote to leave the UK and unify with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland should consider a new referendum on its own independence.

The UK held a referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014. While 55.3 percent voted then to remain in the UK, Sturgeon and other political leaders have said that vote presupposed UK membership in the EU.

With all precincts reporting Friday morning, more than 17 million Britons voted to leave the EU. About 15.9 million voted to stay. Following the news, the value of the British pound hit its lowest level in 40 years.

While Francis has criticized the European Union in the past, he has also called it a model for how nations can create solutions together to avoid repeating past violence.
In accepting the prestigious German Charlemagne award in May, he said the EU had “dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction.”

On Friday the pontiff also expressed happiness at news that the country of Colombia had signed a tentative peace agreement with FARC militants, who have been fighting a guerilla war against the government since the 1960s.

“I am happy of this news that arrived yesterday,” said the pope. “More than 50 years of war and guerilla warfare — so much blood spilled. Beautiful news.”
Francis has said before that should the peace deal prove successful he plans to visit Colombia some time in 2017.

The pontiff is visiting Armenia Friday-Sunday on his 14th visit outside Italy since his election in March 2013.

Upon landing in the country Friday afternoon, the pope is to meet with the leader of the Armenian Apostolic church, an Oriental Orthodox community that includes some 93 percent of Armenia’s population of three million. Francis will also meet Friday with President Serzh Sargsyan and the country’s political leaders. On Saturday, the pope will visit the country’s memorial to the World War I-era killings of some 1.5 million Armenians.

The pope caused a diplomatic kerfuffle with Turkish leaders last year when he described the killings as the first genocide of the 20th century, a description Turkey has long resisted.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

June 26th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Real Men DO Thrift

By Danielle O’Brien

The St. John XXIII Thrift Store has grown in leaps and bounds since it’s renovation in 2010. The store’s great success in contributing tens of thousands of dollars to students’ Catholic Education is largely because of the efforts of the store’s staff, volunteers and donors.

The volunteers who work at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store (Yes, volunteers- they don’t get paid) have played a vital role in that growth. They are the smiling faces the customers see when they walk into the store and their hands (and muscles) are what load the sold items into customers’ vehicles. When the lifting gets too heavy, or when a furniture piece needs to be moved or refinished, the men who volunteer answer that call.

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Their hard work is simply invaluable.

And while St. John XXIII Thrift Store is fortunate to have the man-power it does today, that doesn’t mean the store couldn’t use a few more hands. Not sure what that entails? Parishioner and Thrift Store Volunteer, Guy Fragnoli will show you the way.

Danielle O’Brien: Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with volunteering at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store.

Guy Fragnoli: We’ve lived in the area for almost five years now. We’ve lived all over the country and had always been active in the Catholic Community. When we moved to Fort Myers, I was retired and I wanted something to keep me occupied, so I thought- volunteering. I saw an announcement in the St. John XXIII bulletin that the St. John XXIII Thrift Store was looking for volunteers. I inquired and now my wife and I have been there for three years. I love it! It’s been great.

DOB: How often do you volunteer at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store and what are some tasks you do during your shift?

GF: I work two four-hour shifts a week: Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. I have a variety of duties at the store, which I like because I’m not doing just one thing during my shift. During my volunteer hours, I work the cash register and use my man power to assist with loading and unloading items into and out of cars. I’ll also help with arranging furniture. In addition, I’m responsible for updating the Craigslist items.

DOB: What surprised you about volunteering at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store?

GF: I thought it would be very regimented. I thought there wouldn’t be much flexibility. And while I wasn’t looking to have a grand ol’ time, I was hoping that I could establish some relationships with some people. To my surprise and comfort, I quickly learned the Thrift Store is very flexible. My wife also works on Wednesday afternoons. On Wednesdays during season, a group of volunteers get together and go out to dinner. So in return, we’ve gotten some really great relationships through volunteering our time.

DOB: Do you think it takes a lot of knowledge about miscellaneous products in order to work at the thrift store?

GF: Normally, I’ll arrive for my shift about 20 minutes early to do a store walk-through just to see what the store has on the floor and what has been sold since my last shift. I’ll make a mental note for when customers come in or call. I also look for what items may be worth listing on Craigslist.

DOB: You sound like a retail expert! What is your background?

GF: Actually, not retail! I was the Logistics Director for Kodak out of Rochester, NY. I managed all the warehousing, transportation and customer service operations for the U.S. and Canada. So, I guess I have a lot of experience in people interaction and customer service. In return, that has been a big benefit as I work with both volunteers and customers at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store.

DOB: Some may say that thrift store shopping and working at a thrift store may be a ‘woman thing’. Do you disagree?

GF: Sometimes customers are a little surprised to see me working, but I think they appreciate seeing both men and women volunteering at the St. John XXIII Thrift Store. We have a good group of men who work at the store and the women volunteers really appreciate having us around to help with the heavy-lifting and other tasks. We even have a gentleman who refinishes the furniture we get in. Sometimes, what we receive may need a little work and this particular volunteer has the furniture looking brand new by time he’s finished with the piece. We also have another gentleman who is really good at electrical work, so if something like a television is donated, but needs a minor repair before we can sell it, he will fix it. There are so many opportinities to volunteer at the Thrift Store.

Would you like to volunteer at the thrift store? Contact the Parish Office at 239-561-2245 to begin the volunteer process. Already a St. John XXIII volunteer? Contact Cynthia at: john23thrift@gmail.com Want to check out the St. John XXIII Thrift Store?

St. John XXIII Thrift Store is located at:
15200 South Tamiami Trail #110
Fort Myers, 33908
Monday – Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm

June 19th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Our Father’s Day

Obtained from Catholicexchange.com Written by Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Father’s Day invites us to ask a very important question: what does it mean to call God “Father?”

Most of the great religions of the world believe in one God and teach the gist of the Ten Commandments.

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But that the supreme Being is not just “King of the Universe” or “Master” but “Father,” that he desires us to have a close, familiar relationship with Him–these ideas you don’t find anywhere outside the teaching of Jesus.

To call God “Father” does not mean to say, of course, that he is an old man with a white beard. Only the second person of the Blessed Trinity wedded himself to a male human nature in the womb of Mary. The Father and the Holy Spirit are pure Spirit and transcend male and female, masculine and feminine (CCC 239). This is no new insight brought to Christianity by the feminist movement. It has always been taught that the word “Father,” applied to God, is used by way of analogy. Analogies tell us something very true despite being imperfect. Until recently, the father was recognized by Western society as origin, head and provider of the family. To call the first person of the Trinity “Father” means that he is the origin and transcendent authority of all and cares for the needs of all.

But we all instinctively know that a father who does no more than bark orders and pay the bills is leaving something out. We expect a dad to have an intimate, affectionate relationship with his children, to spend “quality time” with them. To call God “Father” means, then, that he is near to us, intimately concerned with us, fond of us, even crazy about us. He is not the distant, clockmaker God of Thomas Jefferson and the Deists. This aloof God of the philosophers created the world to run by virtue of its own natural laws so that he could withdraw and occupy himself with more interesting pursuits.

No, the God whom Jesus calls Father cares about us and knows us intimately. “Every hair on your head is numbered (Mat 10:30).” He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows us better than we know ourselves.

Now, this does not mean that He makes all things go smoothly for us. He loves us so much that He made us in His image and likeness, which means He made us free. And through the free choice of the first man, evil and death were invited into our world.
He does not shield us from all the troublesome consequences of this “original sin” which each of us, sadly, has ratified with our own personal sin. But He sent us prophets, like Jeremiah, to wake us up and warn us of the horrible consequences of disobedience.

And finally He sent his firstborn Son to be a new Adam, to pay the price of that disobedience and give the human race an undeserved new start.

The most horrible consequence of sin, eternal death (Gehenna), has been graciously removed for all who accept the free gift of salvation that comes by way of the cross of Christ. But evil is still at large in the world, and evil brings trials and tribulations. Our Father will not shelter us from these anymore than He sheltered Jeremiah (Jer 20:10-13) or Jesus. A good father doesn’t protect his children forever from the harsh realities of life, but helps them as they progress through various stages of development to face the challenges and grow through the difficulties. Scripture says that even Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8-9). How much more do we need to learn and mature, and some learning can only take place through suffering.

So as a true Father, he loves us too much to take us out of the fray. But there’s one thing we can be sure of–He’ll never leave us to fight our battles alone.

June 12th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Passing the Torch

By: Danielle O’Brien

For the past 10 years, parishioner Barbara Catineau has taken on the RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation of Adults) by the horns and has grown the program at St. John XXIII in leaps and bounds.

Barbara is known for her kind heart, motherly spirit and great wisdom of the Bible and the Catholic faith. Being a listener of God’s voice, she is stepping down from her role as ministry leader and passing the torch on to a team of volunteers who will continue to build on an already successful ministry.

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This weekend Barbara was honored for her decade of commitment to RCIA. Her time and talent has been invaluable to the parish, and most importantly those who entered into the Catholic Faith. Before you read about Barbara’s journey and how the program will move forward, here’s what a few RCIA “graduates” had to say about her:

“I met Barbara when a friend took me to a Bible study Barbara was holding in her home. She immediately made an impression on me. Sometime later, when I decided I wanted to become a Catholic, there she was waiting to guide me through RCIA. I want what that woman has, I thought.
Barbara exudes a quiet joy that comes from her close relationship with Jesus. ‘Feel the love’ is an old hippie expression that truly describes being in the same room with Barbara. There is no question that she thoroughly loves us all and she goes about her work with a joy and enthusiasm that comes from her heart. Thank you, Barbara, for all your help and encouragement as I prepared to become Catholic. Your example reassured me that I was making the right choice and thank you too for being a wonderful friend. It’s a friendship that I cherish. I love you. -Barbara “Babs” Linn, RCIA 2012

“Barbara is the face of St. John XXlll to the Catholic inquirer and a more welcoming one you could not find. Her warmth and patience shined through as we spoke in Father Bob’s office during our initial interview. I remember her kindly presence during the many months of Sunday mornings spent learning about our beautiful faith. ‘Bind us Together, Lord’ was the hymn we sang every week. And bond we did, with Barbara, as our good shepherd.” -Ruth Condit, RCIA 2013

“Barbara was more than a teacher, she welcomed and cared about the entire person not just the religious aspect. I am so happy to have had the chance to meet with her each Wednesday evening to learn and discuss becoming Catholic!” -David Nelson, RCIA 2015

“Barbara was a great teacher and friend. She helped me with my journey in the Catholic faith and, she was my shoulder to cry on through the loss of my son, Carter. She still continues to pray for me and my family. She is one of the most kind, genuine people I know who welcomed our family into the church with open arms. I will never forget her kindness!” -Heather Armeros, RCIA 2016

DOB: What has been the most rewarding part of leading the RCIA ministry at St John XXIII ?

BC: The most rewarding part of this ministry is the joy of seeing people changing their lives and accepting Jesus and wanting to be part of our faith community.

Each person is called by God to inquire about our Catholic faith. They come at different ages, from different life experiences. Each person has their own unique story. Some come because they have experienced a loss of a loved one. Some, don’t really know why, but say that they have always been attracted to the Catholic Church, even if they have never been in one. Some come for unity of religion in the family.

Some come because of this parish because they are attracted to how we live out our Catholic faith. So many reasons…each person searching for a relationship with God. They want to know how the Catholic church is different from other Christian churches. This is a place a person can go to talk about God and faith in their lives. Every time I meet with them and hear their stories, they touch my heart and increase my faith.

DK: Talk about your passion for RCIA.

BC: I am passionate about the people. Especially, the people seeking faith. This ministry is a ‘people ministry.’ This process needs to have: Catechists: people who know their faith, live it and are willing to share it. We are so blessed in our parish. All 12 of the catechists are also involved in some other ministry besides being a catechist so the Inquirers get to know so many more people.

I do have a Planning Team: It has consisted of Ginny Whelan, Mark Bir, Leslie Robertson and Jennifer Engleman. Dan Pieper is our scribe. They have consented to stay with the RCIA process and this is a big gift because they have been involved for many years and know the people & the process and can move it forward with the use of all the multi media technology that is available. Sponsors are also needed. Each person coming into the Church needs to have a sponsor. Someone who will be there for them at the Rites we celebrate in the Church and be there when they need a friend. Then, we need Hospitality. The Women’s Guild has many ladies who have volunteered to bring goodies for the Sunday morning sessions and help on special occasions. Our priests, parish staff and you, the Assembly, the People of God are all a big part of this ministry.

Your welcoming manner, your smiles, your kindness are what makes our parish so very special. I say; “Thank You to all of you with all my heart!”

DOB: How has this ministry changed you?

BC: The RCIA process has been a special gift of God to me. To be part of this Journey of Faith is such a privilege. The Inquirers and Catechists really do become a family. We get to hear the stories and deepen our relationship with God and each other. In our sessions on our Catholic doctrine, I always hear something new. My faith is kept alive and challenged. Then at the different Masses, when I see the people who have come through the process and are active in our Church, I am so proud!! It has been over 10 years and I have made so many friends. I love this parish! I am not going anywhere. I am not sure just where the Lord will call me next. I will be listening. The RCIA process is a gift to our Church. If anyone reading this article would like to come into our faith, please call the parish office. You will be welcomed and treasured!!!

The new leadership team for St. John XXIII RCIA is made up of Leslie Robertson, Mark Bir and Ginny Whelan, team coordinator.

Below is an interview with Ginny Whelan on how the program will move forward:

DOB: Explain a little bit about what RCIA is for those who aren’t Catholic or don’t know much about RCIA.

RCIA at St. John XXIII is a team-delivered faith formation process centered on fostering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When provided information about the Roman Catholic Faith and through this formation, willing candidates are prepared to receive the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. Members of the RCIA leadership team share responsibilities for sharing, instructing, facilitating and leading catechumens and candidates through the faith journey.

DOB: How will the ‘team approach’ be beneficial to the RCIA program and future growth?

The ‘team approach” addresses the growing class size and a year-round program. RCIA team members will support each other. It also allows us to share in the privilege of assisting catechumens and candidates as they respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ.
DOB: If someone is interested in RCIA program, what should they do?

They have three options:

  • Call the parish office at 239-561-2245
  • Contact me, the RCIA Team coordinator at vwhelan99@gmail.com
  • Call me at 239-362-1283

Funeral Mass for Father Tom Palko:
Father Thomas Palko passed away on May 30th, 2016 at the age of 85. His funeral will be held here on Wednesday, June 15th at 10:00 a.m. followed by burial in the memorial garden and reception in the community room.

Father Tom was the founding Parochial Vicar at St. John XXIII.

Condolences may be sent to:
Fr. James Greenfield O.S.F.S. Provincial
2200 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806

June 5th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Summer Ideas for the Catholic Family

By: Jeannie Ewig of Catholic Exchange

Summer is the season that heralds barbecues and all-day swimming, but many Catholic families aren’t entirely sure how to encourage old-fashioned family bonding time without the intrusion of technological devices. While many parents might dread summertime – when kids are home all day, every day for a couple of months – I actually look forward to it. It’s a time of holy leisure when my girls and I can get up in the morning at our own pace and enter into our day with a sense of peace and perspective.

To temper the possibility of boredom with engaging activities that are both family- and faith-friendly, I like to go back to nature. Now, more than ever before, it’s necessary for us to reconnect with creation, not as a bizarre attempt to “commune with the universe,” but rather as an intentional act of contemplating the beauty, wonder, and simple riches God created for us to use and enjoy. Here are ten suggestions for you and your family to enter into those sweltering summer months with purpose.

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Reconnect with nature
One of my favorite aspects of summer is the plethora of opportunities to spend time outdoors. When I was a child, my parents planned elaborate vacations every summer to some destination that revolved around a particular time in history or culture. While these were certainly memorable, some of my fondest memories occurred in conversation hanging around a bonfire in the backyard on a lazy summer’s eve or perhaps an impromptu picnic at our local state park.

The point is, you don’t have to spend countless hours or thousands of dollars to create lasting impressions of authentic connection for your children or spouse. God provided the landscape for us to connect with Him and with each other. All we have to do is create the moments.
Visit a state park

State parks are those family hot spots that some of us overlook as affordable locations to create family memories. You can start with the parks in your state, or venture on a road trip to discover new ones. They are usually clean and provide ample space to experience the holy leisure that summer provides.

Though the list is endless on what you can do at state parks, here are some of my favorites:
Camping:If you have a camper, try a new state park this year for your adventure into nature. If you are more of an outdoorsy type, try tent camping.

Swimming: Most parks have beaches that your family can enjoy together, which is a perfect way to spend a sweltering sunny day.
Canoeing: If your park has a beach, it will probably also offer canoe or paddle boat rental. Take one out on the water with your family. This is an ideal way to see how your family operates as a team and use the time you share for interesting and possibly hilarious conversation.

Nature hike: My dad always took my brother and me on nature hikes when we visited state parks. This was the part of our outdoor adventure that I most looked forward to. After reviewing the maps of different trails, my dad would determine if this was a “quiet” walk or one where he could inform us about the different species of plant and tree life or even point out animals. The “quiet” walks occurred when a deer or moose spotting was more probable, and he didn’t want our talking to scare them away. Hiking a nature trail offers multiple benefits, including exercise, time for contemplating God’s creation, and vitamin D from the sunshine.

Nature center: Another sure hit with young children is the nature center, which is like a mini-museum where you can learn about what kinds of insects, animals, trees, and birds are indigenous to the park where you’re staying. Some even have kid-friendly activities or a park ranger who is willing to take you on a guided tour.

Go stargazing
Even if you don’t own a telescope, taking a drive into the country on a clear summer’s night to watch the stars has a definite celestial feel to it. As a child, I would look for the Big and Little Dipper constellations, but I also marveled at the bright lights of distant planets and the twinkle of the occasional shooting star. Pondering the immensity of the cosmos in relation to our miniscule presence on earth is another gateway into conversation about God’s vastness and our gratitude for the beauty of the night sky.

Have a picnic
You can do this anywhere, but my girls especially love to pack a picnic lunch and head to our neighborhood playground. Because it’s deemed out of the ordinary for small kids, something we might find slightly boring is quite thrilling to them. That’s why I love this as a summer activity: it saves me money on food if we are at the zoo, and it’s simple enough to throw together on a whim. What a great way to get the kids outside, too.

Go birdwatching
My childhood trips to zoos, museums, and state parks triggered an interest in ornithology. When I approached middle school, my parents gave me a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book, which I used whenever I was outdoors. It’s fun and educational to look up colorful or exotic birds and identify them by their songs, which can be listened to online.

RECONNECT WITH YOUR FAITH

Visit a shrine
I recently discovered a little hideaway in St. John, Indiana, which is fairly close to where I live. It is the home of the Shrine of Christ’s Passion, where life-sized images of Jesus and His disciples are laid out on the property in stone. After I heard about this shrine, I realized that there are many accessible places all over the country that we can visit for a day of prayer and pilgrimage. Take your family on a little road trip to discover what holy places are near you, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how your children will be spiritually touched by the experience.

Build a Mary garden
Prayer gardens allows time in solitude to contemplate, pray, and meditate by reflecting on the sacred space that includes specific flowers, statues, or grottos. Mary gardens include flowers named after Our Lady, such as roses, lilies, marigolds, Our Lady’s Tears, among other countless varieties. If you have the space in your yard, carve out some time in the summer to make this a family endeavor of transforming a particular space into one that is dedicated to Mary. You can add special touches, like benches and statues. Once it’s complete, pray a family rosary together and encourage everyone to spend time as they wish to pray outside.

Make a time capsule
Everyone likes the idea of burying treasure and opening it up years later. Collect photos, holy cards, favorite prayers or Bible verses, fond memories, and other trinkets or memorabilia to include in your time capsule.

Create a scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are always a hit for the young and old alike, so why not make yours specific to learning about the Faith? There are some fantastic ideas online on how to make this typical activity an opportunity for you and your kids to grow in knowledge of the Faith.

Most Catholic scavenger hunts aren’t designed for moving outdoors, but you can creatively ponder ways to get your family moving on a treasure hunt for medals of saints, holy cards, or little figurines you have buried or hidden outside that correspond with questions you come up with.

While I may have included the fun aspects of summer, I am no stranger to the reality of sunburns, sand fleas, ticks, mosquitos, snakes, and spiders. Before you plan your family activities, remember the sunscreen, bug spray, and food screens to protect yourself and your children. The key is to use the summer months as an opportunity to grow closer to your loved ones and deepen your faith. By the time your kids return to school, they will be grateful for the screen-free quality time you spent with them.

Remembering Father Tom Palko

Father Thomas Palko passed away last weekend at the age of 85. Father Tom was the founding Parochial Vicar at St. John XXIII. His funeral Mass was held in Childs, Maryland.

The Oblates will hold a Mass at Our Lady of Light in the near future. The burial will be held in our Memorial Garden.
Condolences may be sent to:

Fr. James Greenfield O.S.F.S. Provincial

May 29th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Our Living Faith: Corpus Christi & The Streets

By: Glenna Walsh of Catholic Exchange

Growing up in a Catholic family, a Catholic school, and a Catholic neighborhood, I do not remember ever being told that the feast of Corpus Christi is a pretty big deal. No one need tell me; rather, it was shown to me, to the entire parish, through celebration. Every year after Mass we would have a procession. The celebrant, in his solemn vestments, would lead the parishioners, holding the Eucharist in the monstrance high above his head. The point impressed itself clearly upon my imagination: Jesus led His flock, my working class Italian neighborhood included, even if only around the block.

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The wonder of this feast in my childhood was the Mystery of the Real Presence, that little wafer host becoming the biggest thing there is—namely, the Body and Blood of Christ. More often now, I wonder at how few seem to remember, know, or acknowledge this Mystery.

If the Real Presence, the crux of the Corpus Christi feast, is slipping quickly out of mind, it follows from a significant slip out of sight. Visible, tangible, sensible signs are one of the greatest gifts of our Faith. Signs are part of our living tradition, citing joy for what has been given to us and calling us to look to the future that God has prepared.

Think miracles. The liquifying of St. Gennaro’s blood this past March was immediately met not only with celebration by the people of Naples, of whom the saint is patron, but with an exhortation by Pope Francis to sanctity. All signs pointing to the glory of God are wonderful, but they need not be miraculous in themselves. We ordinary Catholics have our own ways of pointing to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God—we are, after all, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Up there with the Real Presence in the Eucharist, one of my favorite facets of Corpus Christi is the history of its celebration. The feast took to the streets long before my home parish started our procession. Anglophiles and history buffs will enjoy as much as I do the particular pageant tradition of medieval England. Every year on this feast day, the walled city of York would revel in the historical manifestation of God’s glory with a cycle of plays that told (often by silly puns and slapstick humor) the entirety of Salvation History. The guilds, groups of craft and tradesmen, were each responsible for a different story—the shipwrights performed the Building of the Ark, the bakers depicted the Last Supper. Twelve plays were put on each year, with the whole polity of York processing from wagon to wagon to see “not fiction, but the holy realities which from [their] childhood [they] learned to venerate.”

The tongue-in-cheek tone of the York plays has always struck me. Rather than make mockery of God’s Revelation throughout human history, they marry the silliness of human folly to the gravity of Divine Providence, thus raising an interesting point. Why, in the Middle Ages, were these ordinary Englishmen so comfortable with their faith? On the other hand, why did the entire city stop what it was doing to watch plays about Noah bickering with his wife?

In short, because they knew just how big a deal the Faith is and was, which they made clear through their signs and celebrations.

In big, dramatic displays and small, provincial ones, the Faithful have been taking our Faith to the streets since Day One. Less than two weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost, which remembers the Apostles coming out from fear and trembling and boldly proclaiming the Faith. It can be done in words, it can be done in deeds—it can be done in both, through signs, through celebrations, both in Mass and in mirth.

I said earlier that in my childhood the wonder of Corpus Christi was the Real Presence. Perhaps I misspoke; the delight of Corpus Christi was the Real Presence. The delight of the Mass was that every Sunday (in fact, every day) Jesus Christ the Son of God made a point of visiting my little parish, a tiny church tucked away on a South Philly corner. Once a year, we made a point of throwing Him a parade.

The medieval York plays told the story of human folly making life hellish and God, in His infinite Love and Mercy, fixing it.

Celebrations of this kind, celebrations of this truth, have dwindled over the years. Every year the participation in my parish procession gets smaller and smaller, but, at least, there is a procession. Today is the feast of Corpus Christi in many dioceses; we need to celebrate. We need to remember that Christ is with is in a very real way, every day on altars across the world. We need to remember that we are His body, His hands, His footmen, and we need to take to the streets. We need to celebrate our Faith, cherish it, rejoice in it.

We need, moreover, to bring our salvation to light in our lives, so that just maybe the world might rejoice in it with us. It is, after all, the biggest and best deal there is.

May 22nd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Sharing the Trinity

By: Kevin Tierney of Catholic Exchange

When the Gospel was proclaimed at Pentecost, the Church entered a new phase in history. Likewise, with our celebration of Pentecost, while a new liturgical year is not restarted, we do enter a new liturgical season. As with all new things, the first thing we should do is acknowledge God, and this Sunday’s liturgy is no different. Throughout the week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) traditionally Latin Catholics entered this new season with what were known as Ember Days, days set aside specifically for prayer and fasting. Once those days ended, the Church celebrated Trinity Sunday.

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What does it mean to acknowledge the Trinity? To say we are just acknowledging God is true, but what does that mean? The Collect states that we are able to acknowledge the Trinity “in confessing the true faith”, and that is the first lesson we should learn here. To know the fullness of God is a gift, something we are incapable on our own merits. We can understand God exists from our reason alone. Yet knowing he exists is different from knowing the extent of who he is.

Why does God wish to reveal this to us? The Gospel gives us a hint, where Christ commands us to baptize all in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is engaging in a play on words here. He isn’t giving the Apostles three names, rather, he is giving them one name. The name of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are together, and you cannot mention one without the other two. That is why in our liturgies, prayers are never addressed solely to the Father, but to all three persons of the Trinity. All three play a role. In the Extraordinary Form, prayers ar concluded with (or with something similar to) “through Our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with You (The Father), in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

In the Hebrew culture of Christ’s time, sharing one’s name implies an intimate friendship. So when Jesus is revealing the name of God, He is revealing the desire of God to be close to His Church. That closeness is demonstrated in the way we address God. He is not simply “God”, but rather Abba, father. (Romans 8:15) God wishes himself to be understood in familial terms with us.

In addition to knowing God, Christ commands that we share Him. The first impulse of the Father is to share love with the Son, and that sharing is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we who have had God made known to us likewise have an impulse to share our faith, our love with others, to make God known. This is the basic impulse of Christianity, to share it with others, both inside and outside the Church. One can even measure the Church by that impulse to share. While we should always be leery of measuring Christianity by the amount of converts we have, we should be measuring Christianity by our willingness to share that faith.

If we are looking for something to say “this is the cause of the Crisis”, I would argue it is that reluctance to share our faith. Due to our divided and factional nature, we do not share our faith with each other. Almost a decade after Summorum Pontificum, traditionalists in prominent dioceses are forbidden from advertising their Latin Masses, from sharing the faith as they understand it with their fellow Catholics. In a desire to go along to get along, how often do we avoid sharing our faith with others? As the Gospel reminds us, we aren’t just failing to share with them an abstraction known as “God”, but we are failing to bring them their family. Is withholding the identity of one’s father a kindness? Is it not cruel? Yet when we scare away from evangelizing, that is what we are doing.

If we aren’t sharing the faith, what’s the point? I want you to reflect on that a bit before answering. What’s the point of having a relationship with God, a relationship that can transform the entire world, just to sit on it and not let anyone know? When you do that, the Gospel loses its power to transform lives, at which point it becomes just another pointless self-help manual, and not a very good one at that. I don’t think any author would say the key to fulfillment is to annoy the world, invite its persecution, and then get killed in the Colliseum or at the hands of fanatics. Yet if we are sharing the message that can transform humanity and all the cosmos, such things are minor in comparison.

Another thing worth remembering in sharing the Trinity with others is that you are sharing something that is not of your own creation. This is the great temptation today. God wishes to reveal himself to humanity, and to be revealed in a certain way. When we change or water down his doctrine and truth, we are trying to show the world something that is not the Trinity. This is why all these debates about tradition and doctrine, frustrating as they can be, matter. We aren’t bitter Pharisees because of it; at least I hope we aren’t! We’ve been given a great gift, and we want everyone else to have it to, but when we change it, it is no longer God’s gift, but rather ours. Our gift can be nice. Our gift can even make people feel better. What it cannot do is change people’s lives. What it cannot do is offer them salvation. Only God can give that to someone, and all we can do is give that message to others in love, and try to create an environment where God’s grace can flourish.

That last sentence gives us our third and final truth about sharing the Trinity. In Catholicism today a large emphasis is placed on conversions. Conversions are great. They are wonderful. Many of us are either converts, or those who rediscovered the faith. Yet beautiful as they are, we cannot base our “success” on the amount of people we convert. We cannot do this because it is not us who converts. St. Paul made this point clear in his epistle to the Corinthians. He planted seeds, others watered, and God made it grow. If we limit our evangelization to simply announcing the word of God, what good is it? The most fertile plant in the world still doesn’t grow without some sort of nutrients. The best way to reveal God’s love is to love. What better way to show a life transformed by love than to show that great love unconditionally? How are we building up a culture of the Gospel so the grace of the Spirit can be fruitful? When we share the faith with others, are we still there the next day helping them out? Or did we do our good deed and go home? Are we sharing the faith in our actions as well as our words? While St. Francis of Assisi almost certainly never said “preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words”, it must be remember we are revealing to others a new way of living, not just a new way of thinking. The Gospel is meant to transform every aspect of our lives. Unless we live out that transformation, why should anyone believe what we say?

I think all of these reasons are why Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost. We are called to take up the mission of spreading the Gospel just as the Apostles were. Their first task was to receive the truth about God, and then share it with others. When we go to Mass this Sunday, we are given the truth about the Trinity, and immediately expected to share it with others, in both our words, and our deeds.

May 15th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Introducing Our New Parish Nurses

By: Danielle O’Brien

One of many things St. John XXIII Catholic Church is blessed with are parishioners with great talent and want to use that talent to serve the Body of Christ. Parishioners, Helen Tuffy (pictured left) and Judy Balyeat (pictured right) are a true example of that. Both registered nurses with active licenses, Helen and Judy are taking their passion of nursing and combining it with their faith as they have just been commissioned as the Parish Nurses at St. John XXIII. The program, headed by Lee Memorial Health Systems, aims to bring a spiritual component to the encouragement of health and wellness making for a successful plan to focus on whole person health.

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Judy and Helen will be the first ones to say that they won’t be able to make your health problems go away, but they will do their best to understand what is happening and explain it to you in a way that you can understand.

Danielle O’Brien: Tell us a little bit about your nursing experience.

Judy Balyeat: I worked for forty years as a nurse. Since my husband and I were raising a family many of those years, I was part-time. I retired from Ohio State University after 27 years. I worked in individual departments such as critical care, peripheral vascular disease, trauma and same-day surgery. I also worked for five years in home health, three years for an allergist and three years volunteering for a pro-life clinic.

Helen Tuffy: I have been a nurse as long as I can remember! Since before we couldn’t tell our patients what their blood pressure was! I worked mostly in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Units. My transfer to Home Health opened up a new world where I had one-on-one with my patients. I love it.

DOB: How did you first hear about the Parish Nurse Program?

JB: I was intrigued by the parish nurse program when I first came to St. John XXIII 10 years ago. I didn’t know anyone in the program at the time, so I got involved in home health ministries. Then about six weeks ago, Helen approached me about the parish nurse program. I was so honored and blessed to be asked. I can now combine the faith and profession that I love and cherish.

HT: Parish Nursing has become increasing in popularity over the past 20 years. Presently, there are only two Catholic Churches in Lee and Collier County that have the same program that we are involved in. Nancy Roberts of Lee Memorial Health Systems met with Holly and me to explain its advantages. After some discernment, we thought it might be a good ministry for St. John XXIII.

DOB: What are you most passionate about in nursing?

JB: All my life I wanted to be a nurse! I love helping people in all aspects of need and care.

DOB: What exactly does a “Parish Nurse” do?

Here’s an idea of what we do:

A.We’ll speak at the Parish Advisory Council (PAC) meetings and offer services, collaboration and resources to all parish groups and ministries.
B. We assist parishioners who are being discharged from the hospital and rehab facilities. We’ll make sure they have food, care and an understanding of the discharge instructions.
C. We assist with community resource referrals.

DOB: Why is the Parish Nurse program an answered prayer for many parishioners at St. John XXIII?

So many of our parishioners are very sick and need education and care in physical, emotional and spiritual areas. We are now beginning to offer assistance and hope to be fully operational in the Fall of 2016.

We hope to prevent problems for our parishioners before they rise to a crisis level, and lessen hospital re-admissions when we can, through the use of resources and education, as we share God’s love and mercy.

DOB: Talk about the process you had to go through in order to be commissioned as a Parish Nurse?

JB: Lee Memorial System has an awesome community program available to all parish nurses. Nancy Roberts will serve as our mentor and is guiding us through the learning and set-up process. We’ve had to get training through Lee Memorial Health System, CPR certified, Florida Nursing licenses and take a minimum 35 hour Parish nurse education program.

DOB: Can the parish nurses assist in helping non-members of St. John XXIII?

JB: Sure. While our parishioners come first, we can try to help any referrals given to us by the priests or parish office.

If someone would like to speak with you about one of your services, what should they do or how do they go about getting in contact with you?

Right now folks can contact the parish office, (239)561-2245. The office will pass the information on to us. Once we have visited a patient/parishioner, they will contact us directly for their future needs.

May 8th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Happy Mother’s Day

As we celebrate Mother’s Day to honor the most important woman in our lives – our moms – we should also honor Mary, the Mother of God, and us all. The Bible tells as that she was the one who bore Christ, our Savior from our sins.

Jesus himself told His beloved disciple, John, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27), in a message to all the members of his Church that we should all behold the mother who brought God’s life to us. It is not surprising that Mary has become one of the most important images of the Catholic Church. Mary, our mother, has become the most sacred symbol of God’s love to his Church. As children of God, we are bound to one another through His love. And, Mary is the perfect symbol to remind us of this.

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Through Mary, the faithful is called to her son. She is our shining example of human virtue and we look at her as the epitome of our faith, the true humble handmade of the Lord. Yet, she is a woman with intense compassion to her children. Many faithful believe that we can get faster through Christ through her intervention. Such is the power she wields.

Even the Vatican Council II recognizes her importance when it decided to include a summary of Marian doctrine in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, instead of issuing another decree on Mary. Perhaps the Council Fathers want to remind the Catholic faithful that we should always place Mary equally within our understanding of the Christian faith.

Because Mother’s Day is also a time to pay tribute to the greatest mother of all, Mary, we can show our devotion to our Church with these Bible verses that will help us to reflect and renew our faith.

1. I Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

This is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible on love. A mother’s love knows no boundaries.

2. Philippians 4:8 – Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of a good report – if there is any virtue and if there is any praise – think on these things.

Moms are a great source of honor, loveliness and goodness. A mother’s love for her children is pure and full of virtue.

3. Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
The Bible also teaches us to praise motherhood as God himself praises the woman who gives life to a child. Being a mother is God’s reward.

4. Isaiah 49:15 – Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? A mother will never forget her child no matter what. A mother’s love and devotion to her child will stand the test of time.

5. Psalm 139:13 – You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb
And even while we are still in our mother’s womb, God’s hand is already working to nurture us and make us what we are now.

By: Komfie Manalo

Prayer for Mothers

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

 

May 1st, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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A May For Mary

I always look forward to the month of May. For one, as a Wisconsinite, it finally means the snow might be gone for good! But most of all, because it is the month, that we as a Church, honor the Mother of God. To a certain degree, I treat the month of May as I do Lent. In particular, I try to add one Marian devotion to my daily repertoire or do something concretely Marian that month. As May 1st, quickly approaches, it is time for me to decide what I’ll do. Have you ever done something extra special for Mary during the month of May?

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If not, here are a couple of suggestions for living May for Mary this year!

Read a Book

There is no shortage of Marian books! After Jesus, the Mother of God is one of the people subjected the most to writings and artistic depictions. There are several different genres of Marian books though.

There are devotional books, meant to prompt further reflection on the life of Mary. I recently had the opportunity to review one for a journal called Mother of Mercy by Sr. Marie Paul Farran. She provides 31 reflections based on titles of Mary derived from the scriptures. Accompanied with an icon related to the title, along with a source text and a prayer from the tradition, makes the book a wonderful asset. There is also a marvelous work by Bishop Bousset, titled Meditations on Mary which will satiate anyone’s Marian hunger.

Then there are greater works on Mary by popular authors. One that immediately comes to mind is Fulton Sheen’s work The World’s Greatest Love. The classics from St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary or The Secret of the Rosary are timeless treasures. For a more contemporary look at Mary, I recommend either Dr. Scott Hahn’s text or the work of Dr. Edward Sri.

And, little did you expect, there are even fictitious novels on Mary. One interesting one is Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. The novel recounts how Mary unexpectedly shows up at someone’s house one day. It’s an interesting story which interweaves history and teaching.

Plant a Mary Garden

Vincenzina Krymow wrote a magnificent book, Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends, Meditations, in which she details flowers representative of Mary. At St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, for example, they plant a Mary garden, using those symbolic Marian flowers. Many families might have a Mary statue in their front yard, so why not spruce it up with some flowers this year? And when you plant the garden, be sure to bring flowers of the rarest and fairest to the Queen of the May.

Go on Pilgrimage

There are many Marian Shrines in the United States, Canada, and across the world. If you are able, go to one of those shrines. Many of them have Holy Doors commemorating the Year of Mercy. Walking through the Holy Doors affords you an opportunity to gain an indulgence. Marian Shrines are oases of God’s mercy since the sacrament of Penance is regularly offered. On pilgrimage, make time for Mass, and pray before the devotional image of Mary honored at that particular shrine.

Pray the Rosary

The rosary by and large is the Marian devotion par excellence. When people think Marian devotion, they usually think the rosary. If you are an irregular rosary pray-er, make May a month when you commit to praying it every day.

One of my favorite ways of praying the rosary is by walking. It’s a nice way for me to end the day, and since I’ve committed some of the phrases of A Rosary Litany to memory, I can even pray the rosary in that fashion while I walk. Last year, I wrote an article for Catholic Exchange titled, “Walking with Mary” which explained why praying the rosary while walking is legit.

Mary asked us to pray it every day when she appeared in Fatima, so May is an opportune time to start, since those apparitions began on May 13th!

Pray the Regina Caeli or the Angelus

You might hear Church bells ring daily at 6, 12, and 6. Those bells indicate the traditional time of praying the Angelus, a prayer which focuses on the incarnation. From Easter Sunday through Pentecost, the Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus prayer. The Regina Caeli focuses on Easter joy, and the resurrection of Jesus. During the month of May, both the Regina Caeli and Angelus will be prayed, so why not pray them at least once each day, if not all three times. If you cannot observe 6, 12, and 6, then pray before breakfast, lunch, and supper.

Celebrate the Feast of the Visitation

On May 31st, the Church celebrates the feast of the Visitation. I love the feast of the Visitation, partly because I was ordained a transitional deacon on that day, but secondly because there is a beauty in Mary’s generous response to become the mother of the Lord and the extension of generosity in her service to Elizabeth. If you have never done a Marian consecration, consider Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. Another way to honor the feast of the Visitation would be to pray a novena in honor of the feast.

Learn a New Marian Prayer or the Hail Mary in a New Language

There are lots of Marian prayers. So many, that they fill prayer books. How many do you know? Try a new Marian prayer like the Memorare or Sub Tuum Praesidium. Memorize the Magnificat (Mary’s Song of Praise from Luke 1: 46-55. Or learn the Hail Mary in another language: Latin, Spanish, Italian, or French.

Pray the Litany of Loreto

There are many titles for Mary, and the Litany of Loreto contains a lot of them. During the month of May, discover a fondness for a new title of Mary you are unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Peace, because you realize the great need for peace in your heart, family, or our world. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Families, asking Mary to be a special patron of your family during the month of May. Or maybe you will be drawn to Health of the Sick, because you or someone you are close to is sick. Seek Mary’s intercession daily with the Litany of Loreto, and along the way, you might find a new devotional title for Mary to invoke.

Learn How to Make Corded Rosaries

During the Marian month of May, not only could you foster a greater devotion to Mary, but you could also help someone else. Many people have learned how to make corded knot rosaries. Learn how to make these rosaries and then give them away! Give them away to your friends, parishioners, or donate them to the missions.

Conclusion

May is Mary’s month. There are many ways for us to get to know our Mother. The above ways are mere suggestions and I know there are plenty I have left out.
Mary instructed us to “do whatever He tells you” and one of the last words of Jesus was to “behold your mother.” This month of May, behold Mary as your mother, and honor her in a special way. When you do, she will keep true to her promise of praying for you both now and at the hour of your death.
The complete article is available online at catholicexchange.com/a-may-for-mary

April 24th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Harvesting the Mission: Earth Day 2016

By: Danielle O’Brien

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions . . . showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings.” -Laudato Si’ 211

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Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ calls us to protect the Earth, our common home.

Earth Day is an opportunity to respond to the Pope’s call, as good stewards of the gifts God gave us.

April 22, 2016 marks the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, a secular celebration that many faith communities have incorporated into their annual calendars.

Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) was Pope Francis’ appeal addressed to “every person living on this planet” for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.

Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. This encyclical was written with both hope and resolve, looking to our common future with truthfulness and humility.

With that focus in mind, St. John XXIII Catholic Church has partnered with Healthy Harvest Community Farms to grow a vegetable garden on the property next to the St. John XXIII Villas.

Healthy Harvest Community Farms is a local non-profit organization that focuses on feeding the hungry by growing fruits and vegetables and then donating the produce to local pantries.

“We do so much with the vegetables we grow. Some go to St. Martin de Porre’s kitchen and food pantry, other produce is traded with farms that local pantries lack in vegetables. Bottom line, we provide fruits and vegetables to those in need through food banks and organizations at no cost. We want to promote a clean and healthy lifestyle for people in the community, regardless of economic limitations,” Joe Pearson, CEO of Healthy Harvest Community Farms, said.

The organically grown fruits and vegetables on the parish’s grounds will benefit residents at St. John XXIII Villas, and local food banks and kitchens such as St. Martin de Pores and Lehigh Community Services.

The future farm is Healthy Harvest Community Farm’s seventh farm and will rely on volunteers with the upkeep of the farm. The best part is, no experience is necessary. Joe and his team will train you, your ministry or your family. When volunteer work days open up we’ll announce it in the bulletin and schedule a sign-up.

We’re looking forward to seeing parishioners respond to Pope Francis’ call while feeding those in need (and learning and having fun too!).

Encyclical Prayer: Prayer for our Earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
Amen.

April 17th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Answering the Call

By: Logan Urban

Hello readers! I’ve been given the great privilege to write an article for our wonderful bulletin about my journey to God as a seminarian. I feel so blessed to share my vocation story with my home parish.

Briefly, I’d like to start off by introducing myself. My name is Logan Urban, I’m twenty-eight years old and my family resides in Fort Myers, Florida. I graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2012 with a Bachelors Degree in Communications. I’m a regular guy. I’m a huge Tampa Bay Buccaneers football fan! I enjoy hanging out with friends, watching movies, and listening to music. I have recently ventured into country music, which is a huge step!

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My vocation story begins a couple years after I graduated from college. I got a job selling health insurance over the phone at a call center for Blue Cross Blue Shield. One of the many changes that the health insurance world made with the Affordable Care Act in 2014 is that it now allows clients with pre-existing health conditions to obtain coverage. This was not allowed previously. With that in mind, it wasn’t out of the ordinary that I would receive calls from people who had recently been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, and were told by doctors that they had only months left to live. These people often varied in ages. Sometimes they were younger than myself and had children. It was quite difficult for me to handle this. I felt so much empathy for them. I put myself in their shoes and realized my own fragile mortality. It could easily be myself on the other end of the phone! I wanted to help them as much as I could, and lowering their deductible just didn’t feel like I was helping. So, naturally I started asking myself deep philosophical questions about life. Things such as, “why am I here?” This type of thinking eventually gave me the idea of being a priest.

I was nervous to join seminary! I didn’t feel like I was going to fit in with a bunch of ‘church boys.’ I don’t consider myself an expert Bible scholar or theologian! Someone once told me that walking is simply a controlled fall. We have to lean our bodies forward and start falling, hoping that our other leg will swing out in front of us to provide stability. We have to fall and trust that we will be safe, before we can move forward. So I decided that God put this idea in my head for a reason. I just needed to fall forward and trust in God.

I’m now completing my second year of seminary! I’m graduating from the minor seminary with a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy in May. Next year I will begin earning a Masters in Theology at the major seminary. Although seminary isn’t the easiest institution to go through, I feel very blessed to be here.

The best part about seminary is the relationships I’ve formed with the other men studying for priesthood. We even have two sisters studying at our seminary who are very nice, as well!

It’s been such a privilege to see the fruit of your prayers for vocations. I urge you to continue praying for vocations to the priesthood, because it’s working! I have become great friends with incredible men that will hopefully one day be the future priests of Florida. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article. I pray that you will fall for the Lord, because he will certainly catch you.

Yours Faithfully,
Logan Urban

Prayer for Vocations

GOD OUR FATHER, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s religious Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious, and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
www.ForYourVocation.org – www.usccb.org