The Blessed Blog

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

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