The Blessed Blog

News, photos and stories from Blessed Pope John XXIII Catholic Church.

July 27, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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5 Ways to Spot a Jesus Follower

BY BENJAMIN COREY | BLOGGER
The word Christian may only be nine letters, but it’s a big ‘ole word. With the reformation underway in American Christianity, there’s been a lot of talk over what that word actually means and who gets to use it. Some people on both the left and right see themselves as gatekeepers and are busy declaring who is, and who is not, a Christian. This is in part because of our human nature to judge others (the desire to judge others being the original sin from the Garden of Eden) and in part because the term has become fluid. Let’s be honest– there’s a LOT of different people under the umbrella that is “Christianity”.

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First, I’m not a fan of saying who is or who is not a Christian– it’s a big religion with lots of different expressions, and I’m the last person qualified to be a gatekeeper of who is allowed to use the term. Secondly, some have suggested we stop using the term altogether, which I’m not a fan of either. “Christian” is a beautiful term from our early days of a faith tradition, and you’re not going to see my name on the list of people who think we just dump it.

However, I do think the term “Jesus follower” is a more helpful term to interject into the conversation. While “Christian” can mean a million different things, “Jesus follower” is a little more definable because by definition, this would be an individual who is living a life that follows the example we find in Jesus.

I’m proud to be a Christian, but I long to be a Jesus follower. It’s what I strive for. It’s what I want to be when I grow up. It’s what this movement was all about.

While it’s not always easy to tell who is or is not a Christian, I think a Jesus follower is observable. One doesn’t need to tell you they’re a Jesus follower, because you’ll be able to see by how they live, whether or not it’s true.

As I look at the Jesus I find in the New Testament, I think there are a few hallmarks of what it looks like to follow him– traits that can be observed to “spot a Jesus follower”:

1. A Jesus follower likes to talk about Him, but they do it in such a way that it causes you to want to know more, not less.
Someone who is following Jesus will be passionate about Him– and as a result, they’ll talk about Him. However, they’ll do it in such a way that attracts people instead of repelling them. In the New Testament, we see the way Jesus communicated His message was appealing to the point that he couldn’t go anywhere without attracting a big crowd. Followers of Jesus talk about Him naturally and passionately but in a way that, like him, attract listeners. (The religious elite being the one exception to this rule both for Jesus and his followers).

2. A Jesus follower embraces enemy love.
One of the central teachings of Jesus is nonviolent love of enemies. It’s actually one area where He draws some pretty hard lines– lines that make both the left and right uncomfortable. It is important to understand however, that the life of Jesus is one giant testimony of enemy love– one that culminates with His death on the cross– the precise moment where He nonviolently died for His enemies. It only makes sense that someone who is actually following Jesus would follow His teachings and example. I can still hear Jesus saying, “if you only love those who love you, what reward is there in that?” His followers know this and hold what is still, a very unpopular belief.

3. A Jesus follower is the one who is full of compassion for outsiders and the weak.
Here’s a challenge: re-read the Gospels with a fresh eye, and count the number of times you hear the term “and Jesus was filled with compassion”. I promise, you’ll be shocked (head start: Mark 6:3, Matt 9:36, Mark 8:2). When I first noticed this in the Gospels, it was one of those moments when the words jumped off the page and became a “I can’t believe I didn’t see this before” experience. When Jesus saw people, His first response was that of compassion– His followers, by nature, are the same.

4. A Jesus follower is the one who is quickest to show others mercy.
Jesus once faced off with the religious elite of His time who were colluding with the power of Empire and oppressing the weak. When He did, he dismissed them and famously said: “go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.
One of the core aspects of the message of Jesus is one of mercy. He went to the cross on our behalf as an act of mercy. He stopped the execution of a condemned woman and told her “neither do I condemn you”, as an act of mercy. He was busy healing the sick, because He loved to show mercy. Jesus was a man who had mercy at the core of His being. If you want to distinguish a Christian from a Jesus follower, just look for the one who is advocating the position that shows the most mercy (including gratuitous forgiveness)– because that’s the heart of Jesus.

5. A Jesus follower is the one who, when they describe what God is like, describe Jesus.
Jesus followers get what Jesus meant when he said “if you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father”, and they believe the author of Hebrews who wrote that Jesus was the “exact representation” of God’s being. This means that if you want to be able to spot a Jesus follower, look for the person who is describing a God who looks EXACTLY like Jesus. If Jesus is the exact representation of God, we know that nothing else– including the violent portraits of God in the Old Testament– can be the “exact representation” of God.
Jesus followers are sold out on exclusively following Jesus because they realize that in all of human history, the only time God’s exact essence was revealed to us was done through the mirror image of Christ.

So what’s the point of being able to spot a Jesus follower– is it so we can judge who is not? May it never be. Instead, being able to spot a Jesus follower is crucial for our own spiritual vitality. If the Jesus path is the one you wish to travel, the best thing you can do is find others who are already on it, and walk together with them.

Yes, I am a Christian– but I long to be a Jesus follower. I want to walk this path, and I want to do the things that Jesus did. However, I don’t want to walk the path alone.Perhaps we can find a way together.

July 20, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Don’t Stop Believin’ (or Running the 5Ks)

I remember coming home after school as a child, and, once or twice per year, my mom would have 25+ remittance envelopes laid out on the floor. They were colorful, professionally designed works of art from her favorite charities. She would write them all checks for the amount of money that coincided with her allegiance to their cause. Habitat for Humanity would get $25. Feed the Children might get $30. World Wildlife, $50. Audubon Society would get even more, until the charity that was bottle-feeding baby whales by hand was handsomely taken care of (you see the trend). Then one day it all stopped!

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Some nosey journalists in the late 90’s started trying to hold these mega-non-profits accountable, and people started finding out that some of their CEOs might take home a few million per year – totally unacceptable! As an 8-year old, I tried explaining to her the nuances of the CXO-level labor market, and how competition among elite visionary executives had driven the price to FMV (fair market value), but she would distract me with milk and cookies and I had no defense there.

But during that period of time and the advent of the internet, transparency and accountability within the “do-gooder” sector became a big deal. This heightened awareness gave birth to documentaries like Pink Ribbons, which “takes aim at the breast cancer movement and the corporations that benefit from its ubiquitous rosy symbol of awareness and action.” All of a sudden people started having legitimate concerns about the overlap of philanthropy and marketing – and especially in the pharmaceutical industry. We found out that it takes about a billion dollars to get a drug to market, and when it came to selling it, no expense was spared. Every conceivable opportunity to raise money for cancer research is taken: golf scrambles, cookbook sales, garage sales, turkey raffles, Little Black Dress Cocktail Parties, and the infamous 5K Race (at 5am).

We’re bombarded with marketing and the message that all we need to do is “race for a cure”, or wear a pink or blue ribbon to raise awareness, and if you’ll just forward this email to 10 friends, we can “win the war” on cancer. But are we winning? I think Americans have grown suspicious, if not totally cynical, at the never ending marketing machine that is cancer research.

You, I, Rufus and Chaka Khan need it now more than ever. Tell me somethin’ good.

Well, there are success stories. In fact, our own Noelle Childs is one. Last August she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a form of cancer that would have given her 3-5 years to live prior to 1998 – but there was treatment because human beings care enough to run those 5K’s, and wear those Little Black Dresses to mixers they’d rather not attend.

The American Cancer Society reports that in 2014, there will be over 5,900 new cases of CML diagnosed in the US alone. So a billion dollars – is it worth it? I don’t know many who would argue that. When you think about 5,900 Americans either getting their death sentence, or finding out there’s hope for them, you’ll lace up those old running shoes, slap on that knee brace, and gut it out for cancer. Because showing up for that race or cocktail party can be a very spiritual thing. Spending our time, money and attention to show those around us that we care is an act of love.

We sat down with Noelle and she told her story. This is how cancer, and the actions of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society changed her life (and saved it). So before we huff and puff about some executive director making too much money, please consider that these organizations save thousands of human lives – like Noelle’s – every day (and possibly some baby whales benefit too).

Damian: So something happened in your life that changed its path. What was that?
Noelle Childs: Last August I’d not been feeling well – basically for an entire year. I had colds all the time. I’d get winded walking up the stairs. I just knew something wasn’t right. So my family doctor ran some blood tests and on that same day, she called me and said it looked like I had leukemia.

DH: Wow. That’s shocking. What then?
NC: I went to the hospital immediately. They ran a bunch of tests, and I ended up staying there for a few days. I was on the verge of needing a blood transfusion, but they were unsure of what to do because of the problems with diagnosis. Apparently there are a couple different types of leukemia, so they wanted to make sure they were diagnosing me with the right one. They started asking me if I had any siblings for a bone marrow transplant. That’s when I knew this was pretty serious.

DH: How did you react to that?
NC: I remember sitting in the hospital looking at my husband, saying ‘we’re going to need a miracle here.’ I had three little kids under the age of 4. I hadn’t even celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my husband yet… and you hear ‘leukemia’ and it’s such a crushing thing to hear. So after a few days they found out I had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

DH: Is there treatment?
NC: There was a drug developed 15 years ago that controls the illness, and it allows me to live a normal life. Thank God too, because had this drug not been developed, I would have had about 3-4 years to live. But now I’ll have a normal life expectancy.

DH: So what was going through your head, as it related to your mortality? Like, expectations versus your new reality…
NC: I remember being in shock for the first couple days. It was very, very scary. I don’t think I’d prayed more during the first 24 hours than I had my entire life. I was begging God for a miracle.

DH: So leukemia is a weird type of cancer – how did you explain it to your children?
NC: Well, they know I’m ‘sick’, because I’m gone a lot. I’m on a clinical trial that’s taking place in Tampa. They’re young so they don’t know the details yet, but if I am on this medication for the rest of my life, eventually they’ll find out.

DH: So there’s no cure for this?
NC: Not as of yet, but I’m on this clinical trial with Moffitt Cancer Center. The drug has been shown to work in the lab. I’m also on an additional chemo drug, and the hope is that it will eradicate all cancer cells. I had a bone biopsy in May and my numbers have greatly improved since the one I had in February, but it’s not in full remission yet. They’re hoping that it will have been in full remission by August, but as of now, this is the deal.

DH: That would be great. And back to the question from before – and I don’t mean to be morbid, but were you thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die. What will happen to my family?’
NC: That was my first thought when I got the diagnosis. All these thoughts were running through my head. I’m not going to see my kids go to kindergarten. I’m never going to see them get married or have kids of their own. I kept saying ‘This can’t happen. I have 3 kids. I have 3 kids…’

DH: What were some of your atypical thoughts about potentially missing out on your future? Like, for instance, I want to see how good knee replacements will be in 30 years. Did you have any of those thoughts?
NC: I mean, not really. Again, the shock was so intense that all I could think about was my family and what the diagnosis might be. I couldn’t even sleep in the hospital. They kept taking blood every couple hours so it was exhausting.

DH: Okay, so tell me about your kids.
NC: Well, we have 4-year old twins, a little boy and a girl. And then we have a little guy who’s two and a half. So it’s always crazy around our house, but they are the love of my life – besides my husband, of course. They sort of know what’s going on, and in a way, other than giving birth to them, this experience has been the most spiritual thing. It’s taught me so much about love and support and life.

DH: So what has it taught you about those things?
NC: Well, ya know, just like my little bracelet here says. “God’s got this.” Everyone in my family wears one of these, and it’s what I tell myself in moments of doubt. A few weeks ago I got a false negative. That is, I thought my cancer was in full remission, but it wasn’t, and although that’s a huge bummer, I have to remember that God’s got a plan for my life.

DH: Okay, so if cancer was God’s plan for your life, what do you think He’s trying to teach you through it all?
NC: I think he’s teaching me to have ‘intense’ faith, and also to take action. I don’t know if this is important or not, but I’ve become involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society because I felt like I owed it. There are a lot of patients out there who aren’t as lucky as me. So getting involved and being part of the cause has become very important to me.

DH: Yeah! I think that’s hugely important. You see so much marketing out there for cancer research and it’s finally nice to meet someone who’s benefiting from the solutions they’re developing. You sign up for all these 5k races and never know whether or not they’re coming up with anything viable.
NC: The drug that I’m on right now was funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so of course I’m excited to help. And the clinical trial I’m on was also funded by them. So I had to get involved.

DH: Well that’s fantastic. I’m glad I got a chance to talk to you, and it sounds like you’re on your way to recovery. We’ll be praying for you.
NC: Yes, and the support from the Parish has been amazing. Father Bob called during one of my naps – the chemo drugs can really wear you out (haha) – but I am truly grateful for all my family and friends.

July 13, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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Touching the Wounds | Fernando Castillo

Remember when we were kids and the Catholic Church taught us that ‘in giving we receive’? Who bought that nonsense? Just look around. Didn’t you see all those happy people on TV indulging their every last whim? And what were mom and dad fighting about in the next room? Money (and not where to put it all). The emphasis on earning good grades in school as a child, was so that you could earn your way into a good college or trade school, so you could earn a good job, so you can earn a lot of money, and then one day, earn the right to complain about paying taxes (okay maybe that last part was just implied). We were taught to be good Catholics, and then the world showed us how wrong we were in our childish beliefs. And then we discovered medication for our chemical imbalances because that’s just science so why try fighting it. Except…

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Except when we stumble across someone who’s made a life of reckless giving. When we meet someone who has shamelessly neglected their own well-being, financial future, their family’s immediate needs, we can’t help but feel sorry for them. How foolish! This is America! If you’re poor, it’s your fault, right? That’s what God made bootstraps for. We help other people when we invite them to our botox party. We help them when we sell them a car. We really help them when we send in our check for our 3rd favorite charity’s golf tournament foursome. We help when it doesn’t mean having to encounter another human being face to face. Or we help with string attached.

When we meet people who challenge our truth, we can’t run from them. They don’t necessarily challenge our “beliefs”, because a lot of times we believe something (like, say for instance, in God) but act as if we don’t. They challenge our truth. Our actions are our truth. And when we see someone living their truth (and it’s working), we’re forced to acknowledge their absurd behavior, and examine why they have peace, joy and happiness in their lives, and we do not. We cannot figure out why our incessant pursuit of comfort, power, pleasure, prestige, etcetera, has returned short-lived positive results (followed by more misery).

So let’s talk about Juan Fernando Castillo, or “Fernando”. Fernando founded St. Martin de Porres Outreach Community Ministries, now located on Palm Beach Blvd, eight years ago, because “more than 60% of the people living in this area work in the field. Those are the ones that pick the tomatoes, the lettuce, all the vegetables, and the oranges. They are very low income, and because of the immigration issues we’ve been having, most of the farmers are afraid to hire them. Well, they have kids. We’re especially concerned with the old people and the children.”

We’re introduced to this man and his mission through our Social Justice Ministry. When I met with Sandy Szymanski, Barb Durkin and Vickie Gelardi, they explained that all one would have to do is meet Fernando, and they would understand what he was all about. Putting ‘it’ into words isn’t easy, but there’s a total lack of fear in this man. He knows that when a person gives their life to God, there’s nothing God won’t provide.

“I believe God gave us a lot, and I believe we need to pay back what we’ve received. We see so many people in need – and these are not just regular people. We see a lot of drug addicts. We see many people with mental illness. We have girls that work the streets, in fact, our next door neighbor is a hotel… well, a lot of the girls swear they are over 18, but when you talk to them, you hear about their lives. They’ve had a terrible life. They are young, young girls. We try to convince them to leave the streets and live a different life.”

How quick are we to judge the prostitute or street junkie? Really though, these are life choices that these people have made! Would it be any surprise for them to die of AIDS? Would an EMT bat an eye to find one of these creatures overdosed in some dark alley? It’s easy to close one’s heart and believe people “get what they deserve” when confronted with the ugliness of the world, but there are two problems with that (and probably more).

One, the social outcasts of our society have no experience with God’s love, and therefore don’t love themselves, have no self-worth, and more than likely have never had a loving relationship with another human being – ever. And two, we can’t isolate ourselves from the world because people are everywhere, and it’s almost impossible to get to know someone – at a deep, personal level – and not grow to love them. God put this in us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

So Fernando’s problem is big. “I don’t know where most of them would go if we weren’t here. We don’t discriminate and we don’t turn people away. A lot of the food kitchens ask for papers, or ask for an ID. Or they supply food for one day, one meal, and you are told not to come back again. Here, you can come… you don’t need an ID.”

His problem will only grow because he refuses to turn people away. In his stubbornness, he will meet the most broken people in our city, and he will get to know them. He will grow to love them, and in many instances, he will be their only model of God’s love. Because of this, he might run low on time and food, and resources for his mission, but he’ll be stuck with an abundant and constant source of joy and peace in his life. He won’t know what to do with it all.

Well, I mean, he could always start another mission. “We have a program called Jobs for Life. We try to prepare people for more technical work. We help them with their finances. We help them get ready for interviews, and if they want to start a small business, we help them get the tools to do so.”

“We are not just giving out food. I have enough kids of my own,” he jokes. “We are here to help people out of poverty by simply giving them the tools to do so on their own. The people in our ministry that work in the kitchen here, they teach those that come in how to be better helpers – not chefs – but they teach them the skills that will help them get better work, more money, better living conditions, and better working conditions in the future. Right now, a lot of our people work in the fields for 10 hours to make $40, that’s if they get paid – often they do not. That is not okay. Last year we had 17 kids come through here that were working in the fields, and now they are working as helpers for carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. I am a general contractor, so I teach them. I worked building medical centers in New Jersey for many years, so I have the skills to teach.”

“The reality is, all we need is the patience to listen to a needy person. We never ask them ‘How can we help you?’ We ask them, ‘How can you help yourself?’ When they are sick, you will find a medical person to help them. The people are out there. It’s true. All you need is the patience to listen, and you will care about the community.”

Catholic Social Doctrine tells us that we need to meet people where they are, and Fernando’s people are hurting, but they’re open to change. When you listen to someone in conversation, you get to know them. And when you get to know them, you care about their cares. And when we care about their cares, we do what we can to alleviate their pain, and in doing so, we find joy. We can experience the presence of the Holy Spirit – and that is a feeling that no check, no drug or car or shiny piece of jewelry can touch.

If it worked the way humans have tried to make it work, there would be a rational measurement to our happiness. Wealthy people would be the happiest, and the poorest the most miserable. But it’s not that way. We can only have the peace, joy and happiness that God wants for us to the extent that we are willing to let go of our selfishness (read: greed).
“There are a lot of young people that are on drugs, or drink too much alcohol, and when they come, we just ask them if they want to pray with us. When we first opened, I only found one person that was willing to pray,” Fernando laughs. “They basically said, ‘haha, no we don’t do that.’ And now, when we serve meals – all these years later – people come to me and ask if I’ll pray with them. They recognize that praying, and getting close to God is a good instrument. They recognize that God is the solution. So that’s progress.” He gets close enough to touch the wounds of the poor, and in turn, some of his own are healed.

We asked Fernando what we could do to help his mission and he humbly asked for a few things. If you’d like to volunteer or give, call 239-603-3873 or 239-333–9826. Or email smdpministry@gmail.com Watch his interview on the 23rd Times. Thank you!

What to do next?

  • Pray for us
  • Volunteer to help prepare/serve meals or teach skills classes
  • Support us financially with either a one-time or recurring donation

 

July 6, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

The Hobby Lobby Decision

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

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It’s Back – Living Your Strengths

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

Through four interactive and enlightening sessions you will journey from learning the natural talents and strengths God bestowed upon you to truly living your strengths with greater understanding, confidence, and personal fulfillment. We will also explore the unique talents of others and the contributions each can make toward greater stewardship and discipleship. But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Back to School Drive Starts July 19th

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

VBS Gratitude

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

Check out the photos here.

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June 29, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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The Thursday Morning Friends Group

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

Vacation Bible School Photos are already here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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