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

April 10th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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What is your love language?

“One of the clearest pictures of love is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In a culture where people wore sandals and walked on dirt streets, it was customary for the household servant to wash the feet of guests. Jesus, who had instructed His disciples to love one another, gave them an example of how to express that love when He took a basin and a towel and washed their feet. In every vocation, those who truly excel have a genuine desire to serve others.” -Dr. Gary Chapman

How do you communicate your love for others? How do others communicate their love for you? We give our love to family, friends, and those in need, but many times they can fail to feel our love because we don’t effectively communicate. Why? The way in which we wish we were loved is the way in which we tend to love others, even when others can’t recognize our style of loving.

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Let’s take Amy, for instance. She is a woman who loves her husband dearly. She tries to demonstrate her intense level of love by showing him little acts of kindness—doing his laundry, ironing his dress shirts, and hanging them up in his closet. She often packs his lunch for him and picks all his favorite foods. She always has a hot meal on the table when he comes home from work. She even helps him in the yard on the weekends. However, Amy feels like her love goes unnoticed. Her husband, while he loves her, does not say thank-you for the many things Amy does for him, and at times he even comments, “Do you really love me?” Amy was baffled by these comments until she read the book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman.

Love Languages

In his book about the five love languages, Gary Chapman writes about how we tend to love others in the way we want to be loved ourselves. Amy was communicating love to her husband in a style she recognized, but that did not fulfill her husband’s needs. She was showing him her love in the way she wished he would show his love for her—by acts of service. Chapman lists five different ways we can show our love to others: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

Words of affirmation

Communicating love through words of affirmation means telling people how much we appreciate them and how important they are to us. These words let people know they are loved and supported. When you give verbal compliments and encouragement, you are helping another person to experience your kindness. Furthermore, being humble and asking instead of demanding when you would like someone to do something for you goes a long way for someone who enjoys words of affirmation. Lastly, writing little love notes or encouraging letters verifies your love with someone who likes words of affirmation.

Quality time

Spending time with others is the second love language. What you are doing with the person you love does not matter as much as the fact that you are doing it together. Giving your undivided attention is important so the other person feels like the center of your world during the moments you are spending together. Furthermore, listening for the other person’s feelings in conversation is important; it communicates that you are truly listening intently to what the other is sharing with you. When you think about what kinds of activities the other person would enjoy doing with you, and then organize those activities, you are expressing love in a way that person will understand and feel.

Receiving gifts

We can communicate our love by giving gifts to others, either material presents or the gift of ourselves. Even a little note in a person’s lunch bag is felt deeply. If you give the gift of yourself, your presence will be cherished as a sign of your love. Bringing home a small, “perfect” gift when you were out shopping all day or while out of town for work or vacation is a great way to give a gift of love.

Acts of service

When you serve others by completing chores or activities for them, you are practicing the fourth love language, acts of service. Completing work for another person makes that person feel a sense of companionship, and he or she experiences the joy of a lighter workload. Accomplishing jobs that you are not asked to do—or even hiring a handyman to fix little things around the house—are all ways you can demonstrate your love. The more you are able to do these tasks with love and without complaint, the more your love will be felt.

Physical touch

The fifth love language is demonstrated when you affectionately touch someone to show your love. Communicating through physical touch involves small gestures of affection, such as holding someone’s hand, putting your arm around a person, or giving a hug. Providing physical comfort when someone is upset, crying, or in crisis is especially important in love communication. These little signs of love will be felt more deeply when you initiate them. Reaching out to hold someone’s hand when you are walking through the parking lot at church is a great way to show your desire to love through affectionate touch.

Let’s go back to Amy. After reading about the five love languages, Amy learned that her husband’s primary love language was words of affirmation. So, while Amy continued to provide acts of service for her husband, mainly because it made her feel good about herself, she also began speaking encouraging words to him. She often thanked him for all he did for her. She began saying “I love you” before he left for work each day and again when he returned home. She made a point of complimenting his strong work ethic, his accomplishments at work, and his performance when serving others. Her husband started thanking Amy for the many tasks she performed for him and stopped asking if she really loved him. In fact, he began to feel more confident and secure in himself. He felt so good about himself and their marriage that he also learned about the love languages so that he could show Amy his intense love for her.

Loving others, not only in the love language we understand best but also in the love languages they appreciate, is important. The five love languages can be applied to any relationship, not just marriage. When people feel loved, they become more secure and confident, and their desire to love others increases.

The next time you are feeling as though someone does not appreciate your loving gestures, stop to consider how he or she might want to be loved. See if expressing your love in a different love language gets a different response and strengthens your relationship. No matter which love language you choose to use, let your love be genuine, and let it shine like the sun.

By Lisa Klewicki, Ph.D. of Catholic Digest

Discover you & your spouse’s primary love language and how to strengthen your Catholic Marriage through applying the principles of The Five Love Languages on April 30th! Complete details & registration information are listed on the flyer on page 9 of the bulletin!

April 3rd, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Holy Week & Easter Egg Hunt Photo Recap

A special thank you to all those who worked so hard to make our Easter Services and Egg Hunt run so smoothly! We are so blessed to have you!

Photos graciously provided by: Pro Photo’s by Tony Gravatte

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Announcements

  • Have you listened to our podcasts? Listen to weekly inspirational messages from Father Bob and homilies from Mass. Visit our site weekly at johnxxiii.podbean.com
  • ‘Like’ our Facebook page! For all the latest happenings and inspirational messages ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Search ‘St. John XXIII Catholic Church’.
  • Sign up for our weekly newsletter! Visit our website, Johnxxiii.net, scroll down to “Stay Connected” and enter your email address.
  • YARN needed! Craftie Ladies appreciate all your generous donations in the past, and now we are in need of more yarn to make projects. You may drop off the donations in the church Narthex. Thank you so much in helping us do for others.
  • Due to an increase in seasonal parishioners, the back grass parking lot is now open for all Masses. The golf cart shuttle will be available.
  • We remind you that if there is ANYONE asking for money around the Church outside of Mass at our exits, ignore them. We have been contacted by the police regarding a group of professionals who travel to various churches. Be generous in giving to our Poor Boxes. That is where and how we can assist those who are truly in need.
  • Thank you IStorage Fiddlesticks & Valuguard Self Storage! It’s obvious space is tight right now, but thanks to IStorage Fiddlesticks at 13701 Indian Paint Ln and Valuguard Self Storage at 13750 Plantation Rd we can safely store some of our items. A special thank you to them both for providing the parish with a storage unit at no cost for our year-round and holiday needs.
  • If you are hospitalized at Gulf Coast Hospital and would like to be visited by one of our Eucharistic Ministers, please let the Hospital Admissions Office know you are from our parish and contact our parish office, as well. Once you go home, if you are unable to attend Mass and would like to have the Eucharist brought to you, please call the parish office. 239-561-2245.
  • Mirage Nails & Spa has partnered with St. John XXIII The salon, located at 14261 Tamiami Trail South, (In the Bonefish Grill Plaza) will donate 10% of your purchase to the Capital Campaign. You must tell your tech you’re from St. John XXIII. Walk-ins and appointments welcome! 239-433-0061
  • We are in need of adult volunteers to assist our Catechists for our Middle School Youth Group! We are growing in leaps and bounds…which is a wonderful thing! Please contact Lois Kittenplan lois@johnxxiii.net. No prior experience necessary. You don’t need to be a Theologian; just need a heart for God.
  • We need your help with keeping our database current: Have you moved, changed email addresses, dropped a landline or changed your cell number? Please email Maryann@johnxxiii.net with any changes or additions to your contact information.
  • Please note!! If you make monetary contributions by credit card, card companies are issuing new cards with microchip technology. Please contact the Parish Office (561-2245) if there are any changes to your card, including expiration dates, so there is no interruption in your contributions.
  • Advertise with us! As much as you enjoy reading our bulletin, we’d love for you to be in it! If you own a business and are interested in advertising in our bulletin, please contact Dennis Gardner at J.S. Paluch 239-470-9200.

Easter | Mar. 27th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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Helping Hands

By Parishioner Dan Pieper, RCIA Catechist

Each Sunday when I arrive at the church for Mass, I know there will be gifts waiting for me sent by the Holy Spirit himself, the Lord and Giver of Life as we proclaim in the Creed. I know this because my gifts are life-giving .They have sustained me for years, causing my faith to grow and deepen no matter what obstacles get in my way.

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It is Peggy, (my loving wife of 45 years) who brings me here each week, dropping me off at the front door because balance issues make walking difficult especially in crowded environments. It is always a comfort to see Al, our Minister of Welcome, waiting for me. He knows I will need help getting out of the car and doesn’t seem to mind handing me the cane that Peggy is passing through the open window, the one that I inevitably drop on the ground. While she leaves in search of a parking place, Al escorts me through the heavy entry door while as we continue the conversation we have every week…

“So, you still let sinners in here?” I ask.

“We love sinners.” he answers with a smile.

“Thank God!”

I inch my way through the pandemonium in the narthex, my eyes searching for the calming presence of another welcoming minister. Her name is Marilyn and her station is the door to the quiet interior of the church, the Door of Mercy. She too wears a smile and never fails to tell me how nice I look despite my half-buttoned shirt and mismatched socks. She has made it her mission to get me seated where I need be…a job made difficult by my wish to be in two places at the same time.

One of these is among the broken people in the handicap row. It is a place littered with walkers, wheel chairs, crutches, canes and other contraptions suggesting misfortune, weakness, tragedy and despair. For me, however, it is a place of peace, caring, courage and hope. The people here all wait patiently for the Spirit to appear like the crippled man by the pool at Bethesda. “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way someone else gets there before me.” So it seems to many of us until the Eucharistic ministers (Christophers) arrive carrying the healing, broken body of Christ to us. They are like the servants at Cana bringing the best wine to the wedding guests. It is a ministry poorly understood but desperately needed.

Their caregivers sit in this row too. You can tell them by their gentle manner, the worry in their eyes, and the pain hidden in their faces. There is a special bond among these people, all traveling in the same leaky boat and holding on to each other for dear life. There is no room here for anger, bitterness, or pride…just compassion, prayer and encouragement. I have come to love them all and yet…
…And yet there is another place I need to be.

There is a special place in the front of the church, a section of pews reserved for the people involved with the RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION. (RCIA) While the Handicap Row is devoted to bodily problems, this section focuses on matters of the Soul. The people here have also sensed the stirring of the Spirit and have responded by seeking full communion with us in the Catholic Church.

For months they have prepared themselves by asking questions, formal instruction, studying the scriptures and participating in rites both ingratiating and deeply humbling. It has been my honor to journey with them as a catechist (teacher), although it is me who has benefited most from their collective wisdom, personal stories and profound insights. On this Sunday, Marilyn lifts the braided rope guarding an empty pew and I slide beneath, stashing my cane under the kneeler. Slowly the benches fill up around me. I realize I’ll never be able to get up for communion unless, perhaps, some guys lower me through the roof on a mat.

My plight must have been obvious because a woman sitting behind me began to calmly pat my shoulders with a healing touch while apologizing for singing too loudly in my ear. Fellow catechist, Rich Byrne offered his strong hand to help me from my seat to the aisle, Marilyn appeared to direct traffic, and Peggy came to apologize for the scene I was making. It takes a village sometimes to get one man to communion.

It is not one man, however, who seeks healing and nourishment. All of us are broken in some fashion and need the grace of God to save us. The people in the Handicap Row have discovered the healing presence of Jesus sitting in their midst, the people of the RCIA have been called my name and long for the grace they will receive at the Easter Vigil in the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). Indeed, we are all SACRAMENTS TO EACH OTHER, in our Catholic community of Saint John XXIII, outward signs created by God to point out the way to heaven and to give grace by the helping hands we extend to each other every day.

An Easter Message from Father Bob:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,

A Blessed and Happy Easter to all of you!

It has been so good to see so many of you here at St. John XXIII throughout Lent, Holy Week and Easter. As we celebrate the great feast of Easter, our thoughts bring to mind new life and alleluias.

If this is your first visit to our church, we warmly welcome you and invite you to embrace our mission. Perhaps you are a member of another denomination; please know you are welcome to inquire and learn more about the different religious education programs we offer.
Please feel free to contact us if there is ever an issue you feel you need to discuss.

Many of our seasonal visitors are leaving or have left for the summer months. We thank you for being an important member of our parish community and we look forward to your return.

As we celebrate this Easter Season, I encourage you to invite others to return – those that are “on sabbatical” from their Catholic faith. Perhaps some of our loved ones have been wounded by a particular experience in the Catholic Church. I understand. But when we focus on the foundation of our faith, we see Him reaching out with open arms. I encourage all of you to reach out to that one person you know- a family member, friend, work associate- and invite them to come home- it’s time to celebrate the Eucharist.

All Are Welcome ~ Alleluia!

Sincerely yours in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Bob Tabbert
Pastor

Mar. 13th, 2016 | The 23rd Times

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My Hardest Lent Ever

By Colleen Shaddox | Obtained from Catholic Digest

There was always one kid in catechism class who raised his hand and asked if he could give up homework for Lent. I was not that kid. I dug deep to find the thing whose absence would most torture me — usually chocolate. As an adult, I gave up coffee one Lent. That nearly killed my body, but had no discernible effect on my soul. In retrospect, it was pretty grandiose to suppose that God would care about my caffeine intake.

For my 33rd Lent, I was in chemotherapy. I had a hard time keeping anything down, making the idea of giving anything up redundant. I told people I’d given up dying for Lent, which was a lot like giving up homework. But I also resolved that if I lived to see another Lent, I’d find a way to spend those 40 days productively. From that point on, all my self-denial had some purpose. For instance, I gave up my lunch hour every day one Lent to write letters for Amnesty International. It wasn’t the giving up that mattered so much as the taking on.

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My biggest effort came during the Lent I resolved to stop saying unkind things. It was harder than giving up coffee, soda, and candy all at once. This is proof of flawed character, compounded by upbringing. I was raised in a large family in which wit was highly valued, sometimes at the expense of kindness. Insulting each other was a sport. As I grew older and spent more time with people outside my family, I noticed our dinner table banter could be hurtful to people not used to it. Sometimes I curbed my tongue. But too often I left a trail of nasty remarks like ground glass in my wake.

I remember a party to which an acquaintance wore a red leather mini-dress with an oddly shaped cut-out in the back.

“What’s with the back of that dress?” my husband asked me.

“That’s where the batteries go,” I replied.

My remarks struck me as not unlike what Bette Davis might say — and not in one of those movies where she turns out to be good in the end. And I found myself making comments like these all the time.
So I decided that during Lent I would carry with me a large coffee can, dropping in a quarter whenever I said something unkind — more if it was especially wicked. People asked me what I was doing, and I explained. When they asked mewhat I was going to do with the money at the end of Lent, I would say, “Build a hospital in Peru.”

I remember one meeting during which the fellow who purchased our office supplies explained why we bought computer disks that required 10 minutes of formatting. A ready-touse disk cost only 4 cents more. I argued that unless anyone on staff was making 24 cents an hour, this was not saving us money. But my colleague said that people need downtime during the day to relax. We could relax and be productive formatting disks. I looked at him long and hard, then dropped eight quarters into my coffee can.

As Lent progressed, my can grew weighty, a burden to carry around. The jingling change made a considerable bit of noise as I walked, announcing, “Here comes a nasty woman.” I collected $47 in 40 days, which was not enough to build a hospital in Peru. Instead, I rounded the sum up a bit and gave it to a fund established in memory of my friend Sam, whom I’d met in a cancer support group. It is paying for wonderful public programs at a library we both loved. Sam, in her great largeness of heart, had a fondness even for my acerbic side, so it seemed fitting.

All those quarters in the can did teach me, however, to curb that side of my personality a bit. Today, I am much slower to utter an unkind remark, though it does happen from time to time. But this only shows that I am a soul in progress. It’s a good incentive, I figure, for God to keep me around for a few more Lents.