Living Stones – Parishes Unite

     When I was asked by Fr. Murray if I’d be willing to serve on this committee, I was excited about the opportunity to represent the parishioners of Holy Family, honored to be asked to serve, and curious as to what role I might play in the overarching process. As far as the curiosity, I was unsure of the impact that I might have as some told me that they believed that the outcome was predetermined.  Nothing could have been further from the truth, so I soon learned.
     Our “mission” is given the challenges facing the Diocese at large, in terms of decreased active participation in their faith of Catholics, a decrease in vocations, and other factors, plan how to best serve the Catholic Community of Watertown based on the assignment of one pastor and one parochial vicar at some point in the future. Note that I said our mission “is” as this is an ongoing process and I believe it will be continuous as we adapt to ever-changing conditions. Though the Living Stones Committee may evolve over time and at some point disband, I do believe that we, as a faith community, will continue this mission.
     As far as expectations, I began the process with a belief that I was to be an advocate for my parish and try to preserve the status quo. That belief quickly changed as I gained a better understanding that our mission was to plan to serve the entire Catholic community and not just our parish.
    There are several things that I learned during the meetings, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on two:
     First, I learned that the challenges facing our parishes extend well beyond local, diocesan or even national levels. The crisis facing the church is very broad. The Catholic population in the United States has undergone some striking demographic shifts for several decades. For example, the Catholic population has lost more members than it has gained from religious switching. In fact, one in ten adults in the United States is a former Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2009 report “Faith in Flux.” We are now dealing with the impacts of these shifts both locally and nationally. The Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut is in the process of reducing their number of parishes from 212 to 147. The Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey is in the process of merging 10% of its parishes. The Archdiocese of New York has consolidated over 140 parishes since 2015. So, know that Watertown, New York is not alone in its challenges.
     Second, though many people are very passionate about their faith community, there appears to also be a great amount of either apathy or futility as evidenced by the lack of participation in these town halls. The perceived apathy may be reflective of some of the challenges that we face; namely, decreased active participation among the Catholic community. We all need to reflect and talk to others who may not be present here to attempt to identify why parishioners are seemingly apathetic about potential changes among the parishes. This will help better inform our planning process. I do realize that some of the perceived apathy may come from a feeling of futility based on a belief that the decisions have already been made. Know that this is not an accurate belief.  We had many spirited discussions within the Living Stones Committee and evaluated feedback from the broader Catholic community as brought forward by committee members. Thus, this plan has been informed by your feedback as given and there was no predetermined outcome.
     As for passion, though passion for faith community can be a good thing, passion focused in the wrong manner can be dangerous and lead to divisions within the Catholic community. This potential is addressed in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians where he speaks to Divisions in the Church as follows:
     “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest anyone should say that you were baptized in my name. For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
     Throughout this process, I learned that this plan is about our Catholic Community meaning the Church as the Body of Christ. Though we may have been baptized in Holy Family Parish, Saint Patrick Parish, Saint Anthony Parish or any other, we were all baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. We need to remember that going forward, and as we approach a day when we may have to implement this plan, to avoid divisiveness among our Catholic family. In the face of this crisis, we are all being called to serve and furthermore to lead. The problems that face us are not solely the responsibility of the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the Pastors or any one group or individual. Rather, they are the responsibility of all of us. If we hope to leave a vibrant church for our children and generations to come, then the solutions must come from all of us and be supported by all of us. We all need to be pulling in the same direction. So, I’ll leave you with two passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.
From The Book of Isaiah: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
And, again, from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

Thank you.

from St. Patrick and St. Anthony, Watertown, NY


Christmas – A Parish Celebration

We are deep into the Advent season – a time to prepare for the celebration of our salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Likewise, it is a time to reflect on the second coming of Christ and specifically the second coming of Christ into our own lives – our death.

Celebration of Reconciliation – Penance Service
Our city-wide celebration of Penance is Sunday, December 10 at 1 pm at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish.

City Wide Individual Reconciliation
Monday – December 18 
   Holy Family 7 pm
   Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 7 pm
   St. Patrick 7 pm
Wednesday – December 20
   St. Patrick 5 pm
Thursday – December 21
   St. Anthony – 6 pm
Daily before the 7 am Mass at St. Anthony and before the noon Mass at St Patrick, there is a priest available for confessions.

On December 17, St. Patrick’s Church will be decorated after the 9:30 am Mass. St. Anthonys Church will be decorated at 5:00 pm on Monday December 18, with Pizza and salad to follow. Volunteers needed, men & women. The Confirmation candidates from both parishes can earn community service credit for coming on December 18 @ 5:00 pm to decorate.

Special Note: Please remember that both Christmas Eve Masses at 4:00 pm are quite crowded. So, if you plan on attending the 4:00 pm Mass on Christmas Eve, you should plan on arriving early. Also, we ask that you not reserve seats for others. A person needs to be physically present in order to claim a seat.

Sunday, December 24 is also Christmas Eve. As Catholics, we have an obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and on Christmas. We can celebrate those two occasions on the same day, but at separate Masses. However, since there is only one of me and since, if we followed our normal Christmas Eve schedule, there would be a total of seven Masses that I would have to celebrate on one day. Fr. Murray at Holy Family is in a similar situation. So, we are combining our efforts for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 24).

         4th Sunday of Advent Masses will be as follows:

  •   Saturday, December 23, 4:00 pm at St. Patrick
  •   Saturday, December 23, 5:15 pm at Holy Family
  •   Sunday, December 24, 9:00 am at Holy Family
  •   Sunday, December 24, 11:00 am at St. Patrick.
    (St. Anthony parishioners, please do not feel left out. Given the size of the buildings and given the complexity of trying to provide enough celebrations for Christmas eve at all three parishes, this is the best arrangement that we could make.)

    Christmas Celebrations
  •   Sunday, December 24, 4:00 pm at St. Patrick (Fr. Vincent Freeh will celebrate)
  •   Sunday, December 24, 4:00 pm at St. Anthony
  •   Sunday, December 24, 6:00 pm at St. Anthony
  •   Sunday, December 24, 8:00 pm at St. Patrick
  •   Monday, December 25, 10:00 am at St. Anthony 

from St. Patrick and St. Anthony, Watertown, NY

God Is Not Nice – An Invitation to Study More

I know that this does not sound like a good title, but it is an excellent title.  Richard Niebuhr stated eighty years ago about a religion which Americans have seemed to embrace: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”  Speaking about the author, Ulrich Lehner, Scott Hahn states: “Ilrich Lehner is not the first to observe that the preaching of this nice gospel corresponds rather exactly to the collapse of Christianity in the global North and West.  We may instinctively like a nice God — and even go so far as to “like” him on social media.  But will we make sacrifices for him and to him?  Will we be willing to die for him?  Will we make the effort to get out of bed early to praise his name?”
    Both Lehner and Hahn are accurate and describe well what has happened to the practice of our faith both in the church building as well as on Main Street.
    I would like to invite parishioners to read this book and give it some serious thought.  The book is worthy of discussion among the interested.  So, I will offer discussion sessions on the book on the following dates:
     February 5, 12, 19, 26
     March 12, 26
     April 2
All sessions will begin at 6:30 pm.  All sessions will be in St. Patrick’s chapel.  Participants will have to purchase their own copy of the book.  Currently the price is $12.34 on Amazon.  Even though I have read it on my Kindle, you may want to consider a printed version because it is the type of book that you will want to underline and write comments in the columns.  Don’t forget to go through the parish website to purchase the book.  We will divine up the book into sections for our weekly discussions
     If you were annoyed by the opening comments in this notice, then you are a good candidate to participate in this group.

from St. Patrick and St. Anthony, Watertown, NY

Pope Francis’ prayer to Mary on the Immaculate Conception

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made his annual visit to Rome’s Spanish Square on Friday to pray at the foot of the column and statue of the Immaculate Conception.

A litany of present-day viruses and their corresponding antibodies: this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ prayer, offered to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on Friday afternoon.

Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

The Pope recited the prayer before the column and statue of Mary, dedicated in 1857 to mark the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined by Pope Pius IX three years earlier. The dogma teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, by a special grace of God, was preserved from all stain of original sin.

Mary accompanies us on our journey

The text of the prayer begins by thanking Our Lady for accompanying different categories of humanity of their respective journeys: families, religious, workers, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and those who have immigrated to Rome “from places where there is war and hunger”.

Viruses of our time

The Pope then goes on to identify a series of what he calls “viruses of our times”, which range from indifference to fear of the foreigner, from hypocrisy to the exploitation of others. These must be combatted, said Pope Francis, with the “antibodies that come from the Gospel”.

Here is the full translated text of the prayer:

Immaculate Mother,

For the fifth time I come to your feet as Bishop of Rome,
to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city.

We want to thank you for the constant care
with which you accompany us on our journey,
the journey of families, parishes, religious communities;
the journey of those who daily, and sometimes with difficulty,
pass through Rome on their way to work;
the journey of the sick, the elderly, the poor,
the journey of so many people who immigrated here from places where there is war and hunger.

Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts,
or a fleeting glance, towards you,
or recite a quick Hail Mary,
we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.

O Mother, help this city develop the “antibodies” it needs
to combat some of the viruses of our times:
the indifference that says: “It’s not my business”;
the unsociable behavior that despises the common good;
the fear of the foreigner and those who are different from us;
the conformism that disguises itself as transgression;
the hypocrisy that accuses others while doing the same things;
the resignation to environmental and ethical degradation;
the exploitation of so many men and women.

Help us to reject these and other viruses
with the antibodies that come from the Gospel.
Let us make it a good habit
to read a passage from the Gospel every day
and, following your example, to keep the Word of God in our hearts,
so that, like a good seed, it may fruit in our lives.

Immaculate Virgin,

175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, became a Christian.

You revealed yourself to him as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord’s graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.

So, let us place our hand in yours
And allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior,
and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us
and forgiving us when we return to Him.

Thank you, Mother, for always listening to us!
Bless the Church that is in Rome.
Bless this City and the whole world.


(from Vatican Radio)


from Blogger