Jubilee of Mercy: The countdown

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Pope sends message to Patriarch Bartholomew for Feast of St. Andrew

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday sent a message to Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Orthodox Church.

The heads of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches traditionally send delegations for the feast day of each Church’s patron saint.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is the Holy See’s representative to the Orthodox Patriarch for this year’s Feast of St. Andrew. 

Cardinal Koch gave the Ecumenical Patriarch the message, signed by Pope Francis, at the end of the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Church of St. George of Fener.

Below, please find Pope Francis’ message to Patriarch Bartholomew:

To His Holiness Bartholomaios

Archbishop of Constantinople

Ecumenical Patriarch

Your Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,

A year has passed since we celebrated together, in the Patriarchal Church in the Phanar, the feast of Saint Andrew, the first-called Apostle and brother of Saint Peter.  The occasion was a moment of grace which permitted me to renew and to deepen, in shared prayer and personal encounter, the bonds of friendship with you and with the Church over which you preside.  It was with joy that I also experienced the vitality of a Church which unceasingly professes, celebrates and offers witness to faith in Jesus Christ, our one Lord and Saviour.  I am pleased once again to send a delegation of the Holy See to the Patronal celebrations as a tangible sign of my fraternal affection and the spiritual closeness of the Church of Rome to Your Holiness, as well as to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, monks and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In our profound communion of faith and charity, and grateful for all that God has accomplished for us, I recall the fiftieth anniversary on 7 December 2015 of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I which expressed the decision to remove from memory and from the midst of the Church the excommunications of 1054.  The memory of the mutual sentences of excommunication, together with the offensive words, groundless reproaches, and reprehensible gestures on both sides, which accompanied the sad events of this period, represented for many centuries an obstacle to rapprochement in charity between Catholics and Orthodox.  Attentive to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed to the Father on the eve of his Passion that his disciples “may be one” (Jn 17:21), Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I consigned these painful memories to oblivion.  Since then, the logic of antagonism, mistrust and hostility that had been symbolized by the mutual excommunications has been replaced by the logic of love and brotherhood, represented by our fraternal embrace.

While not all differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were brought to an end, there now existed the conditions necessary to journey towards re-establishing the “full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church” (Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration, 7 December 1965).  Having restored a relationship of love and fraternity, in a spirit of mutual trust, respect and charity, there is no longer any impediment to Eucharistic communion which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth.  Indeed, where there is love in the life of the Church, its source and fulfilment is always to be found in Eucharistic love.  So too the symbol of the fraternal embrace finds its most profound truth in the embrace of peace exchanged in the Eucharistic celebration.

In order to progress on our journey towards the full communion for which we long, we need continually to draw inspiration from the gesture of reconciliation and peace by our venerable predecessors Paul VI and Athenagoras I.  At all levels and in every context of Church life, relations between Catholics and Orthodox must increasingly reflect the logic of love that leaves no room for the spirit of rivalry.  Theological dialogue itself, sustained by mutual charity, must continue to examine carefully the questions which divide us, aiming always at deepening our shared understanding of revealed truth.  Motivated by God’s love, we must together offer the world a credible and effective witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation and salvation. 

The world today has great need of reconciliation, particularly in light of so much blood which has been shed in recent terrorist attacks.  May we accompany the victims with our prayers, and renew our commitment to lasting peace by promoting dialogue between religious traditions, for “indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict” (Common Declaration, Jerusalem 2014).

I wish to express my deep appreciation for Your Holiness’s fervent commitment to the critical issue of care for creation, for which your sensitivity and awareness is an exemplary witness for Catholics. I believe that it is a hopeful sign for Catholics and Orthodox that we now celebrate together an annual Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September, following the longstanding practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  In this regard, I assure you of my prayers for the important international meeting on the environment to be held in Paris at which you will participate.

Your Holiness, it is incumbent upon humanity to rediscover the mystery of mercy, “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2).  For this reason I have called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a favourable time to contemplate the Father’s mercy revealed fully in his Son, Jesus Christ, and to become ourselves an effective sign of God’s love through our mutual pardon and works of mercy.  It is providential that the anniversary of that historic Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration concerning the removal of the excommunications of 1054 occurs on the eve of the Year of Mercy.  Following Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, Catholics and Orthodox today must ask pardon of God and one another for divisions that Christians have brought about in the Body of Christ.  I ask you and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to pray that this Extraordinary Jubilee may bear the spiritual fruits for which we yearn.  I willingly assure you of my prayers for the events that your Church will celebrate in the year to come, especially the Pan-Orthodox Great Synod.  May this important occasion for all the Orthodox Churches be a source of abundant blessings for the life of the Church.

With fraternal affection in the Lord, I assure you of my spiritual closeness on the joyous feast of the Apostle Andrew, and I willingly exchange with Your Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord Jesus.

From the Vatican, 30 November 2015

Franciscus PP.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope celebrates closing Mass of African Journey

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday celebrated Mass at Bangui’s Barthélémy Boganda Stadium for thousands of the faithful from the Central African Republic.

Speaking of Paul’s missionary drive in the First Reading from the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis reflected on the great missionary effort which first brought the Gospel to the people of Central Africa.

Times of difficulty, trial and suffering remind all of the Lord’s call to come together and “to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us.”

“Looking towards the world to come,” he said, “has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage.  Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world.  It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.”

The Holy Father continued, saying “Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination.  In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore.  All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.  How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war!  How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that, despite the difficulties of the present, “the other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us.  He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him.  Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.”

Below, please find Pope Francis’ prepared homily:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Bangui, Barthélémy Boganda Stadium

30 November 2015

We might be astonished, listening to this morning’s first reading, by the enthusiasm and missionary drive of Saint Paul.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15).  These words inspire us to give thanks for the gift of the faith which we have received.  They also inspire us to reflect with amazement on the great missionary effort which – not long ago – first brought the joy of the Gospel to this beloved land of Central Africa.  It is good, especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord.  To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us.  For he invites us to cross over to another shore (cf. Lk  8:22).

This other shore is, of course, eternal life, heaven, which awaits us.  Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage.  Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world.  It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.

But the more immediate other shore, which we are trying to reach, this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us.  “Faith in the heart leads to justification” (Rom 10:10).  Those who believe receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love.

Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief.  Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future.  Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned.  In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us.  I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country.

Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination.  In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore.  All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.  How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war!  How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…

We know that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go.  Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel.  May the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has just begun in your country, be an occasion to do so.  Dear Central Africans, may you look to the future and, strengthened by the distance you have already come, resolutely determine to begin a new chapter in the Christian history of your country, to set out towards new horizons, to put out into the deep.  The Apostle Andrew, with his brother Peter, did not hesitate to leave everything at Christ’s call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20).  Once again, we are amazed at the great enthusiasm of the Apostles.  Christ drew them so closely to himself, that they felt able to do everything and to risk everything with him.

Each of us, in his or her heart, can ask the crucial question of where we stand with Jesus, asking what we have already accepted – or refused to accept – in responding to his call to follow him more closely.  The cry of “those who bring good news” resounds all the more in our ears, precisely when times are difficult; that cry which “goes out through all the earth… to the ends of the earth” (Rom 10:18; cf. Ps 19:4).  And it resounds here, today, in this land of Central Africa.  It resounds in our hearts, our families, our parishes, wherever we live.  It invites us to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy.  We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it.  For how can our brothers and sisters believe in Christ – Saint Paul asks – if the Word is neither proclaimed nor heard?

We too, like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future.  The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us.  He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him.  Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.

May the Virgin Mary, who by sharing in the Passion of her Son, now shares in his perfect joy, protect you and encourage you on this path of hope. Amen.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis visits Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday morning visited the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, meeting with the city’s Muslim community.

The Holy Father was welcomed to the mosque by the Grand Imam Nehedi Tidjani, along with four other Imam, who accompanied him to the podium.

In his address, Pope Francis recalled the recent violence which has rocked the country, saying “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”

“We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives. Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace. Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years. […] Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam.”

Recalling the upcoming national consultations, the Holy Father said, “We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.”

Below, please find Pope Francis’ prepared remarks to the Muslim Community of Bangui:

Address of Pope Francis

Meeting with the Muslim Community

Bangui, Central Mosque

30 November 2015

Dear Muslim friends, leaders and followers of Islam,

It is a great joy for me to be with you and I thank you for your warm welcome.  In a particular way I thank Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi for his kind words of greeting.  My Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.

Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such.  We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives.  Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam.

In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment.  They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.  I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this.  We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.

We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.  It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.

Dear friends, dear brothers, I invite you to pray and work for reconciliation, fraternity and solidarity among all people, without forgetting those who have suffered the most as a result of recent events.

May God bless you and protect you! Salam alaikum!

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis addresses youth at prayer vigil

(Vatican Radio) Following Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, thousands of young people filled the square in front of Bangui’s Cathédrale Notre-Dame for a Prayer Vigil that went into the night.

Pope Francis joined the youth immediately after the Mass offering them words of encouragement before hearing several Confessions.

In his address to the young people, the Holy Father spoke off the cuff in Italian, calling to mind the country’s symbol for youth: the banana tree. “The Banana tree is a symbol of life, always growing, always reproducing, always providing fruit with high alimentary energy. The banana tree is also resistant. I think this expresses well your path in this difficult moment of war, hate, and division: the path of resistance.”

Referring to a young person who had spoken to the crowd before him speaking of his desire to flee, Pope Francis said, “Fleeing the challenges of life is never the solution! One must resist, have the courage to resist, to fight for the good! The one who flees does not have the courage to give life.”

The Holy Father then spoke to them of three useful things for their situation: prayer, efforts toward peace, and forgiveness.

“You must pray to resist, to love, to not hate, and to be artisans of peace.”

Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks:

Address of Pope Francis
Prayer Vigil with Young People and Confessions
Bangui, Cathedral Square

29 November 2015

Dear Young Friends,

Good evening! It is a great joy for me to be here with you this evening, as we enter upon a new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent. Is this not, for each one of us, an occasion to begin anew, a chance to “go across to the other side?” (cf. Lk 8:22).

During this, our meeting I will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with some of you. I encourage each of you to reflect on the grandeur of this sacrament, in which God comes to meet us personally. Whenever we ask, he comes to us and helps us to “go across to the other side”, to that side of our life where God forgives us and bathes us in his love which heals, soothes and raises up! The Jubilee of Mercy, which I just opened particularly for you, dear Central African and African friends, rightly reminds us that God is waiting for us, with arms wide open, as we see in the beautiful image of the Father who welcomes the prodigal son.

The forgiveness which we receive comforts us and enables us to make a new start, with trusting and serene hearts, better able to live in harmony with ourselves, with God and with others. The forgiveness which we receive enables us in turn to forgive others. There is always a need for this, especially in times of conflict and violence, as you know all too well. I renew my closeness to all those among you who are have experienced sorrow, separation and the wounds inflicted by hatred and war. In such situations, forgiving those who have done us harm is, humanly speaking, extremely difficult. But God offers us the strength and the courage to become those artisans of reconciliation and peace which your country greatly needs. The Christian, as a disciple of Christ, walks in the footsteps of his Master, who on the Cross asked his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him (cf. Lk 23:34). How far is this sentiment from those which too often reign in our hearts! Meditating on the attitude and the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them”, can help to turn our gaze and convert our heart.

For many people, it is a scandal that God came to be one of us. It is a scandal that he died on a cross. Yes, it is scandalous: the scandal of the cross. The cross continues to scandalize. Yet it remains the one sure way: the way of the cross, the way of Jesus who came to share our life and to save us from sin (cf. Meeting with Young Argentineans, 25 July 2013). Dear friends, this cross speaks to us of the closeness of God: he is with us, he is with each one of you, in your joys and in your trials.

Dear young people, the most precious good which we can have in this life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in God’s eyes? Do you know that you are loved and accepted by him, unconditionally, as you are? (cf. Message for the World Youth Day 2015, 2). Devoting time to prayer and the reading of Scripture, especially the Gospels, you will come to know him, and yourselves, ever better. Today too, Jesus’ counsels can illumine your feelings and your decisions. You are enthusiastic and generous, pursuing high ideals, searching for truth and beauty. I encourage you to maintain an alert and critical spirit in the face of every compromise which runs contrary to the Gospel message.

Thank you for your creative dynamism, which the Church greatly needs. Cultivate this! Be witnesses to the joy of meeting Jesus. May he transform you, strengthen your faith and help you to overcome every fear, so that you may embrace ever more fully God’s loving plan for you! God wills the happiness of every one of his children. Those who open themselves to his gaze are freed from sin, from sorrow, from inner emptiness and from isolation (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1). Instead, they can see others as brothers or sisters, accepting their differences and recognizing that they are a gift for all of us.

It is in this way that peace is built, day by day. It calls for setting out on the path of service and humility, and being attentive to the needs of others. To embrace this mindset, we need to have a heart capable of bending low and sharing life with those most in need. That is where true charity is found. In this way solidarity grows, beginning with small gestures, and the seeds of division disappear. In this way dialogue among believers bears fruit, fraternity is lived day by day and it enlarges the heart by opening up a future. In this way, you will be able to do so much good for your country. I encourage you do so.

Dear young friends, the Lord is alive and he is walking at your side. When difficulties seem to abound, when pain and sadness seem to prevail all around you, he does not abandon you. He has left us the memorial of his love: the Eucharist and the sacraments, to aid our progress along the way and furnish the strength we need to daily move forward. This must be the source of your hope and your courage as you “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22), with Jesus, opening new paths for yourselves and your generation, for your families, for your country. I pray that you will be filled with this hope. May you be ever anchored in it, so that you can give it to others, to this world of ours so wounded by war and conflicts, by evil and sin. Never forget: the Lord is with you. He trusts you. He wants you to be missionary disciples, sustained in times of difficulty and trial by the prayers of the Virgin Mary and those of the entire Church. Dear young people of Central Africa, go forth! I am sending you out!

(from Vatican Radio)

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Reaching Out To Those In Need

Hardly a day goes by without someone coming to the rectory door looking for assistance.  As you know, most of the assistance that we give to people is given through the Watertown Urban Mission, a great organization specifically missioned to help those in need.  Part of its work consists in providing all kinds of assistance.  The food that the parishes donate at Thanksgiving and at other times of the year is given to the Watertown Urban Mission.  However, I do keep a little bit of it to assist those families who may fall through the cracks and, for whatever the reason, may need food before Urban Mission is able to help.  The Mission has some very clear policies and procedures that it follows.  These policies are ultimately for the common good.  But, every now and then, there is a special need.
   The people of St. Anthony’s have the custom of bringing food each first Sunday of the Month.  Beginning with December, instead of putting the food by the Mary shrine, I am asking that the food be placed in the area of the baptismal font.  Placing the food there will make it easier to transport later to Urban Mission.

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Advent – Season of Hope and Expectation

The best preparation for Christmas is Advent Prayer.  All of our preparations for Christmas are very important, but none can compare with our spiritual preparation.  The issue of The Word Among Us available at the doors of the churches is a wonderful aide to help us on our Advent journey.  The book contains the important scripture readings from each day at daily Mass during Advent.  For each reading there is an appropriate commentary geared to put us into the true Christmas spirit of Advent.
    Another great preparation would be to go to the news section of our parish website (sawatn.org or spwatn.org) and click on the link labeled Advent Reflections.  These reflections are written by Bishop Robert Barron and are guaranteed to put us into the right spirit of the season.
    Our celebration of Advent, indeed our preparation for Christmas, will be as good as we make it.  Come, Let Us Adore Him!

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Hymnals – Breaking Bread

Both St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s are now experiencing new hymnals.  At St. Patrick’s we have switched from The Heritage Missal to Breaking Bread.  The format is very much the same.  So, the transition is not as dramatic as it is for St. Anthony’s.  At St. Anthony’s, we have also switched from two books (Missalette and Music Issue) to Breaking Bread.  Something had to change at St. Anthony’s because the printing company was no longer going to produce the smaller print Missalette and Music Issue.  All of their publications would be the easier to read larger print.  Also, Breaking Bread was chosen because it would contain everything that we needed and would need to be changed only once a year.  However, the racks in the pews were not the right size.  Also, some of the plastic racks had begun to break.  So, we have removed them.  The new ones should be here before Christmas, and we hope to have them installed in time for Christmas.  The new ones will be wood.  When they come, we may need some volunteers to help install them.  Stay tuned!

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Shop for Christmas – Shop for the Parish

As you may know, the parish established a partnership with Amazon, the very popular online store.  If you access Amazon through the link on the parish homepage, you will be brought directly to Amazon.  After you logon, you will still have your regular shopping experience (including Amazon Prime) of Amazon PLUS 4% of your purchases will be given to the parish at no expense or cost to you.  This offer from Amazon is good throughout the year.  So,  please use this parish access to Amazon every time that you shop at Amazon.  Ask your friends and relatives to do the same.  This deal applies to anyone’s purchases who entered Amazon through our parish website.

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