Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life in Abundance

Do you remember this summer, when at the end of Mass there were no announcements? I think that happened three weeks in a row during the absolute doldrums. Well, that time is over -- and how!

This weekend, don’t forget to swing over to the convent and visit the newly renovated chapel. There will be an open house after all the Masses so you can see the good work done by our parishioners, and visit this beautiful sacred space that has been a well-kept secret too long. And on your walk over, admire the new downspouts, to replace the stolen ones. They’re not copper (too much of a temptation, alas), but they should work.

This Sunday evening, we do have one activity that continued through the summer: Eucharistic Adoration from six to ten. The men of the Holy Name Society commit to being present for that vigil, so that you can come at your convenience to rejoice and offer prayers before the living God who dwells among us.

Then, try to come this week to a special Mass we are offering for the intentions of our military personnel serving abroad, and in harm’s way. Wednesday, September 29, is the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, who wields a flaming sword, drove the rebel Lucifer from heaven, and battles the devil (successfully) in the Apocalypse. In uniting to call upon his aid for all who sacrifice and serve for us, and to unite our sacrifices to Christ’s own, we will acknowledge our need for heavenly help in this real, earthly struggle. Msgr. Thomas Olszyk, of the Military Archdiocese, will preach. All the details are in the box to the lower left.

On the foundation of all this prayer, next weekend will be the center of social activity this fall for the whole parish community. Plan to spend time up here every day!

Saturday morning, we host Becca’s Run, which is great chance to have fun, exercise, and contribute to good causes – including a scholarship fund for our school. I think you can still register if you have not yet.

Then, Saturday evening, beginning right after the Vigil Mass, there will be a veritable biergarten out on our own field. Come on over after Mass to Oktoberfest for dinner (the very best wurst), and then stay to enjoy the music (authentic oom-pah soundtrack) and excellent company into the evening.

Next Sunday afternoon, from one to five, will be our annual Fall Festival. This is an absolute blast for all who come, especially the kids. There will be live music, games, food, and everybody you want to spend time with – all there at the same time. Come on out with your whole family – but don’t stop at that! Invite some friends, or relatives, or co-workers, or your next-door neighbors. A couple of years ago I invited some of my friends from outside the parish, and right after Labor Day they started bugging me to know when the date was for the festival this year. You’ll be addicted, too.

How things change, eh? Just weeks ago, there were no activities to announce; now there are too many to try to mention from the pulpit! But it’s not too much for us to enjoy. I’ll see you there.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Come and see

You’ve heard about it in the announcements, but have you ever seen it? “It” is the convent chapel, where we routinely hold First Friday Eucharistic adoration, and the Holy Name Society’s monthly Mass. I would be willing to bet that most who have not participated in those two activities have never seen it.

For those who don’t know, the convent is the building between the church and the school. Along with the original school building, it is one of the first constructions of the parish when it was new, built in 1946-47. It housed sixteen of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Glen Riddle who taught in our school for decades, until the last left in 1999.

The newest construction on the property, known poetically as the “connector,” in 2002 joined the original school building (three stories tall) and the Annex (four additional classrooms added in 1958) to the convent building, and added a new ground-level entrance for increased security and accessibility. Since then, the old convent building has housed the library, the computer classroom, school offices, the teachers’ break room, the copier room, and a conference room.

At that time, some work was done to improve the chapel. It was expanded into the adjoining parlor, and pews and carpeting added. New paint and improvements in the sacristy made it suitable for more people to use it for more functions. But to be honest, it was still pretty drab, and for years I had been hoping to make it more inviting.

Over the past six months, that has finally happened. With the new heating and cooling from Phase I of the school in there, the window-unit air conditioners and the radiators are gone. A new wood floor, new decorative windows, and a rich new paint scheme are only part of the story. Overall, the chapel is beautiful.

A lot of people helped make it that way. Parishioners donated their time, effort, expertise, and funding to make it possible. I learned a lot about what some people are really good at! I think you will be impressed, too.

Next weekend, after all the Masses, we will have an open house for everyone to visit the chapel. I will provide information on what was done in the two renovations, and on who provided what to make it possible. You will have a chance to admire all the work that went into making the place of prayer worthy or the Presence who dwells there. Come and see this precious parish resource!

Since the school is connected to the convent building now, the school kids can go to the chapel without going outside. By making the chapel more beautiful, it was my stated hope to make it more inviting, so they would want to pray there more often. The result has been that I want to pray there more often – as do Fr. Nick and Fr. DeRosa. We keep bumping into one another there, or coming or going to or from the chapel. That’s not a bad thing, surely.

It is my hope that more folks will have the same experience, and find the beauty, silence, and grace of the chapel calls them to pray there. So stop by next week, and make the first visit of what could turn into many. “It” may be just what you’ve been looking for!

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's New?

Have you ever heard someone say, I’ve heard it all? They may not mean it literally, but they are trying to say they have heard everything there is to say about a certain subject, and they have no need of hearing any more.

Sometimes we think that we have heard it all – or at least enough. We just don’t want to be bothered with any new input on a decision we have already made to our satisfaction.

That is not an unreasonable thing to say, or think, by any means – unless it is about God’s revelation and salvation in Jesus Christ, in which case one might reasonably admit not to have heard it all.

This past week, Archbishop Wuerl sent us Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision – a Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization. Inviting us to participate in the New Evangelization espoused by Pope John Paul II and furthered by Pope Benedict XVI, he is advocating not a new program, but a new way of interacting with the Good News, and with the world.

In a recent homily, Pope Benedict pointed out that this evangelization is "new" not in its content but in its inner thrust, open to the grace of the Holy Spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel that always renews the Church; "new" in ways that correspond with the power of the Holy Spirit and which are suited to the times and situations; "new" because of being necessary even in countries that have already received the proclamation of the Gospel.

Archbishop Wuerl asks that Catholics reflect together on how we can renew the Gospel message and Christ’s love, first in our own hearts and then, having grown in our faith, by inviting others to hear once again, maybe all over again for the first time, the exciting invitation of Jesus: “Come, follow me.”

He continues, This is a fresh moment for the Church because it is a new moment in our world. In an increasingly secular and materialistic society, what gives true and lasting meaning and joy is Christ and his message. From the renewal of faith by individual Catholics to their invitation to others to share in the joy and excitement of Christ and His Church comes the possibility of a world transformed.

The Pope admitted that the Church needs, and intends, a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of "eclipse of the sense of God", which pose a challenge to finding appropriate (ways) to propose anew the perennial truth of Christ's Gospel.

If the Church can recognize that her most pressing need is to preach the Gospel to the lands, to the countries, to the cultures that were founded upon that very Gospel, perhaps you and I can allow the possibility that there is something that we need to engage more deeply, and share more broadly. The full text of the Archbishop’s letter is available online at our Archdiocesan web site, Please take a chance that you might not have heard it all – and read it!

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Once more into the breach, dear friends

They’re baaa—ack!

The students, that is. Out of your homes and into mine, the kids came back to school this week. The kids took it right in stride for the most part. The parents, on the other hand, betrayed far more emotion. They fretted over details before, and paced about erratically after, the kids all marched resolutely to their fates, er, classrooms. Some parents even wept; others I could swear giggled and grinned as they drove away.

I am not sure how it looked where you were, but whatever the school, I would imagine there were similar scenes. Here, I have to admit I was happy to have the little darlings back on the property, even if it did signal the return to Business As Usual. The phones and doorbell were ringing at full tilt within minutes of the school bell. It is time to get serious, and pick it all up where we left off.

We have a phenomenal team running our school here, from Mrs. Wood the principal, to her two “wingmen,” Mr. Ewanciw and Mr. Lee, vice-principal and dean, respectively. We have been working together for three years now and are of one mind and heart on all the important things. The teachers similarly are united in their purpose and mutual support, providing an environment for growth and learning that is a source of wonder to me.

Speaking of environment, the middle school kids and teachers, (the top floor of our main school building) returned to air-conditioned comfort this year. Phase two of our four-year plan to replace the failing heating system and add cooling, this tangible sign of progress got everyone’s spirits up. I have yet to hear anyone say anything about the wireless network now available throughout the school, or the new computer lab. Nobody is going to notice, much less mention, the repointing on the bricks that was done over the summer, or the replaced carpeting. Some folks may notice how sparklingly clean the place is, but it won’t be the middle schoolers, I’ll wager.

Many of these improvements benefit our religious education kids, as well. I’ll not soon forget the Sunday morning when one of the parents whispered in my ear that A/C wasn’t working in the classrooms. There wasn’t any (yet), so it was impossible not to chuckle. Step by step, we’re getting there!

All this reminds me of another thing I accomplished this week, which was to sign a huge pile of checks. All this goodness does require payment, and it is astonishing what it costs to run a school even as lean as ours is. The tuition reflects those costs, and can be quite daunting for a lot of the folks who are really committed to providing the benefits of our Catholic school for their children.

This is the time of year when I mention that I, as Pastor, provide assistance to as many families as I can to help them reach that goal. This, in turn, allows the school to benefit not only from the presence of their families here, but also the tuition that they can contribute. Sometimes the boost of just ten or fifteen percent ($690 or $1035) makes it possible for them to enroll. If you want to help me help someone enjoy this blessed fruit of our strong parish school, I will be happy, and they will be grateful. Because it is good to come back.

Monsignor Smith