The Jeep Wave!

Well, I leased a Jeep. Those who know me recognize that I lease a new car every 3 years. You see, I know myself and I get bored, plus it includes maintenance and I have a fixed budget that I live within so it is the easiest way for me to keep myself in check and handle the abundance of travel I do as a priest, especially with so many weddings! So, I left VW and Mazda and decided it was time for something new!

Why a Jeep? Well, it may have been my midlife crisis moment, or the fact it’s the SUV of the Year for 2019, or that I had the excitement of driving one at this year’s Black Tie Tailgatefor Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with Katelyn, or that I am still angry at Volkswagen for their climate lies. Whatever the reason, I did it and I love it and it was all thanks to Nick Nensel at Deal Hitmen (Their ad appears on the back of our newsletter cover every week!) What I did not know was that I was buying more than just a car, I was buying a community!

From the first time I rode home to several times each day, I get a wave! At first, I didn’t understand, then I thought it just a fluke, then Nick told me it was the famous “Jeep Wave”!

So, I have now discovered that owning a Jeep doesn’t just open up the opportunity for me to traverse the path less traveled, I have also gained a kinship among all other Jeep owners! This camaraderie is on display every time I pass another person driving a Jeep in the form of a wave. The Jeep Wave is an honor bestowed upon those drivers with the superior intelligence, taste, class and discomfort tolerance to own the ultimate vehicle: The Jeep! Oh ya, baby that’s me!

The Jeep Wave generally consists of a vigorous side-to-side motion of one or both hands, a raised hand waving, or two or four fingers extended upward from the steering wheel. However, I must say that my favorite version of the wave is usually just a raise of two fingers from the steering wheel and a slight nod. An homage to the peace sign!

Now the rules for the Jeep Wave are pretty straightforward. All Jeepers are responsible for upholding the tradition of the wave. If a fellow Jeeper waves, you are required to return the wave; it’s as simple as that.

Now, Katelyn thinks this all so funny! A fortuitous accident of luck, she calls it! You see, she (and almost anyone who knows me well) knows that I wave at everyone, and I say hello to everyone I pass! When I worked in the hospital as a Trauma Chaplain it drove my companions crazy! “Why would say hello and how are you to sick people?!” They demanded. “Why not?!” I would assert! “They need it more than anyone!” And so, do I!

I love the feeling I get when I see that wave now. No matter the type of day I am having, no matter where I am going or coming from, no matter how rough a day, I know there is someone who will give me that affirmative wave and somehow, almost magically, I am in a better mood; a better place. It is why I love remembering my mom this day, too. Moms do that very same thing. I kind of think my mom might love a Jeep ride soon!

This is how I have also come to know Saint Miriam. That almost magical place where church still means community, a loving God, a warm embrace, and where everyone is friendly and all of us wave at one another in some form or fashion every week! It is the gift we are giving to others, and the legacy we will one day leave to our children. It is why we sacrifice and give and support and work hard and build. That wave is more than just a wave, it is for us a sign of the truth of what we believe. I guess, maybe, we might one day have our own Saint Miriam Wave!

Well, until then, I gotta go! See you Sunday! I have a Jeep to wave at!
 


Immaculate Mary! How Sweetly We Sing of Thee…Even Today in our Chaos.

As a lifelong Catholic, but more poignantly, an Italian Catholic, one of my first, and fondest, “Catholic” memories was of Mary at the annual May Crowning at our home parish of St. Paul, which took place on the first day of their annual Italian Festival! The songs are still fervently stuck in my head: Hail, holy Queen! Salve, Regina! Hail Mary, Gentle Woman! Ave Maria! And so many more!

I wish that all children were welcomed into the fold of Catholic faith with the innocence and tenderness of singing seraphim, with a mother of who exemplifies the epitome of mercy and love. And, I wish, too, that all could witness what I did so young: adults and children of all shapes and sizes, of all ages, coming together and bringing the statue of our Blessed Mother from insidethe walls of our church to the streets where she was so needed! Adorned in a glorious blue cope, glistening crown of gold, and beautiful blue and white streamers flowing from her sides, she was such a beautiful site! I was always elated to be part of it!

I remember, too, how many of the residents living around the parish, mostly of Italian or Polish descent, would prepare well in advance of the scheduled Sunday processional by cleaning up after the harsh Erie winters. Some even painted their curbs blue and white in her honor! My mother’s aunt, who was the only grandmother I ever knew, Cha Cha, was always ready with a beautifully painted white curb and fresh flowers newly planted! As the procession would come by, the priest would stop and people would hand him money, or flowers, and say a prayer. Some would go up to the large statue and pin bills to her streaming ribbons in support of the work of the church. The priest would then give a blessing and off to the next home we would go! The procession had bells, incense, singing, a cross leading the way, and the fully adorned Knights of Columbus with swords drawn! Oh, what a site! When I regale the stories today, many still look at me as if I am crazy! I assure, you, I am not. It was real and I am so very grateful for the memories that my parents allowed me to gain by taking me to see Mary on her special day!

I thought about Mary and these memories as I sat and worried this past Monday evening. I thought about how hard we have worked to keep our parish and school safe. I thought about the almost $10,000 we just spent in security upgrades this past month alone. I thought about the eyes of the children. I want none of them hurt; certainly, none of them dead. I was in my office with the FBI “Duty Agent” on a speaker phone and three WhiteMarsh Police Officers in my office. We were included in a ‘threat letter’ received by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. We didn’t have many details, but the mere fact that we were in it, was cause for alarm. We consulted, we prayed, we thought deeply. It was almost midnight by the time we broke until morning. I included my school administration and we collectively all agreed: close the school. There really was no other choice. We did. I am glad. This past week has been better, save for the fact that I have been demonized for this decision. Even a few parents have decided to send me hateful letters and include my past mistakes. One said, “It is my estimation that you could have handled the situation very differently given the circumstances. Yet you chose to create unnecessary anxiety for many families. It became more and more apparent that you seem to surround yourself with controversy. And rather than diffusing situations, you stoke the fire.”

My reply is simple: tell that to the family of Riley Howell, a University of North Carolina Student, who chose to fight when a gunman walked into his classroom. While you were writing your hate filled words to me, his family was planning his funeral. The alert received on his cell phone was direct “Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately.” He could do none of that and so he fought.  “But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department. “Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.” That is what we are called to do. Protect, love, care for one another. Our decision was sound.

The next day, just after midnight, we finally received a copy of the letter and saw what was actually written. How the letter began as “Terrorist Alert”. And, while we were not the obvious target after all, the hospital was, but the person was obviously at one time in our parish. I am glad we closed for the day. It was the right decision. It was the only one. 

In the end 2 are dead and 4 wounded in North Carolina. At our school there was no one harmed; no one dead. Perhaps my feelings are the only casualty here this week and my bruised ego and a little dismay. I’ll take those odds and now get back to praying to my rosary to the Blessed Mother who gave me the love of God and a devotion to her as a child. By doing so, she saved me from my self. And, she helped me gain the ability to create a place that these parents have loved, even as they demonize its creator.

Oh, if I remember my history correctly, there has always been a lot of that around. I think even Jesus would cry with me today. I know he was grateful we closed as a precaution. After all, He was too busy holding Riley Howell to handle much more…
 
 


A Season of Renewal: A Spring of Fulfillment!

Spring has sprung and Easter Sunday is now behind us. The WE ARE ALL HOMELESS Exhibit will also end this Saturday, and the parish is falling into a ‘normal’ routine as we find ourselves in the beautiful season of Easter! We have so much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for.

The Holy Week experience this year was simply beautiful. Palm Sunday found us gathering in our beautiful outdoors with donkeys and goats as Jesus rode into our hearts again, and together, we turned our faces toward His Passion journey. The Easter Triduum – from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil – were something to behold and relish. We welcomed the children of Teta and Beth and exclaimed the good and welcoming invitation of Jesus to another family! Then, Easter Sunday was packed from ‘stem to stern’ with families and friends in all shapes and sizes with 500 beautiful doves flying overhead! A beautiful way to welcome home Easter – into our church and well into our hearts where the goodness of God grows and is nurtured. And, as an added bonus, after a beautiful Easter week, we find ourselves featured in another article in the Philadelphia Inquirer!

We now turn to a more regular routine as we finish our PREP/CCD year with more baptisms (including today’s with Noah Bradley!) and First Holy Communion and then our annual May Crowning. This summer will bring a new face to our parish ministry team, renovations to our administration and school, a new playground, and added stabilization to our historic cemetery. So much happening, so many new things, and so much more to care for and become good stewards of! We are blessed. Let’s act like we are blessed, too!

So, we now make our final push to complete our annual appeal and we will show the world something we have already learned: Giving to others is such a joy! I have learned in my life that our God is a generous God – A God who has been revealed in Jesus as the One who deeply and passionately loves us. This is the season we now celebrate! Our God is also a God of transformation – who changes us, and through us, changes the world.  And this is our renewed invitation to share the love and power of God with others!

We now turn our eyes to bring our hearts to give thanks, as we continue to care for so many yet to come!

Help us to bring our appeal to fruition and watch as many more good things come to us, those who have been faithful to all that Jesus is!
 


An even more holy, Holy Week!

I waited to reflect before I sat down to write this week until I was at a place of calm. You see, for almost a year now, I have been dealing with medical tests, doctors, specialists and surgical biopsies. All the physicians concluded, based on medical testing, that I was going to have to deal with a diagnosis of Prostate Cancer.

Therefore, for months now, I have been on edge, moody, and downright scared. After all, I am about to get married, try to have a long-dreamed of family, and build a life; now is not the time to deal with cancer. I did a lot of praying. I ‘preached’ at God many times about how much I gave up and how deeply I sacrificed. I yelled, screamed, begged and even cajoled. Then, one day a couple of weeks ago, in my exhaustion and admitted desperation after my surgical biopsy at the hospital. I sat quietly in our Sanctuary, praying before the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration and I suddenly realized…nothing that I have given up, or ever done, even comes close to what God gave to me. I also know that nothing that I will ever do will merit one ounce of what Jesus did for me; for us.

So, I sank deeply into the hardened wooden pew, and I asked God for one last thing, forgiveness. Forgiveness for being so arrogant as to even ask Him for anything. Forgiveness for doubting His love for me. Forgiveness for being so weak as to not believe that I am going to be okay, no matter what the diagnosis. Forgiveness for being well, me. The test results came back this past Tuesday afternoon: all 12 biopsies were negative. They did didn’t fully understand why. I did. And now I need to add one more forgiveness request: for not being thankful for I already have been blessed with. Maybe, that is a reason for us all to stop this coming Hoy Week and attend the Masses of the most intimate encounter we can have as Catholics with the Lord who gave us so much, even this parish.

We have endeavored to bring to you a special experience. Once that will begin with Palm Sunday, the official beginning of Holy Week, and this year we have scheduled a few amazing events to make your experience moving and memorable!

Palm Sunday: We will have live Donkeys for the 9:00am Family Mass with a dramatic and emotional version of the reading of the gospel that will leave you breathless!

Holy Thursday: will find a renewed commitment to both our historic liturgy, as well as to the rejected and marginalized by our using two new vessels for the Foot Washing: one is handmade and imported from Jerusalemand the other is handmade by a potter from Mexico

Good Friday: will stun us with a visually moving liturgy with a brand-new Veneration Cross and spectacular draping that will move you emotionally to connect with Our Lord!

Easter Vigil: is where we will include fewer readings, but welcome two new Christians with a moving Baptism and the beautiful Ancient Rite of Blessing of the Waters, plus a St Francis of Assisi Pascal Candle!

Easter Sunday: is when we will gather together at a 9:00am Mass where we will be greeted by one of the most visually dramatic displays we’ve ever contemplated to allow your souls to soar as we say, “He is Risen!” 

The Easter Triduum, which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, is – in reality – one long Mass with two dramatic pauses. It is a minor sacrifice to adapt your schedule to attend each, but it will make Easter all the more glorious. For me, I know it is something I must do, especially in light of all I have been given. How about you?

Your attendance may just be the beginning of a new and more fulfilling life.

Join us…at a place for everyone!!
 


“Whiteous” Indignation.

His hands were almost like leather, but they were so big! It actually surprised me. When he shook my hand, it engulfed mine in an instant with more room to spare, but somehow there was a gentleness about him. His eyes met mine instantly and without a moment of hesitation. You could – if you dared set aside your ‘whiteous indignation’, behold the eyes of the God we worship in human form. I handed him a Saint Miriam Blessing Bag and added a single one-dollar bill; you would’ve thought that I had just given him the world!

His eyes darted and lit up, he became emotional and when I asked him his name, he almost stumbled. I doubt many – if any – ever ask him that question much anymore. “My name? My name is Scott Pearson. Mr. Scott Pearson!” He stood straight backed again and proud when he relayed that information to me. He thanked me over and over again, telling me how ‘I blessed his day’. And since I had done such a wonderful thing for him, he would return the favor with the only thing he had to give, a bit of humor. Mr. Pearson told me and Katelyn a joke that evening, as we sat at the traffic light and God blessed us all with a little time together before we traveled to our destination, ironically to meet someone who once was homeless, too, but survived because of the kindness of a few strangers who dared look beyond their own selfishness and prejudice and helped him become human again. There we were, sitting in our vehicle at the traffic light at I-76 and the Girard Avenue Exit, just before the Philadelphia Zoo, and we made a new friend.

I remember glancing back in my rearview mirror at the large Porsche SUV behind me. I was worried they might honk in irritation if I missed the light turning green. As Mr. Pearson’s hand took ahold of mine, I saw it, in that expression of the lady behind me. It was what I fear the most, rejection and repulsion.  

Oh, I know what you are thinking. It is the very same thing I so often thought, too. “Not me!” “I would never…” But, alas, we do. Those of us with privilege of color or education or living or status, we fall complacent to those who struggle and – in our brokenness – we become indignant and uncaring.

This Sunday we honor the life and legacy of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He is the patron saint of the homeless and his life stretches any scale of success beyond usefulness, even one duly chastened by any gospel expectation or mandate. Benedict was a failure, not only “according to worldly standards,” but also, by any imaginable churchly standard. Before he embarked on his life of vagrancy, he pursued tenaciously a monastic vocation, and failed. By the time he reached his early twenties, he had applied repeatedly to multiple Carthusian and Cistercian communities, and he managed to get rejected or turned away by all of them, some of them more than once; he failed. Benedict was a failure at both ways of living and yet, as Thomas Merton observed, “the only canonized saint, venerated by the whole Church, who has lived either as a Cistercian or a Carthusian since the Middle Ages is St. Benedict Joseph Labre” (Ref: New Seeds of Contemplation). He was a failure by any measure at all, in all things but holiness. On this day, we will gather and honor him, and we remember him and all the ‘Mr. Pearsons’ of the world who fail to live to the standard of the majority, but still are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Yesterday I was indignant, today I am disillusioned…but together, things will change.

I pray you will join me as we take a brief journey to see all this wonderful parish does for the world. We, together, set our eyes not on the things that vanish, but those things of life eternal.

Join me.

 



The Faces of Homelessness is Apparently a Dirty Business.

As many know, our parish is home to the latest exhibit of the WE ARE ALL HOMELESS project. We are, together with so many others, enhancing our vision to help the marginalized, improving the way homeless persons are given their humanity back, deepening our call to support those persons experiencing homelessness, and broadening the ways that we can actually help. We are also using our venue to allow others to come and change their views, deepen their own commitment, and educate the young on our mutual call as humanity to be nicer, to help others, demonstrate compassion, and to love one another. And, the primary reason we chose this time of year was to tie the vision and exhibit to our Lenten call to change for the better. Sadly, we have met with some unexpected resistance, and most of it right here within our very own walls.

This past week I have dealt with a few emails and two meetings of those who objected to our exhibit. Now their reasons ranged from some of the exhibit pieces containing ‘objectionable’ words like ‘porn stars’ to us not being a secure sight because people are coming to see the exhibit, but the worst reason of all, “these people and their signs are dirty.”

Let me first address the security issue: To be clear, the exhibit is open to the public from Wednesday – Sunday every week, but ONLY outside of school hours. And, every hour we are open to the public, we have two Ambassadors present to watch the exhibit, guide the visitors, and ensure nothing is amiss. The children in our school have always been and will always be secure because they are no longer in the school, or on the grounds, when the exhibit is open. It really is no different than when we have any other event outside the school portion of our facility. So, that is an easy answer.

Let me now address the prejudice: The original trigger to some was one of images I used for my blog. It caused them to write one of the cruelest letters ever received in my vocation as a priest. Somehow, because of this one sign from the exhibit, we caused inappropriate and vulgar material to be seen by the children of our preschool. The letter went on to say that they would contact the authorities to issue a complaint against us.

Now, mind you that of all the children in our preschool, only two can read at all and even they at a rudimentary level, AND that the large room they are using is exclusive to the parish, but permitted use is offered to the school when weather is inclement. However, since the exhibit opened on March 9th there has only been one such occurrence and when utilizing that space, the children were far more intrigued by the playing of games or the riding of indoor Tonka Trunks®! None of that mattered to the author because we, as clergy and members of a parish who chose to save a school that had been shuttered, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its renovation and safety, saved fourteen teaching jobs AND still to this day subsidizes that same school program so that anyone can afford to come, somehow still failed to protect a child from reading the sign of a person experiencing homelessness and seeking support with a bit of humor, and all in a nation – and during a time – where folks are bent on hate.

But it was the last email received that was the worst of all. In this email, the author was concerned because the ‘signs and the people who wrote them are ‘dirty’ and that our parish might actually welcome the homeless into the building and that would endanger her children. Really?  I have news for you: we do welcome everyone, and yes even those who may be homeless, but they are not dirty; at least not in the way you intimated.

Sadly, and yet still unexpectedly, that same hated, division, and lack of willingness to communicate courteously now comes home to Saint Miriam, a place that has always practiced love over hate, acceptance over exclusion, of conversation even in disagreement, of welcome over rejection. It is hurtful and almost unbearable that after all that we have sacrificed to give a home and safe educational experience to anyone regardless of participation, membership, or even being Catholic, we would be subjected to such ill regard and outright untruths, but more so perhaps this is a taste of what the homeless on the streets receive every day.

I think the other overarching factor that wounded me so much this week was that anyone would be so presumptuous and so demeaning to demand that we comply with their own prejudices and hatreds without ever once making inquiry or collaborating to find common ground and a deeper understanding. Simply because they think the homeless too dirty, disliked a sign, or found it objectionable – a mere fragment of a much larger homeless art display – and felt it inappropriate as an educational awareness, they would then demand we remove the exhibit is simply beyond me. Instead of dialogue, they chose the path the world so often now takes: cut them down at the knees, threaten to litigate, and demand that the good-doer capitulate to the hater. No, sorry not this time. Not here. 

You see, we have come too far and gone through too much. We, sadly, have learned to live with the hatred of others as we hold tight to the Gospel mandates. And, we have learned the valuable lesson that our brand of love is not for everyone. It doesn’t have to be. That really is ok. We know it is the brand that comes from knowing the goodness of an inclusive God who came to us in the form of Jesus so that we might do exactly what we are doing! As St. Francis was asked, so too we follow, “Francis, rebuild my church!”

After meeting with these persons and doing our best to reconcile and find common ground, we decided it best to ask one parent to find a new school home for their child, as we are unwilling to hate, bring any division, and we will not unwelcome others. And another chose to follow in order to protect their child apparently from ‘the unclean’ signs and people. It hurts, but that’s ok, too. We are not meant to be the bearer of hatred. We are not meant to cater only the rich or those with nice pristine homes in suburban neighborhoods where they can hide those in need behind their own contempt and freshly manicured landscapes. We are not meant to only minister to the clean and the tidy. We are called to love and welcome everyone, but the caveat – expressed and implied – is that hate is never allowed to reside here at any cost. Ever.

The founder of the WE ARE ALL HOMELESS project, Willie Baronet, said it best: “I see these signs as signposts of my own journey, inward and outward, of reconciling my own life with my judgments about those experiencing homelessness.”  And this, too, is why I am now ending my blog this week in defiance to the unreasonable and the hater and the rejecter, by adding a preface to the quote of the sign from our exhibit that caused one to hate us so much, despite all the good we do, because I know that many of us – myself included – are but one or two paychecks away from drafting our own sign on some shard of discarded cardboard with a found crayon and standing on a corner, a bit unclean from the lack of a place to be so, all in hopes of some small bit of compassion from someone who might see our humanity again…
 
Priest and “Out of Work Porn Stars! Anything Helps!”
 


Keeping the Faith Safe and Our Facilities Secure.

I have been plagued with depression so deep that I almost ended my life. I have sat before committees to defend my thesis, Commissions on Ministry and bishop conferences to become ordained clergy. I have been rejected as I discerned my sexuality.  I have suffered through a brain tumor and lived with severe asthma all my life. I sat in jail and I lost my dad. There is nothing I fear for myself, but I understand those of you who do fear the world and are concerned with going to public venues, even to worship, and especially with children in tow. The world is sometimes cruel. So, I get it.

We are all concerned about terrorism and the attacks at businesses, schools, bars, banks, nightclubs and malls; at movie theaters and yes, churches, synagogues, and mosques worldwide, too. I get it that we are all hypervigilant and aware; sometimes afraid, too. I also get it that we, here at Saint Miriam, have always been ‘targeted’ by those who dislike the radical love we have for everyone and the way we fling wide the doors to Christ’s holy Church. But that doesn’t mean we should give into fear. We can’t! If we do, the terrorists win, and the militants have the world to themselves, and we lose a beautiful parish and faith. So, what do we do? We stay true to our mission and love one another, all the while we stay attentive and mindful of our surroundings.

So, what has Saint Miriam done toward being a more secure place? A lot actually, but most behind the scenes to not add to anyone’s fear. Now, as I stated previously, while I am not fretful for me, I always am concerned for everyone else. I guess that is why I am pastor! So, yes, we did report the malicious posts last weekend to both Facebook and Montgomery County authorities. We also found out the group who inspired it – also a few months ago now from a closed “Militant Catholic” Facebook Group, has now been disbanded by Facebook. I also attended the Montgomery County Safety and Security Symposium for Faith Facilities and have followed their recommended guidelines. Sadly, we are not alone, as all centers of worship are targets of hate in one way or another, if only by way of discussion. However, in light of the world and the recent shootings, I felt it good to take a moment to let you all know some of what we do here to keep everyone safe while they worship with us.

We implemented an internal security plan almost a full year ago that while it may not be readily noticed, is always present. And at times of heightened alert, we even employ an armed security staff of trained professionals. Further, we have just signed a contract to upgrade our security cameras and Wi-Fi systems that will allow us to upgrade our security cameras on all levels, as well as add two new ones to the exterior and parking areas. We also have Instant Panic Alert buttons in place that immediately get emergency response from Montgomery County EMS.

Further, we already have in place Mr. Guy Cuffey, as our Security Director, a trained security expert, who is always meeting with me, even as late as last Saturday afternoon, to protect this parish in light of recent attacks in Christchurch. We also have internal Panic Alarms located at various hidden points throughout the parish, school, admin areas, and one behind the pulpit. All Greeters are trained to use these panic systems in the event of an emergency situation. We also sustain ongoing medical emergency training, fire and emergency drills, active shooter training and panic bars in all classrooms and offices, and emergency medical equipment including a state-of -the-art AED Unit. 

This coming week we also signed up as a RAVE Facility (Emergencies occurring on school campuses, healthcare, religious properties present first responders with unique challenges, which can impact their ability to provide assistance. Facilities such as ours can be difficult to access. They may be locked or have gates; they can be confusing to navigate once accessed; and often the 9-1-1 caller is not very familiar with the facility’s layout.) So, by our becoming a RAVE Facility, we can take an active role in protecting our parishioners, employees, students, guests, and our property by providing any information about your facilities that we need 9-1-1 first responders to know, ahead of any emergency! The system also employs Apps on our smart phones, and we will now be equipped with “Smart 9-1-1” technology that will allow every parishioner onsite to TEXT to 9-1-1 Operators during an emergency! Moreover, our building has been made safer with exterior sign identification tags on all offices and classrooms on both levels that correspond to digitized plans and building layouts with Montgomery County that will save seconds and minutes for emergency responders to locate and help.

Also, we recently upgraded our security protocols for the school, so we are a safefacility and locked down during school hours. Every person (including me!) wears a security-image coded ID Tag and uses an entry code to enter and exit our magnetized doors, that allows access during designated times dependent upon their job status. Even parents and children in our school program have access codes that can be eliminated or updated, as needed. While we cannot provide that same security system to the parish on Sundays, for obvious reasons, we canand willalways ensure the public safety.

Finally, I realize that we do a lot, and we welcome a lot, and we care a lot. I also recognize that with every new person or visitor welcomed to our campus and parish/school home, the threat grows by virtue of the unknown. ButI also believe in a loving God who has us safely in His hand. No matter the fears, I will always choose to worship and love Him for all He has so generously given to me, to us, and to the world. I will also remain faithful to my Catholic teachings and believe in the inherent dignity of every human person. This is the way we keep our tradition and move ahead in peace and love, not militant hatred.
 
This is is also why your participation and engagement of our annual Stewardship Campaign: Shoring Up Together is vital! Together, we care for our parish, but also make it vital, ministry-engaging, mission-orientated, and safe. Your dollars do a whole lot more than just pay the light bill. Please visit our stewardship page or simply compete your giving card after Mass this week. Together we shore things up and make things better for ourselves and the world! 
 

I leave you with the mantra I have adopted for my life: ‘No one is devoid of all goodness, and no one is beyond the redemptive activity of God.’  God is good. People are good. We worship and love and remain better together.

Please let me know if I missed any personal concerns and please also know while the threats are low, we take every single one seriously. 

 

Monsignor +Jim,

Pastor
 
 


If You Think We Aren’t Needed…

As I returned to my busy life as pastor after my visit home, I realized how fortunate we are to be a progressive Franciscan Catholic parish. I was reminded how needed we are; not so much myself, but all of us together that make us so special, and this place we so often take for granted. I was reminded in small ways and not so subtle ways that we are needed in a world that is so often cruel and divisive.

This past week I met with the single mother of a child who was recently placed on the Autism Spectrum. She was devasted when her former parish priest demanded she sit only in the ‘cry room’ when she attended Mass. Her son is 8 years old and he called him ‘distracting to others’. I spoke to the parents of a new infant who only wish to have their son baptized into the Catholic faith. They are lesbians and were refused at a local parish not too far from us. I saw the faces of people – strangers to us really – who came and saw with their own eyes what it must be like to experience homelessness. With every sign in the WE ARE ALL HOMELESS exhibit did they stand and weep and give thanks that their sign wasn’t present among the so many others. I heard from a volunteer Ambassador for the very same exhibit who texted me after his recent shift, “What a night. I love this place. I wish everyone could witness what I’ve seen tonight.” I heard from the mother of a child who died from HIV/AIDS. Her son was only 32 years old when he died back in 2002 and was never honored with a Mass Intention. He has one now at Saint Miriam. I was reminded by a reporter from the Daily News of how we first met when our parish reached out, without any prompting whatsoever, to take custody of and bury the body of Diamond Williams, tragically murdered and dismembered by the killer only to have her body rejected again but this time by her own family all because of she was transgender. By the way, thanks to one of our parishioners, Diamond is now the longest continual Memorial Mass Intention in this parish’s history. I am reminded by the email that I received from one of our families when they satiated so wonderfully, “Our daughter will be the first child born into our family that will not know what it is like to have a priest preach hate against others.” Yes,if you think we aren’t needed, think of them.

I also heard this week from someone who felt our exhibit was ‘repulsive’ and should be taken down. Another who stated that our radical inclusion was ‘not of God’, but of the devil. And yet another who wished me literally dead because I dare to openly welcome everyone to a place of light and love. Yes, if you think we aren’t needed, think of them, too.

We have begun a very simple and straightforward Stewardship Appeal for 2019 with three very simple and very achievable objectives for a parish of our size:

  1. Give if you aren’t giving.
  2. Increase your giving, even if by a small percentage, and
  3. Change the way you give from debit/credit cards to direct checking or savings withdrawals to save us the exorbitant credit processing fees.

 

That’s it. Once we reach $3,000 a month together, in all of these ways, the campaign ends, and we continue on our mission of love and welcome. Our ministry strengthened and our worries less, and the pressure on those who run this wonderful parish lessened. If you think your giving is needed, think of them, then please sit down, complete your appeal card and return it with a prayer for those who have yet to find a place like ours.

 



When You Hold Me…

I am not sure where I found it originally, but it has stuck with me ever since. The words, “When I’m angry and you hold me, I show mercy.”

It has how I have come to know this parish and the people who dwell here. It is how I have come to know my life when I am angry or so depressed that I feel I am ready to give up; then, I go home and find Katelyn waiting and she holds me close. It is how I have been calmed by Sean when he reminds me what we went through and how much we endured to build such a beautiful parish. It is found in the words of comfort that are freely given to me by Lorraine when debts are higher than income and she reminds me that ‘God is always good’. It is also found when one of our school children jumps in my arms and reminds me that they are not afraid of me as a priest.  Yes, through these simple acts of generosity, I am made a better man, a kinder priest, a loving Christian.

That is, after all, what this Season of Lent is all about: looking at ourselves and seeing the ugly parts that need smoothed and the rough patches that we know shouldn’t be there, as well as those areas we would like to see made even deeper and impact others in their pain. By doing so, not just giving up meat or candy, we find a way to become better human beings. Yes, we all need to see the good parts of ourselves as part of the solution, and not just focus on the problem areas of our fragile humanity. In the end, we should grow into better people before the Easter light warms our faces again.

It is why we are launching a sort of “mini-stewardship” appeal this Sunday. A few months ago, in late November, I clearly stated that there would be no stewardship in 2019 IF we purchased the Music CD’s that were so joyfully created by our own music team. Alas, few of you heeded my message and we are short our funding goal. This makes us fragile as a parish and less a community. It also may jeopardize everything that we have worked so hard for, sacrificed for, and given to create. It is not our best; not even close; this is us in our selfishness.

So today we are asking that you begin to look at all that we are as a community of faith and do three simple things, if you are not already doing so.

  1. eGive! Give your donation automatically so we can plan better! Weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly we don’t care, just do it today by Clicking Here or completing a new eGiving card.
  2. Change! If you are already eGiving electronically BUT your donation comes from your credit or debit card, CHANGE it to a direct withdrawal from your checking or savings account (ACH). This dramatically reduces our fees and more of your donation comes to help us remain vibrant! Complete a new card this Sunday! 
  3. Increase Your Giving! Can you give just $10 more a month? Is all that we do worth just a little more? Is God worth it for all that you will get back? By all who are giving now increasing their monthly giving by only a fee dollars, we will far surpass our goal!
  4. Give YOU! If you are struggling financially and cannot give more, why not give us the gift of your time and talent? There are many things we pay for at the parish and school that you could help do and thereby reduce our expenses! What a beautiful way to give; what a lesson for your children? 

 

So, in the end, what is the goal simply? A $3,000 increase in overall monthly giving! That is it, and I know that together we can do it! Be sure to watch the Pledge Thermometer in the parish grow by every dollar given, every dollar saved by switching off a credit card, and every increase in pledged giving and we will become even stronger and our ministry more impactful! Let this Lenten Season be a time of firm commitment and watch you joy become abundant!

Remember, we are better together.

Blessed Lent.