On this first weekend in May, we continue our celebration of Easter on this Fourth Sunday of Easter. This Sunday is traditionally known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This came to be because in all three cycles of the Lectionary, the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter gives us one of the Good Shepherd sayings from John’s Gospel. “The sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them, out.” “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Besides being a very comforting and reassuring saying, it also helps us to continue our Easter reflection on the gift of the Eucharist.
A normal feature of the Easter Season is that the Scripture readings guide us in a reflection on the Sacraments of Initiation that were celebrated at the Easter Vigil. The Gospel readings of the daily Masses of the past week all came from the great Bread of Life discourse found in John, Chapter 6. “I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst”(John 6:35). The Good Shepherd is really a continuation of our reflection on the Eucharist. The Good Shepherd cares for, nurtures and feeds his sheep. Our Shepherd not only feeds us, but feeds us with his body and his blood. Our Shepherd nourishes the life we received in Baptism with his very body and blood.
Good Shepherd Sunday also gives us a chance to observe the 54th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We join with the church throughout the world in praying for vocations. The Joliet Diocesan Vocation Office web pages (www.vocations.com) are a good way to learn more about priesthood, religious life, and other church vocations. Information is also available by seeing one of our parish priests or calling the vocation office at 815-221-6100. It was recently reported that 2/3rds of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics live in developing countries and see a priest for only a few days once a year. Fortunately, our situation in our country is much different. Still, we are ordaining only two new priests for our diocese later this month. For the present, we join with the church in observing today’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations and ask the Lord to bless us with good and dedicated priests to faithfully serve the church.
We began our parish celebrations of First Communion this weekend. We celebrated two First Communion Masses yesterday and will conclude with two more Masses next Saturday. Congratulations to all of our Second Grade parishioners who are celebrating their First Communion this year. It is great watching them as they take this next step in their faith lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious. With the Eucharist so available to us every day, it is easy to forget what a wonderful gift we have from the Lord. Our 2nd graders are reminding us of this as they come to the altar for the first time. At the conclusion of each celebration, I invited each of our First Communicants to wear their special clothing when they come back for Sunday Mass today. Please congratulate them when you see them. Congratulations also to their parents for bringing them to this point in their lives. Thank you also to Vera Zielinski, our Faith Formation staff and our catechists who assisted their parents in preparing our young people for this new beginning.
Confirmation will be celebrated on Saturday, May 27, 2017, with two separate celebrations at 10:00am and 1:30pm. Abbot Dismas Kalcic, OSB, of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle will be our celebrant. Last week I had the chance to meet with our Confirmation candidates and lead all six large group sessions with them. It was a good opportunity to pull together all of the different pieces of their preparation program and see the big picture of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus. As we prayed throughout Lent for those entering the church at the Easter Vigil, so now we pray for our young people who will be celebrating Sacraments of Initiation in May.
Thank you to all who responded to our “In-pew Follow-up Weekend” last weekend and pledged to the 2017 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our CMAA goal this year is $173,968. Before our Follow-up Weekend was held, 828 households have pledged $157,191 towards our 2017 goal. The Campaign’s primary objective is participation. We are looking for 100% participation in the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, even if a family’s participation is “I do not wish to contribute at this time.”
While we surpassed our goal in paid pledges two years ago, we fell short of our goal last year by $3,938 with 1,047 households participating. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2017 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please join me and your fellow parishioners in responding to the 2017 Appeal as soon as possible. Together, we can reach our 2017 goal. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
Thank you also to all those who joined with us for Father Dennis Paul’s presentation on “The Gospel of Life” last Sunday evening. It was great to be able to welcome Father Dennis back to our parish for his presentation. He had served as a Parochial Vicar at our parish from June 2009 to February 2012 when he was named Pastor of Holy Family parish in Shorewood. Thanks also to our Pro-Life Action Ministry for sponsoring his presentation.
Last weekend’s rain has transformed our lawns, trees and bushes with new life. Let us take time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy