Today we mark the Third Sunday of Easter and continue to celebrate this great season of new life. During this past week, our weekday Gospel readings led us through John, Chapter 3. We saw Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and listened to his teaching on the need to be “born again.” It gave us the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the gift of our Baptism. On Friday, we began reading from John, Chapter 6 – the great Bread of Life discourse. This is the beginning of our reflection on another of the Sacraments of Initiation that was celebrated at our Easter Vigil – the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
As we saw in the 40 day season of Lent, there is a progression to our celebration of the 50 day season of Easter. Traditionally, the Easter season was the time when the local Bishop would gather with those who had been initiated into the church community at the Easter Vigil. At the Vigil, they celebrated all three Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Often those being initiated were not given the details of what would happen to them during the Vigil. Rather, the church trusted that the symbols used in each sacrament would convey an experience of the Risen Lord’s presence. Only later did we take time to explain to the newly-initiated members of the church what had happened. It was an interesting progression – they experienced the Lord in the sacraments first, and received the explanation second. The Bishop would gather with the new Christians throughout the Easter season and provide the explanations. The Sunday and daily Scripture readings were arranged to guide them in their reflections throughout the Easter Season.
Since Easter is the primary season of initiation into the church community, we intentionally schedule our special celebrations of the Sacraments of Initiation (Confirmation and First Communion) during the Easter Season. We will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday, April 28, 2018, with two separate Masses at 10:00am and 1:00pm. As Bishop Siegel has been transferred to the Diocese of Evansville, IN last December, Bishop Conlon has delegated me to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation at our parish this year. Our celebrations of First Communion will take place on May 6th and May 13th with two First Communion Masses each day. 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.
Shortly before Easter, I announced to our Parish Staff some adjustments in our parish leadership structure. Mr. Tom Norton was named as Pastoral Associate for Stewardship, Communications and Evangelization. He will guide us in living the Four Pillars of Stewardship Spirituality – Hospitality, Prayer, Formation and Service. He will be responsible for the parish message through the different areas of communication accessible to us. And he will guide us in our Pastoral Strategic Planning process and in the Be My Witness Renew program. Mr. Dan Tobin was named as Director of Administration with responsibilities in Personnel and Financial Management in addition to his present responsibilities in parish facilities and operations. I ask your patience over the next few months as we work out their specific responsibilities and deal with unforeseen developments.
Thank you to all who have already pledged to the 2018 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, and especially to those who responded to Bishop Conlon’s homily and pledged during the in-pew “Commitment Weekend” on the weekend before Ash Wednesday. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our CMAA goal this year is $179,200. Thus far, 712 households have pledged $140,924 towards our 2018. We reached our goal in paid pledges last year through the participation of 1,089 households. In order to give everyone a chance to participate in the Appeal, we will hold a “Follow-Up In Pew Weekend” in the near future. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2018 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please join me and make your pledge as soon as possible. Your generosity is deeply appreciated and helps us meet our obligations to the larger Diocesan church.
A few weekends ago, Bishop Conlon asked us to announce that Father Clive Otieno is being appointed as Parochial Vicar at St. Walter Parish in Roselle, effective June 20, 2018. At the same time, Rey Treyes, currently serving as pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Gilman, will be assigned here as our new Parochial Vicar. We have been blessed to have had Father Clive serving our parish for the past three years. I am also very grateful that we will continue to have three full-time priests serving our parish. We will schedule a time to say thank you to Father Clive before his departure date.
I hope we have seen the end of the snow this year. We are ready for spring to finally come and stay! We need this wonderful season of new life. As always, I pray that God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy