We continue our celebration of the glorious season of Easter with the 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 message, it also helps us to continue our Easter reflection on the gift of the Eucharist.
A pattern 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 55th 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 a year. Fortunately, our situation in our country is much different. We anticipate ordaining seven new priests for our diocese next month. And we have three parishioners currently in seminary discerning a vocation. 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.
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 this 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.
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” last February just before Ash Wednesday. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our CMAA goal this year is $179,200. Thus far, 716 households have pledged $141,416 towards our 2018 goal. We reached last year’s goal through the increased participation of many! 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.” In order to give everyone a chance to participate in the Appeal, our “Follow-Up In Pew Weekend” will take place this weekend, April 21-22. As we did not want to interrupt our Lenten journey, we postponed our Follow-Up In Pew Weekend until now. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2018 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, this weekend is an ideal opportunity to join me and your fellow parishioners – 716 households – that have already responded. Your generosity is deeply appreciated and helps us meet our obligations to the larger Diocesan church.
We are getting closer and closer to having a Perpetual Adoration Chapel on our campus. Detailed drawings have been sent out for bid and the good news is that our costs for the addition are within budget! We have about $9,000 in pledges remaining to be paid. Our 5-year campaign ends in October. The drawings have now gone to the Bishop for his approval and that of other diocesan leaders. We look to schedule a ground breaking ceremony this summer!
Last weekend’s cold temperatures and snow has delayed the coming of spring in our area. Spring bulbs are forcing their way to the surface and new life will soon be all around us. We look forward to this very beautiful season of the year. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy