FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Francis ~ “Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems, but in problems, is offered to each of us.”
I recall the week after Christmas last December when I had some time to look back over 2019 and look forward to 2020. Medically 2019 was a difficult year for me. I had a staph infection and surgery on my leg in April and a near fatal blood clot in my lungs in November. Thanksgiving and Christmas were very special celebrations – I was grateful to be alive! I was more than ready to change the calendar from 2019 to 2020. It was time to turn the corner into a new year and a new decade.
The coronavirus pandemic hit us in ways we had never experienced before. Even at 9/11 we relied heavily upon our faith, gathered in our churches and made it through that crisis. Gathering in our churches wasn’t meant to be this time. And with this crisis, just when we thought we had “flattened the curve” and things could not get any worse, they did. The violence that we saw last weekend in cities throughout our country touched us personally as Stratford Square Mall and the restaurants surrounding it were closed mid-afternoon last Sunday. Not only were we sickened by the images we saw of George Floyd’s murder, the violence and destruction that followed brought many of us to the breaking point. It was as if the disasters of 1918 (flu pandemic), 1929 (stock market crash) and 1968 (civil unrest and riots) were repeating themselves now together at the same time in 2020. Our mental and emotional plates were full.
One of the values of our parish that we can truly be proud of is that we value diversity. We constantly proclaim that all are welcome, As we heard in last Sunday’s 2nd reading, we are many different and varied parts that form one body. That truth is brought home to me each Good Friday as I take my turn holding the cross as our parishioners come forward to venerate it during the Passion Service. Our differences are most apparent then as young and old, male and female, white, brown, yellow and black people step forward in the procession to the cross and venerate it. Our many differences are joined together as we together profess one faith. One person in authority who disrespected our human diversity has harmed us all – and especially harmed the police officers who faithfully put their lives on the line each and every day.
As devastating as the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country were, what saw us through that dark time in our history was our faith and our openness to God’s healing in our lives. Last Sunday, we celebrated the magnificent Feast of Pentecost and even though we were not able to gather in person, we professed our belief at our live-streamed Mass that God remains with us, that Jesus has not abandoned us and that his gift of the Spirit will be our strength and consolation. We trusted that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would continue to be poured out upon us today. We professed that true healing, justice and lasting peace are gifts of the Spirit in our day. We need to reaffirm that belief if we are to move forward. For that is the only way.
Other things demanding our attention right now are our steps that we must take to safely re-open our church for Sunday Mass. Health restrictions placed upon us mean that we will have to limit our gatherings to roughly 20% of our capacity. Mass times will need to be changed to allow for the church to be sanitized between Masses. As so many things are still unclear, taking all of the necessary steps is a slow drawn out process. We need additional volunteers to be trained and to guide us as we gather again. If you haven’t volunteered and are eligible health-wise, please step up! We are also tackling the burden of preparing the parish budget for 2020-2021. Again, many things are still unclear and the process continues to be drawn out. As parish income is unsure, parish spending is unsure. As our Sunday offerings have been significantly reduced, things are not looking good. Our greatest expense is payroll and benefits for our parish staff. If you have kept current with your Sunday Offerings, thank you! Some have mentioned to me they need to catch up. Please do. Steps for electronic giving are printed elsewhere in the bulletin. Thank you for all that you are able to do.
Many other things are taking place in our parish. Please check the weekly emailed Flocknotes and other notices posted on our parish Facebook page and website. As always, I pray that God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy