A word from Pope Francis ~ “May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others…instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”
Happy Father’s Day to all of our dads, grandpas, Godfathers, and all those who are like a father to us. We celebrate and thank you for all of the marvelous ways you reveal God’s love to us. We ask God’s blessing upon you today and particularly remember those of our fathers who have gone ahead of us in faith and now live with the Lord.
We also remember those who do not look forward to today’s celebration. For some of us, our fathers are no longer with us and there is still a hole in our hearts. Others have had hurtful or abusive relationships with their fathers. Still others among us struggle with the painful experience of infertility. Couples in these situations spend this day grieving in the shadows. Besides honoring our fathers this day, we prayerfully remember those who are grieving the absence of their father or the opportunity to be a father.
As we celebrate the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time today, we mark another anniversary in our life with the COVID-19 virus. It was a year ago this weekend that we launched our “new normal” in-person weekend Mass schedule. Following two in-person live streamed Masses the previous weekend, we celebrated Masses at 5:00pm Saturday and 7:00, 9:00 and 11:00am and 1:00pm (Spanish). With a seating chart created for the church and a reservation process in place, we were able to more than double our Sunday Mass offerings. We scheduled our Sunday Masses at 2-hour intervals to allow for sanitizing of the church between Masses. It was a significant beginning. Later, as we realized we did not need as much time in between Masses to sanitize the church, we reverted to our original Sunday schedule of 7:00, 8:30, 10:00, 11:30 (Spanish) and 1:00pm. We resumed the Saturday 6:30pm Spanish Mass around the beginning of Lent to relieve some of the pressure at the heavily attended Sunday Spanish Mass. All through this we followed the COVID protocols of face masks, hand sanitizing, social distancing and advance reservations (approximately 135-140 maximum) so we could keep a tracking record if a COVID case was reported. Additional protocols were given us for receiving Communion as well. We followed these protocols faithfully so that we could provide as safe a climate for in-person worship as possible.
Looking back at that period, I remember the multitude of emails that came from the Office of the Bishop and the meetings that we had with senior staff and other staff members trying to put together our plans for re-opening the parish to the full sacramental life of the church. Listening to each other we were able to see things that we had not even thought of before. As many of us went home each night, we found our minds racing as we reviewed each detail and anticipated all that could go wrong. Our planning paid off – for the time being – and our parish was open to the extent that the COVID restrictions allowed us to be open.
Last Sunday we experienced our first Phase 5 Reopening Masses. The spirit of joy at the 5:00pm Saturday and 10:00am Sunday Masses that I celebrated was awesome. We were able to offer 100% occupancy seating in our church. Since face masks were not required for those fully vaccinated, we could see each other’s smiles. It was a weekend of special rejoicing not only in church, but also at the numerous gatherings we were now able to attend.
In normal years, summer time gives us opportunities to do maintenance work around our parish campus. This year is no exception. Once the grade school year ended, we were able to do some concrete repair work next to the Ministry Center and along the sidewalk near the church. A major project was replacing the north main entrance doors to the church. These were the original 42-year old doors of the church. They were rusting away at the bottoms and provided easy access to rodents in the winter. This project was in the works for several months and was completed on Friday, June 4th. The good news is that the expense of replacing these doors was covered by funds left over after the construction of our Perpetual Adoration Chapel. As our parish staff closely monitored the costs of the construction of the Chapel, it was completed under budget. Construction funds on deposit with the diocese were then used to replace the original 1980 doors of the church. The new doors are the same color as the original doors, but are each 4 inches wider. That provides us with an additional 8-inch clearance to bring a casket into the church for a funeral. The original hardware – door handles and locks – were installed in the new doors. This project is one that would not be noticed, but is necessary in the maintenance of the church. One additional project is scheduled – the sealing and repainting of the parking lots.
Bishop Hicks has asked us to take up a “Father’s Day Special Collection for Diocesan Priests’ Care & Support.” This is a special collection to care for our infirm and retired priests. The Fund for Diocesan Infirmed and Elderly Priests is a special way for us to express our concern for the welfare of those who have dedicated their lives in service to our pastoral care. The money in this fund goes toward priests who need help with extraordinary medical expenses or suffer a catastrophic illness. It also provides for the care of the St. John Vianney Villa in Naperville, home to several retired priests in the Diocese of Joliet. Envelopes for this collection have been included in the May-June packets mailed to our homes. Other contributions can be placed in the baskets at the church entrances or made online using the link at the parish website of Flocknote. Thank you for your generosity in responding to this appeal for our retired and infirm priests.
While Memorial Day traditionally signals the beginning of summer, the official beginning of summer takes place today at 10:31pm CDT. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Remember back to the winter when it was dark at 4:30pm? It is time to savor God’s gift of light and the gift of the summer. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy