Two weeks ago, on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, I shared my plans for our parish community for the year 2019 with you. It was well received, and I received several requests to print my homily in the bulletin. I am pleased to share with you a part of my homily. As I previously mentioned, I have chosen hospitality as the theme for the year 2019. “Hospitality” involves making our parish friendly and welcoming to people. It is not that we are unfriendly people; we are, in fact, one of the most welcoming and friendly parishes around. I selected this theme because hospitality is an important element for any parish, and I want you all to make it a priority.
Hospitality begins in the parking lot, and continues when we enter the church and goes with us when we leave the church. Let me give you one example of hospitality. A man who had gone through a serious personal problem commented one day after Mass that he was finally feeling better again. He thanked me and the parish. When I asked him what we had done, he said, “Father, don’t you understand, hospitality is healing.” I don’t know who helped this person, but whoever you are, thank you. Please continue your welcoming behavior. Another interesting thing happened the other day. A boy came up to me and said, “Father, why don’t people smile in the church?” It was a good question, and I did not know how to answer him. But I told him that I would ask our parishioners to smile more. We will talk more about hospitality throughout this New Year.
Our parish has many programs and opportunities for us to grow in faith. Let me share with you some of the opportunities we have for the year 2019.
I have been getting requests from parishioners asking me to provide more opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration. As a priest, I strongly believe in and love Eucharistic Adoration. It is a quiet time of prayer and an opportunity to spend time with the Lord. It is Eucharistic Adoration, love and personal devotion to the Eucharist that binds families and parishes together as a community. Mother Teresa once said it quite beautifully, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” In addition to the first Friday Adoration, we will be offering Adoration once a month, on the 4th Saturday of every month following the 4:30 pm Mass. Please join us, and spend time with Jesus for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, or the full two hours, and let us grow as a community by deepening our love for Jesus in the Eucharist. We will conclude Adoration with Benediction at 7:30 pm.
I am planning to introduce a new program this year called Alpha. Alpha is an opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly, open, and informal environment. It is for anyone who is curious and desires to explore the Catholic faith. I am very excited to introduce this program in our parish. If you have anyone in your family or know anyone who has questions or wants to explore the faith, start praying for that person and bring them to this program. We will share more details about this program in the near future.
A few months ago, we started a program called “Walking with Purpose.” “Walking with Purpose” is a community of women of all ages being transformed in faith through scripture and teachings of the Catholic Church. The program is designed to help us understand the fundamental questions of faith and it challenges you to open your heart to Jesus, who can transform lives. As you might know we have started several programs in the last two years, programs such as C2C, couples date night, ministry for the divorced and separated, witness to love, as well as others. My goal is to strengthen these existing programs as well as promote the new ones.
The church roof has been completed, and I am grateful to you all for coming together and supporting this project. I will give you an update of the roofing project at some point. I don’t anticipate having to raise any funds this year. I know it is a big relief for you and for me. I will not ask for money except for the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), which I hope to do sometime next month. The excess money from the ACA will be diverted toward the hall roofing.
I also would like to bring your attention to an important issue involving the church offertory/collection. In my four years as a pastor, I have spoken once about money; I asked you to increase your giving by 5%. You responded very positively, and I thank you. I had to make this request because of increases in salary, cost of maintenance of our facility, parish utilities, and other expenses. During our fund raising for the roof the Sunday collection decreased because the roof was the main focus. However, now that the roof is done, the collection hasn’t returned to its prior level. Our church is like our homes; it requires money to keep things running. So, I request that you pray about it and consider the possibility of increasing your donation by 5%. You may also consider e-giving. E-giving is very simple and convenient. If you wish to set up an e-giving account, you may visit the parish website or call the parish office.
I am so excited for the New Year and the opportunities that we have available in our parish. But, I can’t do it alone; I need your support, financial contributions, your participation in these programs and, more than anything, your prayers. Like our families, for a parish to be strong, we have to work together and be rooted in God. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that if we are rooted in God we will continue to grow and prosper. My prayer for you and for our families is that we be rooted in Him and grow in holiness. God calls each of us to be good stewards of the many blessings that He has bestowed upon us. Let us bear witness to our Baptism with our lives, not just with our words. May we live out our faith every day. And, may we put the good news of Jesus Christ into action, by the way that we care, welcome others and get involved in our parish community. May God bless us, our families and our parish community!