Here are a number of items that I am thinking about these days for the parish:
-A belated thanks to everybody who made the parish retreat work so well! I wasn’t able to be there for the entire thing, but I saw enough to realize a great atmosphere of faith sharing, around a few great testimonies and some solid talks on the Eucharist, with some prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament …and even confessions. A simple and delicious lunch was also provided, thanks to the generous service of a handful of parishioners. People served by setting up the event venues, and then by taking everything down afterwards. The holy hour had to be organized. Overall, it seemed to me a great success. I think we can easily reproduce it next year, and presently I’m considering as a theme “Spiritual Life With the Blessed Virgin Mary.” This will dovetail nicely with our plans to lead Marion meditation and a consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent this coming fall. We now have on our FORMED website subscription the very fine 33 Days to Morning Glory, which leads people to a consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
-Thanks so much to everybody who has already given to the Bishop’s Annual Catholic Appeal. We are steadily approaching our goal. I hope you remember my explanation in a previous letter of all the ways the Diocesan Pastoral Center supports us. And as an added benefit, if we do go over our goal, the money comes back for our own projects. And you know from recent articles in local newspapers and our own bulletin that our Bishop is doing his best to steward diocesan finances well.
-I thought it would be beneficial to mention that on the pilgrimage to Italy recently, one of the main staples of our prayer life together was the breviary. It’s a four volume book that priests, deacons and religious are committed to pray each day. But it is in no way reserved only to consecrated people. I think it is great prayer for couples, even families, especially morning and evening prayer. It’s a set structure of prayer that helps you “feel with the Church” (sentire cum Ecclesia) throughout the year. Now it is available electronically for your smart phones and iPads. (The hardcopy book itself, with ribbons everywhere, and many parts and pieces to insert from everywhere was actually pretty difficult to learn.) So everybody going on the trip downloaded the “iBreviary” app, and within 20 minutes we were all praying the breviary together. It was awesome! If you know somebody who went on the pilgrimage, ask them to show you how to pray the breviary, and consider it for your own personal and family life, especially you couples. Imagine a couples’ casual gathering in somebody’s home, and they start with evening prayer together! Pretty exciting!
-If you stay in touch with Catholic news, you’ve seen that the Pope officially changed the rubrics for the washing of feet during the Holy Thursday ceremony. Rather than the rubrics speaking specifically about “men”, the rubrics now say simply that those to have their feet washed are to be chosen from the community. In an explanatory note with this change, the Pope said the people were supposed to represent the various facets of the community; and he specifically intends men and women. The Pope is therefore moving away from our long-time understanding of this gesture as a representation of Christ ordaining his first apostles/priests/bishops for service. With this in mind, I will wash the feet of 10 individuals, including men and women. The number is not specified in the rubrics, and avoiding the number 12 will hopefully assure that we’re not connecting this rite symbolically to ordination, although ordination of priests is part of the threefold focus of Holy Thursday: institution of the Eucharist, institution of the priesthood, and brotherly service-love. (My understanding is that this is what our own Cathedral will do to observe the rite.) Up to this point in my priesthood, I’ve never washed women’s feet, because it has never been allowed by the liturgical rubrics. If I learn that it is a hardship for too many to see this change, we could always drop it altogether, since it is an entirely optional rite.
-We have arrived at a very busy time in the parish: Palm Sunday, Holy week, Divine Mercy Sunday with Confirmation by Bishop Thomas, and shortly thereafter First Communion weekend. Thanks in advance to those who I know have already put so much work into all the preparations. I know they will be beautiful.
-Perhaps you remember that the music seminar I had planned for last spring got canceled, in part due to my lack of communication about the need to RSVP. So we have a new music seminar coming up, with guest presenter Adam Bartlett, creator of the Simple English Propers, a book being used in many of the seminaries around the United States to teach future priests about Vatican II teaching on music. Mr. Bartlett also created the Lumen Christi pew missal and hymnal (two separate books) that are being used in a number of seminaries around the country, as well as many parishes. Our seminar is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2016, at the Paulding Ed Center. We are tentatively planning to start at 8 AM and run up through late afternoon. I certainly hope that anybody who has anything to do with music in the parish attends. But all parishioners are certainly welcome. Please call the parish office to confirm that you will be coming. We have to have an accurate number, so that we can prepare materials, and also for lunch. There will be no cost to attend the seminar.
-Finally, I’m happy to announce that we received permission from the Diocese to move forward on the repair of the Antwerp Bell Tower moisture problem. The Chancellor of the Diocese sent me an electronic copy of the letter, in order to notify me as soon as permission was given. I received that electronic copy last Friday. (So you can see that it can take almost two months to get a capital improvement project approved by the Diocese, given that so many parishes are making improvements throughout the Diocese.) Because we have raised a significant portion of the funds, the Diocese was willing to let us move forward, with the promise that we will still try to raise about another $10,000, in order to reimburse our savings account for that amount that still remains.
So there you have at least a smidgen of the many things swirling around in my mind and heart these days for the parish. The deacons, staff and I wish you a very blessed Holy Week and Easter season!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,