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March 13, 2015

Dear Fellow Parishioners:

This weekend we celebrate Global Solidarity Sunday. We recognize that God has bestowed each of us with certain gifts and talents. One person’s gift, when freely given, can release another’s gift which may have been stifled or hidden through poverty, oppression, or lack of education.

The Global Solidarity Sunday Collection is an opportunity for Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to help release the gifts and talents of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout other parts of the world. The collection is distributed equally among four initiatives determined by the United States Catholic Bishops: humanitarian efforts of Catholic Relief Services, the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the Church in Latin America, and Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

I. Catholic Relief Services Collection
a. Catholic Relief Services (CRS): creates opportunities for U.S. Catholics to live their faith in solidarity with poor people overseas by providing financial assistance and working to remove the root causes of poverty.

b. Catholic Legal Immigrant Network, Inc.: provides legal and support services to Catholic programs representing poor immigrants. It focuses on reunification of families and protection of those fleeing persecution or civil unrest.

c. Migration and Refugee Services: resettles approximately one quarter of the refugees admitted to the U.S. It promotes just public policy for newcomers and migrants and responds to their spiritual needs.

d. Social Development and World Peace: advocates for the poor and vulnerable and for international peace and justice. It enables the Church to respond to global concerns such as religious freedom and debt relief for poor countries.

II. For the Church in Central and Eastern Europe
a. Help sustain our Catholic family in Central Europe which has been a story of vitality and strength, a story of hope. Collection funds support seminaries, social service programs, youth ministry, pastoral centers, church restoration, and the spreading of the Gospel message by uti- lizing mass media throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

III. For the Church in Latin America
a. Families in Latin America and the Caribbean face numerous challenges as they strive to live and share their faith. Without marriage and family life ministries to offer help and support, both in joyful times and in times of stress, families struggle to live their faith daily. Your dio- cese’s donation will fund several ministries, particularly ministries that strengthen marriages and their families. Through projects like these, the Collection for the Church in Latin America empowers the people of Latin America to deepen their faith and share it with the world.

IV. Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa
a. The Church in Africa is spiritually rich, but desperately poor. It needs our support to meet both its current needs and achieve its enormous potential. This fund helps build pastoral capacity in response to the pastoral needs and the mission of the African Church.

I encourage you to be generous as you are able for this year’s Global Solidarity Sunday Collection. Lenten peace, Fr. Brian

May 25, 2014

On this Memorial Weekend we once again celebrate the service of our nation’s military. Down through the centuries dedicated men and women have sacrificed much to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy.

Be thankful for their service. Offer a prayer for the safety of our current soldiers. We are richly blessed.

This week also marks the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I give thanks for the many blessings I have received in my service to God and the Church. I offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported me in my efforts to live out my priestly vocation. What an amazing journey!

As I have reflected on my vocation, I have found myself going back to the inspirational documents from the Vatican II Council. How are we to understand the priesthood today, specifically the relationship between the laity and the priest? Consider the wisdom and challenge presented by article 37 from The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

“Like all the faithful, the laity have the right to receive abundant help from their pastors out of the church’s spiritual treasury, especially the word of God and the sacraments. The laity should disclose their needs and the desires to the pastors with that liberty and confidence which befits the children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. To the extent of their knowledge, competence or authority the laity are entitled, and indeed sometimes duty-bound to express their opinions on matters which concern the good of the church. Should the occasion arise this should be done through the institutions established by the church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.

Like all the faithful, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ’s example who, by his obedience to the point of death, opened the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God to all of humanity. Nor should they fail to commend to God in their prayers those who have been placed over them, who indeed keep watch as having to render an account of our souls, that they may do this with joy and not with grief (see Heb 13:17).

The sacred pastors, however, should recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the church. They should willingly use their prudent advice and confidently assign offices to them in the service of the church, leaving them freedom and scope for activity. Indeed, they should encourage them to take on work on their own initiative. They should with paternal love consider attentively in Christ initial moves, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity. Moreover the pastors must respect and recognize the liberty which belongs to all in the earthly city.

Many benefits for the Church are to be expected from this familiar relationship between the laity and the pastors.

The laity’s sense of their own responsibility is strengthened, their zeal is encouraged, they are more ready to add their strengths to the work of the pastors. The pastors, helped by the experience of the laity, are enabled to judge more clearly and more appropriately in spiritual and in temporal matters. Strengthened by all its members, the church can thus more effectively fullfil its mission for the life of the world.”

Wow! Even some 50 years later these teachings continue to stretch our understanding of our Catholic faith. How do we apply this wisdom to today’s Church? May God continue to bless our efforts to build the kingdom.

Easter blessings, Fr. Brian

March 1, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

On Saturday we did a service project with the Prison Ministry group.

photo5 photo4In the morning Marilyn, Sue and I worked alongside the women to cut up vegetables for the meal they would serve the prisoners, while my husband Ken played guitar and practiced with the singing group and Jeff visited people in the hospital with our friend Renae. We so enjoyed working right with our fellow volunteers and chatting and singing with them! Then we went over to the jail with Vilma and the choral group to sing and pray with the prisoners. In the past there has been a maximum of only about 120 prisoners in that jail, but now there are 250 because the other prison (that they would send the most dangerous ones to) is over-full. Vilma is amazing to watch as she photo3preaches and gives hope to the prisoners! The Spirit really touches them through Vilma. Then we served the lunch to the inmates and blessed them. It was quite humbling to intentionally look into each one’s eyes and see the face of Christ, then remind them that God loves them.  It was quite a powerful experience for us.

 

photoLater we went to the church of the Black Christ – Señor Escipula. There we said the rosary with them, then went to Mass. We even got to witness two Baptisms! It is called the Black Christ because there was a small town in one of the photo9Central American countries that apparently was not following Christ. The church in their town burned completely to the ground except for the crucifix, which was charred completely black. The people took this as a sign that they should repent and they turned back to Christ. That is the story of the Black Christ that we heard, and it has become very powerful to the people in Central America.

That was our Saturday — MaryPat

 

February 28, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

Wow! We do so much when we are here — I forgot to describe for you something from Thursday that made an impact on all of us.

We were lucky enough on our journey back down the mountain to be able to observe the coffee pickers — or cutters as they are called here — as they were bringing in their baskets of coffee berries they picked that day and having them measured in order to receive their pay. There were lots of people, little children up through elders, who had ” cut coffee” all day long and must’ve been so tired, but we watched the children play and laugh as any other children might — one was rolling a tire down the hill — and the adults seemed so calm and nice to us. One boy and his grandfather walked hours to get there to work and they start at about four in the morning! Another man and his family were there from the Atlantic coast — the other side of Nicaragua — to pick coffee for five months in various places as the coffee matured at different times. This well-oiled machine was fascinating to watch!

On Friday we had our main day of the retreat that we collaborated on for our travelers from St. Ed’s and about eight people from the chapels out in the mountain villages that are a part of Our Lady of the Angels.

photo8Men and women came from Mancotal and Yankee, but none of the leaders of the church in town could come because they were all at another retreat. Bad timing I guess. But the people who were with us on this retreat were wonderful! They were so faith-filled, humble, and open to do whatever was asked of them. In the morning Padre Eliar gave a talk on Saintliness — the big Saints and the everyday saints — and how we are all called to saintliness. Our friend Renae did a fabulous job of translating everything for us, making everything understandable for everyone (Renae is originally from Seattle but served in the Peace Corp here and is now a Nicaraguan citizen and farmer). Then we we fortunate enough to have some discussion time with our Nicaraguan friends and Gringos mixed together. That was my favorite time.

photo6Later I was able to share a talk and activity with everyone on Gratitude from a retreat I had done at St. Ed’s. It was different for the Nicaraguans because it included the activity of making a map of times of great gratitude in our lives. They enjoyed it!  After we shared lunch, a nun from the U.S. who is working here gave an object lesson on how to be followers of Christ using a coin purse, an onion, a package of Jello, and a candle. It was fun!  The last talk of the day was by our friend who is the leader of the pastoral ministers. Her theme was our call to Holiness.

It was absolutely fascinating that even though we never got together to plan this retreat, all the different pieces of the retreat just flowed together beautifully, as if we had planned it together. Such is the work of the wonderful Holy Spirit! It was enjoyed by all! We were supposed to end with Mass, but Padre Eliar, who is also Vicar General here, was called away by the Bishop. It was a very beautiful and spiritual day. We were very Impressed by the deep faith and humility of these Nicaraguans who serve their church in their communities.

Your friend in Nicaragua — MaryPat

February 27, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

Our Thursday was jam-packed. We went out into the countryside with Padre Eliar and our friend and head of the Pastoral Ministers, Vilma.

photo-001We went to have a Mass with the campesinos of the Chapel at San Sylvestre de Patastillal. Money from St. Ed’s helped them finish this chapel, so families with children and elderly would not have to walk so many hours through the mountains to get to Mass.  As one of our group put it, their dedication to make such a difficult journey just to go to Mass (something we take for granted and may sometimes even complain about) made her want to cry. It can be very emotional. These very poor people are so appreciative for their chapel and the help that made it possible!

They even announced on the radio that the people from St. Edwards were coming (and the date photo 2-001and time) so people would know when and where to come to show their appreciation! While we sat up in front of the church facing them, they shared with us their prayers and their music with of all kinds of “mariachi” style guitars, trumpets, and accordions. They brought up used plastic pop bottles filled with water and statues and pictures for Padre Eliar to bless, then they sang some more songs. Finally, they put on a fine lunch only for us and their leaders.

photo 3-001All of this is important, though somewhat uncomfortable, in order for them to feel they are doing their part for us in this sister parish relationship and not only receiving — it honors their dignity. We all noticed how kind, polite, and welcoming they all were, even when they have so little. What they all give to their offertory is so much greater of a percentage of what they have, most likely, but still they give to the church. It is a very humbling experience. We try to be very present for them, noticing them, acknowledging them, making them feel respected and cared about. That’s part of what our pilgrimage is about.

photo 4-001We visited another chapel too. On the way back we visited Tepayac, the church of their beloved Padre Ordorico. He was a priest who was from Italy who came to serve a community right outside Jinotega (San Rafael) and did so many good works for the poor people there. He is very important for the people all over this region for how he cared for the poor. Our own Padre Eliar is part of a committee working toward canonizing him as a saint. It is very important work to him. We saw Padre Ordorico’s tomb. They say that when they moved his body to this tomb after being in a different tomb for over 16 years that his body had not decayed — a miracle. So people pray to Padre Ordorico to intercede for them for their needs. When their prayers are answered, they bring back a tiny pin — symbol of their answered prayer — and leave it at his tomb in thanksgiving. There were many such pins. Some of us prayed at his tomb as well and may have to return one day with our pins of thanksgiving!

photo5-001When we returned, tired as we were, we went to the one year anniversary of the death of our hotel owner’s mother, where we prayed the rosary with them and participated in the celebration. A long day — but another wonderful step on our pilgrimage journey.

Peace — MaryPat

February 26, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

Great flight. No issues. Hit the ground running in Jinotega.

Right away we went to the inaugaration ceremony for the brand new office building & hostel of our partner non government organization AVODEC – who does so much good work for the poor in the outlying villages – wells, houses, agricultural teaching, health, our solar ovens & cookstoves, distributing our Feed My Starving Children food, and so much more. What a wonderful celebration of good work!

Our own priest from our sister parish did the invocation & blessing – Padre Eliar. Listening to the speech by the director of Esperança – an Arizona organization that helps AVODEC a great deal with funding – I was able to identify almost all the principles of Catholic social teaching! We are doing wonderful things for these very poor people by working with AVODEC. It truly benefits out sister parish community.

Until later – Mary Pat

Pope Francis seems to be a Pope for the people – well-loved, humble, plain and simple.

His inspiring words and surprisingly compassionate actions have touched the souls and hearts of so many around the world. Here at St. Ed’s we have embraced the hope he brings to our church. My husband affectionately calls him the ‘Hope Pope.’ This is a time within our world church, and our local archdiocesan church, and even our home church when Hope is welcomed; hope is a breath of new life that leads us forward.

Last Fall we began our year of Adult Faith offerings with Jackie Witter nourishing us with the “Ignatian Theology of Pope Francis.” Some folks who were at that retreat, said that the Ignatian Theology of Pope Francis is about “Humbleness – Being Christ – truly living the gospels;” it’s about seeing God as a “God of Surprises” and we need to “be available to God. Take to the streets andPope Francis get to know people by name;” it’s about “My God lives in me, walks with me, wants me to live the Gospel in the world and to be open to his surprises!” “How fortunate we are to have a Pope who cares. Especially for the poor.” Pope Francis wrote a fabulous Apostolic Exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel.” (Evangelii Gaudium) This document encourages, warns, explains and challenges Catholics, and as William N. Patenaude in the Nov. 27, 2013 Catholic World Report says, “all rooted in a pastor’s love for the flock.” Pope Francis is concerned about the “consumer” church of today and “warns that worldly forces will crush adherents to lukewarm, highly interiorized, and personalized Christian spiritualities that seek only their own ends—their own salvation. Such spiritualities impede the mission of the Church. Symptoms of these closed-in attitudes include the expectation that Mass must entertain; that the Church is a means to personal, worldly gain; or that the Gospel must make no demands on one’s life.” (William Patenaude) Oooh — that’s harsh. But it is a reality in churches like ours around the world.

Pope Francis also recognizes threats from society that keep folks from truly living the Gospel – or even hearing it properly.

This document cites threats like an “economy of exclusion,” where “[h]uman beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded” (EG 53-54); the “new idolatry of money,” which derives from “the denial of the primacy of the human person” (EG 55-56); a “financial system which rules rather than serves” (EG 57-58); rampant “inequality which spawns violence” (EG 59-60); and an array of other cultural concerns (EG 61-67) such as secularism, the breakdown of the family, and the viewing of marriage as a means to “mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will” (EG 66).

But Pope Francis finds hope in the Joy of the Gospel that calls us to live the love that Jesus showed us so well in his example in the Gospels. He says in his document, “Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives” (Evangelii Gaudium, 269).

Here at St. Ed’s, our many ministries of outreach to the poor and marginalized show that we take seriously this call to live a life of love of neighbor, of charity and justice.

From our many collections of food and other necessities, to hosting homeless families here for a week at a time through Families Moving Forward, even to our conscientious distribution of our Tithing money, we at St. Ed’s are answering this call to share the Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis offers a Vision of JOY, a vision of HOPE, and a vision to be a “Church for and with the poor.”

Pope Francis says. “Be a Joyful Messenger.” So, here at St. Ed’s, on Sat. March 8, our Adult Faith Committee offers one more chance to get to know our new ‘Hope Pope.’ Fr. Greg Welch will present a morning on “Pope Francis: Plain and Simple,” from 9:00-11:30 am. We hope you will join us to embrace this new Pope who teaches us how to live the joyful Gospel more intentionally, every day, and in every way. Please call the parish to register, 952-835-7101.

MaryPat Potts (Director of Adult Faith, Community Life and Social Justice & Charity)

November 7, 2013

Have you seen the recent article (see below) from the Vatican announcing a worldwide survey on our response to social and family matters? What does this say about our beloved Pope Francis? Our Church? I pray that we view this outreach as a beacon for hope for our Church.

Keep the faith! Fr. Brian

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Questions on birth control, divorce and gay marriage designed to gather global snapshot of Catholic attitudes.

The Vatican is conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year.

The poll was sent in mid-October to every national conference of bishops with a request from the Vatican coordinator, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, to “share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

Pope-Francis-2657982The survey reflects the pope’s pledges to move away from what he called a “Vatican-centric” approach towards one in which local church leaders are more involved in decision-making.

Among the questions are whether gay marriage is recognized in their country and how priests minister to same-sex couples, including how churches can respond when gays seek a religious education or Holy Communion for their children. The poll also asks “How is God’s mercy proclaimed” to separated, divorced and remarried couples. Additional information is sought on the pastoral care of men and women who live together outside marriage. The survey also asks parishes whether they believe married men and women tend to follow church teaching barring the use of artificial contraception.

Helen Osman, a spokeswoman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, confirmed plans for the poll to the Associated Press.

“It will be up to each bishop to determine what would be the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome,” Osman wrote in an email. In England, bishops have posted the survey online to be filled in by a wide range of Catholics, including priests, lay people, parents and nuns.

The poll findings will help set the agenda for an extraordinary synod of the presidents of national bishops conferences in October 2014.

The introduction to the survey lays out a broad list of concerns which the document says “were unheard of until a few years ago”, including single-parent families, polygamy, interfaith marriages and “forms of feminism hostile to the church.” Surrogate motherhood is lamented in the document as “wombs for hire,” and the survey cites as a new challenge “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children.”

Francis has said the church needs to do a better job preparing young people for marriage, lamenting that newlyweds seem to think marriage is not a lifelong commitment but just a “provisional” one. At the same time, he has said the church process for annulling marriages is not working and must be reviewed.

The pope’s emphasis on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy and boosting the participation of local church leaders and lay people has prompted speculation about how far-reaching his changes could be.

He has urged pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than emphasizing only such divisive issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

At the same time, he has made clear his support for traditional marriage and opposition to abortion. The introduction to the survey extensively quotes former popes and the Catholic catechism on marriage being the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of having children.