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February 27, 2015

Pope Francis has said… Since the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken extensively on the rights of the poor and has stressed that faithful must help those on the margins. Pope Francis practices what he preaches: When a local Sri Lankan church donated more than Rs. 8.7 million to the Charity Fund of the Pontiff; the Holy Father refused the check, requesting that local churches use it to help the poor. Sri Lanka’s bishops have decided to distribute the money among the dioceses to help the poor.

Catholic Social Teaching Principle – Preferential Option for the Poor: Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all.

ACTION: Reflect on How YOUR “Almsgiving” is truly helping the poor?

In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father urged for all faithful to have a spirit of “generous openness,” and to care for the weakest members of society. During Lent, try taking Almsgiving to a new level of ACTION. Reach out to those on the margins, whom you do not ordinarily see, and figure out a way to Act with Compassion to show God’s love to them! There are so many organizations that you can give to that help the marginalized in our local community and beyond: Loaves & Fishes, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative (FMF), VEAP, Bridging, Second Harvest Food Bank, or Feed My Starving Children, … and many more. Consider VEAP’s March FoodShare Month Collection!

Donate FOOD &/or $$ to our food drive during March – Our Goal = 1500 lbs.
The Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign raises more than half the food distributed annually at 300 food shelves statewide. At the beginning of every year, as the giving spirit of the holidays wanes, food shelves across Minnesota begin to struggle to get enough food donated to serve the people in need in their communities. Our goal is to raise 115,000 pounds or dollars throughout the month of March. Help us achieve this goal and keep our shelves stocked.

A helpful flyer to take shopping with you or envelopes for your convenience can be found on the poster in the foyer or on the VEAP food bins.

“Veggies-4-VEAP” Giving Garden is in the “Seeds of Planning” stage! We will meet Monday, March 9 at 7:00 pm to discuss the plan for this year’s garden for VEAP’s Food Shelf. Any new people interested in being part of this Team for coordinating our garden, please join us!

February 20, 2015

Pope Francis has said “Whoever says: ‘I abide in Christ’, ought to walk just as he walked…. For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restor- ing everyone to God’s family, … without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry….” To fully adopt God’s own approach, he said, requires “rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to con- demn anyone for eternity…. Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action,” the Holy Father said. “May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast.”

Catholic Social Teaching Principle – Preferential Option for the Poor:

Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all. And – Rights & Responsibilities: Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency – starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities — to one anoth- er, to our families, and to the larger society.

ACTION: Reflect on How Compassion Leads You to Charitable Action?

Pope Francis says “Charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous!” During this Lent, try taking Fasting, Almsgiving & Prayer to a new level of ACTION. Reach out to those on the margins, whom you do not ordinarily see, & figure out a way to Act with Compassion to show God’s love to them, without letting the voice of society & what other people might think of you, get in the way. And be amazed at how God will bless you!

February 20, 2015, by Deacon Jim DeShane, Director of Pastoral Care & Marriage Coordinator Interim Director of Liturgy

In light of the Popes call for our input concerning the upcoming Synod of Bishop this fall, I thought it might be helpful to share with you a part of an interview that Pope Francis gave to America Magazine on December 7, 2014.

Question: At the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family two different visions of the church surfaced, one open to debate and the other refusing to hear anything about it. What do you think?

Pope: I wouldn’t say that is quite so … true enough if you wish to simply in order to explain things, we might say that there were a few more on this side, or on the other side. What we benefited from was the process, which is not a parliamentary process but rather a protected space so that the Holy Spirit can work. Two clear qualities are needed: courage and humility to listen. And that worked very well. You could ask me, “are there any that are completely obstinate in their positions?” Yes, there surely are. But that doesn’t worry me. It’s a question of praying for the Holy Spirit to convert them , if there are such people. The prevailing feeling was a brotherly one, trying to find a way together to tackle the family’s pastoral issues.

Question: “Conservative” sectors fear that the traditional doctrine will collapse. They say the synod caused confusion.

Pope: The synod was a process; the opinion of a synodal father was just that, the opinion of a synodal father. You know some people are always afraid because they don’t read things properly, or they read some news in a newspaper, an article, and they don’t read what the synod decided, what was published. What was worthwhile about the synod? The post-synodal report, the post synod message and the popes address.

Disclosing what was said is OK; that’s why in the briefing we explained that we had said this, that or the other. Different Bishops had different approaches, but we will all move on together. All this to protect this work, so that the Holy Spirit could forward. I am not afraid.

Question: Afraid of what?

Pope: Afraid of following this trail, the road of the synod. I am not afraid because it is the road that God has asked us to follow. We must move forward”

At this time in our churches history it is so easy to be afraid … so easy to become syndical so easy to walk away regardless of which vision of Church we hold dear;

Let us follow our Pope and overcome our fears and enter into the discussion as our Pope has asked and as the Holy Spirit desires of us.

We have until March 10 to make our hopes known so the Holy Spirit can use us in His work. If you go to the website, archspm.org you will find several ways for you to be a part of the process to, as Francis says, help move us as church forward.

Reprinted from America
(Jan. 5-12, 2015) with permission of America Press, Inc., (2015). All right reserved.
For subscription information,
call 1.800.627.9533 or visit www.americamagazine.org.

Pope Francis has said “Christians have a duty and a responsibility to care for the Earth.” The Holy Father reflected on the story of Creation from the Book of Genesis, and the Gospel which recounted Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing. Jesus, he said, is a ‘second creation’ who comes “to re-create that which was ruined by sin.”

“To the ‘first creation’ we should respond with the responsibility that the Lord gives us: ‘The Earth is yours, bring it forward; subdue it; make grow.’ This supports the Catholic Principle of Social Justice: Stewardship of Creation: Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. The goods of the earth are gifts from God, intended for the benefit of all. We humans are not the ultimate owners of these goods, but rather, the temporary stewards. We are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for these gifts and preserving them for future generations.

ACTION: How do You preserve, conserve & contribute to the health of our Natural Environment?

Pope Francis says that there is the responsibility Even for us to make the Earth grow, to make Crea- tion grow, to take care of it and make it grow according to its laws. We are lords of Creation, not masters.” The Jesuit Pope went on to say that caring for creation is not just the concern of environ- mentalists, but of Christians. “It is our response to the ‘first creation’ of God. It is our responsibility!” he exclaimed. “A Christian that does not care for creation, that does not make it grow, is a Christian who doesn’t care about the work of God; that work born from the love of God for us. And this is the first answer to the first creation: to care for Creation, to make it grow.” Consider your use of fuel – for heat, cooling, electricity, electronic devises, your own travel plans requiring lots of fuel – are you conserving? Consider your Consumer Buying Habits – do you pay attention to the packaging of things you buy, & whether they’ll end up in a landfill? Do you by items made from easily renewable resources? Do you consider local products rather than those who need to be transported from great distances, paying attention to the amount of fuel necessary to get these things to us? Sometime the first step is just opening our eyes to how our own habits affect the bigger picture of our environment and its resources.

Jun 29, 2014

Summer has officially arrived. I hope everyone is able to take some time for recreation and vacation. We all need an opportunity for relaxation and rejuvenation.

In this spirit, I am going to step away from writing for the next few weeks. Instead, my column will offer teachings from the Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) pamphlet “Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked.” By the way, OSV offers a regular pamphlet series on various Catholic issues/teachings. Check out their website for more info.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian


We Catholics are often asked tough questions about our Catholic faith and its relationship to the Bible. Here are the ten most-asked questions, and the answers that should help you satisfy both your questioner and yourself.

10. Are your beliefs found in the Bible?

All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by an indirect indication. It is not necessary for everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, because that is not a teaching of Scripture itself. Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition, as St. Paul says in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess 2:15 — see also 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim 1:13 14, 2:2). When the first Christians had a significant disagreement, they didn’t simply open their Bibles (which didn’t even exist at that point) to decide who was right; they held a council, which made binding decrees (Acts 15: 1-29). The very books of the Bible had to be determined by the Church, and that didn’t happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, Sacred Tradition and authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible today.

9. Why do you obey the Pope?

Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of the Church. Matthew’s Gospel has the most direct biblical indication of the papacy: “And I tell you, you are Peter (meaning literally “Rock”), and on this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16: 18-19). Based on this statement of Jesus himself, Peter is clearly portrayed in the New Testament as the leader of the disciples. A pope can make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. Infallibility doesn’t mean that absolutely everything a pope says is free from error. All Christians believe that God protected Holy Scripture from error by means of inspiration, even though sinful, fallible men wrote it. We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church and its head from error (Jn 14:16) by means of infallibility, even though sinful, imperfect men are involved in it.

(Click here to read Part II)

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.

August 15, 2013

Originally posted August 18, 2013

Gestures Louder Than Words

Resisting the cape and fancy shoes
Bowing his head to receive the people’s blessing

Paying his own bill at the hotel after the Conclave
Riding in the Cardinals’ van and not in a separate limo
Living outside the Papal Apartments and eating in the cafeteria with others
Putting his own coins in the machine to get a cup of tea
Washing a Muslim Woman’s feet, among others, on Holy Thursday
Picking up a young child and putting him in his Popemobile seat
Not sitting on the Papal Throne but stepping down to greet people
Making his own phone calls and beginning the conversation with “It’s Jorge”
Visiting the Vatican’s Church of St. Anne to say Mass and greet people afterwards

popewpoor

Pope Francis blesses a child in St Peter’s Square (Photo: CNS)

John Allen, Jr. wrote in the National Catholic Reporter: Francis at 100 days: ‘the world’s parish priest’ (June 21-July 4, 2013), “Simplicity shines through in Francis’ reliance on gestures rather than elaborate pronouncements.” He also remarked, “Francis seems determined to function as a pastor. . . it’s how Catholics tend to think about a parish priest. Their basic question usually isn’t what his policy positions are, but whether he inspires.”

And inspire he has, giving people around the world, not just Catholics, hope for a brighter future that includes a renewed solidarity with the poor, a greater accessibility to ordinary people and confronting clerical privilege that is self-serving rather that servant-oriented.

These gestures of hope are examples of what could happen on the local level of the Catholic Church as well.

 A “Positive Image” Audit For Parishes

Parishes can learn a great deal from the reaction to Pope Francis’ friendly and inviting style. Taking stock of what strangers and church members who are on the margins experience when they encounter the parish might uncover hidden lapses and point to positive gestures that could inspire and motivate people. Performing an audit might entail handing out blank cards at Mass and asking people to jot down one thing that would improve the positive image of the liturgy. Ask them, “If you were not a member but were walking past our church before Mass, would anything entice you to come in to take a look, especially if you were a young adult?” The liturgical ministers might pay attention to one another’s presence and then compare notes about what would be more “Francis-like.” Pay attention to how the greeters welcome people into church. Encourage them to go out to meet the people, as Francis has done, rather than waiting for people to come to them.
The presiders could gather with a few trusted parishioners to examine their own way of imitating the Pope’s positive approach. The same could be done by those responsible for the music used at the various Masses.

A Positive Image Audit for Parish Staff

The parish staff might do its own “Image Audit,” paying attention to how people are treated when they contact the office, whether emails and phone calls are returned in a timely manner, how volunteers are affirmed and rewarded for their work, whether the interaction with lay leaders is as co-workers and not gofers, to what extent transparency is encouraged and fostered, along with clear and concise communication. A similar audit could be taken by all those involved in formation, service ministry, pastoral care, parish organizations and administration. Is the Pope’s model of “simplicity, humility, remaining largely apolitical, and being remarkably accessible to ordinary folks,” in the words of John Allen, reflected in the parish? It seems to be working for the Pope, why not on the local level as well?

–  Fr. Tom Sweetser SJ