This has been quite a week for our nation. I see many who are excited and celebrating the Inauguration of a new President and Vice President, others are worried about what changes may come. Like most things in the fallen world that we live in, there will likely be good and bad to come. I keep thinking of the words of Job. “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). I like to remember that verse that reminds us to be thankful for the good we see and to bear the ills we see patiently. We’re called as a Christian people to first cling to Jesus and his Church. In a fallen world, no matter what age we live in, things in the world aren’t always going to line up with what Christ calls us to. It’s our job as a Christian people to encourage the good, and work to change the bad. So, as a parish, as a nation, I hope we can do just that . . . learn the faith that Jesus has established, live the faith that Jesus has established, cling to the faith that Jesus established, and encourage those places where our world and our government fall into line with Christ’s teaching, challenging the places where it goes astray.
One of the things I’ve wanted to implement since I’ve been here are more opportunities to help people connect to our faith in a devotional way. I was pleased last March when we had the Coronavirus Novena and I saw not just some good participation, but also people who asked if we could do it again. Then, a few weeks ago, after the incident at the capitol, we held a Holy Hour and Rosary for our nation. For such short notice, I got many positive comments about that as well. It seems that novenas that work alongside concerns in our nation are a good devotional practice for our parish. With that in mind, I’d encourage those of you who have been praying the “9 Days for Life Novena” with us. Even if you got started a little late, all the Novena prayers are in the back of Church and available online at http://9daysforlife.com, so feel free to start today, and pray the novena with us. I’d also encourage everyone to join us this Thursday for a Holy Hour for Life. I’m still working out the format, but it will be similar to the Holy Hour for our Nation that we prayed a few weeks ago. It’s very exciting for me to see our parish coming together to pray together more. This is good work we should be doing as a Church.
We also had another exciting event happen this week. After nearly a year’s worth of organization and planning we had our first Parish Pastoral Council meeting this week. Committees were started and organization is beginning. I had a few people ask me: “Who’s on council?” For this year, our Parish Pastoral Council members are Jennifer Wilson, Erin Shutty, Bethany Barnosky, Diane Waksmunski, Chris Hoover, Steve Kirsch, Colleen Cedor, Steve Bender, Michalene Weiland, Jody Delosh, and Mary Kudlawiec. I’d like to thank all of them for their willingness to work together for the building up of our parish. While the meetings will be open to the parish, I’d ask you to give them a meeting or two to be able to gather and get committees organized before we bombard them with questions. Moving forward, the meetings dates and times will be published in the bulletin at least the week before. We’re tentatively planning a regular meeting time as the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm, though that may changed based on the availability of the council members. Please keep them all in your prayers as we begin to keep things organized. In the next few months, I hope to post a few bulletin articles on what the functions of a parish council are, how they came about, and how we’re working to do those things here at Prince of Peace.
Meanwhile, on our religious education front, I hear our Sophomores had a successful confirmation session and our Juniors had the first part of their retreat. Just as a reminder, for all of our young people and their families preparing for first communion and confirmation, make sure to keep an eye out on our parish Website and for Sister’s emails about updates for Confirmation. Most of our young people have been keeping up remarkably well. It’s good to see so many new and creative ways our young people have been able to prepare for the sacraments with the realities of our world right now. However, we do have a responsibility as a parish to ensure our young people are properly prepared. If you’re not sure of confirmation or communion preparation requirements, please give Sister a call or send an email. We’ll do whatever we can to help any young person who contacts us to meet the requirements, but there are still requirements that need to be met.
In other news this week, we received two “Pandemic Policy” updates from our bishop this week. I just wanted to let everyone know about them ahead of time. First, on February 2nd, we’ll have our normal Blessing of Candles for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. That following weekend, we’ll have the Blessing of Throats. This year, we will not have individual throat blessings, but instead will have a communal blessing of throats. Similarly, Ash Wednesday will be a little bit different this year. Pope Francis has directed all Catholic Churches for this year will distribute ashes in the “European” way. Here in the US, we typically make the sign of the cross with ashes on a person’s forehead. In Rome and in much of the rest of the world, ashes are instead sprinkled on top of the person’s head. That means there won’t be a visible cross. I wanted to tell everyone about it a few weeks ahead just so we’re not surprised. In some ways, I find it fits a little better with the readings that day. The readings call us to “wash our face and not to let others know we are fasting.” So this year, that will have a little more reality for us.
Finally, I’m making one other change this year. Now that our parish database has been completed, we’re able to automate the process of printing Contribution Letters. Sometime this week, all parishioners who contributed more than $100 to Prince of Peace in 2020 should receive a contribution letter that you will be able to use for your taxes. I think it’s important that we make sure to thank all of you for your support of your parish. If you find any discrepancies with your letter, feel free to call us at the office.
Please know that you are always in my prayers,
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.