I’d like to begin this week by thanking everyone who participated in our 9 days for Life Novena and in our Holy Hour for Life. It’s good for us to gather together to pray these devotions as a parish. I know that many are still stuck at home, afraid to go out as the vaccine slowly makes it way around to the various groups. Many are still watching online. It still amazes me that even now, we have nearly 50 people who wake up every morning and tune in on YouTube or Facebook for daily mass. Now while it’s not the same as being there, and we can’t receive Jesus, it is good to make use of these things. It’s also good to pray together and work to make Christ the center of our lives.
This week, we also celebrate the beginning of “Catholic Schools Week.” It’s an interesting thing for me to talk about because the first catholic school I ever attended was St. Francis in Loretto. It was a College when I started and a University till I left. I think though where I really began to discover the value of Catholic Education was as a seminarian and later a priest when I began to work and teach at a few of our Catholic elementary and high schools. Almost immediately when I started, I noticed something that I’ve seen at nearly every Catholic school I’ve worked at. There was something different there. It wasn’t the resources available, as they were comparable to what I’d find at a public school. The faculty were
wonderful and really cared about their students, but I’ve also seen many public schools teachers who deeply care about their students.
What I noticed was the community, parents, teachers, staff, pastor, everyone, all working together for the same goal, helping these children grow in their faith in Jesus Christ, and to live as faithful Catholics. There’s something real, and amazing I see, especially at our own NCCS. There’s something about knowing that everyone present really does share the same values and the same faith. There’s something good about the faith not just being something that happens after school and on weekends, but being integrated into every moment of a child’s life. It warms my heart when although it had to be streamed and parents couldn’t come watch this year, seeing all the kids dressed up as saints for All Saints Day, each sharing the story of this person who inspired them. I look at that, and I think of the time spent at home with mom and dad looking things up, figuring out who it was they liked, getting that costume together, wanting to dress up and show their friends. I think of that and I realize how healthy that is, bringing the whole family into helping our kids find the
heroes of our faith.
The other amazing thing I notice is the community. The parents all know each other, and I can see them support each other, helping these kids to grow together. At a Catholic School, being a little bit smaller than their public counterparts, it’s easy to get to know everyone. It’s easy to make friends with other families who share the same faith, and to know that at that critical time in a child’s life, the support is there, not just for the child, but also for the parents working to raise that child. It’s an amazing thing.
Certainly, we work to accomplish some of those same goals on the parish level, in our Religious Education programs, and among all of our children, but I’ve watched the reality of how much easier those things flow together when it’s not just one day a week, but the larger part of that child’s daily life. I know many folks have long made their decisions on where to send their child for school, but if you or someone you know is at a point in their lives when their child is about to enter school, or perhaps at a public school and looking for something different, I’d really invite you to consider checking things out at NCCS and Bishop Carroll.
As far as other news at our parish. Thank you to everyone who has sent their dinner tickets back so far. Please make sure to read the important note on page 4 of our bulletin this week. In order to present accurate records, we cannot honor the fall dinner tickets at the spring dinner. You’re welcome to request a refund for those fall tickets if you wish, but we have to use the spring tickets for the spring dinner. Of course, as always, you’re welcome to purchase your tickets ahead of time or pay at the drive-through when you come for your dinner.
May God Bless you now and always
- Fr Matt
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,
I think we’ve all had those moments when it felt like we were taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I know that’s what I’ve been feeling like this week. It’s easy for jobs that we think should only take weeks turn into months. I know it’s been a long time in coming, but I’m happy to say that our parish council will finally be having their initial meeting! I’m hopeful that as we get moving and get some committees going, we’ll both be better able to get parishioner input on what’s going on, better able to get some of our routine parish activities accomplished in a more reasonable timeframe, and better able to keep our parish active. I know it’s been frustrating for me the last few months, I’ve had a number of people willing to help with things around the parish, but until we get some organization to it, it’s hard to actually hand those things off to those volunteers. I’m really hopeful that by meeting as a council, we’ll begin to really make that process happen enabling you to better take ownership of this parish. I still remember when I first came, someone asked me “so what are your plans for your new parish?” and after thinking I responded, it’s not just my parish. It’s the Lord’s parish and it’s our parish. We’ve got to figure this out together.” I still believe that and it’s good to see progress in that direction.
Meanwhile, this has been a pretty busy week for our cemeteries. I’ve had a few people inquiring about graves, and I’m happy to say that we’ve made some major progress. It’s quite an adventure digging into the old cabinets and working through multiple maps. I had a meeting with the vendor who setup our database this week, and we’ve got quite a few sections pretty much completed at this point. It’s a long process, combining data from multiple sources and getting the paper information consolidated into 3-ring binders and the digital information input into the appropriate systems. We’ve got a ways to go, but it’s really good to see progress. The good news is that the sections with plots for sale are mostly completed.
So if you’re interested in a plot at St. John’s (flat or upright) or St. Stan’s (flat only) things are pretty clear and ready to go. In the next month or two we’ll be opening a new section at Mount Carmel, once that’s ready, we’ll be ready to go there as well.
As we all know, this pandemic had changed our lives dramatically. Coming up in the next week, is something that’s rather disappointing for me. For the last 15 years or so, nearly every year I’ve made the trip down to DC for the March for Life. Considering the realities of this year, that trip isn’t going to be possible this year. Even so, it’s important for us to support and pray for the unborn and their families. In light of that, the U.S. Bishops have encouraged us to celebrate a novena called “9 days for Life” beginning on Thursday, January 21st and ending Friday January 29th. Paper copies of the Novena will be available in the back of Church and an electronic copy will be on our website. I’ll be recording the reflections for each day of the Novena and they’ll be available on Facebook and YouTube. Then finally, since the folks who came really enjoyed the Rosary and Holy Hour for our Nation last week, we’ll have a Holy Hour for the final night of the Novena on Thursday, January 28th from 7pm-8pm. That will make hour Holy Hour coincide with National Prayer Vigil for Life held in DC. Our Holy Hour will conclude at 8pm just as the National Prayer Vigil begins. Our Holy Hour will be streamed and the National Prayer Vigil can be viewed on EWTN. I hope that many of you will be able to join us for the Holy Hour, and that you’ll join us in the 9 Days for Life Novena.
As we continue through Ordinary Time, please know that you are all always in my prayers and I hope I remain in yours.
Merry Christmas one last time! Today, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, is the official end of the Christmas Season. After this weekend’s masses, all the Christmas Decorations will come down and we’ll have a few weeks of Ordinary Time up until Ash Wednesday. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped in any way this holiday season. Although things were still a bit more limited than normal, Christmas certainly felt a whole lot more normal than Easter. It’s good to start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This week, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Now, we all know that Baptism washes away original sin, but if that’s the only thing we think of, it seems strange for Jesus to be baptized. After all, John the Baptist said he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandals and yet he baptizes our Lord. It’s sort of strange when we first see it, until we realize that Jesus’s Baptism is the very thing that makes our baptism possible. As God, when he is baptized, he makes all of the waters of the world holy, making our own baptism possible. When we are baptized, we’re reborn through our Lord, reformed into his image in a new way.
I think it’s especially meaningful this year, as we walk through the sprinkling rite, realizing that since March we haven’t had holy water in the fonts at the entrance of the Church. So this weekend, how much more it means when we’re sprinkled with that holy water.
Now, this being the new year, there are lots of exciting things coming up soon. Not all the details are put together yet, but it’s nice to at least have some idea of what’s coming. First of all, we just finished our first High School Religious Ed meeting this week. Our high school students are meeting online for this spring semester, we had most everyone present, and I know Sister and I are looking forward to what’s coming. We met with our Family Catechesis group already, and more information should be coming for our elementary grades this week. Please keep our religious education students and families in your prayers, it’s quite an adjustment for all of us.
As for Parish Council, we’re currently setting dates to have our first meeting. It should be sometime this month. I’m looking forward to getting things moving.
Every year in January, we celebrate the annual March for Life. With all the current COVID restrictions, things will be a little different this year. For myself, this will be the first time in many years that I didn’t go on a bus to DC for the trip. Instead, I’m looking for us to have a time of prayer for the unborn here in our Church. I hope to have some plans to share by next week.
At the end of the Month, beginning January 31st we’ll be celebrating Catholic Schools Week. This has been an especially challenging year for all of our young people between in-person and virtual school, and for our school as well. We had a number of new parishioners start at NCCS this year, and it’s been good to see them do well. Thank you to all those who have sacrificed to choose Catholic Education.
Finally, we’ve set a date for our spring dinner. I really want to thank everyone who helped us recover after our abruptly cancelled Turkey Dinner. This spring, we’re going to change things up a little bit. Since we had already ordered the Turkeys, we’re going to have our Turkey Dinner on Sunday March 21st in a take-out only format. We’ll then plan to hold our regular Halupki (pigs-in-a-blanket) dinner sometime later this summer. Let’s hope and pray that by summer, COVID will have calmed down enough that we’ll be able to have a real sit-down dinner when it’s time for pigs.
Another good thing that has been happening in our parish the last few weeks. I’ve just sat down with a few couples who are planning weddings this summer. Please keep them in your prayers that with all the restrictions we’ve been having, they might be able to have the wedding they’ve been hoping for.
Please know that all of you are always in my prayers,
PS: As a late addition, as the bulletin was nearly finished before Wednesday’s troubling events, I simply want to ask everyone to continue to pray for our nation, especially in our current days. We certainly need God’s grace in our own lives and we need His grace in our nation.
Happy New Year! I really hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas, that you got a chance to visit with your family, whether in person or virtually, and that you had a good New Year’s. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the next to last Sunday in the Christmas Season. It seems like Christmas comes and goes so very quickly. Yet, isn’t that the reality for all parents, it seems like a child is born and the if you blink, they’re all grown up. Just this week I was away visiting my brother’s family and when I only get out there a few times a year, it’s amazing just how quickly his kids grow up. Next Week, we’ll celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the official end of the Christmas Season and the move into Ordinary time, the time of Jesus’s public ministry.
The Epiphany is such an amazing feast when we really think about what’s going on. Magi in the East, quite literally priests of a pagan religion, were watching the stars, and through the stars, they were able to see what was sitting there in the Middle of Jerusalem. They came to worship the new high king, while the crowned king, Herod, was jealous and tried to kill the child. It’s amazing how when we’re close to something, any change can seem threatening. How many times have we found ourselves fighting with our families, arguing about something? Maybe someone storms off upset, or someone else angrily starts yelling. We can then look at another family and say, man...they have it nice, I wish I had what they have. Yet, if someone walked in and said the very same thing to us, “man, I wish I had what you have” we hardly believe them. It’s so easy to take for granted things we’ve known all our lives. It’s so easy to find ourselves like Herod, feeling threatened by losing power, control, or influence. It’s easy to be afraid of change. When we have something to lose, it’s easy to feel threatened.
But isn’t that the mystery of Jesus Christ, of the whole Gospel, that we’re going to lose a lot? Remember, we’re following a guy who was nailed to a tree. Yet, in losing the whole world, we stand to gain everything. I think of those Magi. They could have done just like Herod, realized that the prophesy said that a Jewish King would rule over them, and decided to go and eliminate this Jewish King. Yet, they didn’t. They chose to pay homage to him, to bring him symbolic gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. I’ve included a short article on what those gifts were all about and why they were significant, (see page 8), but I’d like us to think seriously about the idea that instead of seeing Jesus as a threat, the way Herod did, they chose to accept the change, to accept him as their King.
In our parish, lots of things have changed pretty dramatically this last year. We’re now in a new year. This month, our new parish council will begin meeting. As we get things moving, there will probably be some changes, as there are with everything. We’re going to have to make some decisions as we move forward. I’m going to be looking for your input on those decisions through the council. I’m not thinking of anything specific, and I don’t know exactly what those changes will be until we really meet and get to hear from people, but as we do walk through whatever comes in this new year, I’d ask you to really consider. Am I thinking like Herod, or like the Magi? Am I welcoming the newborn king, or am I threatened by him? Do I welcome Jesus as Lord of my life or do I want to be lord of my own life? Am I looking for how we can together share the message of Jesus Christ with the world? Or am I looking to keep ahold of what’s comfortable and familiar?
As we begin this new year, let’s choose to offer our own offerings of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to the newborn king. Let’s choose to offer our lives to the one who loved us first.
God Bless You & Happy New Year!
- Fr Matt
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.