As we move towards the end of the Easter Season, we’re beginning to celebrate all those Springtime events that come with this time of year. This Sunday we congratulate our three children who will be making their first communion. They’ve been such troopers this year, meeting weekly with their teacher, Sherry Delosh via Zoom. While it’s been a strange year for everyone, I know I’m excited for some of these normal things to begin happening again. So this week, we congratulate these three children as they make their first communion at the 11AM mass. Then, at the end of Mass, we’ll invite them to come up and crown our blessed mother for the month of May. I hope that you will join me in congratulating these children and thanking their parents for continuing to answer the promises they made at their child’s baptism. Each of these families need our prayers and support, as do all of the families with children in our parish. I think we all realize it’s a difficult time in our world right now and we all need our Lord to lead us and our parish family to walk with us on that journey.
In the next few weeks we also have some very exciting moments coming up. On May 29th, after a very long 4 years without any new priests, we’ll have the next priesthood ordination in our diocese. Two men, currently deacons, Deacon Mark Gregor and Deacon Mike Pleva will be ordained priests. One of those men should sound familiar to many of you. A few years back Deacon Gregor spent a summer living here as a Seminarian. As I was talking to him, he spoke fondly of his time here. In just four short weeks, he and Deacon Michael Pleva will be our two newest priests. The week before, one of our seminarians, Brian Norris, will be ordained as a Deacon and God-willing next year ordained a priest. Then, just a week later, on June 5th, a parishioner of St. Peter’s Somerset, Mark Komula, will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Please continue to pray for all of these men as they are ordained to the priesthood and diaconate and as they begin their new assignments. Please also pray for all of our existing priests and deacons, as well as any young men who may be called to discern the call to diaconate, priesthood, or religious life.
As all those wonderful things are happening, we’ve got a few things coming up in our Church as well. This coming Thursday, May 6th, is the National Day of Prayer. I’d invite you to join us down at the Contres Greer Social Hall at 6pm for a prayer service for our town. Let this also be your reminder, if you haven’t gotten something for your mother, next Sunday is Mother’s Day. At the end of all the masses next weekend, we’ll have a special blessing of all mothers. Next Week, Thursday May 13th, is Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation. We’ll have mass at 6pm Wednesday at HC Chapel, and 8am, 12:05pm & 4pm Thursday at the Church. Then, coming up the weekend on June 5th, after missing them last year, we’ll be having some religious sisters from India coming to talk to us about the missions for our missionary co-op.
Finally, as we approach May, it’s getting on toward Spring Cleaning and vacation times. Our secretary Sue will be away on vacation this week from Wednesday the 5th through Tuesday the 11th and the Church Office will be closed.
Meanwhile, it’s Spring cleaning season. Since I’ve taken over as the Catholic Chaplain at the prison, I haven’t been able to clean out the Catholic office, and they’re on my case to get things cleaned up and organized. So I’ll be down there during the day this Thursday and Friday. So, there will be no mass on Thursday the 6th & Friday the 7th and no one will be around here at the Church on those days, as well as Monday the 10th.
Of course, if there’s an emergency, please leave a message via phone or email and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able.
May God Bless you now and always,
Two steps forward, one step back! It almost sounds like a dance move. I think we’ve all had the experience at some point in our lives when we had everything all planned out, but then plans change, things get cancelled or postponed, and suddenly we look around and your world looks nothing like what you had planned. In any other year, I think those experiences would be surprising, but this year, it’s almost become normal.
Originally this week, we had planned to layout a new section at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. However, as we were about to meet, we looked outside, only to see a nice coating of snow on the ground. So we’ve had to postpone that plotting for a few weeks until everyone can get together again.
Then, I got a phone call letting me know that there was a COVID outbreak at Northern Cambria Elementary, so we had to postpone our First Communion originally scheduled for this Sunday until next Sunday.
With all that we’ve been through over the last year, these things can feel like minor inconveniences, as we’re all getting used to the world where people have to cancel due to quarantine, things feel like they’re always being rescheduled, and so many things that used to be family gathering huge social moments we feel like we’re simply happy if they can happen somehow.
I was talking to a number of people this week and I can almost feel the anxiety in the air as things begin to re-open, as we begin to transition back out of crisis into normalcy. As more and more people are being vaccinated and returning to a functioning world, I think we’re beginning to come to terms with just how much has been lost in this last year. We’re allowing ourselves the space to really grieve those losses.
I’m looking at my calendar in the upcoming months and we’re starting to have the memorial services for those who passed during the thick of COVID back in January and February, but the family wanted to wait to celebrate the funeral mass and burial. I think we all realize from our own families how difficult it is to deal with the loss of a family member, and how much consolation the closure of the funeral liturgies can bring for a family. How much more difficult now, as families have had to wait for months for those events to happen. Please keep those families in your prayers as we walk through all of these funerals and memorial services in the next few weeks and months.
Still, it’s not just the ultimate loss of life that we’re grieving. For so many of our young people, this year has disrupted much of their whole world. Imagine all of the Graduations, Proms, Confirmations, Holy First Communions, and other events that haven’t been able to happen, and if they did, the family who would have been invited weren’t able to make it to those events. Even now, as we had to push our first communion back a week, I’m so thankful that our parents have been understanding, but it’s still hard, realizing that before last year, whole families would have made plans to travel, just to be able to be present for these events. Please remember our young people and be kind to them as they struggle to work through the fact that even as they are struggling with virtual learning, they’ve missed so many events they may have been looking forward to.
As we open too, I hear from so many who are now struggling, having been isolated for a year, just with the basic dynamics of starting to get together again. As we’re slowly able to gather, it’s amazing how many times feathers are ruffled unintentionally as we all begin to learn again some of those social dynamics that so many of us haven’t been using in the last year. It’s going to take a lot of patience as we work back into our new normal.
Yet, this weekend, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we realize that as we work through all of these struggles, we have someone who cares for us, loves us, and watches over us through them. He’s right there with us, looking out for us, ready to seek us out when we’re lost, ready to guide us home. The trouble is, in order to be willing to be found, sometimes we have to realize that we’re lost. Admitting that we’re lost can be a scary prospect. It means we’re struggling, we’re in trouble, we need help, and we can’t help ourselves. It means we’re going to have to put our trust in someone bigger than ourselves.
So this week, as we begin to move out of this crisis, I’d invite all of us to really reflect on how we’ve found ourselves lost and grieving in this past year. There is real hurt and loss there. Yet, we have a God who cares, who will walk through all of that loss and hurt right along with us. We have a God who not only understands loss, he was willing to sacrifice himself, so that he might rise again and that we might live forever with him in eternity, that we might be, in a word, saved.
God Bless You,
Congratulations to the newly confirmed members of our parish! I’d like to congratulate this week, the following members of our parish for making their confirmation this Thursday!
Due to a schedule conflict, Allison Moriconi will make her confirmation very soon along with St. Nicholas in Nicktown. As a parish, let us congratulate all of these young people. Now being made full members of the Church, we want to encourage them to continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, working to also share that relationship with others.
It’s an exciting time to celebrate these Easter Sacraments. In a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating first communion with our 2nd graders. Of course, these things don’t happen on their own, so I’d like to also thank in a special way our DRE Sister Karen and our high school catechists, Tara Pardee and Cheryl Searle for all their hard work preparing these young people. Of course, none of this happens without the support of their parents. So let’s also thank the parents for their support of their children through this process. Over the course of the last year, I’ve had some more interactions with many of the parents of our young people, and while it’s a constant struggle to raise children in the faith, it’s good to see so many parents really looking to take the promise they made at their child’s baptism seriously.
It was recently in the news that the number of people nationwide who belong to a Church has dipped below 50% for the first time in our history. It’s a scary world that these young people are entering. They need our encouragement, our support and our prayers. Please congratulate them when you see them. Please thank them for following through with their confirmation. Please encourage them to continue the practice of their faith, even when it’s difficult. Please support them through their lives as fully confirmed Catholics. Please support too all of our parents, both with your words and with your prayers.
Please also don’t forget this week to stop downstairs to take a look at the wares from the Good Shepherds of Bethlehem. I’m sure there will be some beautiful pieces available.
He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed! I just want to thank everyone who turned out for Holy Week this year. It was so good to finally see almost everyone back in Church. It’s been a long road, but it’s good to see things beginning to return to the new normal. Of course, as I said last Sunday, that means that all of us are going to need to step up and welcome back all those who have been away for the past year as they start to return.
Along with the joy of Easter comes those Easter events in our Church where we celebrate those special moments in people’s lives. I’d ask you to pray for the couple who’s wedding I witnessed over in Patton on Saturday, so congratulations to Bethany Anna and Levi Miller on their wedding. Levi was baptized here at Prince of Peace. I’d also ask you to keep in your prayers this year’s confirmation class. We have seven in our class this year and they will be confirmed here at Prince of Peace on Thursday April 15th. Then, a little later this month on Sunday April 25th, our three 2nd graders will be making their first communion. Please keep all of them in your prayers as well
Next weekend, we will have a special even t for our parish. We’ll be visited by a group called the “Good Shepherds of Bethlehem.” They’re a family from Bethlehem. (The real one in the Holy Land, not the one in Eastern PA) They sell hand-made olive wood religious sculptures to help support their parish in Bethlehem. Their wares will be available after all masses next weekend down in the parish hall. Please stop down to support them.
This weekend we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy was revealed to St. Faustina and written in her diary up until her death in 1938. Then, it was made popular by Saint John Paul II just as she was canonized in the year 2000. Her canonization happened right as our parish was being founded. Probably the simplest summary of the message of Divine Mercy can be summed up with A, B, C.
A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that all the graces of His mercy can only be received by our trust. The more we open the door of our hearts and lives to Him with trust, the more we can receive.
Those three principles make up the message of Divine Mercy. One of my favorite expressions of the idea is simply asking ourselves, “Do I really think that my power to sin is greater than God’s power to forgive?” Of course it isn’t. Yet, God respects us. “He who made us without our willing it, will not save us without our willing it.” His mercy is always there for us, but we do have to ask for his mercy. Then, having received his mercy, we’re called to share that mercy with others. Knowing that, we’re able to put our trust in Jesus. The more we allow him in, the more grace we’re able to receive.
So this week, as we celebrate Divine Mercy, I’d encourage all of us to really ask ourselves just how much space I really leave for Jesus in my life. Am I open to allowing him to really come and help change me, letting go of the junk that I cling to, and instead opening up more room for Him to live inside my heart.
God Bless You
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! That’s what we do here this weekend. That’s what we celebrate this weekend! That’s the central mystery of our faith. Jesus Christ has conquered death! He is risen! That’s the formula. That was the first message of good news, the first Gospel. That’s the cry that changed the world. That’s the message that the early Christians proclaimed even when persecutions came, even when it meant their oven lives. After all, if Jesus is risen and will take us with him, what in this would could we possibly have to fear.
Last year at Easter, we celebrated a very different sort of Easter, all in our homes, clutching our loved ones close out of fear. The whole world had just shut down for the first time in our lifetimes. We were facing an enemy that most of us had never faced. It wasn’t something we could see or touch. It was something invisible, that we couldn't find out if we had contact until 7-10 days later. The closest in anyone’s memory to a real pandemic was a polio in the 1940’s and 50’s, but even there, it didn’t spread just by physically being in a room with someone. So looking into the unknown, watching mass at home with our families, we embarked on what became the long Lent of 2020. Thankfully in our parish, I was amazed at the responses, watching the stream. Last year for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Easter Vigil we had over 300 people watching each day, more than we’d have normally had in Church for many of those services. We looked out at the unknown, and we took a step back from the world, but toward Jesus Christ. Though we all grow weary of the precautions and the risks and sometimes it seems like we’re not doing as much as we should be, we really are a different Church than we were a year ago. We’ve suffered through this long lent, and now as things are beginning to open up again, it finally feels like it’s time to celebrate Easter.
Just as Jesus rising from the grave tells us beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has conquered death, now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, but we’re looking at a very different world than the one we had before this all began. We’re looking at a world that’s truly in search of good news…and today we have that good news. His name is Jesus Christ! Now, in this Easter season, as we begin to see the darkness conquered by the light, it’s our job to go out as those first disciples did and spread that good news to all the world. A hundred years ago, we as a Church lead through the recovery that followed the 1918 Spanish flu. Today, right in our own backyard, it’s our own local Catholic College of St. Francis University who has been orchestrating the lion’s share of the vaccine distribution in our area. Our Church is working together to help overcome this darkness.
Yet, I think we all know that COVID isn’t the only darkness in our world. So many people are lonely with all of the social distancing this year has brought. So many feel isolated. So many are struggling with all sorts of issues that this pandemic has only exaggerated. So many people in the world right now are hurting. Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we realize we have a message of hope, a hope that cannot be crushed, not by sickness, not by death. We have a hope that is eternal. We have good news that even sickness and death has no power over the one we follow. As our world begins to open up, we’re called to let that light of Jesus Christ fill our hearts so completely that it simply has to overflow into our world. We must let the joy of the resurrection fill our hearts so that we can share that light with everyone we know. As we celebrate the resurrection, let each and every one of us take that light into our homes, our families, our schools, our workplaces. Let the light of Jesus Christ shine in every dark place, and let them see our joy. For that joy that cannot be crushed, cannot be stopped even in the face of death, is the power that once transformed the whole world. It can do it again, if we’re willing to carry that light out into our dark world.
Happy Easter . . . God Bless You All!
This weekend, we celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week! This year feels like it’s my first time celebrating Holy Week with all of you. After last year’s Holy Week, celebrated in front of a camera and an empty Church, I’m so very thankful to be able to celebrate these days with all of you. There is so much that can be said about Holy Week, as it’s really the central focus of our faith. Yet, at the same time, it’s probably good to allow the rites of Holy Week to speak for themselves. This Sunday, we hear the story of the Passion. Holy Thursday, we celebrate the last supper, the first mass, and the institution of the Eucharist. On Good Friday, we recall the crucifixion, and on Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, we celebrate the reality of the resurrection an the empty tomb. I’d encourage everyone to make the time to participate in the services that make up Holy Week, as they are central to what we believe.
There will be a few small changes due to precautions this year, but nothing like last year. We will pass out palms this weekend, but on the way out after mass. On Holy Thursday, we won’t have the washing of the feet. On Good Friday, we’ll still have the veneration of the cross, but we ask that people do not physically kiss the cross. For the Vigil, while we won’t have the outside fire or hold individual candles, everything else should look pretty much as it normally would. Considering where we were this time last year, I’m hopeful that this year will actually feel like a real holy week. We also want to pray for our candidate this year. This coming Saturday at the Easter Vigil, Mike Mays will be received into the Church as a Catholic and be confirmed. So please join us in praying for Mike!
As I’m sure you’re all aware, last weekend our Drive-Thru Turkey dinner went exceptionally well. I really want to thank everyone who helped with the dinner. All of the folks in the kitchen did a wonderful job, I heard lots of great reviews about the food. The Drive-thru also went exceptionally well. From what I can gather from our preliminary data, we served almost as many dinners as we normally did, but unlike in the past, there was hardly a line. I real special thanks goes out to all of our young people. Everyone commented on just how hard all of our young people worked last weekend. We all owe them our thanks as we couldn’t have managed the dinner without them!
So as we continue this week, I hope we can all be thankful for being able to celebrate Holy Week together! I look forward to seeing you at each of the services this week!
The time has come for Turkey! This Weekend is our Annual Turkey Dinner and our first attempt at a Drive-thru. We’ve been working and planning all week. As I was up at the Garage this week with one of our parishioners working out the details of how everything would go, where the tables would be, how the setup would work, I realize just how much work and how many pieces have to come together to make an event like this happen. From the volunteers who spent weeks ahead of time getting ready, to our wonderful kitchen help who worked tirelessly preparing the food, to our young people helping with moving the dinners, to those working in the garage helping with packing meals, to our money counters keeping everything straight. I just want to thank everyone who’s working so hard to get this all done this weekend.
Remember, if you’d like to help work the dinner, we’d love to have you, just stop down to the Hall by 9am on Sunday morning and we’ll get you assigned to a place! Many hands make light work!
If you’re getting a meal at the dinner, check out the map on the back cover of the bulletin or our website. We have large signs posted on the front of the Church and next to the lower parking lot by St. John Byzantine directing you where to go. You’re welcome to buy both Dinner and Raffle tickets when you get to the garage. I just ask that you please be patient. We’ve thought of most of what we can imagine, but this is still our first time running a drive-thru.
For any of you who signed up for FlockNote when I had asked a few weeks ago, you got a nice little reminder about confessions and about the dinner. If you didn’t get that reminder, please either visit our website and click on “Flocknote” or text “popnc” to 84576 to sign up! It’s been very helpful to be able to quickly ask for volunteers and we already had a few people comment that they had lost track of time and were grateful for the reminder!
Also, later this week, we’ll be having our Lenten Confessions. Since we’re having a few different days, I was asked to make some times available in the daytime as well as the evening. So we have two more times with a different visiting priest for each. This Wednesday (3/24) at Noon, Fr. Brian Warchola from Holy Name in Ebensburg will be joining us, and this Thursday (3/25) at 6:30pm, Fr. Thad from Hastings will be joining us. Please take advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacraments!
Finally, it’s hard to believe but next Sunday will be Palm Sunday! We WILL be able to receive palms this year, but it’s going to look a little bit different than in past years. When you enter Church, the Palms will all be placed on a table before mass to be blessed. We won’t be holding the palms during mass, but everyone will be able to take palms home at the end of mass. I know it’s a little bit different than normal, but it’s certainly a lot better than how we had to do Holy Week last year.
Please know you are always in my prayers.
God Bless You, -Fr Matt
This weekend we celebrate Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent. It’s called Laetare Sunday for the opening antiphon of this weekend’s mass. “Laetare Jerusalem…”. In English it’s “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be Joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” In the midst of Lent, we’re given this one Sunday to rejoice, to celebrate what’s on the way. Just like Gaudete Sunday in Advent, we use rose colored vestments, symbolizing the color of the sunrise. (I wasn’t able to wear them for Advent, because we didn’t have any. However, I’m happy to wear them this Sunday, thanks to the donation of one of our online viewers who purchased them for us).
This Sunday is meant to encourage us to look forward to what’s coming, realizing that although we still have to go through Good Friday, although there will still be a crucifixion, on the other side, there is also a resurrection to come! The image we get in our first reading of Cyrus, King of Persia I think perfectly sums up what’s going on. The Jewish people had lost the land God had given them. They had been carried off into exile in Babylon. They were mistreated and persecuted. Then, Cyrus, a new King in Persia issued a decree that the Jewish people were to be returned to their homeland. That didn’t stop the persecutions. They didn’t move right away, the actual move might be years away. It didn’t really change anything in their daily lives, but it gave them hope. That’s what this Sunday is about, for as dark as the world can seem at times, we’re called to remember that just like the sun and the son we too will rise someday. So whatever’s going on, whatever we’re worried about, whatever seems dark in our lives, we’re called to always live as a people of hope.
In our parish this week, the fun is about to begin! We’re kicking into high gear for our spring dinner next Sunday March 21st! I know it’s going to be a little bit different than we’re used to. The dinner this year will all be served via Drive-Thru out of the Garage. We’re asking everyone to turn up the hill onto St. Stan Avenue (the road between our lower parking lot and St. John Byzantine). You’ll turn left at the top of the hill and be routed into our parking lot. We’ll have two stations set up for cars at the garage doors where you’ll be able to get your dinners. Due to Diocesean regulations there will be no dinner sales in the church hall, please go straight to the garage. While you can still put your tickets in the collection yet this Sunday, if you haven’t turned them in by this Sunday March 14th, please do NOT put them in next week’s collection! There will be dinner tickets available to purchase when you pull up to the garage. I know this is a bit of a different format, but I hope you’ll join us and invite your friends to join us as well. Please also pray for us that everything will go well.
Of course, a dinner like this can’t happen without your help. We’re looking for lots of help from volunteers, both adults and young people. We can use lots of help in preparations over this week, please check out the work schedule posted on page 4 in the bulletin this week. [Also posted on the main page of our website]. If you’re able to help the day of the dinner, please stop down to the Church hall by 9am on Sunday. We’ll get you assigned to a place either in the Hall or in the Garage. Please note that anytime we’re working with food this year, masks will be required. Thank you all in advance for all of your help! Our religious education students will be receiving a sign-up form from Sister for the day of the dinner. Please help support your Church. This is one of our Church’s two major fundraisers. We hope to see you there with all of your friends!
God Bless You
If you haven’t already, this week, you’ll be getting some mail from the diocese. Similarly, there will be envelopes available in all the pews for this year’s Catholic Ministries Drive. It’s a very important fundraiser for our diocese that keeps our diocesan offices running. In various places that I’ve been, I’ve found that often the people have never had it explained what exactly the diocese does, what services are provided, and why they’re important.
I know that many years ago when they started the former campaign called the Annual Catholic Appeal, I often heard all sorts of complaints asking “where does the money go?” While I can say I served as a priest in the tail-end of that era, I remember that there had been a lot of questions about how the money was used.
Over the course of the last couple of years, as the Diocesean offices moved out of their old location next to Garvey Manor into their new location in the former Our Lady of Lourdes School, I watched as the vast majority of the staff who had worked there under our previous bishop have slowly turned over. Now it’s a much younger crew with a very different attitude. When I call down asking for things, they’re happy to help, and they really do support us in the parishes in a lot of ways that we don’t always realize.
With that in mind, I was very pleased when a couple of years ago, our new diocesan Director of Development decided to revamp the Annual Catholic Appeal and rename it. The new Catholic Ministries Drive that we’ve been doing for the last few years has done an excellent job at letting us know exactly where the money contributed really goes. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be putting in the bulletin stories of each of the various ministries the drive funds, and how it helps us build up the Church here in our diocese.
The new Catholic Ministries Drive runs 14 specific ministries in our diocese that are divided into 3 basic categories. So I though this week, I’d list them and give a brief description of what each of them are.
The First Category is “Nurturing our Youth.” The drive funds Campus Ministry, putting Catholic campus ministers and ensuring the sacraments on each of the 5 non-Catholic Universities in our Diocese, Juniata College, PSU Main Campus, PSU Altoona, UPJ Johnstown, and Lock Haven. The Education Office handles all the Superintendent responsibilities for our Catholic School system, working on everything from curriculum to grants, to oversight of our various Catholic Schools. The Sacramental Preparation office oversees First Communion, First Reconciliation, and Confirmation throughout the diocese. That’s been especially important to us this year, as they’ve managed all of the virtual confirmation retreats until we’re able to have in person retreats again. The Youth Ministry Office runs other youth programming throughout our diocese including our Summer Camps and Youth Days.
The Second Category, “Caring for the Poor and Strengthening Families” provides both outreach and assistance to families. Catholic Charities is our primary outreach to the poor for most of the diocese, they provide everything from Catholic counseling services, to budgeting help, to a wide variety of help to the poor and social services. Whenever I have someone looking for help, it’s been amazing how between St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities, we can often get them what they need. Catholic Charities specialized in some of the bigger needs. For example, they just recently opened a new women’s shelter in Johnstown. The Family Life office supports families, both with family programming and classes, and by managing Marriage prep and marriage enrichment courses throughout our diocese. Our own Deacon Gary & Patti were trained through the Family Life office as sponsor couples. The drive also helps with our twin mission diocese in Mandeville Jamaica.
The Third Category is “Forming Clergy and Laity”. This includes the Adult Enrichment and Lay Ecclesial
Ministry programs. Over the last few weeks, I’ve advertised some of their classes in the bulletin. Both programs provide some excellent adult education in the faith. The Christian Initiation office helps support our converts, providing us with resources and programming to help bring people into the faith. The Vocation Office works to recruit and train seminarians so that they can become priests, considering we’re talking about a 4-6 year graduate degree program, realize that to train each seminarian costs just a little more than sending a young person to college for 4-6 years. The Ongoing Formation office provides continuing education to our priests and deacons, and finally our Evangelization office works to promote the good news of the faith to our diocese as a whole. For example, I know that many of you saw the couple of Proclaim! interviews that I had done in the last few months; that entire ministry falls under the Evangelization office.
When we look at all of those ministries together, it’s quite a bit that happens at a diocesan level. Nearly all of them are good, solid, Catholic things that we need to be doing to build up the Church, and 100% of the money sent to the Catholic Ministries drive goes toward one of those.
With that in mind, I’d strongly encourage all of us to help us work toward our goal for this year. This year’s goal for our parish is $27,753.00. There are options to give through regular pledged gifts and online. Please consider helping us work toward this year’s goal.
God Bless You
This weekend, we celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent. Just this week, I received from the Bishop this year’s regulations for Holy Week during our current restrictions. While it will certainly be a lot less restrictive than last Easter, it still won’t be quite what we’re normally used to. Most of the things will be pieces that we’ve become mostly accustomed to in our current world. We won’t be able to pass out Palms until the end of Mass on Palm Sunday and we won’t have the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. We’ll be able to venerate the cross on Good Friday, but won’t be able to touch it, and at the Easter vigil, we won’t be able to each have individual candles.
As I look at those restrictions, most of which will apply this year to all Catholic Churches throughout the world, I think most of us are well past ready to be done with all the COVID restrictions, and we’re getting anxious to get back to so many of the things that we miss from before this pandemic started. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, it will have been a year since all this began with a “two week shutdown” so that the hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
I find it’s so very easy to complain about all of these restrictions and to get weary of all of it. When we see these restrictions for Holy Week, it can be so easy to roll our eyes and say, “do we still have to do all this?”. Yet, as we keep walking through all of these things, I think now is a good time for us to remember what’s really important. I think of all the sacrifices we’ve been making over the last year. It’s been difficult, there’s no question. We’ve given up seeing friends and family. We’ve given up all sorts of activities we love to do. We’ve accepted all sorts of daily restrictions. I think of all of the things we’ve sacrificed, and I realize that right now we’re still able to come here to receive Jesus.
Then I look at our first reading this Sunday. God had called Abraham from his native country, and sent him out to a new world where he knew no one. He promised him that he would be the father of many nations, and until he was old, he was unable to have a child. Then, having a son in his old age, God asks him to take his son up to Mount Moriah, and sacrifice his only son. Think about that for a moment. Of all of the things that we’ve been asked to do that we complain about. Of all the things that the Church has ever asked of us that we complain about, nothing in any of our lives comes anywhere close to that. Even though God stayed his hand, Abraham trusted God that much. Think of what that meant about his relationship with God.
As we continue through this Lenten season, I’d like us each to really, honestly, ask ourselves. “Have I been growing closer to God through all of the events of the last year?” When those moments came that I really had the time, and at least at some point this year, all of us had more time that we’ve ever had before, what did we do with it? Did that time help us grow in our relationship with God or not? Did we break open our bibles to read? Did we spent more time in prayer? Did we make some serious attempts at learning more about our faith and working to deepen it? I’m sure many did, and hearing that will feel like a recognition. Others didn’t, and it’ll feel like a disappointment. Yet, no matter what we did, we get to decide how we move forward through this Lent. So I’d ask each of us honestly, to really take seriously the call to take this Lent to grow closer to Jesus in our faith.
Coming up in the next few weeks, we’ll be offering multiple confession times: Thursday, March 18th at 6:30pm, Wednesday, March 24th at noon, and Thursday, March 25th at 6:30pm. We’ll have a different visiting priest at each time. I’d challenge each of us to really take the time to ask ourselves where we’ve fallen short of the amazing things God calls us to. Make use of the sacrament, so that we can again approach God with a clean conscience, and then no matter what things look like for Easter, let’s remember just how amazing the grace of God really is that he offers us his very body and blood as food. That having received the bread of life, God himself works to transform us from the inside out to be like him. He loves us and wants to call us to Himself if we let him. If we could really grasp how amazing that is, we’d put up with whatever restrictions, rules, or hoops, we had to jump through if it meant coming into contact with our creator, with the one who loved us so much that he sent his only son to die for us on a cross, so that we might live forever.
Sometimes, especially during Lent, we have to remind ourselves of that basic lesson.
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.