December 1, 2013
Greetings! As we begin the season of Advent, the Church draws our attention to the second coming of Christ before drawing our attention to the first coming of Christ. As we consider the “end times” and our salvation, the sacrament of reconciliation can help us see the active ways God calls us to repentance and conversion. Our First Holy Communion second graders will celebrate their first Penance next weekend (12/7) and we will have our annual Advent Penance services scheduled in our local Catholic parishes. In addition, Fr. Campoli will be addressing reconciliation in Advent mission conferences and both he and I will be available for confessions during the mission. And of course, confessions are always available every Saturday at St. John’s from 3:00pm-3:45pm and every second Sunday of the month after the 8:30 and 11:00am masses. I would hear a confession upon request anytime.
Just to wet your whistle about the beauty of this sacrament, let me share what is said about it in the Rite of Penance ritual book used by priests to administer the sacrament:
“The Father has shown forth his mercy by reconciling the world to himself in Christ and by making peace for all things on earth and in heaven by the blood of Christ on the cross. The Son of God made man lived among men in order to free them from the slavery on sin and to call them out of darkness into his wonderful light. He therefore began his work on earth by preaching repentance and saying: ‘turn away from sin and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15)
This invitation to repentance, which had often been sounded by the prophets, prepared the hearts of men for the coming of the Kingdom of God through the voice of John the Baptist who came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus, however, not only exhorted men to repentance so that they should abandon their sins and turn wholeheartedly to the Lord, but he also welcomed sinners and reconciled them with the Father. Moreover, by healing the sick he signified his power to forgive sin. Finally, he himself died for our sins and rose again for our justification. Therefore, on the night he was betrayed and began his saving passion, he instituted the sacrifice of the new covenant in his blood for the forgiveness of sins. After his resurrection he sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, empowering them to forgive or retain sins and sending them forth to all peoples to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name.
In the sacrifice of the mass the passion of Christ is made present; his body given for us and his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins are offered to God again by the Church for the salvation of the world. In the Eucharist, Christ is present and is offered as the ‘sacrifice which has made our peace’ with God and in order that ‘we may be brought together in unity’ by his Holy Spirit. Furthermore, our Savior Jesus Christ, when he gave to his apostles and their successors power to forgive sins, instituted in his Church the sacrament of penance. Thus the faithful who fall into sin after baptism may be reconciled with God and renewed in grace. The Church ‘possesses both water and tears: the water of baptism, the tears of penance.’”
So, please consider a good confession this Advent!
God bless, Fr. Walsh
November 24, 2013
Greetings! As we look forward to next Thursday (11/28), I want to wish all our parish families a “Happy Thanksgiving”! The spirit of thanksgiving is abundant at St. John’s because it is part and parcel of who we are as a people of God. Thanksgiving is what we do best – or hope to do best! We live our Christian discipleship grateful to the Lord for every daily blessing we receive and burden we carry. It all comes from God and is under his Divine Providence. As I have mentioned many times, the word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving and we must celebrate the Eucharist with great love and devotion. The fruits of this devotion are found in every ministry and volunteer service, including the recent gathering of non-perishable food items organized by the Confirmation students and distributed to local families. Thanks to everyone who brought in food items and helped with this annual charitable work. No matter how big or small your Thanksgiving feast, may it be blessed by God and bring happiness and peace. If your schedule permits, join us at the Bushkill Reformed Church for the Thanksgiving Ecumenical Prayer service on Wednesday 11/27 at 7pm. I look forward to this opportunity to pray with our Christian neighbors from local churches.
Next week begins Advent. We will begin using a new musical “mass setting” on the First Sunday of Advent and it will last an entire year. Once we get this new mass setting under our belt, we will have three mass settings to chose from for many years ahead. Remember, we started with one new setting in Advent 2011, then another new one in Advent 2012 and finally a third new one for Advent 2013. There are many other mass settings, but we will be content with having three and use them on a rotating basis from year to year. This is just one other way to keep the mass “fresh” and may be helpful when you go to mass at other churches and hear the same setting. I want to thank Erik Sparks and the choir for organizing the new settings and teaching them to the choir and congregation. I personally love this new setting and hope you will as well. Please, as you have before, be patient in learning it. It will not take long before we are in the groove.
Thanks to all who gave last weekend to the second collection to benefit the Typhoon relief in the Philippines. As I mentioned in my homily, Catholic Relief Services is the agency of our Church charged with handling such important relief efforts, and is only one of many Catholic agencies, schools and hospitals that will soon be forced to pay for abortifacients, sterilizations and contraception under the new health care law. The Church was granted an extension until January 2014, but there has been little or no movement towards a resolution of the basic quandary – the teachings of Christ and his Church are not being protected as a religious liberty guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. I have heard various bishops speculate on what may happen, and there is no good outcome for the Church in any scenario, save a future decision of the Supreme Court. We will be filled with good cheer as the holiday season approaches, but we cannot take our eye off the ball of this religious liberty issue. We must persevere in faith and trust God has given us the truth which we defend.
God bless! Fr. Walsh
November 17, 2013
Greetings! I would like to bring to your attention one important pastoral concern I have had over the past few years – bringing Holy Communion to the sick and homebound. We have been discussing what to do about it during our recent Parish Pastoral Council meetings and know we need to put our faith into action. It is not good enough to just talk about outreach to those who cannot join us for Sunday mass, it is time to do something about it. My hope is that we can prepare some new volunteers to serve as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and send them out every Sunday beginning in January 2014. The plan is to have the designated E.M.(‘s) sent forth with a blessing before the closing prayer of the 8:30am mass. In this way, the sick and homebound are more closely connected to our experience of the Eucharistic sacrifice and we will be reminded of our responsibility to pray for them.
So, the first order of business is to call parishioners to consider serving in this way. It would be wonderful if a current Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion would take on this new ministry, but I want to encourage others as well. A parishioner would simply need to be a Catholic in good standing with the Church who has a love for Jesus in the Eucharist and a desire to serve. Ideally, we will get parishioners from the different areas surrounding the church, so travel will be kept to a minimum. It is possible however, that the E.M. will be traveling to places like Saw Creek, Ranchlands, PMLE, Milford Commons etc. Volunteer E.M.’s would provide their own means of transportation. Depending on how many E.M.’s we get, a rotating schedule can be worked out so the same person does not have to serve every week. There are many things we try to promote at St. John’s and parishioners are always more than generous in their response to most of them (ie. Fundraisers & social events), but this is even more important as a pastoral and spiritual endeavor. It is what we should be doing as “Church”. If someone can’t get to Church, the Church will get to them. So often, a faithful parishioner finds him/herself away from the mass because of a temporary or more permanent illness or because they can no longer drive.
The second order of business then, is to identify who is in need. I bring Holy Communion to approximately 6-10 people every First Friday of the month and I know there are more than that who would benefit from this outreach. If you know of someone in your family or a neighbor, please contact the parish office. As time goes on, if a temporary situation emerges where you or a loved one cannot make it to Sunday mass, please notify us. Sometimes word comes through the grapevine about who is having a surgery or who can no longer drive, but we cannot mind-read. Please let us know. The person receiving communion will have to be prepared to welcome the E.M. between 9:30am and 11:00am.Training for this new outreach is scheduled December 2 and 3 at 6:00pm at St. John’s Church. Pray about it and let me know ASAP – otherwise, I may have to nudge the Holy Spirit. We will also hope to send E.M.’s to PMC Hospital to serve. We are a Eucharistic people and when we center ourselves in the Lord sacramentally, blessings will soon flow.
God bless! Fr. Walsh
November 10, 2013
Greetings! Now that the parking lot project is completed, I want to give a summary of the work that has been accomplished through the capital campaign. The two year campaign, “Revitalizing our Sacred Home, Reaffirming our Faith”, began in March of 2012. Our first purchase from the collected funds was the new chairs for the parish hall. We purchased 200 maroon covered high back chairs for $4,600. Our next project was the power washing of the church building – front to back, top to bottom – at the cost of $4,500. In May of 2012, work began on the new Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning for the church proper. The two original systems were torn out of the room behind the sanctuary and replaced with two new units that now operate more efficiently - this project cost $37,700 and was done by Hannabery Inc. Workers from Air Care came in to clean the air ducts above the ceiling in both the church and parish hall and paint the air handlers and establish new trunk lines. This work cost $7,600. In January 2013, Hannabery was back to install new HVAC units in the parish hall and classroom/office space in the rear of our building. This work was completed at the cost of $27,200.
As parishioners continued to pay their pledges, even ahead of schedule, we were able to secure KBA Engineers to oversee the parking lot project. KBA was paid $18,900 to do the specs, solicit bids and be on site to ensure the work was done properly. Wayco Inc. was awarded the bid for $80,000. It is important to know that the entire parking lot was not milled and given a fresh 2-4 inches of pavement. We did not have the money to re-surface the entire lot. Essentially, we were able to afford the re-surfacing of half of the lot – from the entrance to the rear parking lot; the front half of the rear parking lot (closest to the church); and a small section of the exit road on the way out, including several parking spaces near the side of the church with the four seasons stained glass. The rest of the parking lot was crack sealed and top coated. And of course, all the striping is brand new. I particularly like how the entrance to our property off route 209 is now smooth sailing and striped clearly as two directional. You may have also noticed that hay now covers a band of turf along the back of the church where new drainage pipes will help move water and prevent any major puddling.
As we move forward with the remainder of the capital campaign, we plan to spend approximately $6,700 on LED lighting for the church, and anticipate spending another $20,000 on necessary building repairs. Because we spent less than what we budgeted for the parking lot project, we will look into a new “Church of St. John” sign near the entrance – one that will have space to put messages announcing special events, holy day celebrations etc. When it is all said and done, we will have a gathering of all who contributed to the campaign to thank them and add their memorial leaves and stones to the Tree of Life in the rear of the church. I need to say a special word of thanks to the finance council members who helped organize the campaign and thank John Pinto in particular for his dedication to so many details and hands-on oversight. Thanks also to Cathy Schwalm our parish Secretary and Lorraine Tacardon our Business Manager for the administrative work they have done!
God bless! Fr. Walsh