Letters from Fr. Francis
We Are Here For You!
Letters from Fr. Francis:
May 16, 2021 - Re-Opening Our Church & Welcoming People Back
May 9, 2021 - Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos
I hope you will prayerfully consider supporting NPH this week. They do outstanding work to help children move out of poverty and provide them with a sense of family, emotional support and serve their most basic needs.
April 25, 2021 - Thank You Deacon Nate Resila
2064 Caldicott Road
Schenectady, NY 12303
April 18, 2021 - Special Easter Season Mass of Remembrance
April 11, 2021 - The Chosen
I recently came across a wonderful program called “The Chosen.” It is the first ever multi-season series about the life of Christ. It is extremely well acted. I love how they bring the Gospel to life with all of the detail and richness that it deserves. The characters are real, honest portrayals of people.
Jesus especially comes across as someone you would want to know and be friends with. There’s warmth, humor and compassion to him. And the community of men and women who Jesus first calls to follow him are also wonderfully portrayed. They remind me of big family dinners with all of my brothers and sisters-in-law. They joke and they argue with one another as they struggle to comprehend the new life that Jesus is calling them to share with him.
I have found my own prayer life greatly nourished by the episodes. For me, it has been like an Ignatian exercise of praying with the Gospel using all of one’s imagination and senses. I binge- watched season 1 in just a few days. And I joined over a million people on Easter Sunday who watched the season 2 premiere live.
You can watch all of season 1 for free on Vivid Angel. You can also watch season 1 and season 2 by downloading the free “The Chosen” App onto your devices. The entire series is free. Remarkably, “The Chosen” is the largest crowd-funded media project in history! Over 75,000 people made contributions totaling over $10 million dollars in record time to fund season 1. Season two is just now being released as they finish final production work. In all, there will be seven seasons.
I encourage you to give “The Chosen” a watch. It is especially appropriate for families to watch together. I think children and young adults will really be drawn to these characters and it will help them understand the Gospels in a fresh new way.
We live in remarkable times with all of our technology and social media advances. This is definitely the best use of those resources that I have come across in a long time. I pray that it will help millions of people to rediscover who Jesus is, to fall in love with him, and to share the Gospel and the Christian faith in new ways.God Bless,
April 4, 2021 - “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we enter into the joy of Easter Sunday, I am reminded of a famous address that St. John Paul II gave when he visited New York. He was visiting Harlem and delivered an address in which he reminded everyone that “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” We are an Easter people because the Resurrection of Jesus is the bold central claim of Christianity. Jesus is not dead. He is alive! Jesus has triumphed over sin and over the grave. And Jesus has opened the way to eternal life for all who believe in him.
So, as we enter into Easter, Alleluias should spring from our lips and fill our hearts with joy! As St. John Paul II reminds us, “Christ came to bring joy: joy to children, joy to parents, joy to families and to friends, joy to workers and to scholars, joy to the sick and to the elderly, joy to all humanity. In a true sense, joy is the keynote of the Christian message and the recurring motif of the Gospels.”
This Easter we all need joy in our lives. For over a year now we have been dealing with the impact of COVID on our lives, our community, our country and our world. We all know someone who has been sick or who has died from COVID. We know people whose businesses have been impacted, whose livelihoods have been taken from them. And there has been suffering from isolation and loneliness as we have had to socially distance from one another. All of this has had an impact on our mental health and that of our family and friends.
That’s why we need to embrace the joy of Easter. The joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ and experiencing the grace of his friendship and his mercy. Jesus is the one who leads us from darkness to light. Psalm 30 says that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!” Jesus is that joy! Because with Jesus, with the Church, with the sacraments, and with the support of our St. Josaphat community, we have endured this year together and are beginning to experience the joy of the Resurrection!
Signs of the Resurrection and new life are all around us. There are now several vaccines available and every adult in America should have the opportunity to be vaccinated in the coming months. Businesses and schools are reopening. People who had to distance themselves out of caution are now able to return to public spaces and reclaim their lives.
Our parish too is seeing signs of new life. We restarted the Sunday 8:00 am Mass, as we have seen our in-person Mass attendance steadily climb. We are nearing the end of the academic year and have successfully kept our school open for in-person learning. Our 8th Grade parishioners in school and religious education received the Sacrament of Confirmation on March 21st. Our 2nd Grade parishioners are preparing for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion. And our Don’s Helping Hands Ministry is looking to work with neighboring parishes to expand our outreach to our guests in need.
As I look around our parish and our community, I see the Holy Spirit clearly at work. Signs of hope and new life abound! I can feel Jesus Christ calling us to move forward in trust and to experience the joy that only he can give. It is time to shake off the darkness and heaviness of this past year and focus our attention on Jesus, his Resurrection, and the signs of new life, joy and hope that are all around us. Never forget, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!”
March 28, 2021 - Unity Event, Thank You!
March 21, 2021 - Unity Award Winner
March 14, 2012 - Last Call!
Fr. Francis and the Unity Committee
March 7, 2021 - Confirmation on March 21
February 28, 2021 - Unity Event
February 21, 2021 - Why I Love Lent
February 14, 2021 - Ash Wednesday
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. Because we are still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Ash Wednesday will look a bit different this year. We will have two Masses with limited in-person attendance. The 8:00 am Mass will be for 7th and 8th Grade St. Josaphat School students only, because of the need to protect the school cohorts. All other students will watch online from their homerooms. The 7:00 pm Mass is open to all parishioners, but you must sign up to reserve a seat. We also invite you to watch either Mass via Livestream on our Facebook page.
For those who are unable to attend Mass, please don’t worry. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it simply marks the start of the Lenten season. Additionally, receiving ashes is not an obligation nor is it a sacrament. It is merely an outward sign of our inward desire to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
When it comes to distributing ashes, Deacon Pat and I will be using a Q-tip to apply the ashes to people’s foreheads instead of using our hands. We will use a new Q-tip for each person that comes forward. This change is to ensure that there is no risk of spreading covid from person to person through repeated physical contact between us and those receiving ashes.
Even if we might not be able to receive ashes this year because of the limitations, the important thing is to prepare ourselves well for Lent by honestly examining our lives and recognizing where we need to ask Jesus for help to overcome our sins or to carry our crosses. We should also be committing ourselves to spending more time in prayer during Lent in order to grow in our relationship with Jesus.
I would encourage you to pray with the Gospel reading for Mass each day. You can find the daily Gospel reading for Mass on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website: usccb.org Along with the readings for the Mass, there is a short video reflection on the Gospel. You might also want to consider signing up for Bishop Barron’s daily Gospel reflections that come to your inbox each morning. You can sign up by visiting his website: wordonfire.org
Another important spiritual practice during Lent is to be attentive to the needs of the poor, the marginalized and the outcasts of society. As Christian disciples, it is our duty to love these people as Christ taught us and to minster to their needs. This Lent we have two wonderful opportunities to partner with Kolbe House Jail Ministry to serve prisoners at Cook County Jail.
Become a Prayer Partner. You will be “matched” with a Kolbe House “re-entry” client, an individual who was recently released from prison, and you will commit to praying for them during Lent. You will receive information about your partner and prayers throughout Lent. We need at least 25 partners by this Ash Wednesday, February 17, so please contact Kelly Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested.
Provide donations for care packages. We will be collecting white washcloths and puzzle books (crossword, sudoku, activities) to be included in care packages for women incarcerated at Cook County Jail. Ideally we would like to make 100 care packages. Please drop these items off to the parish office by March 19, or you can ship them to Kolbe House Care Packages, ℅ St. Josaphat Parish, 2311 N. Southport, 60614. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly Smith (email@example.com).
You will be in my prayers as we begin our Lenten season. I pray that this will be a wonderful time of spiritual renewal for all of us.God Bless,
February 7, 2021 - Prayer from the Heart
I know we all want to put on the brave face and tell each other we’re fine. But we’re not fine. Why would we be? We have all endured a brutal year. And things continue to be hard and don’t show signs of letting up anytime soon. So what do we do with all of this?
Bring it to Jesus! As Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus wants to help us carry our burdens and give rest and peace to our souls.
So I encourage you to pray to Jesus from your heart. Let him know what’s going on in your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. What are you thankful for? What are you worried or anxious about? Who are you carrying in your prayers? And what do you want to ask of Jesus? Where do you need his help? Where do you long to experience his love and mercy?
I have included a prayer diagram on Praying from the Heart. I encourage you to use it as a way of engaging in conversation with Jesus. (It is also on our website if you need a larger version, or multiple copies!) Always remember, Jesus is your friend who loves you. He wants you to share your heart with him. And he wants to celebrate with you in your joys and to comfort you in your sorrows and to help you carry your crosses. So open your heart to Jesus and let him give you rest.God Bless,
January 31, 2021 - Catholic Schools Week
This week the Archdiocese of Chicago is celebrating Catholic Schools Week. We should all be proud of our Catholic School System this year as our schools remained open during the COVID pandemic and safely continued in-person learning for our students. I am enormously grateful to Mrs. Mullens and Ms. Schekirke for their leadership this year. It has not been easy to navigate all of the challenges posed by this pandemic, but they have done a great job implementing the policies and procedures recommended by the Archdiocese of Chicago and by the Illinois and Chicago health departments. And they have done a tremendous job supporting our students, faculty and staff throughout the school year.
Our teachers have been truly amazing this year as they managed both in-person and online learning during the first half of the school year. Their dedication to their students and doing all that they can to help them learn and thrive is what makes St. Josaphat such a special place. I have been very inspired by my conversations with teachers this year, as I hear them talk about how happy they are to be in the classroom with the students. And I know all of our families are deeply grateful for the tremendous work our teachers do each day to make in-person learning possible.
I hope you all know how proud I am to be a pastor of a Catholic school. I believe passing on our Christian faith to our children is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as disciples. Mrs. Mullens and I, along with the entire faculty and staff, are deeply honored and humbled that you have entrusted your children to our care. It is a privilege to assist you in forming your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews in the Catholic faith and in their overall educational formation and development.
I am extremely proud of the work we do here at St. Josaphat. And I am especially proud of the exceptional young men and women that our students are becoming. They have great compassion and are dedicated to serving others as Christ taught us. I see it when I visit their classrooms; I witness it by the way they treat one another on the playground; and I have observed it through their efforts to raise money, collect donations and actively serve the neediest members of our local community.
We should all be very proud of our Catholic school. There is a lot to celebrate at St. Josaphat! I know we won’t be able to come together as a community as we normally would with tours of the school and excitement throughout the week. But I encourage all of our parishioners to at least take a moment to say a prayer for our students, faculty and staff that they may continue to have a safe, healthy and happy school year.God Bless,
January 24, 2020 - Pope Francis: "Sunday of the Word of God"
Pope Francis hopes the Bible will help the Church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.” On this Sunday of the Word of God, I hope we will respond to Pope Francis’s invitation to deepen our own appreciation for sacred scripture. It is the story of God’s people, which means it’s our story. It’s our history. A history of a people who suffered violence and persecution and were saved; a history of a people who sinned yet are redeemed.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the Bible is not hard to understand. One of the things I enjoy most about being a pastor is spending time in the classroom going over the readings for school Mass with the students. If our young 1st and 2nd Graders can grasp what’s happening in the readings, all of us can too, especially with all the wonderful translations available. If you’re looking for a good Bible even for adults, I highly recommend the Catholic Youth Bible. That’s the one I turn to most often. It is an excellent translation and it provides a ton of helpful commentary that connects what’s happening to our own lives.
An option to give you a “quick start” is the Bible in One Year app on BibleInOneYear.org, hosted by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel of Alpha. They share daily readings, thoughts and prayers to get you through the Bible in 365 days. There’s also an express edition and an edition for teens.
Another great way to get comfortable reading the Bible is to join our Breaking Open the Word session over Zoom on Tuesdays at 10:00 am. We read the scripture of the upcoming Sunday, attempt to decipher it with the guidance of Ellen Romer Niemiec, and discuss how it applies to our daily lives. Charles and Lindsay Phelps host a Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm. You can sign up on our website for the links and there is no obligation to attend every week.
I think it’s worth noting that Pope Francis promulgated today as the Sunday of the Word of God on the Feast Day of St. Jerome, who famously translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the common language of his day. Jerome wanted the Bible to be read by the masses, people of every walk of life. Because he recognized the power of the Word of God to change lives.
St. Jerome is quoted as saying, “To be ignorant of scripture is to be ignorant of Christ!” That’s something I definitely believe as well. The Bible is how we come to know Jesus. We need to spend time praying with the Bible and meditating on God’s word. As Pope Francis says, “let us never take God’s Word for granted but instead let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters.”God Bless,
January 17, 2021 - The Social Dilemma
Over the course of the documentary, they explained how each of their platforms were created to be intentionally addictive. This was to ensure profitability. But it also had unintended consequences. They watched as depression increased exponentially among young people as they desperately pursued to be “liked” online. And they noticed that their algorithms were leading people to get a sort of political “tunnel vision,” as the type of news presented to them was based off of what they liked or viewed the most.
As the social media creators lamented, what was originally intended to bring the world closer together has sadly had the opposite effect. We are becoming shockingly divided as a nation. They acknowledged that social media is the largest driver of the current crisis. And they are not at all hopeful about that changing anytime soon. That’s because their platforms seek to play off of our worst instincts, not our best.
That’s why all of these social media creators drastically limit the amount of screen time they allow their children to have each day. They monitor their children online and there are certain apps and social media platforms they won’t let their children engage. And almost none of them allow their children to have a smartphone.
The Social Dilemma documentary was an amazing eye opener for me. It helped me to understand how our country has gotten to its current state. And it has also shaped how I engage with technology and limit my own time spent online. As a result, I am more peaceful and I’m devoting more time to better pursuits like prayer and engaging in-person with family and friends.
I hope you will watch the film and make your own conclusions. But given the increased political tensions, recent violence at the Capitol and the toxic atmosphere online these days, I certainly encourage you to heed the advice of these social media executives and limit the amount of time you and your family spend online.
Let us also pray for a restoration of peace and civility in our nation. Peace begins by each of us taking responsibility for our words and our actions. As Christians, we must always keep in mind that we should strive to see Christ in others and try our best to be Christ for others. As Jesus taught, “they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.”
January 10, 2021 - God's Graces in 2020
This past year was a challenge for all of us as we navigated a global pandemic. However, even amidst the struggles that we faced as a parish, there were still a number of graces that we received that I would like to share with you.
Our 2020 Unity Gala was celebrated just before COVID-19 hit and was one of the most successful fundraising events we have had as a parish. It allowed us to improve our lighting in the church and purchase new desks for our school.
We were able to open the school year with both online and in-person learning. Mrs. Mullens and I have been enormously impressed with the resilience of our students who have managed all of the changes with incredible grace and a generous spirit. And our teachers have been working harder than ever to educate our students and keep everyone safe. They have truly gone above and beyond this year! Classes were back in session this past week. We are doing two weeks of remote learning, then transitioning our students back to the classroom for the remainder of the year. Please keep all of our students, faculty and staff in your prayers!
This fall we completed our To Teach Who Christ Is / Rebuilding our Home Capital Campaign. We successfully raised 99.8% of our $3,000,000 goal. The exterior tuckpointing, bathroom installation and majority of plaster repairs have been completed. We are still looking into recurring water damage by the sacristy; there is a possibility that moisture is entering in through the chimney. We are working with the Archdiocese of Chicago Facilities Department and with the previously-contracted construction and chimney companies to resolve the issue. Stay tuned for more information.
While our ability to welcome people to Mass has been limited because of social distancing protocols, we have transitioned to streaming our Masses over the internet. This has allowed us to continue ministering to parishioners who are remaining physically distanced. It has also allowed us to reconnect with former parishioners who have moved away. And many new people have discovered us online and have made St. Josaphat their spiritual home this past year.
Our online ministry has grown from the Mass to include multiple bible studies hosted by parishioners. Our Director of Evangelization Mary Jane Sullivan also successfully transitioned our Alpha course online. We have partnered with St. Vincent de Paul and St. Teresa of Avila parishes in hosting Alpha. Many of those joining us for Alpha have said they never would have been able to attend if it weren’t for the convenience of the online program. Our next Alpha starts Thursday, January 21st so please consider joining us. We already have 63 people registered for this upcoming Alpha! I would love for all of our parishioners to experience Alpha over the next few years.
So, as the old saying goes, “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our community. But I am enormously grateful for the creativity and ingenuity of our parish staff and our parishioners as we have transitioned some of our ministries online, found new ways to connect with our parishioners and welcomed many new people into our parish community.
I am excited about what this new year will bring. I am hopeful that the vaccines will be successful and will allow us to return to celebrating as a full parish community in the coming months. But I also hope we will be able to continue our online presence, growing our parish community and bringing even more people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.God Bless,
January 3, 2021 - The Tradition of Blessing Your Home on Epiphany
On the Feast of the Epiphany, in many cultures it is customary for the family to gather and ask God’s blessing on their home and on those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write +20 C M B 21+ above the home’s entrance. It can also be written somewhere inside the home. The letters C, M, B have two meanings: they are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar and they also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house. The “+” signs represent the cross and 2021 is the year.
If you would like to make this a tradition in your family, here’s a suggested format for the blessing:
Epiphany House Blessing
All make the Sign of the Cross.
Leader: Peace be to this house and to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
Reader: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
The Word of the Lord.
ALL: Thanks be to God
Using chalk, write above the front main entrance:
+20 Christus Mansionem Benedicat 21+ (May Christ bless this house) or
+20 Caspar Melchior Balthazar 21+ (the names of the Magi)
or +20 C M B 21+
All: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who live here and all who visit. May we be blessed with health, kindness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
December 27, 2020 - Merry Christmas!
As we come together at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are invited once again to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and to be drawn deeper into God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (JN 3:16)
Through the gift of his Son, God the Father is inviting us to experience his divine love. A love that is both life-giving and everlasting. But this love can only be received by entering into a relationship with Jesus. That’s why it is so important that, as disciples, we establish a life of prayer and come to know Jesus through the scriptures and the Catholic faith that has been handed down to us through the apostles and through the Church.
As disciples, we are called to invite others to come to know Jesus, to form a relationship with him and experience the same life-giving love that we have received from him in our baptism and continue to receive through the sacraments. That’s why Christmas cannot be reduced to an event that we celebrate once a year. Christmas has to be celebrated and lived out each and every day of our lives. We should constantly be sharing the gift of Jesus Christ with everyone we know: our family, our friends and the people around us.
At St. Josaphat Parish, our mission is to bring people into closer relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith by sharing the Good News through prayer, evangelization, service, liturgy and the sacraments. Because we want our parish to be a place where people encounter Jesus and feel God’s infinite love; a place where everyone feels welcome, especially those seeking Jesus for the first time; where our parishioners are formed and empowered to be missionary disciples. And we want our parishioners to feel comfortable talking about their faith and their relationship with Jesus, so that they can lead others to an encounter with him.
Living out this call to discipleship is not easy. Many of you reading this might not know if you’re ready to do that. And some of you might not feel as if you have a strong relationship with Jesus yet. If so, I invite you to attend our next Alpha Course which starts January 21st and will meet once a week over Zoom on Thursday nights from 7–8:30 pm. Sign up on our website.
Alpha is the perfect way to come to know Jesus, to learn more about our Christian faith and to experience the love and support of our community. Alpha was originally designed for people who know nothing about Jesus or Christianity. So you should feel comfortable inviting friends to join you who aren’t church-goers or who have no religious background at all.
And for those of you who feel as if you have a good faith life, I highly encourage you to attend Alpha as well. I went through it twice with my staff and with our Men’s Spirituality Group and loved it both times. The videos are extremely well done! And what I loved the most was getting to know my staff better and getting to know the men in my spirituality group and to share our thoughts about life, Jesus, and how each of us has wrestled with our faith.
So if you are looking for a way to not just celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas but to really get to know him and form a relationship with him, join Alpha! And invite a friend to do it with you. It will be the best gift you can give yourself or anyone else this Christmas!
December 20, 2020 - Year of Saint Joseph
Last week Pope Francis announced a special year dedicated to St. Joseph. Pope Francis said the coronavirus pandemic has heightened his desire to reflect on St. Joseph, as so many people during the pandemic have made hidden sacrifices to protect others, just as St. Joseph quietly protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.
In his letter “Patris Corde - With a Father’s Heart,” Pope Francis writes, “each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”Pope Francis also said he wanted to highlight St. Joseph’s role as a father who served his family with charity and humility, adding, “Our world today needs fathers.” Pope Francis writes, “In the Gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.”
The Year of St. Joseph is being celebrated from December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021. During this time, I encourage you to read Pope Francis’ letter, “With a Father’s Heart” and take some time to learn more about St. Joseph. Here are eight additional ways that you can celebrate the Year of St. Joseph:
- Meditate for 30 minutes on the Our Father
- Attend a spiritual retreat that includes a meditation on St. Joseph
- Carry out a corporal or spiritual work of mercy
- Recite the rosary with your family
- Entrust your day or work to St. Joseph by invoking his protection and intercession
- Pray to St. Joseph for persecuted Christians
- Recite any prayer in honor of St. Joseph
- For the elderly, the sick, and the dying: recite a prayer in St. Joseph’s honor and entrust your life and your discomforts to St. Joseph.
Here is a prayer that Pope Francis has written in honor of St. Joseph:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.
St. Joseph, Pray for us!
December 13, 2020 - Pastor 360 Review Update
A few months ago, the Archdiocese offered me the opportunity to participate in a Pastor 360 Review through the Center for Creative Leadership. The goal is for pastors to receive feedback from their staff, parish committees and parishioners to help identify areas of strength in our ministry, as well as areas for growth. Over the past two weeks, I received the final report from the Center for Creative Leadership and have met with a priest mentor to review the information and set goals for myself to work on.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute their feedback to my Pastor 360 Review. It was extremely helpful to hear from you and learn where you see my gifts and talents being put to use to the benefit of our parish, and where you would like to see me to continue to develop as your pastor.
I was overwhelmed by your many kind words of encouragement. I’m so grateful to know that so many of you value the work I do and that my ministry as a priest has made a difference in the lives of people I serve. I took that as a wonderful affirmation of my vocation to the priesthood and of the joy that I experience as pastor of St. Josaphat Parish. So thank you for your love and support!
There are a few areas that I will continue to develop in order to become a better pastor. I would like to do more to minister to my staff and help them grow as a team and deepen their faith lives. We are trying to meet more regularly over Zoom to foster a greater sense of teamwork while we continue to work remotely. We are also having regular Mornings of Prayer and Reflection for us to draw closer to Jesus.
The report indicated that many parishioners would like to have more opportunities to get to know me outside of the Mass. Obviously, this has been a bit harder this year because of COVID-19 and the need to socially distance ourselves from one another. However, I will plan for other creative ways to offer interaction. So be on the lookout for more information on virtual opportunities to meet in the months ahead.
As some of you noted, I have a tendency to come off as shy. This is true! I am an introvert at heart. But my passion and desire as a priest is to get to know my people and to be there for you whenever you need me. I greatly enjoy opportunities to meet with people one-on-one and in small gatherings to socialize, to talk about our faith and to be there for people who need to talk. So please don’t let my shyness be a hindrance to seeking me out. I will try my best to be more extroverted and outgoing in my interactions with people around the parish!
Please pray for me as I continue to develop my skills as a pastor. And know how grateful I am to be a part of this parish community.God Bless,
December 6, 2020 - Blessing of the Christmas Tree
Growing up, I loved lighting and decorating our family Christmas tree. My dad would always be the one who hung the lights, but I would help by testing the lights, laying out the strands and then holding the strands for him as we worked our way around the tree. My brothers and I would then help my dad hang the ornaments. Each year there were new ornaments to be hung, those we made in school. I could always tell whether or not I did a good job making an ornament based on where it was hung on the tree. And I am amazed at how many of the ornaments my brothers and I made are still around and make it onto my mom’s tree each year, along with newer additions from my nieces and nephews.
In a lot of ways, our Christmas tree tells our family history. There are very old and fragile ornaments that belonged to my grandmother. There are the mitten ornaments, one for each of my brothers and I that contain a silver dollar from the year we were born. There are the ornaments we made as kids. Ornaments from places that we have visited on family trips. And baby’s first Christmas ornaments that celebrate the births of my nieces and nephews.
As I look at my mom’s Christmas tree, it is filled with the memories of the many wonderful blessings God has bestowed upon my family. That’s why I love getting together each year with my family to decorate the tree. It’s a fun night to tell stories, to relive old memories and to make new ones as we hang out together and share some Christmas cheer.
I hope your tree is a beautiful reminder of how God has blessed you in your life too. May your heart be filled with God’s gifts of joy and peace as you decorate your tree this year.
Here is a Christmas Tree Blessing for you to use when you finish decorating your tree:
Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
let your blessing come upon us
as we decorate this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
November 29, 2020 - Preparing for Christmas During a Pandemic
But we can still prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus at Christmas. In fact, maybe the extra time to ourselves is an unexpected gift, which will allow us to deepen our relationship with Jesus. With that in mind, there are a few opportunities I would like to invite you to consider participating in during this Advent season to prepare yourself to welcome our Lord..
The first is our Nativity Nights. Nativity Nights are an opportunity for you to come and spend some time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration. The church will be open from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm every Tuesday night leading up to Christmas. The Eucharist will be present on the altar in the monstrance surrounded by candlelight. The lights in the church will be dimmed and there will be Advent music playing in the background. It will be a wonderful atmosphere for you to come and spend some quiet time in prayer with our Lord. I will also be available for the sacrament of reconciliation if you would like to go.
Our greeters will be there to welcome you at the door and lead you to a socially distanced pew, just as we do at every Sunday Mass. And they will sanitize the pew after you leave, to ensure that the seating area is ready for the next guest. This will be a very safe way for you to spend some time at prayer in the church this Advent season.
The second opportunity I want to share with you is to be part of a 26-day Advent retreat focused on the theme of joy. You can register to receive a morning email with a video reflection from Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa and Chris Stefanick. The Cardinal was the retreat master for the last three popes so this is your chance to join a retreat led by the official Preacher to the Pope! The link was included in last week’s JosaFAST, and is also available here:
The third opportunity I would like to invite you to participate in is to drop off Christmas cards and stamps for Kolbe House Jail Ministries, our Unity Award winner. Kolbe House will distribute the cards and stamps to people who are in jail and are separated from their families. Caring for those in prison is a corporal work of mercy. So I invite you to drop off cards and stamps at the back of church or at the parish office as your way of ministering to Christ in the imprisoned.
Through these simple opportunities for prayer and service, may we open our hearts to welcoming Jesus at Christmas.
November 15, 2020 - The Christian Life Matters
November 8, 2020 - St. Josaphat, Patron Saint of Unity
October 4, 2020 - Dealing with Anxiety in These Troubling Times
Let’s face it, 2020 has not been a good year for most of us. COVID-19 has caused us to be more isolated from one another due to social distancing. Or, on the flipside, it has caused us to spend way too much time together if we’re quarantined together and working from home. It has brought a huge financial burden to many businesses and families. We’ve also watched our country become increasingly divided because of political tensions that will keep escalating for the next several months. And we have seen our country roiling from racial tensions as we grapple with inequalities and injustices in our communities. It’s very difficult not to be disturbed by the news and feel anxious about what’s happening.
As I talk with the young and old, parishioners and acquaintances, the employed and unemployed, other pastors and mental health practitioners, one thing is consistent: people are struggling to cope. Many are dealing with anxiety and depression, several for the first time, or with much greater intensity and duration than before.
So what do we do about it? Realize you’re not alone! I think that is helpful to know. That’s why I felt it so important to write about this topic this week—because sometimes we might feel disappointed with ourselves if we can’t handle the stress or get better control of our emotions. It is normal to feel like we’re not in control in situations like we’re in. The beautiful opportunity in our environment today is that as believers in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to feel like it’s all up to us to handle our stress and emotions.
Bring what’s stressing you to the Lord. Jesus encourages us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Spend some time writing down what is causing you anxiety or to feel depressed. Where do you feel as if you’re not in control? What do you fear might happen? And then bring that list and those thoughts to God in prayer.
This is a huge chunk of what the Book of Psalms is all about. In that book, the psalmists open their hearts to God in prayer and let God have it! They let God know what’s causing them to be afraid, anxious, fearful and even angry. The psalmists have the ability to be honest with God in prayer because they trust that God is listening. And the psalmists know that God is not indifferent to the sufferings of his people.
Talk to someone you trust. I am always available to talk and to pray with people. And you may also want to talk to a mental health practitioner about how to cope with your anxiety and especially if you are struggling with depression. Reaching out for help and allowing others to listen to you and help you carry the burden can be enormously life giving.
I encourage you to not lose hope by remembering that we are a Resurrection people! The cross looked like the darkest moment in all of human history. But then it gave way to the joy of Easter morning. The same is true for the crosses and struggles in our lives too. Jesus is with us every step of the way. That’s why we can turn to Jesus in moments of deep sorrow or fear and find courage, strength and hope. He’s the good shepherd who leads us through the dark valleys and the barren deserts. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life who will lead us back to God and help us to rediscover our peace.
Never lose hope! Open your heart to God in prayer. And Jesus will show you the way.God Bless,
September 27, 2020 - St. Josaphat Parish Service Awards
Each year as we come together to celebrate the Feast of St. Josaphat, the Patron Saint of Christian Unity, we like to recognize the parishioners who have made an outstanding contribution to the life of our parish. These are the people who have given generously of their time and talents to truly make St. Josaphat Parish a “church to come home to.”
Awards are given in 6 different categories: Youth Ministry, Education, Prayer & Worship, Human Concerns, Parish Life and Lifetime Service. Qualifications are that the nominee must be a parishioner and must not have already received that particular award. Once a parishioner receives a Lifetime Award, they have reached the pinnacle of St. Josaphat Awards and are not eligible for the other categories.
Youth Ministry is presented to a youth or adult from our parish who is a model of faith for our young parishioners and demonstrates what it means to be connected with a community of believers.
Education award goes to a parishioner who teaches by example through their own commitment to their faith.
Prayer and Worship is awarded to our parish volunteers who help bring our weekly liturgies alive by their committed involvement.
Human Concerns is an area of parish life that reaches beyond our parish doors and out to our community.
Parish Life is for our volunteers who are involved with many different ministries in our parish. These men and women never say “no.” They show us what it looks like when you consider your parish your extended family.
Lifetime Service is given to a volunteer who embodies the overall unity of our parish. It is a person of deep faith and commitment to our parish in many areas of parish life.
Please prayerfully consider nominating any parishioner(s) you feel should be recognized for outstanding service to the parish and the broader community. Please email your nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to celebrating our parishioners and St. Josaphat—our Patron Saint—at the 10:00 am Mass on November 7th.God Bless,
September 20, 2020 - Supporting our Seminarians
This weekend our special collection is to support the education and formation of the seminarians studying to be priests. We have been very blessed to be a Teaching Parish for Mundelein Seminary. We have had two seminarians with us the past three years: Arthur Bautista, who was recently ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Nate Resila who was recently ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Albany, New York. Nate will be here this year serving our community as a deacon on the weekends, as he finishes his final year of studies before being ordained a priest in June.
This year we have been entrusted with the responsibility of helping to form another seminarian for the Archdiocese of Chicago—Andres Rojas, who is entering his 3rd Year of Theology. I have known Andres for many years. I was his Vocation Director while he was in the College Seminary and then when he entered Mundelein Seminary.
I am very excited to welcome him to our parish and assist in his formation for the priesthood. It is also a great sign of trust that Mundelein Seminary and the Archdiocese has placed Andres with us and has asked us to continue to be a Teaching Parish.
In light of the Seminary’s trust in us, I encourage you to be generous with this weekend’s special collection and help to financially support the education and formation of our seminarians. This is a very important job! It helps to ensure that all of our future priests are well-educated and well-trained for ministry.
P.S. Please see Andres’s biography below as he introduces himself to our parish.
My name is Andres Alejandro Rojas. I am a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Chicago studying in my third year of theology at Mundelein Seminary. I was born in Los Angeles, California but I grew up in Chicago. My father is from Puebla, Mexico and my mother is from El Salvador. I am the second youngest of six children and all of us still live close to Chicago.
I went to Walter Payton College Prep for high school and it was during this time that I began to consider the call to priesthood. My family has always been very involved at my home parish of Our Lady of Mercy in Albany Park. Since we moved to Chicago we have enjoyed serving and volunteering in the community. The needs of the church and the example of the pastor began to stir in me the desire to give more of myself to God. With this desire in mind, I began to pray more intentionally, and with the help of my pastor I entered St. Joseph College Seminary in 2010.
My formation at the college seminary helped me learn more about the Church and about myself. During this time I would meet some of my best friends who shared in the desire to serve and join the priesthood. In 2014, I graduated from Loyola University and entered Mundelein Seminary. I had the opportunity to intern at St. Paul in Chicago Heights and to serve as the Children’s Hospital Chaplain at Sinai Health Systems in Chicago. As I entered my third year at Mundelein, I recognized in myself various attachments and unanswered questions that were preventing me from fully committing myself to Christ and his Church. After a semester of a pastoral year, I decided to step out of seminary formation in 2017.
I spent two years out of seminary living and working with my family. I worked as a barista at a French café and a tea shop. I also worked with my parents to help them start their own business. During all of this the question of priesthood had never left my heart. I began to once again participate at Our Lady of Mercy in the youth group and at other events. With the help of my pastor, Fr. Nick Desmond, I began to rediscover my prayer life and love for parish ministry.
After a time of discernment, I wanted to find more clarity about my vocation and the call to priesthood. So at the suggestion of the vocation director, I entered the Spirituality Year with the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2019. It was a yearlong program designed to help a prospective seminarian strengthen his relationship with Christ and to commit more intentionally to a life of chastity and service. As I completed the Spirituality Year, I made a 30-day silent retreat with the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. This experience helped me to surrender, trust and love Christ even more.
These experiences helped me settle some of these questions and challenges that had previously troubled me and to find my strength and resolve in the love that Christ has for me and his Church.
Now I am once again starting my third year at Mundelein Seminary with hope and faith in what Christ has for me in my future. I am honored to be at St. Josaphat and I hope to learn more of what it means to be a parish priest. I thank you for your prayers and ask that together we continue to pray for more vocations.
Andres Alejandro Rojas, 3rd Year Seminarian
September 13, 2020 - Adding Masses at St. Josaphat
Now that summer has come to an end and families are back at home, we are looking to add the 5:00 pm Saturday Vigil Mass to our weekend Mass schedule. However, in order to do this safely, we need to have volunteers who are willing to serve as greeters to welcome parishioners when they arrive, sanitize their hands and lead them to their assigned seats. And we need volunteers to serve as cleaners after Mass who will sanitize the pews to make them safe for parishioners attending our next Mass. If you are interested in being trained to serve as a volunteer at our 5 pm Saturday Mass or our Sunday 10 am Mass, please contact Kelly Smith at email@example.com or Tina Smat at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also offering more opportunities to join us for Mass online. Starting this week, we will be livestreaming our School Masses Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Mass will begin at 8 am. You are welcome to join us online via our Facebook page. You can also find the link to our weekday morning Masses on our parish website.
Friday mornings we offer the opportunity to attend Mass in person. Our Mass for the public is at 8 am. You can reserve a spot on our parish website. This is a wonderful opportunity for our older or more at-risk parishioners to attend Mass when there are far fewer people in church. Our Friday morning Mass crowd has typically been 8–12 people in person.
And we are continuing to have the church open for prayer and reconciliation on Tuesday nights from 7–8 pm. This is a wonderful way to be in church and enjoy the peace that comes from spending some time with the Lord.
These are very stressful times for all of us as we try to navigate the Covid situation and the social, political and economic unrest in our society. I highly encourage you to take some time during your week to find a way of resting with our Lord in prayer. Connect with us online or in person. And be on the lookout for more opportunities for Mass and prayer as we move forward.God Bless,
September 6, 2020 - Costly Grace
I recently came across a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a German pastor who wrote the classic work, “The Cost of Discipleship,” in 1937 as the
Nazi regime was building in Germany. He was an outspoken critic of Hitler who was eventually killed in a concentration camp on April 9, 1945 one month before
He writes, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church
discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy, for which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to
stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the
life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear
a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
My brothers and sisters, what stands out for you in that
quote and why?
For me, it was the reminder of how much God has sacrificed to prove his love for me. I have been bought at a great price. Being reminded of that makes me wonder, how much of myself am I willing to give back to God out of love? Or do I look for the cheap grace? Is that all I really want? Or am I willing to give my whole life to God? Am I ready to dive into the depths of God’s love for me and take the risk and the adventure of becoming Jesus’ disciple?
Where is your faith right now? Do you want the costly grace or the cheap grace?Your Brother in Christ,
September 3, 2020 - Pastor Letter on Recent Shootings
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Far too often these past few months we have witnessed the injustices inflicted upon our brothers and sisters of color. We have seen the number of shootings in this city rise each weekend. We experienced the shocking killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of the police. And we most recently watched as Jacob Blake was shot seven times in front of his children. We must cry out for justice. We must work for peace. We must demand changes by those who hold positions of authority.
This is not a political argument. It is a moral imperative. It is a Gospel mandate. Jesus reminds us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) And St.Paul tells us that we are all members of the Body of Christ. Therefore, “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
That is why we can say, “Black Lives Matter.” Our brothers and sisters of color matter to us, precisely because they are a part of the Body of Christ. Their pain is our pain. When we see their suffering and witness the injustices they experience by systemic racism and the inequalities in our country, particularly within the justice system, we must speak up and defend our brothers and sisters. We cannot be indifferent to their suffering. To do so would be to allow great violence to be inflicted upon the Body of Christ.
What can we do here and now to address these issues and respond as Christians? A great many things! We must pray for peace. We must pray for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit the Consoler to heal our troubled nation. We must speak to our children about the dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God. We must teach them that hate has no place in the life of a Christian. We must teach them to stand up in defense of the poor and marginalized, as Christ taught us. And we must not tolerate racism, bigotry or any other kind of attitude that seeks to diminish others or destroy the peace and unity that should be found in the Body of Christ.
Our mission to heal our country begins in our homes, the place where we first learn to love, to trust and to serve. And we must carry our mission into our schools, our neighborhoods and our places of work. We must bring the Good News that everyone is loved by God into every corner of our world still caught in the darkness of sin and despair.
Make no mistake, this will not be easy. Calling out injustice, challenging systems of hatred and oppression, will not win us friends. Jesus challenged the leaders and the attitudes of those in power and suffered greatly because of it, even to the point of condemnation and death. We should expect to experience the cross in our lives too if we seriously commit ourselves to working for justice. For “no servant is greater than their master.” (John 13:16)
It is only by embracing the cross and laying down our lives for others that our efforts will bear much fruit. For love always involves sacrifice. That is why, if we truly love Jesus Christ, we will make the sacrifices necessary to defend and serve our brothers and sisters in need. We will not remain silent to their pain nor ignore their pleas for justice. We will stand with them and join our voices to theirs as a unified Body of Christ. This is what it means to belong to the Kingdom of God. This is what is expected of every Christian disciple. It is time for us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus!Your Brother in Christ,
August 30, 2020 - Tuesday Night Prayer & Adoration
On Tuesday nights, our church is open for Prayer and Eucharsitic Adoration from 7–8 pm. I am also available during that time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to stop in and pray and to enjoy some quiet time with our Lord.
With so much unrest in the world right now, many people who have come on Tuesdays have stopped to tell me how much this time of prayer means to them. They have told me how grateful they are to be able to get away from the noise and anxieties of the world and to be alone with God and pray in our church. Others have told me that they come to pray for peace and to look to our Lord for healing for our world.
If you’re having a hard time with all that’s going on in the world right now, know that you’re not alone. Our community is here to support you and our doors are open on Tuesday nights for you to come and spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist. As our Lord reminds us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I was also recently moved by a quote from Mother Theresa on the importance of Eucharistic Adoration. She wrote, “The Eucharist is connected with the Passion. If Jesus had not established the Eucharist we would have forgotten the crucifixion. It would have faded into the past and we would have forgotten that Jesus loved us...To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of his love. When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then, when you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
That’s why I invite you to come and spend some time with Jesus in the Eucharist on Tuesday nights and be reminded of his great love for each and every one of us. May we bring that love into our world and be instruments of his peace.God Bless,
August 23, 2020 - Re-Opening Our Schools
Next week all of the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be re-opening. As you can imagine, this decision has not been made lightly. Since June, when Cardinal Cupich shared his intent to reopen our schools, the Archdiocese has made in-person learning its top priority, but only if it could be done safely.
An entire team of dedicated Archdiocesan staff has been working since April on a strong, health-and-safety-focused plan overseen by local medical experts. The plan aligns with all of the guidance from the City of Chicago, Cook County and State of Illinois Health Departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our SJS Team has been doing everything possible to implement the plan to make our school building welcoming and safe for our children. We have also been developing educational plans to allow for in-person learning as well as virtual or e-learning. We recognize that not all of our students will choose to return to school because of individual health concerns.
These are truly unprecedented times for all of us. The challenges COVID-19 presents are real. We must have the humility to acknowledge that we may have to adjust these plans if needed. But, with God’s grace, we will learn together and adapt together.
I would like to make a special note of thanks to our Principal Nel Mullens and to our teachers and staff who have been putting in an enormous amount of work to prepare for this new school year. I ask that you join me in praying for them and for all of our school families. This will be a year full of challenges as well as new opportunities for growth and development. May God bless all of our students, faculty and staff as we enter into this new year together.God Bless,
August 16, 2020 - Bring to Others What You Contemplate
This past week we celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominicans. I have a great love for St. Dominic because I am a proud product of Dominican education. I went to St. Vincent Ferrer Grade School and Fenwick High School. And when I was at the University of Dallas, the Dominicans ran our Campus Ministry.
The Dominican community is composed of priests, brothers, sisters and lay members. You may be aware of famous Dominican saints like Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima.
One of St. Dominic's mottos for his community was, “bring to others what you contemplate.” I find this short admonition to be both incredibly simple and profound all at the same time. It gets to the very heart of what evangelization is all about and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The first point is that we need to be men and women of prayer. Praying with Scripture or the readings of the Mass should be a normal part of our lives. It’s from praying with the Bible that we open our minds to contemplating the mysteries of our faith. It’s through those quiet moments in prayer that the Holy Spirit speaks to us today. What was God doing with his people or in the life of his Son as I read these passages? Where do I see myself in their story? What is God saying to me today? This is contemplation! This is essential to the Chirstian life!
That’s why Saint Jerome famously said, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” That’s why contemplation is essential to the Christian life. We cannot know Christ if we don’t take time to know him. We must meditate on his Word, his teachings, his actions and allow him to speak to us today through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit when we pray with Scripture.
Then, as disciples with a mission to spread the Gospel, we should as Dominic instructs, “bring to others what we contemplate.” This is what it means to evangelize. Where do you find God in your life? How is this relationship with Jesus that you have cultivated through prayer and contemplation making a difference in your life? How have you become aware of his love for you and his presence in your life?
My brothers and sisters, share that Good News with others! Share what you find beautiful and meaningful in our Catholic faith. Share what you contemplate! Do not be afraid to share the fruits of your prayer. What could be a more meaningful or intimate conversation than sharing how you’ve come to know God and have experienced his love?
We waste so much time talking about nonsense: sports, the weather, TV shows, etc. Let’s talk to each other, to our friends and to our family about what really matters. Let’s talk about our faith. Do not be afraid! Take a small risk and “bring to others what you contemplate.”God Bless,
August 9, 2020 - Finding God Amidst the Storms of Life
In today’s Gospel, the Apostles are in their boat headed across the lake when a storm suddenly comes upon them and the wind and the waves begin to batter their boat. Even though many of them were experienced fishermen, they were afraid because of the intensity of the storm. Their safety was in doubt and they faced the very real possibility of sinking and drowning.
Jesus sees them struggling and comes to them. He comes to calm their fears and to save them from the storm. He even allows Peter to join him walking on the water. As long as Peter keeps his eyes focused on the Lord, he walks on the water. His faith is stronger than the storm. But when he focuses on the wind and the waves, his fear returns and he begins to sink.
The lesson is clear for all of us. We all face different storms in our lives. Right now, we are all facing storms brought on by: COVID, reopening schools, economic challenges, social unrest, political unrest, etc. It’s easy to focus on these storms and to feel overwhelmed by them. It’s easy to become fearful of what might happen to us or to those we love. But rather than focus on the storm, the problem, the sudden loss of control we feel, we should instead focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s in those moments that we should ask the Lord to be with us, to give us courage, to help us to remember that, with Jesus at our side, we are greater than any storm we might face in life.
How do we turn to the Lord? Through prayer. Not just by reciting a rote memorized prayer but by opening our hearts to the Lord. Cry out with all your heart! Talk to Jesus as you would talk to a friend. Let him know your fears, your doubts, where it is you are struggling. Ask him for the courage and the strength to overcome the storm and to calm your heart and your mind and to restore your peace and your confidence.
We can turn to the Lord in prayer in the quiet of our rooms, when we take a walk or as we sit in our garden. We can also come and sit with the Lord when we come to church for prayer and Adoration on Tuesday nights from 7-8pm. And the best way to encounter the Lord is when we receive him in the Eucharist at 10am Mass on Sunday or on Friday mornings at 8am.
It’s also there at the Mass that we experience the love and support of our community. We never have to go through our storms alone. We belong to a parish to walk through life together as disciples, as beloved sons and daughters of God our father, and as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Loving each other as Christ taught us; forgiving one another as he taught; and lifting each other up as he taught us.
We all face storms from time to time. But with God’s grace, and our faith in Jesus Christ, we can overcome them together. As a parish community united in faith, we can help each other to keep our eyes focused on the Lord.God Bless,
August 2, 2020 - Tuesday Holy Hour & Friday Mass
July 26, 2020 - Pope Francis - How to discern if God or Satan is speaking
Last summer I spent a month in Jerusalem doing a 30 day retreat with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was a fantastic experience, one that continues to shape my priesthood. St. Ignatius was blessed with tremendous insights into the spiritual life. In addition to the spiritual exercises that he developed, he also created the “Rules of Discernment.” These rules help people to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of Satan. As you can imagine, these two voices are leading us in very different directions and for different purposes. God wants to lead us into a relationship with, which in turn leads to joy and freedom. Satan, on the other hand, wants to lead us away from God and into isolation and desolation.
Given these two very different objectives, one would think it would be easy to discern between these two voices. But Satan was once an angel of light and knows how to deceive us. That’s why St. Ignatius developed his rules to help us recognize these different voices and movements in us more clearly.
Recently, Pope Francis gave an excellent exhortation summarizing Ignatius’ Rules. I have been sharing it with people who come to me for Spiritual Direction and I thought it would be good to share it with the parish as well. Pope Francis lists 8 questions we should ask ourselves:
1. AM I STILL FREE?
The voice of God never forces us: God proposes Himself, He does not impose Himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient.
2. AM I BEING FLATTERED?
At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope.
3. AM I LOOKING FORWARD?
The voice of God is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of evil leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.
4. AM I IN THE PRESENT MOMENT?
Another difference. The voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past – the enemy does not want the present – it brings to the surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, many bad memories. Instead, the voice of God speaks to the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can renounce the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.
5. IS IT ABOUT MY EGO?
Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. That which comes from God will be: “What is good for me?” Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?” What I feel like: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like the tantrums of a child: everything, and now. The voice of God, instead, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego to find the true good, peace.
6. WHAT AFTERTASTE DOES IT LEAVE?
Let us remember: evil never gives us peace, it causes frenzy first and leaves bitterness later. This is the style of evil.
7. AM I SEEKING LIGHT OR HIDING?
The voice of God and that of the tempter, finally, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency.
8. AM I LED TO TRUST?
The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no-one understands and listens to you, don’t trust anyone!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others.
Pope Francis’ eight points are very important to keep in mind, especially as we wrestle with decisions and as we move through these uncertain times. I encourage you to print these points off and keep them somewhere so you can look back on them often. With St. Ignatius’ helps let us learn to reject the voices that seek to isolate us and turn us inward on ourselves. And learn to recognize the voice of God that calls us to trust, to be generous and to build relationships with the people around us.God Bless,
July 19, 2020 - The Mission of the Parish
July 12, 2020 - We Have A Mission
We all share in that mission. Jesus expects each of us to make that mission our own and to share this good news with others in the context of our lives. What that looks like for me will be different from what it looks like for a young person in their teens or a married couple with three kids or for one of our Boomers. We each have different gifts and we are at different points in our lives and spiritual journeys. As St. Paul says, “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Corinithians 12:4-11)
So regardless of where we are in life, God wants to work through each of us to proclaim the Gospel for the benefit of those around us. To be his witnesses in the world, to bear fruit and to build the Kingdom of God. That is our mission as baptized Christians.
To help re-instill that sense of mission, you’ll be hearing a lot from me throughout the year about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a member of St. Josaphat Parish. I also want to know your expectations of our parish, and how we can best serve you. Next Sunday I will explore that a bit more, but I thought we would start with what we at St. Josaphat expect of our parishioners: Worship, Serve, Grow & Give.
Worship - We expect our parishioners to come to Mass every Sunday either in person or online. This is not a Fr. Francis rule. This is an expectation from God, “Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath.” We come to church on Sunday to worship and praise God for the many gifts and blessings he has bestowed upon us in life and continues to bestow on us through the sacraments, most especially through the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we participate in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection and accept Jesus into our lives when we receive his body and blood. That’s why the Eucharist is considered, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” And by coming together as a community, we are reminded that we are called to be the Body of Christ in our world and to serve one another as Christ taught us.
Serve - We expect our parishioners to serve our parish community. As a friend recently put it to me, “Don’t just sit in the boat. Pick up an oar and row!” Being a parishioner is not a passive engagement with the Church. The Church has a mission and you’re a part of making that mission a reality. We need you. And we expect you to be an active and engaged member of this parish. You each have gifts and talents that God has blessed you with. Share them with the community. If you enjoy singing, join the choir. If you play an instrument, talk to Joe about playing with him at Mass. If you’re comfortable with public speaking, be a lector. Volunteer with Don’s Helping Hands by making sandwiches or handing out lunches to our guests. Lead a Bible study or start a faith sharing group. Get involved with our Finance Council or Facilities Committee. And if you like working with kids, consider helping with our Roots Youth Group or Religious Education program. Bottom line, if you have time you’re willing to give or a talent you’re willing to share, we’ll find a way for you to get involved in our parish. Just email me, and I will connect you. FrFrancis@stjosaphatparish.org
Grow - We expect our parishioners to keep growing in their relationship with God. Throughout the year we host a myriad of opportunities for people to come together and explore their faith and worship together. We offer Alpha, bible studies, the Men’s Spirituality Group and Women’s Group, Nativity Nights, our Lenten Parish Mission, Taize, etc. We want our parishioners to take advantage of these opportunities and grow in their relationship with God. There should never come a point when we feel like our relationship is “good enough.” Our God is a God of infinite love, infinite goodness and infinite mercy. He’s always looking for opportunities to draw us deeper into a relationship with Him. There’s always room for growth!
I hope these expectations make sense and illustrate how each of us is called to serve the Church and embrace the mission that Christ gave us. We will talk more about what it means to be missionary disciples throughout the year in homilies, bulletin articles and in sacramental preparation with parents and students in the school and religious education program.
My hope is that by working together we can claim our sense of mission as baptized Christians, that we can create a culture where every parishioner knows that they are important and valued, and that we can share our God-given gifts by building God’s Kingdom.
Your Brother in Christ,
June 21, 2020 - Happy Father's Day
I would like to wish all of the men in the parish a Happy Father’s Day! I hope today is a joyful day for all of the fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and men in our parish who have had a positive influence on our children. Your hard work, dedication and good example are greatly appreciated! May God continue to bless you with the graces you need to live out your vocation as husbands and fathers.
I would also like to offer my sincere prayers for all those who might find Father’s Day a bit difficult. Some of us never had a chance to know our fathers. Some of us might not have had the types of relationships we wanted with our fathers. And there are many of us, like myself, whose fathers have already passed away. So please be assured of my prayers for all of you. Our Masses this weekend will be offered for our all of fathers, both living and deceased.
Here is a prayer for you to pray for your fathers and husbands this weekend:
you entrusted your Son Jesus,
the child of Mary,
to the care of Joseph,
an earthly father.
Bless all fathers
as they care for their families.
Give them wisdom and strength,
tenderness and patience,
and let their faith and love
shine forth for their children.
And grant that we, their sons and daughters,
may always show them the love and respect they deserve.
Happy Father’s Day,
June 14, 2020 - Welcoming People Back to Church
I look forward to seeing all of you again soon!
June 7, 2020 - Deacon Arthur Bautista
June 3, 2020 - The Golden Rule
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
It is with great sadness that I write to you. By now we are all aware of the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd while in police custody. The video of Mr. Floyd lying helpless on the ground begging for help as he struggled to breathe is excruciating and heartbreaking to watch.
It is also with great sadness that we have watched peaceful protests turn violent in our city and others across the nation. The destruction by an angry few have marred this important moment for us to reflect on the tragic history of racism and inequality in our country.
There is an obvious desire to rush to a return to normalcy. For things to calm down and go back to the way things were. But that would be to ignore the problem. The way things were was broken. It is precisely the status quo in race relations and the way African-Americans and other people of color are forced to go about their daily lives that is prompting protestors to demand a change.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge the pain, the fear and the confusion we are experiencing in this moment and to see it as an opportunity to enter into solidarity with those who are treated differently because of their skin color. In this brief moment, we are experiencing just a small taste of what it is like to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes.”
But where do we go from here? How can we be the change?
The answer lies in our Catholic faith. Jesus teaches us to follow the Golden Rule, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) And again Jesus teaches us, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
If we want to see real changes in our country and in our world, we need to honor and respect each and every person we encounter. To treat them as we would want ourselves to be treated. Or even better, to treat each and every person as if they were Jesus Christ. This is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. That’s why Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) It is most especially in the poor, the marginalized and those different from us that Jesus wants us to see him. He wants us to love them as we would love him.
Our world will be healed when we live our Christian faith out to the full and teach others to do the same. That’s why we have to use our prophetic voices to challenge society when we see people being discriminated against and marginalized. We have to work for peace and justice not just for ourselves but for everyone.
Let this moment be a wake up call for us as to what it truly means to be Catholic and a disciple of Jesus Christ. The world needs us to step up. It is especially now that the world needs the Catholic Church. Catholic means to be universal. The Catholic Church reaches out all over the globe. We have disciples in nearly every nation on earth. Men, women and children of every race and skin color. We are blessed by our wonderful diversity while still maintaining our incredible unity. By the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved. And he has commanded us to bring that Gospel, that Good News, to all the world. To proclaim to all peoples that we have been made brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and beloved sons and daughters of God our Father. We are united in love.
May we proclaim that truth boldly and loudly! And may we make the Prayer of St. Francis our mantra during this time of darkness so as to bring light, hope and healing to our world.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May 31, 2020 - Congratulations to Our Graduates!
May 24, 2020 - Memorial Day
May 17, 2020 - Celebrating the Sacraments
The Archdiocese of Chicago in consultation with government officials and health experts is working on policies and procedures to slowly open our churches for the celebration of the sacraments and for personal times of prayer. I am currently recruiting volunteers from the parish to help us open the church and maintain a clean, healthy and safe worship environment. We will be going through a mandated Archdiocesan training program on how to properly sanitize the church to ensure that all of our parishioners experience a clean (yet welcoming) space when they come to pray or celebrate the sacraments.
We will be opening the church by phases. There are strict criteria that need to be met in order to open and hold services. In the first phase, we are limited to 10 people in church for prayer or to celebrate the sacraments. Consequently, we will not be getting back to our normal celebration of our Sunday liturgies for quite some time. We will begin with more manageable celebrations like baptisms, reconciliation, funerals and weddings for 10 people or less. And we will be working on offering opportunities for up to 10 parishioners to come and pray for short times. All of this will happen gradually and in accordance with all of the policies and procedures outlined by the Archdiocese of Chicago in consultation with state and local authorities.
I thank all of you for your patience during this time. Your health and safety are very important to me. So I want to assure you that we will do everything that the Archdiocese asks of us to open our church safely. We will be sending emails and posting information to our website and social media with the information you will need about when the church will be open, what to expect when you come to church, and how you should prepare yourselves for entering the church and practicing healthy distancing while you are here.
However, I also recognize that not everyone is going to feel comfortable coming back to church right away, even with the safety protocols in place. Many of you may decide to continue to shelter in place and practice more stringent social distancing either out of precaution for yourselves or those you love.
If this is your plan, I want to especially remind you that you don’t need to come to church to celebrate the sacraments. You are already living the sacraments each day as you go about your lives. When you exercise charity and concern for family, friends and neighbors, you are living out your baptism in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. When you offer forgiveness to a family member, friend or roommate who trespassed against you, you extend the mercy of Christ to them and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When you exercise wisdom, prudence, temperance, right judgment or courage in dealing with this pandemic and making decisions to protect yourself and others, you are using the gifts the Holy Spirit gave you in the Sacrament of Confirmation. And when you show your spouse or your children love and take care of each other during this trying time, you are most definitely living out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
In short, the sacraments are not prizes to be handed out in church. Disciples are meant to be the very embodiment of the sacraments they received. You are already living a sacramental life right now. The Eucharist, as the source and summit of our faith, helps us to be filled with grace to keep living a sacramental life. But we are not devoid of the sacraments without it. Indeed, many Christians around the world do not have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist on a regular basis because of a lack of priests, religious persecution or because of other obstacles, like pandemics, that make frequent reception of communion impossible. But they still live sacramental and saintly lives nonetheless.
I eagerly look forward to celebrating the Eucharist with all of you as soon as possible. But we must proceed with prudence and with caution. We will follow every guideline that the Archdiocese of Chicago and our government leaders and health experts advise. Not because politicians tell us to, but because Jesus does, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends... this I command you: love one another.” At St. Josaphat Parish we will continue to show our love for one another by how we care for each other during this pandemic. That means following the advice of health professionals and doing all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy worship environment when we gather for prayer and to celebrate the sacraments together.
I look forward to sharing more information as we plan for the reopening our church.
May 10, 2020 - Happy Mother's Day!
May 3, 2020 - Finding God Amidst the Delays
April 26, 2020 - Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos Challenge
April 19, 2020 - Guest Column by Deacon Jack Staub on Divine Mercy Sunday
In 1930s Poland, a nun from a poor farming family, Sr. Faustina, had a vision of Jesus in which he asked her to have a painting made of him with red and white rays coming from his heart. For many years she continued to receive messages from Jesus focusing on his Divine Mercy. She kept a diary of what she heard. Then Pope John Paul II declared Sr. Faustina a Saint in 2000 and declared that the second Sunday of Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday.
That doesn't mean that we just discovered that God is merciful. We embrace Divine Mercy because it is a particular trait of God. He is merciful and has always been.
Is this the view of God that we have? We may think that mercy and justice are opposed to each other but they are not. They are intimately tied together. We cannot know mercy without justice. Does mercy mean that if I don't study for a class the merciful thing for the teacher is to give me a good grade? Of course not, because that would say there's no need to study.
Mercy is when love meets sorrow and attempts to remove the sorrow. Mercy can only exist because of injustice. In the situation we’re in right now, there are a lot of opportunities for mercy.
Think about the parable where workers went to work in the field. Some started early in the day and others started later in the day yet they all got paid the same. This seems like injustice to the workers who started early in the day. If that happened today there might be a lawsuit!
But the workers who arrived late have the same needs to provide for themselves as the early workers. The landowner, in mercy, met their needs, but he paid the price. Mercy involves someone paying the price for injustice.
Divine Mercy is the remedy for the misery of sin, which is a barrier to knowing the true love of God. Have you ever done anything that made you think you were beyond God's mercy? Like, “I blew it and there is no way back.”
In the parable of the Prodigal son, the younger son thought he had done something that was beyond forgiveness, yet his father offered mercy that is possible only with great love. Sometimes we can think that our sin is stronger than God’s mercy. That isn’t true or even possible. God’s mercy is infinitely stronger than our sins.
The ways of God are meant to open us up to love in ways that will lead us to conversion of our heart and mind. This happens when we stop saying to God "I have a better plan.” God always wants our return to him to be easy. He wants to take away the burden that sin puts upon us. He isn't looking to humiliate us when we return to him, but he happily welcomes us home
We have to be open to receiving God’s mercy. Jesus tells St. Faustina “Let my mercy in to act on your soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul.” God desires that we receive his grace and mercy, yet it’s our doubts and sin that keeps us from accepting all that he offers us.
What can we do to receive his Divine Mercy? First, we should recognize our need for it. We can show this most especially in the sacrament of reconciliation (when it again becomes available to us.) Do we think we're beyond God's forgiveness? Divine Mercy shows us that it is impossible to be beyond God's mercy and forgiveness.
We can bring God’s love to many by showing mercy in our own lives. God's mercy is so against what we see in our world that it will stand out and people will be drawn to it like a bear to honey. Our sin is so weak compared to God’s Divine Mercy.
Know that God loves you and desires that you know him and love him. There is nothing that we can do that changes who God is. He always wants us and he shows it through his Divine Mercy.
April 12, 2020 - The Empty Tomb
Have a Happy Easter,
April 4, 2020 - Celebrating Holy Week as a Parish, and as an Archdiocese
March 28, 2020 - Being Reconciled To God During COVID-19
Given that our churches are closed and a stay-at-home order is in effect:
- Individual confessions are currently not possible; this includes virtual or phone confessions, which are never permissible, nor drive-thru confessions. Despite the good intentions around such novelty, we must attend to our underlying theological tradition of the sacrament, as well as support the stay-at-home order and its intended purpose – to keep people safe in their homes at this time.
- In keeping with longstanding pastoral practice when penitents’ access to the sacrament is restricted, they can be assured that their sins are forgiven if they make an act of contrition with a firm resolve to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
- The faithful should be encouraged to pray particular prayers or meditate on passages of the bible that you recommend to assist them in seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God and the grace of reconciliation.
- The Holy See has made clear with a recent decree concerning the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the Apostolic Penitentiary that the conditions for general absolution have not been met. The decree states that the primary place it would be permitted is in a hospital ward. However, our hospitals are not currently set up for this possibility. At the same time, any thought of using general absolution in a parish is moot given that gatherings of people in our churches are not permitted.
In short, it is not possible to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest at this time. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t know our hearts and our desire for repentance. The Lord hears us whenever we call on him in faith.
Here are some scripture passages that you might find helpful in praying to God for mercy and forgiveness of your sins:
- Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2
- For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9b
- Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-8
There are literally hundreds of passages in sacred scripture that speak of God’s never-ending mercy. And we know the season of lent is all about returning to the Lord with our whole heart. Our lenten hymn reminds us, “Return to Me with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy, come seek the tender faithfulness of God.”
My brothers and sisters, I pray that you may experience the tender mercy of God as we prepare for Easter. And know of my continued prayers for all of you as we journey together through this health crisis. I eagerly look forward to the day when we can celebrate the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation together as a community.
March 20, 2020
March 13, 2020