Letters from Fr. Francis

During these challenging times, St. Josaphat Parish is here for you! My hope is that this will actually be a time of spiritual renewal for all of us. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” May our time apart from our Eucharistic celebration increase our love for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and renew our appreciation for the great privilege of being able to gather as a faith community and celebrate together. Until then, we will be offering opportunities to virtually gather in community and sharing resources with you on our website and through email. Some of them area available in the menu to the right.
 
I am always available to talk on the phone or though FaceTime/Zoom, just send me an email frfrancis@stjosaphatparish.org to coordinate.
 
Fr. Francis

Letters from Fr. Francis:

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,
Fr. Francis
 

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: office@stjosaphatparish.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,
Father Francis

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.

God Bless,
Fr. Francis

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

 

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 kellyqtml@yahoo.com  or Tina Smat at office@stjosaphatparish.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,
Father Francis

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
Germany surrendered.

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,
Fr. Francis

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,
Fr. Francis
 

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,
Fr. Francis

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,
Fr. Francis

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,
Fr. Francis

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,
Father Francis
As you know, we have reopened for Sunday 10:00 am Mass and we can host up to 115 people in church for our service. It has been wonderful seeing people back in church again! And I am delighted that Frs. Chris Robinson and Dominic Grassi will be back in the rotation for presiding at Mass. It will be great to have them leading our parish in worship and sharing their homilies with us again.
 
Our seminarian Nate Resila is scheduled to be ordained a deacon on September 5th in Albany, New York. Please keep him in your prayers! I look forward to having him serve with us this year as he continues to prepare for his ordination to the priesthood. Nate will have opportunities to preach on Sundays and celebrate baptisms, as Fr. Arthur did last year.
 
I am also happy to announce that we have two additional opportunities for people to come to church and pray. On Tuesdays we are open from 7:00 - 8:00 pm for Prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Please register through the links (on our website) if you would like to attend. Walk-ins are also welcome. You can stop in for a few minutes to pray or stay for the whole hour if you like. We have averaged about 10-12 people each Tuesday.
 
We are working with our neighboring parishes to make sure weekday Mass is offered in our Lincoln Park - Old Town neighborhood each day of the week. St. Joseph on N. Orleans hosts Mass on Monday; St. ‘is on Tuesday; St. Teresa of Avila is on Wednesday; St. Vincent DePaul is on Thursday; and we have Mass here in the church on Friday (register through the website link). All Masses are at 8:00 am. Please visit each parish’s website to register to attend their Mass. There will be greeters and cleaners volunteering at each church to make sure everyone is socially distanced and staying safe as they attend Mass.
 
Our Tuesday Holy Hour and Friday morning Masses are especially good ways for people to come to church to pray who prefer to remain socially distanced amongst smaller crowds. These options are a particularly good way to have our enormous church almost entirely to yourself. And I anticipate our Friday Mass crowd will also be very lightly attended as well. That makes these perfect opportunities for our elderly or at-risk parishioners to come to church while maintaining good social distancing for themselves.
 
And, of course, you can watch our Sunday Mass via our livestream at 10:00 am or you can watch it anytime after that on our St. Josaphat Facebook page. I hope everyone stays healthy and stays safe this summer. I look forward to seeing you in church at one of our weekly opportunities or to connect with you online.
 
God Bless,
Fr. Francis

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,
Fr. Francis
Hopefully, you saw last week’s Pastor Article, “We Have a Mission.” It was about reclaiming our sense of mission as baptized Catholics and what we expect of parishioners at St. Josaphat Parish. This week I would like to focus on what parishioners can expect from our parish. When people come to St. Josaphat they can expect to be Welcomed, Accompanied, and Prepared to be Disciples of Jesus Christ.
 
Welcomed - We want St. Josaphat to be a place where everyone feels welcomed. As Pope Francis said, “Let the church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.” We create that culture by remembering that we are all sinners in need of redemption. We all need God’s grace to grow in holiness. And we receive that grace by coming together as God’s family, as brothers and sisters, each Sunday as we gather around the Lord’s table to celebrate the Eucharist and listen to God’s word. And we welcome new members into our community through Alpha, which is designed to introduce people to Jesus Christ and to help them enter into a relationship with him.
 
Accompanied - We want to accompany our parishioners through all of the joys and struggles of life. We want to celebrate with our parishioners in joyful times like weddings and baptisms, First Communions, confirmations and graduations. And we want to be there for our families during difficult times like illness, divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one. Our Pastoral Staff, composed of Fr. Francis, Deacon Pat, and Mary Jane Sullivan, is available to meet with individuals, couples and families during each of these moments in life to accompany them, pray with them and help them to experience the love and mercy of God.
 
Prepared - We want to prepare our parishioners to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  We help prepare people to be disciples through the celebration of liturgies and through opportunities to help people grow in their knowledge of the Catholic faith and in their relationship with Jesus Christ. We invite our parishioners to participate in Alpha, which helps people grow their relationship with Jesus and also teaches the essentials of the Christian faith. We offer Bible Studies so parishioners can learn more about sacred scripture and share their faith together. Our Men’s Spirituality Group and Women’s Group offer our adult parishioners an opportunity to discuss issues important to our Christian faith and to foster a greater sense of community within our parish.  
 
As you can see, building a relationship with Jesus Christ is at the heart of everything we do and offer as a parish. That’s because bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ is the mission of the Church and the mission of every Christian disciple.
 
I would love to hear from you. How can we help you grow in your relationship with Jesus? What would you like us to do or offer throughout the year? What have you participated in at other parishes that was helpful in forming disciples? How can I serve you and our community better as your Pastor? Please feel free to email me your comments and suggestions at frfrancis@stjosaphatparish.org
 
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. Francis
This year at St. Josaphat we will be helping our parishioners to rediscover our mission as baptized Catholics. When we were baptized we became disciples of Jesus Christ. That means we share in Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the Gospel, the good news that we have been saved by Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been freed from sin and offered the gift of eternal life. And through the sacraments of the Church, we receive God’s grace to help us grow in holiness and be witnesses of God’s love and mercy in the world.

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!
 
Give - We expect our parishioners to give to St. Josaphat.  Part of supporting the mission of St. Josaphat is helping to fund the ministries we offer and to maintain the beautiful church and facilities we have inherited from the generations that came before us. We expect each of our parishioners to be supporting the parish on a weekly or monthly basis through our Sunday offertory by making a donation through GiveCentral or through envelopes. Registering to be a parishioner is not like joining a club to simply receive the benefits of membership when we feel like it. A parishioner is someone who is looking to give of their time, talent and treasure in order to serve the community and further the mission of the Church.

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,
Father Francis

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:

Heavenly Father,
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.
Amen.

Happy Father’s Day,
Fr. Francis

I’m very excited that we are finally able to welcome people back to church. We had three small prayer services this past week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night from 7:00 - 8:00 pm. This gave our Greeting and Cleaning Teams an opportunity to begin implementing the procedures outlined by Archdiocese. And we have been approved by the Archdiocese to host a public Mass for 50 people today.
 
Moving forward, we will be able to host up to 20% of our seating capacity, which is about 110 people. However, at this point we will not be returning to our regular Mass schedule just yet. We want to limit ourselves to one or two Masses for a few weeks to make sure we are following all of the proper procedures and aren’t encountering any problems. We want to go slow to ensure your safety.
 
And, in order to be able to have more public Masses, we need more volunteers who are willing to be here on Saturday or Sunday for Mass to serve on our Greeting and Cleaning Teams. So if you are under the age of 65 and in good health, please consider helping. If you are interested, please email our Reopening Team Leads, Kelly Smith kellyqtml@yahoo.com ) or Diana McCartney mccartneydiana@yahoo.com and they can give you more information.  We know we have a lot of parishioners who travel during the summer. That’s ok! Just help when you can.
 
Since we will not be able to host Mass for more than 110 people for the foreseeable future, we will continue to livestream or post a Mass for people to watch online every Sunday. We want everyone to remain connected to St. Josaphat and to be able to continue to worship with us. And we understand that some people will not want to come back for a while because of age or other health concerns. That’s fine! You should move at a pace that you feel comfortable. Cardinal Cupich has made it clear that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been lifted until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. So if you are concerned about your health or if you are not feeling well, you should definitely stay home and join us for Mass online.
 
Having people back in church while we are filming will present some new challenges. So please be patient with us as we navigate the new reality. We are currently working on upgrading to a live-streaming camera, instead of the Surface Pro we have been using. And we are working on boosting our wifi signal to the church to improve the streaming quality as well.
 
Every Thursday at Noon, we will send out an email to all of our registered parishioners inviting them to make a reservation for Mass for that following Sunday. If there are any remaining spots on Friday morning, another email will be sent out, this time including everyone in our database. If there are remaining spots on Friday afternoon, an email will be sent to everyone on our newsletter (Constant Contact) list. This week, we were full before getting to send to our this list. Please be on the lookout for those emails. Not registered? That’s an easy fix! Just follow this link. It only takes a few minutes!
 
And since our capacity will be limited for the first few weeks, if you were able to come to church today, please give your fellow parishioners an opportunity to come to Mass before signing up again.

I look forward to seeing all of you again soon!
Fr. Francis
Dear Friends,
With praise and thanksgiving to almighty God, I joyfully announce that I will be ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ on June 29, 2020 at St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles. Please continue to pray for me as I prepare myself to receive this wonderful gift of vocation to the priesthood.
 
I also received a phone call from the placement board this week that I will be an associate pastor at the new merging parishes in the West Ridge neighborhood (St. Margaret Mary, St. Timothy and St. Henry) in Chicago. I will start my new assignment on July 1, 2020.
 
St. Josaphat became my “home” for the past three years of my seminary formation. I have gotten to know a lot of good people here at St. Josaphat. I have also learned a lot from so many people, especially from my mentor, Fr. Francis. I am grateful to him for his help and support in my journey to priesthood. He always encouraged me and challenged me to become a good preacher and minister to the people of God. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to our parish and school staff for letting me work with you and learn from you.
 
And to all parishioners, THANK YOU! Thank you for your prayers and support. I will certainly miss this great parish of St. Josaphat! I will keep you all in my prayers and please pray for me as I embark this new journey as a priest.
 
I will be celebrating my thanksgiving Mass in our parish on July 5th at 10:00 am. I hope you can join me either in person or online.
 
Peace,
Dcn. Arthur Bautista
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.  
Amen
 
God Bless,
Dear Graduates,
 
Congratulations on finishing your academic career at St. Josaphat! I have been enormously impressed with the way you have handled the pandemic and the challenges it imposed on your last few months at SJS. You’ve shown great resilience, patience and maturity as you transitioned to e-learning, remained engaged with your courses and made the most of our virtual trip to Washington, D.C.
 
Even though you will be moving on to high school, I hope you will always consider St. Josaphat “a Church to come home to.” Our Sunday liturgies will provide you with an opportunity to reconnect with your former classmates. And our Youth Group is an excellent way to continue those friendships as you deepen your faith together through prayer, formation and service to others.
 
We will hopefully be opening our church for public Masses soon. So I would also like to invite you to consider becoming Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers at Mass and consider singing in our Parish Choir. We are also looking for volunteers to be on our Greeter and Cleaning Teams to help us welcome people back to church and maintain a safe and healthy worship environment. This is your parish and we want you to stay involved and share your gifts with the parish community.
 
Please know that I am here for you as your pastor. I am always available to meet with you if you want to talk about your faith or need guidance. You will be in my prayers as you take this next step of your journey!
 
God Bless,
Fr. Francis
On Monday our nation celebrates Memorial Day. It was originally called Decoration Day and was first celebrated in 1866 in Waterloo, New York as they began an annual event in which residents decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers and flags. By 1890 the tradition had spread throughout the United States.
 
Memorial Day was later extended to include the American military personnel who died in World War I and then all subsequent wars including World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Typically, towns, villages and cities across our country hold parades and other celebrations this weekend to honor our soldiers who fought and died. No doubt this year’s celebrations will be canceled or dramatically reduced in scope due to the Coronavirus.
 
But we shouldn’t let the lack of festive celebrations stop us from taking time to honor the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces and gave what Abraham Lincoln famously described as “the last full measure of devotion.” Our soldiers laid down their lives to protect and defend our nation, to ensure our liberty and to defend the rights of others in far off lands.
 
Let us all take a moment this weekend to honor those sacrifices. And let us pray too for those heroic men and women who wear the uniform today and are stationed around the world protecting and defending us right now.
 
And as our world faces a new global threat from the COVID-19 pandemic, let us also lift up a prayer for our medical and health care personnel who are risking their lives each day to serve those who are infected with the virus and to continue to care for all those who are sick, elderly or infirm. May God bless them and protect them as they too make heroic sacrifices to bring healing and peace to our world.
 
God Bless,
Fr. Francis

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.


God Bless,

Fr. Francis

I would like to extend a Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers and grandmothers of the parish as well as to all of the women who have shown us a mother’s love at different times in our lives. And, of course, we also remember with great gratitude and affection all those women who are no longer with us but played an important role in our life’s journey. Your gentle love, words of encouragement and heroic patience have helped us grow and become the men and women God made us to be.
This year’s celebration of Mother’s Day will be a bit unusual for most of us. While younger families will certainly be able to celebrate mom in typical spectacular fashion, a lot of us who have mothers that are older may not be able to get together. Instead we will have to settle for a phone call, mailing a card or sending flowers. My six brothers and I will be trying our luck with a family Zoom call this year. I can’t wait to see how that goes! :)
I’m also aware that sadly, some of us won’t be able to connect with our mothers at all because of restrictions at nursing homes or other care facilities. I know many people who are in this situation and I know how hard that can be. So I want you to know that I will be keeping you and your families in my prayers.
Regardless of whether or not we get together, or how, the important thing is to express our gratitude to all of the women in our lives who have loved us, nurtured us and been a mother to us when we needed it the most. Thank you for all you do and for being you.
 
Happy Mother’s Day,
Fr. Francis
All of our schedules have been impacted by COVID-19. Our 2nd Graders were supposed to make their First Communion this weekend but we have to reschedule. Deacon Arthur’s ordination to the priesthood has been put on hold. Weddings have been postponed. Graduations and other end-of-school-year celebrations have been canceled or delayed. The same is true for all of us, I imagine. We’ve all had plans that have to be altered.
Changing our plans can be enormously frustrating even under the best of circumstances. But not knowing when we can safely reschedule our events is even more disconcerting. It can especially be confusing why this is happening when these celebrations have a religious or spiritual dimension to them.
The good news is that God can use this time to continue to prepare us for the joys that await us. God knows how to take advantage of long delays - just ask Abraham, Joseph and Moses. They all had to wait many years for God’s promises to be fulfilled. But God was at work in their waiting. He was changing their hearts, strengthening their character, and preparing them for the mission he had in store for them.
As people of faith, we know that God is with us during this time of waiting too. Let us turn to the Lord in faith and trust and ask him to help us prepare for the celebrations to come; to show us what changes we need to make in order to embrace the mission or the next chapter in our lives that God is calling us to. With God’s grace, this time of waiting doesn’t have to be frustrating or pointless. It can actually be the most fruitful time in our lives, if we let it.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Please know that my prayers are with you and your loved ones while our "shelter in faith" continues. Deacon Arthur and I appreciate your messages of support and look forward to the day we can all celebrate the Eucharist together.
We are extremely grateful for those of you who have made and dropped off sandwiches and bought Maruchan Instant Lunch cup soups from Aldi for our Helping Hands ministry. This allows us to continue to serve our guests who so desperately need our daily meal since their other sources have closed.
The shutdown has also affected other support organizations, including Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, who we were supporting through our Lenten almsgiving. They had to cancel all of their fundraising events through June, creating a $1,000,000 budget deficit. Since our own Lenten effort for NPH was also curtailed by COVID-19, I would like to challenge our parish to sponsor 20 children this week. In fact, I will sponsor a child, so we just have 19 to go! We will be providing more information on NPH this week, including a new fundraising concept -- a "Bake Along" with Meredith O'Neil. For a donation, you are invited to a virtual baking lesson which will be sure to delight your family. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
I also invite you to participate in our Lunchtime Reflections these next 3 Tuesdays from 12 - 12:45 pm. Each your lunch watching a 10 minute video about Jesus then join a brief group discussion. More information is below.
 
God Bless,
Fr. Francis
Have you ever come across something and wondered, “When did that happen?” Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, and you might think, “I don’t remember that when I was growing up,” and there’s a good reason for that.

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.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
As we celebrate Easter this year, I feel myself drawn to the figure of Mary Magdalene who is devastated to find an empty tomb. She had gone to the tomb early in the morning to care for Jesus’ body since they had to rush to bury him on account of the Sabbath. Seeing the stone rolled back and the body gone, Mary assumes the worst, that someone has stolen his body. Her grief at the thought of this is palpable.
 
I find myself drawn to Mary Magdalene because our church has felt like an empty tomb these past few weeks. Each morning I celebrate Mass but I don’t see you, the Body of Christ, in the pews where I know you should be. That has left me with an unsettled, empty feeling.
 
I understand Mary’s grief and her profound sense of loss. This isn’t right. This isn’t the way it is supposed to be. When will I see my people again? When will I be able to minister to them? When will I be able to baptize? Administer reconciliation? Celebrate weddings?
 
I’m sure you are asking many of those same questions. When will we be able to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist? When can we go back to school? See friends and play sports? Play with our grandchildren? When can we return to work and open up our businesses?
 
Much of life right now has that uneasy feeling of finding an empty tomb. But we must remember that the tomb is empty because Jesus has risen from the dead. Life has triumphed over death! This pain and sense of loss we are feeling won’t last forever either. Thanks to Jesus Christ, life and love will always triumph over disease and death! We will experience our own resurrection soon too!
 
So while our church might be physically empty, I know our parishioners are being Christ’s hands and feet in the world! I know you are busy with your families and taking care of one another. Our teachers are putting together new lesson plans to help our students with e-learning. Our young parishioners are working hard each day on their school work and finding time to play. Adult parishioners are working from home or going to work when necessary. Plenty of parishioners have volunteered to make sandwiches for our Helping Hands ministry each week. And this past Thursday several stood in the parking lot of Symphony of Lincoln Park to sing Happy Birthday to Dorothy French, a fellow parishioner who turned 90!
 
So I know you are out there. Through the grace of God, you continue to live as disciples by showing your love for one another and caring for people in need. And through the gift of technology we still find ways of connecting and living out our faith together. That’s why I am convinced that we will come out of this current crisis stronger than ever.
 
This slowing down and forced pause in our lives has allowed many of us to be much more aware of how important our faith is to our lives. Our Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist and our ability to gather as a community on Sunday has taken on a whole new meaning. And the desire to connect with one another face-to-face instead of through a screen has never been stronger for many of us!
 
When the all-clear comes and the doors of our homes, the doors of our churches and the doors of restaurants and businesses are opened, may we come forth full of life and love for our family, our friends and our parish ready to greet each other with the love and tenderness that Christ taught us.

Have a Happy Easter,
Fr. Francis
As we enter into Holy Week, I invite you to celebrate with us! It is important that we remain united in prayer as a parish community, so we will be celebrating and recording liturgies for you to participate in at the parish each day.  However, at this truly historic moment in our lives, it’s important to recognize that we are also going through this together as a country, a city and as an Archdiocese, which is why I am encouraging everyone to pray with Cardinal Cupich for the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  I would like for us to be united in prayer with the Cardinal, our Spiritual Father, Shepherd and successor to the Apostles, to hear what God is trying to say to us at this time in our local church and as Catholics united in prayer.
 
While this is definitely a most unusual way to celebrate Holy Week as Catholics, I have been receiving emails and phone calls from parishioners who have told me that our online efforts have helped you to feel connected as a parish and bring some much needed peace and normalcy to your lives.  I am grateful that our efforts have been fruitful for so many of you.
In some ways, these posted videos, emails, etc. remind me of St. Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  Paul’s missionary journey kept him moving from place to place, so he wasn't able to remain physically present to the communities he founded.  Paul’s letters were his way of staying connected with his people, to give them hope and to teach them to grow in their faith and love for Jesus.  They were his way of caring for his people and showing his continued love for them even though he couldn’t be physically present to them.
 
It is my hope that our recorded Masses, videos, Zoom meetings and ministries, emails and Facebook posts achieve the same purpose as Paul’s letters did in his day.  Like St. Paul, there is so much more that I want to say and do for each of you, but I hope these new digital efforts are received at least as a small measure of my continued love for all of you and as an expression of my desire to be with you again.  It is with great hope and anticipation that I look forward to seeing all of you again in Church! Until then, know that you are in my prayers!
 
HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE
 
Wednesday morning, we will post our recorded Mass for school-age children on our Facebook page, YouTube Channel and Parish website.  
 
Holy Thursday, we will post Morning Prayer, and Deacon Arthur will record and post a homily to go along with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  Please note we will not record a Mass for Holy Thursday. Instead, I encourage you to watch the Cardinal’s Mass for Holy Thursday.
 
Good Friday, we will post Morning Prayer and the Stations of the Cross.  And we encourage you to watch Cardinal Cupich’s celebration of the Veneration of the Cross online.
 
Holy Saturday, we will post Morning Prayer and I encourage you to watch the Easter Vigil celebrated by Cardinal Cupich online.
 
Easter Sunday, we will either record or livestream the Mass from St. Josaphat Church.
 
God Bless,
Father Francis 
Dear Parishioners,
 
As we move closer to Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, it is our normal custom to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation together as a way of preparing ourselves to enter into the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Unfortunately, the current pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus has made it impossible for us to have the reconciliation service we had planned for Monday.
 
Many of you have emailed or called to ask about opportunities to come to church for individual reconciliation, to have reconciliation over FaceTime or to do “drive thru” reconciliation. This past week the Archdiocese sent out an email to priests outlining what our pastoral response must be during the health crisis. Here is what we were told:

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.

God Bless,
Fr. Francis
Dear St. Josaphat Parishioners,
 
Thank you for your kind emails and prayers this past week.  This has been a very strange time in my priesthood as we have not been able to gather for Mass and I’ve had to distance myself from our parishioners.  I know this must be even harder on you as you are also being asked to distance yourselves from extended family, friends, classmates and work colleagues.  We are all learning how to utilize technology to stay connected as we attempt to celebrate Mass, conduct meetings and continue our education through e-learning.
 
Amid all of the anxiety and uncertainties that have come through this period of transition as we learn to cope with COVID-19, I have also heard some beautiful stories.  One parent shared with me the interesting experience of watching her grown son conducting a work meeting from her kitchen table. She said that it was a beautiful moment that she otherwise would never have had.  She was reminded of the many times he sat at that same table eating breakfast or doing homework. And now he is a young man leading others. How fast they grow up!   
 
Perhaps that’s something to keep in mind as younger parents guide their children through e-learning and try to help their teens and college students cope with being home and distant from their friends.  We can let the frustrations get to us or we can see this time as a blessing. We often get little family time these days because of school, sports, work and other distractions. But now the whole world is being told to slow down, to stay inside and to be together as a family.  Let’s take advantage of this moment! Let’s reinvest ourselves in those family relationships and enjoy this time together!
 
It’s also important that we stay connected to distant family members, especially parents and grandparents.  If they’re like my mom, they probably don’t understand FaceTime or Zoom. And trying to teach them now is probably not going to work. Trust me!  :) So make sure you give them a call or write them a letter. They need to hear from us too! They need to know we love them and that we are available for companionship, even if over the phone.
 
It’s also important that we work on our prayer lives as a family too.  Just because we can’t go to church doesn’t mean that our relationship with God is put on hold.  In fact, now is when we need God the most. Because we are all feeling anxious, a bit fearful and maybe a little lonely.  What do we do when these emotions get stirred up in us? If we are not bringing all of this to God in prayer, where are we bringing it?
 
Doctor Gerald May wrote a wonderful book called Addiction & Grace in which he writes that we all have the same stressors in life: H-A-L-T, or Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  And we each do something to respond to those stressors—eat, drink, shop, go online, exercise, become angry and short, etc.  Some of the ways we handle these stressors feel good at the moment, but over time they can become bad habits that make life worse and contribute to even more stress in our life, creating a vicious cycle.  
 
To put all of this into a religious perspective, what’s your idol?  What altar do you worship at when you feel H-A-L-T? Because you’re taking all of that negativity and bringing it somewhere. We know as Christians that the safest and most healthy place to bring them to is God through our prayer.  That’s why Jesus tells his disciples, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” Matthew 11:28–30
 
Remember, my brothers and sisters, that Jesus has triumphed over the world.  He has triumphed over sin and death and over all of the world’s dysfunction. So when you are feeling stressed, anxious, lonely or scared, bring it to him!  Open your heart to him in prayer. Share with him everything that you're feeling and experiencing: the good, the bad and the ugly and let the peace of Jesus Christ enter into your hearts. Jesus promises us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
 
To help you grow in your relationship with Jesus during this time, we will be live streaming Mass on Facebook at least twice a week, then posting those videos to our website so anyone can watch them later.  Deacon Arthur and I will be jumping into some of the e-learning with our school students during religion classes. And we’ll be launching some online faith sharing groups with parishioners as well. Look to the parish website, Facebook and parish emails for more information about our upcoming offerings.
 
Please know that all of you continue to be in my prayers each and every day.  Together and with God’s grace we will get through this and grow stronger as a parish community.  If anyone needs to talk during this time, please email me and we can arrange to talk by phone or through an App like FaceTime or Zoom so we can speak face to face.
 
God Bless,
Father Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Based on current guidelines from local public health departments, Cardinal Cupich has decided to close our Catholic schools and dispense the lay faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. He has mandated the suspension, until further notice, of all liturgical services starting with our 5:00 pm Mass on Saturday. 
 
I know the decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was not easy and it comes as a shock to everyone. As a priest, the celebration of the Eucharist is the center of my life and priestly ministry. I never imagined that I would ever have to ask people to not celebrate the Eucharist together. But the Eucharist is the sacrament of love and charity, and out of this love and charity for our neighbors, we need to heed the advice of our medical professionals.
 
I think it’s also important to remember that millions of Catholics around the world go without the Eucharist each weekend because of religious oppression or because of the lack of priests to minister the sacraments. In those areas, the Christian faith continues to persevere because of the extraordinary faith of the people. Over the next few weeks, may we enter into a new solidarity with them as we experience what it is like to go without the celebration of the Eucharist.
 
My hope is that this will actually be a time of spiritual renewal for all of us. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” May our time apart from our Eucharistic celebration increase our love for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and renew our appreciation for the great privilege of being able to gather as a faith community and celebrate together.
 
During this time, you may want to read the Daily Mass Readings and watch and/or listen to daily and Sunday Mass:
 
Watch online: 
 
Watch on tv: AT&T 562, Comcast 119, RCN 260, DirectTV 370, DISH 261
 
Listen on the radio: 930AM & 950AM
 
I will be sharing my weekend homilies and other messages via email. I will also be celebrating a private Mass each day, so all of our Mass intentions will be honored. Please know that I will be praying for all of you at each and every Mass. And I ask you to join me in praying for a quick end to this pandemic and praying especially for all of our doctors, nurses and first responders who are the front lines of ministering to people affected.
 
Aligned with the Archdiocesan policy, I am cancelling all parish functions through Friday, March 27, including Bible Study, Men’s Spirituality, Alpha, Youth Group, RCIA, Saturday afternoon reconciliation, choir rehearsal, parish board meetings (SJAA, School Board), religious education classes, and Stations of the Cross. Masses will be cancelled this weekend (3/14–15) and next weekend (3/21–22). Daily Masses will be cancelled the weeks of 3/16 and 3/23. At this point, our Red Door Room is still scheduled to be a Polling Place on Tuesday.
 
We will continue to run our Helping Hands Ministry, which serves lunch to those in need from 9:30–11:00 am. We always practice food safety as we serve our guests, and we don’t want the people who count on us for food to go hungry. Jesus would not want us to abandon the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.
 
We will be monitoring these developments with input from the Archdiocese. Please continue to check your email and our website www.stjosaphatparish.org for schedule updates.
 
Together, with the grace of God, we will get through this time together.  
 
God Bless,
Fr. Francis