Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
I ask your prayers for my wife and unborn daughter. My wife is 30 weeks pregnant and her cervix is dilated 2 cms. We have 10 weeks to go before the baby reaches full term. We ask the Lord to allow the baby to stay in the womb to develop. We have our time frame of when we think she should come, but we also understand the Lord's divine providence and holy will. For He knew us while we were still in our mother's womb. He formed us in the palm of His hand. He has called each of us by name and he will complete the good work that He has already begun.
Monday, April 27, 2009
"No one may share in the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
"Hence it is plain that the Apostles did not deliver to us everything by their epistles, but many things without writing. These are equally to be believed. Wherefore let us believe the tradition of the Church. It is tradition. Seek no further."--St John Chrysostom, (commenting on 2 Thess. 2:14) Hom. iv.in 2 Thess.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Priest: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)
People: Amen (1 Chr )
Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor)
People: And also with you.
All: I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. (Jas. 5:16) In my thoughts and in my words, (Rom. ) In what I have done and what I have failed to do; (Jas 3:6) and I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angel and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. (1 Thess 5:25)
Priest: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. (1 John 1:9)
People: Amen (1 Chr )
All: Lord have mercy. (Tb 8:4) Christ have mercy. (1 Tim 1:2) Lord have mercy.
All: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. (Luke 2:14)
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, (Rev 19:6)
we worship you, (Rev. 22:9) we give you thanks, (Eph. 5:20)
we praise you for your glory. ()
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,(2 John 3)
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us; (John )
You are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. (Rom )
For you alone are the Holy One, (Luke)
You alone are Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:32)
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. (John 14:26)
[The Liturgy of the Word consists of four readings from Scripture: the first is typically from the Old Testament, the second a psalm, followed by a reading from one of the epistles. Finally, the Gospel is proclaimed during which the people stand out of respect for the Word. The chosen readings change daily.]
Click here to get today’s liturgical readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
[A Sermon on the readings follows.] (2 Tim 4:1-2)
Profession of Faith: [the Nicene (or Apostles) Creed]
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, (Gen) of all that is seen and unseen. (
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, (Luke 1:35) eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. (Heb 1:3) Through him all things were made. (John 1:2-3) For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: (John ) by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary,(Matt ) and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, (John ) he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.(1 Cor 15:3-4) He ascended into heaven(Luke 24:51) and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life, (Acts ) who proceeds from the Father and the Son. (John 14:16) With the Father and Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. (1 Peter 1:10-11)
We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. (Rom 12:5) We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts ) We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. (Rom 6:5) Amen
Liturgy of the Eucharist:
[The gifts are brought to the altar. These include the bread and wine and the offering collected from the people.] (Malachi 3:10)
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. (Eccl. 3:13)It will become for us the bread of life. (John 6:35)
People: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink. (Luke 22:17-18)
People: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)
Priest: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. (Heb. 12:28)
People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our sake and the good of all his Church. (Ps 50:23)
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord. (Lam)
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord Our God. (
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise. (
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. (Is 6:3) Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.(Mark 11:9-10)
[There are four of these, based on ancient prayers of the Church. Eucharistic Prayer Two follows as an example:]
Priest: Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. (2 Macc. 14:36)Let your spirit come upon these gifts (bread and water and wine) to make them holy, so that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before he was given up to death, (Phil 2:8) a death he freely accepted,(John -18) he took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this is memory of me. (Mark 14:22-25) Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
All: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory. (Heb 2:14-15)
Priest: In memory of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. (John 6:51)We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor.10:17) Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us grow in love together with our Pope and our bishop, and all the clergy. Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again: bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence. (2 Macc 12:45-46) Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages. May we praise you in union with them, and give you glory though your Son, Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:4-5) Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
All: Amen. (Rom )
The Lord’s Prayer:
All: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:9-13)
Priest: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. (John 17:15)
All: For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen
Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles; I leave you peace, my peace I give to you. (John 14:27) Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever.
Priest: The peace of the Lord be with you always! (John 20:19)
People: And also with you!
[The priest then directs the people to exchange a sign, such as a handshake or a kiss, or a word of God’s peace to one another.]
Breaking of the Bread:
All: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. (John 1:29)
Priest: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. (Rev. 19:9)
People: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. (Matt 8:8)
[Communion is distributed to the faithful at the altar by the priest and lay ministers.]
Priest: Blessed be the name of the Lord. Now and forever. (Dan 2:20) May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:51) Go in peace(Luke ) to love and serve the Lord. (2 Chr 35:3)
[During the blessing the people make the Sign of the Cross, the traditional sign of the baptized and a public sign of their belief in the power of God.]
People: Thanks be to God. (2 Cor )
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
How to Be a Dynamic and Evangelizing Parish
By Father Norman Langenbrunner and Jeanne Hunt
Two very different parishes show what it takes to be both energetic and spiritual.
CAN YOU HEAR the death knell ringing in your parish? In these times of declining membership, can the Catholic Church in the United States breathe new life into the Body of Christ? Is a resurrection possible? If we focus on the basic mission of the Church, namely, to take the Gospel into the world (to evangelize), we have reason for hope—contrary to prevailing perceptions.
In the broadest sense of the word, evangelizationis spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. In the narrowest sense, it is presenting the Gospel in such a way that those who hear it are led to respond in an “aha” or “now I get it” moment. In between the broadest and narrowest sense lie catechesis, faith formation, liturgical celebration and theology.
On the practical level, the parish is both the object and the subject of evangelization. In this setting, two dynamics work simultaneously: A parish must be evangelized and a parish must be evangelizing.
St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay, Ohio, is a “megachurch” with a census of 10,000 members (www.findlaystmichael.org). Holy Infant Parish in Durham, North Carolina, is a moderate-sized parish with 771 families (www.holyinfantchurch.org).
Both parishes give witness to the power of taking evangelization seriously. They provide encouraging examples of American parishes which are both evangelized and evangelizing. They give witness to a healthy vision of Church in our day.
St. Michael, founded in 1839, is the sole Catholic parish in Hancock County, Ohio, in the Diocese of Toledo. It fits into the category of “megachurch,” that is, a worshiping community of 2,000 or more members in attendance every week.
The new church, built to accommodate the large congregation, seats 1,500. It is a beautiful, modern, inviting structure in the Romanesque style. Although the structure is as large as a cathedral, it maintains the feel of a parish church.
The parish plant is a complex of church, school (three rooms of each grade), gymnasium, auditorium and offices. As impressive as the buildings are, more remarkable are the active involvement of the parishioners in church ministries and the enthusiasm of their participation in liturgies.
The pastor, Father Mike Hohenbrink, believes the enthusiasm and participation of parishioners flow from their openness to the Holy Spirit. The people have been invited to take their faith seriously.
Geri Leibfarth, the parish’s director of religious education, suggests that there are three essential steps in the process: “Keep the people informed, provide opportunities for faith formation and then send them out in a variety of ministries.”
She credits the pastor with the ability to “connect with the parishioners and learn their needs. Father Mike is good at that,” she says about the priest who has been pastor of the parish since July 2000. “We have to listen first. Programs that don’t meet the needs don’t work.”
One of the needs obvious to St. Michael’s membership was ongoing adult education. A monthly systematic study of the faith titled “What Do Catholics Really Believe?” has an attendance of some 300 members. Parishioners asked for a parish mission and over 400 attended the four nightly sessions offered during Lent in 2007.
“There are over a hundred ministries in our parish,” a parishioner explains, “and several of them are to people outside the parish. We take care of our own, but we don’t stop there.”
Asked what sustains him at St. Michael’s, parishioner Chris Brooks says, “In brief, God’s grace through the Eucharist. I also experience his love through the church members.”
Beth Seman has been a parishioner her entire life “and it feels more like my family every day. We have a vibrant parish with over 100 ministries available for all ages. A person can choose to be part of a ministry by simply praying. Or a person can become involved, using God-given gifts and talents to minister to others. There is something for everyone.
“Our current staff and ministry teams are just as dedicated as our priests. Their hard work really shows,” Beth adds. “We have also been blessed by many parishioners willing to volunteer their time and talent.”
According to Father Mike, “St. Michael’s has benefited from strong lay participation over the past 40 years. Their good understanding that they are Church has helped them to be faith-filled and to search for ways to grow in faith. Our history of parish retreats, enrichment programs, participation in RENEW [a spiritual-development program] has raised the bar for them to be active in ministry.”
About 40 percent of the congregation attends Mass regularly, which is about 10 percent above the national average. Father Mike maintains that his people take prayer very seriously, a reflection that “prayer calls us to ministry and ministry calls us to prayer.”
In a parish-sponsored synod (a gathering of parishioners for assessment and planning), members agreed to renew their efforts in Catholic education for adults and youth, to be more welcoming and inviting, to improve their marketing and advertising, and to engage in additional outreach.
City flooding in 2007 prompted community-minded parish members to launch “Calming the Waters,” a flood-relief outreach to citizens hardest hit by the deluge. Other parishioners offer year-round support to an adopted parish and school in Belize, a small country with the highest unemployment rate in Central America.
“The parishioners have taken ownership,” Leibfarth says about these and other forms of parish outreach. “I believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Father Mike is understandably proud of the physical plant, but he knows that there is more to a parish than a “build it and they will come” dream. “We have the facilities,” he says. “Now we can focus even more on the mission and ministries they imply.”
The megachurch is not the only successful model for the evangelized church. Every type of parish church has the potential for realizing the mission of evangelizing and being evangelized. Within each parish there are all the charisms necessary to make Church.
When the U.S. bishops issued Go and Make Disciples, their 1992 national plan and strategy for evangelization, they outlined three basic goals:
1. To encourage Catholics to get excited about living their faith and sharing it with others.
2. To invite our fellow citizens to listen to the Gospel and to become members of the Church.
3. To promote Gospel values in society so that the power of Christ may transform our nation.
The bishops then listed dozens of strategies for achieving those goals, such as programs for renewal, Spirit-filled celebrations of the liturgy, better catechetical materials, formation of diocesan-evangelization committees, review of hospitality, ecumenical outreach and parish-education programs geared toward social justice.
Clearly, it is not the size of a parish that determines its spirit, its outreach, its power to evangelize. Every ecclesial assembly has the potential. The deciding factor appears to be whether the assembly is “called forth.”
Holy Infant Parish is a case in point. Tucked in a pine grove deep in Durham, North Carolina, this vibrant parish brings a unique blend of intergenerational catechesis to 771 families.
Holy Infant sustains an active faith community based on gatherings for members from preschool to the elderly. At these gatherings catechesis and evangelization are featured.
Lynn Sale, the parish’s director of faith development, believes that the parish’s success is based on a desire for interpersonal support that the traditional Catholic parish may not offer. The intergenerational model “widens the circle of formation to include parents, children and adults without children,” says Lynn.
Holy Infant, located in an area known as Research Triangle Park, is a transient parish that attracts Catholics beyond territorial boundaries. Lynn says that last year, 89 families joined the parish and 81 families left the parish. Yet, the Triangle area is expanding and so is Holy Infant Parish.
More than half of Holy Infant’s membership is young families, with 60 percent consisting of adults between the ages of 15 and 60. Parishioners are well-educated: Durham has the highest per capita number of Ph.Ds. The transitory nature creates a special challenge for this community.
At the time of this interview, Father Mike McCue, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, was the pastor of Holy Infant. (He was reassigned last summer.) “Holy Infant has a solid tradition of member involvement,” he says. “People make liturgy, faith development, service and community happen. In addition, our people have a good understanding of these elements of parish life.”
While the parish has a fine reputation as a spiritual center that emphasizes Salesian spirituality, the shift to intergenerational faith-development programs seems to have boosted the spiritual energy of Holy Infant.
Intergenerational means that younger and older members are brought together for instruction, faith formation and prayer. Older members model faith life for the younger ones, and the younger ones inspire the older members.
According to longtime parishioner Tom Goehl, “The appeal of Holy Infant Parish stems from our priests’ understanding that it is imperative to address not only the parishioners’ spirituality but also their humanness. This understanding has led to a vibrant parish whose people truly care about each other and the wider community.”
So what accounts for such dynamic and sustaining energy in this mid-sized Southern parish? In 2000, the vision of the parish changed when parishioners undertook a long-range plan for evangelization. It was John Roberto’sGenerations of Faith Resource Manual: Lifelong Faith Formation for the Whole Parish Community that re-created the parish with “new wineskins,” says Lynn Sale.
A previous pastor, Father John McGee, invited Lynn to join the staff and immerse their ministry in this intergenerational model. Eight years later, the staff works in a collaborative style that encourages everyone to cross over their job descriptions as they work together developing the lifelong learning model.
The old CCD model was discarded. HI-life, as it is now called, offers faith formation for everyone at Holy Infant. Throughout the year, a theme-based curriculum is offered to the entire parish. The annual theme (justice, creed, prayer, sacramental life) is integrated into everything the parish does, from homilies to outreach ministries.
Last year’s theme was “Acting for Justice.” This led the parish to start “Just Faith”: small-group discussions. In addition, parishioners built a Habitat for Humanity house and moved forward with a parish-stewardship campaign.
Paulo Chiquito, the father of three and an active HI-life participant, reports, “Coming from a very traditional Catholic upbringing, HI-life breathed a new life into my concept of catechism teaching. The sessions are very dynamic and challenging.
“I love going together as a family, but with the opportunity for separate age-specific activities,” Paulo explains. “The kids love these and the grown-ups have a chance for a more mature presentation and discussion. Some sessions offer beautiful music, superb acting and some very spiritual experiences.”
Mike Somich, a member of the HI-life core team, notes, “I think most men are uncomfortable expressing their faith. I have found that, in the development and presentation of our intergenerational gatherings, parishioners are very supportive, so much so that, at a recent gathering, I was willing to witness to the role that the Holy Spirit has played and is playing in my life.”
HI-life gatherings turn the entire parish space into an interactive learning center. The vision of Holy Infant is to create a lifelong learning model in which more and more pieces of parish ministry and formation opportunities can be added as the community evolves into a deeper understanding of the Gospel.
Father Mike had an optimistic outlook about the parish: “For our future, I hope we grow in understanding and in action in these areas of parish life. I can see us continually rising to the challenge to keep fresh and alive—not giving in to the tendency to rest on our laurels. Church is a living body.
“One future task that we share with the whole American Church is that of welcoming new Americans, people from cultures that are so different from standard, middle-class American culture,” he added. “We have to make sure that their Church is a home for them.
“At Holy Infant, we have people from Asia, Africa and Europe,” Father Mike explained. “We need to make sure they feel a part of the parish so that we no longer think entirely in terms of ‘they’ and ‘we.’”
When Father Mike called the people forward, Holy Infant parishioners echoed that call to one another. Marshall Robers, member of the parish’s pastoral council, points out that the parish adopted the pineapple, a longtime symbol of hospitality, as the parish’s symbol. “Parishioners feel connected to the parish as a whole,” he says, “rather than merely having a close friendship with a few people.
“Stewardship goes hand in hand with this overall hospitality and sense of belonging, since parishioners willingly give of themselves when they are within a nurturing environment,” Marshall explains. “Once stewardship and hospitality have been embraced, the overall opportunities for faith development increase dramatically, since parishioners are connected with each other and growing in faith together, not only at events targeted for faith development but also within the ministries in which they participate.”
There is a movement in the Church in America that is unprecedented. The evangelization that is taking place plays out in a variety of forms. The model of Church is changing as numbers of active Catholics decline and the priesthood is undermined by crises.
Yet never before has there been such a unique energy to make Church. What is significant is that there are as many ways to create an evangelized parish as there are faith communities to fill them. St. Michael in Findlay, Ohio, and Holy Infant in Durham, North Carolina, are different in many ways: large vs. mid-sized, Midwest vs. South, megamodel vs. a smaller intergenerational faith community. Yet each parish has discovered a working solution to creating a vital, living community of faith.
There is no template in evangelizing the Catholic parish. Every one is a unique faith family. The demographics, the leadership style of the pastor and staff, the cultural and ethnic character of the members—all this and much more determine the means through which a faith community will invite and sustain conversion for its membership.
The days in which a formula could be imposed on a Catholic congregation are over. While Catholic dogma and doctrine remain steadfast, the manner in which a Catholic parish catechizes and evangelizes is developed through a vision that is its own.
These two Catholic models of evangelization offer great hope for the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. Invigorating the People of God, the Holy Spirit has been quite busy building up the Church, not in cookie-cutter fashion, but in ways peculiar to the talents and needs of the people.
Within both communities, it is apparent that this Spirit provided all the gifts necessary to create and fulfill a healthy vision of Church. There are gifts sufficient to do this work and, just as Jesus promised, we have not been left orphans.
Father Norman Langenbrunner, a parish priest in Cincinnati, Ohio, has written for Catholic publications as well as for The Gettysburg Experience. Jeanne Hunt, advisor for catechesis and evangelization at St. Anthony Messenger Press, preaches parish missions and gives workshops on adult and family faith formation