Dear Parish Family:
I hope the early days of summer are good ones for you! I have a teacher friend who says each 4th of July - “Well, summer’s over!” Hopefully, that’s not the case for you or me.
While in some parishes, summer is a time to slow-down, that is not the case at SJE. The work of building the Kingdom of God in our midst continues and, in some ways, intensifies. I want to write to you about a few things that are happening in these days.
Summer Appeal. You may have or will receive a letter from me about our Summer Appeal. In past year, we have held a Summer Raffle which raised nearly $25,000 for the parish. This year, I asked the Finance Council if we can forgo the raffle for a direct appeal. (To be up front, I asked about doing this before the destruction of the Church. It’s only more essential now than it was then.) The number of building projects this summer—again before the incidents of May 20th—are pretty significant. And, as you know, the work of the Gospel does not slow down in the summer and nor do the expenses related to this work. I am asking, if it is at all possible, for each parishioner and/or family to consider making at least a $100.00 donation to our Summer Appeal. This will be a huge help to us finishing the fiscal year in a good position. Undoubtedly the 2017-18 year will be bringing additional budgetary burdens upon us. (One other request—please help us update our records. If your address is incorrect in any way, please send it back to us so we can fix any mistakes.)
Summer Seminarian. I know you, like me, have been blessed to come to know and to serve with Paul Clores over the past few months. What a summer experience he has had here at SJE. In addition to what happened in the Church and our community’s powerful response, Paul has as-sisted at liturgies, attended numerous meetings, visited the sick, assisted at wakes, interviewed new parishioners and families preparing for Baptism and much, much more. He has brought a great deal to our parish and to our Rectory community as well. While his assignment officially ends next Sunday, I hope we will be seeing him in August before he begins his Pastoral Year at Holy Name of Mary Parish in Valley Stream. Please be sure to wish Paul well and to continue to pray for him as he discerns God’s call to priesthood. I hope and pray he will be part of our community for years to come.
Summer Evening Prayer. Last year, we held our first series of Summer Evening Prayers and I am really happy we’re going to continue that tradition this year. We have a wonderful committee planning all of the details for each night. This summer, we welcome back now Father John Wachowicz (July 31), will hear from our own Father Michael (August 14) and be led in a night of music and prayer by the music group “The HIMS” led by one of our cantors, Jay Mauro.
Summer Evening Prayer begins, though, Monday, July 17th with a special evening of prayer and sacred music honoring Philomena Vigliotta. While I have only known Philomena for a year, in that year I have come to a know of great grace and presence who seeks to serve God in prayer and ministry, most especially through her parish of St. John the Evangelist. This past year, Philomena has stepped back from some of her reg-ular commitments to the music ministry here. However, this Monday’s Evening Prayer is not a retirement party or a farewell celebration. Rather, it is of gratitude and joy for the many wonderful ways Philomena Vigliotta has blessed our community. Please make every effort to celebrate, share in the joy of an evening of prayer and give thanks to God for an amazing gift in the life of our parish.
Who said summer is over? Let’s continue to pray for and with one another!
Dear Parish Family:
This week, I would like to talk to you about two church building projects. I promised when I became a Pastor that I would never write a bulletin column that is this lengthy. However, there is a lot to share with you. I apologize, in advance, for the length.
Building the Missionary Church. At Mass this weekend, Msgr. John Cervini will preach about the Sunday readings and how they call us to support the missionary work of the Church. In a specific way, he will speak to us about how we can support the diocesan mission to the Dominican Republic. In addition to Fr. John’s preaching, we will have brochures that tell even more about our diocese’s work in the Dominican Republic and how we can support it. You may return your offering to this special mission appeal this week or next. I think you will enjoy meeting Fr. John. When I was the Campus Minister at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School and he was the Pastor of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, our paths crossed quite often. He has dedicated so much of his life and priesthood to formation and to the service of the poor and vulnerable. We are blessed by his presence.
Rebuilding the Parish Church. This week, I want to speak a little more specifically about the building projects here in the parish. Before discussing those, I begin with gratitude. The past seven weeks have been overwhelming in many ways for each of us. Because of your patience, kindness, gentleness and good humor, we are coming through these days maybe even stronger than we were before. That is because of you!
Now on to the details…Because of the damage to the Church, we now find ourselves maintaining three building projects - the Convent Building, the Auditorium and the Church. Let’s take it one by one.
Auditorium: The Auditorium has served as our Sunday Church. Here we gather for Eucharist, the praying of the Rosary and the celebration of Baptism. (We do have a few weddings coming up in there too.) We have worked to make this a more prayerful and beautiful space. Can we ever thank our Art and Environment Ministry enough for their work in transforming this space each week? (Be sure to take part in the cross design project this weekend.) How about the students from OLQA school, youth ministry and many others who have worked to set up and take down the “Church” each week?
In addition to these tasks, we have been and are working on a few more. First, so many have commented to me about the sound system. Thanks to Andrew McKeon and Monte Brothers Sound System for refining the sound. Second, I hope by the time you are reading this, we will have temporary air conditioning installed and working which will help us through the summer months. Finally, we are working with our architects, the insurance company and the Town of Brookhaven to install a permanent ramp outside of the main entrance of the Auditorium. Everyone is work-ing as hard as we can to get this particular project completed as quickly as possible. I am sorry for the stress the lack of a ramp this has put on some of our parishioners. I know the stairs are tough and stressful. We are doing the best we can and hope to have that part of the project completed as quickly as possible. Please do not feel forgotten or uncared for…I promise this is a priority.
Most of the expenses of the Auditorium projects—including the new chairs—have been covered by our insurance company with little impact on our parish’s finances.
Convent: We have made the Convent Living Room and Dining Room our Dai-ly Mass Chapel and the former Convent Chapel a Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Here, we pray daily, recite the Rosary and have kept this space open for daily individual prayer in the same way the Church was open. Over the past week or so, we have worked to make it a little more accessible as well. It has become a comfortable space.
This week, we will begin some minor renovations in the Convent building. I would like to create the Chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the Convent building. It will require us to re-open an opening in the wall between the Dining Room and the Chapel. The Sisters of Charity gave so much of their life and ministry to this parish and to the school. This is one way we can always remember them and their amazing ministry. This renewed space will be air-conditioned, the floors will be refinished and new chairs provided for the space. I have shared information about this project after a few of our Daily Masses and many seemed to be grateful for these improvements.
My hope is that the Chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (or Seton Chapel) will become another prayer space in our parish to be used beyond our return to the Church. Here we will be able to have smaller prayer meetings, hold smaller services (for example, a Memorial Mass or a small wedding) and possibly have a place for perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the future. This last part will take a little time.
The expenses are being paid for in a small way by our insurance company but most of the expenses for this part of the project will be on the parish. When the parish restored the Convent some six years ago, a special account was established for the monies raised in that campaign. Those monies can only be used for the Convent Building and we will make use of some of those monies to restore the first floor of the Covent Building. There will be an opportunity for parishioners to support this project. More information about that in next week’s bulletin.
Church: I have written before about the damage to the Church building and extensive amount of work that is required for its repair. There has been no reconstruction work done to interior of the Church up to this point. So far, we have been meeting and working with our architects— BBS Architecture—to develop plans for the interior of the Church and to begin the process of meeting the requirements for permits and building. The Town of Brookhaven has been incredibly helpful in these early days by meeting with us, working with our architects and even “checking in” to make sure things are moving along.
After applying for and receiving the initial permits, the work of taking down the ceiling, removing duct work, taking down certain walls and the like will begin. Meanwhile, we are working with the architects to put the Church back together. In most ways, the Church will be the same in the future as it was before. There are no major structural changes to the building or to the liturgical space.
Based on our reimbursement from insurance and monies we have in reserve, we are looking to enhance the Church building and our liturgical space in the following ways:
• Moving the Organ and Piano to the North Transept of the Church. This will allow greater access to Our Lady’s Chapel and more room for choirs and music groups. The organ will need to be fully replaced and we are still determining the extent of damage, if any, to the piano.
• Enhancing the Sound System. The sound system has been a perpetual problem at St. John’s. We’re hoping to enhance the system with a new one that will better meet our needs.
• Replacing the Floor. Because of the damage caused by fire and smoke, the entire floor has been tak-en up and we are down to concrete. We are looking at using a better floor material than the vinyl tiles put down nearly 20 years ago.
• Updated Lighting. As you know, a week before the incident in the Church, we replaced all lights in the Church with LED lights. We are entitled to receive the same replacement lights. With some direction, we may enhance the lights in the Sanctuary area, moving towards more liturgically sensitive and appropriate lighting. This is not settled at this point.
• Installation of a Lift for the Sanctuary. A lift will be installed to make access to the Sanctuary easier for those who cannot use the stairs or who find them overwhelming. We had been working on this project in the Fall and Winter but will now include it under this project.
• Replacement of the Pews and Chairs. All the pews and chairs have been destroyed and need to be replaced. (We will be having a survey of chairs sometime in August….we’ll need your help to pick out the best seats for our Church.) We will be installing a wood barrier in front of each section of pews for those in the front rows to be able to kneel and lean on. We are also looking at having some more pews and maybe a few less chairs but our ability to do that is not yet determined. Of course, we will have chairs and a good amount of those chairs will have handles as that seems to have been a help to many in the few months that we had them.
These expenses will be, in some part, covered by our insurance. How much will be covered by insurance and how much we will be responsible for financially is not yet determined. We hope to have more information on that in the next few weeks. Some of the changes—like better flooring— make sense as the Church will be empty of pews— and a new sound system is essential.
We have received numerous donations which will also help with expenses. I have created a dedicated account so that these funds may ONLY be used for the rebuilding of the Church and projects related to that rebuilding. As we get more of a sense of things, there will be a few new memorial opportunities that I would like parishioners to consider—and I think you’ll like them too. To be upfront, I am mindful about future building projects that we need to undertake at SJE and so I would like to avoid having a Capital Campaign now. In the future, we can “build” on the work we do for the Church for a campaign that will address our other needs. I’ll rely on the Pastoral Team, the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council for their wisdom before we make any decisions.
I promised you the weekend of May 20/21, when I preached at all the Masses, that I would keep you up to date. I have tried to do that periodically via the bulletin. Frankly, there has not been too much to report up until now. Since May 20th, our primary work has been cleaning up the damage and participating in numerous meetings to provide a good foundation for a successful building project. The other work we have been doing you have been seeing—from the updating of the Auditorium, the setup of the Convent and the like. I have a feeling after these initial meetings and plans that things will start moving a little more rapidly and we may need to have a regular update section in the bulletin.
Depending on how things go in the next few weeks, I hope to have two parish meetings where everyone can come together to hear and perhaps see what the final plans are for the rebuilding of the interior of the Church. If that becomes possible, I will let everyone know.
Let me end where I began this section of the letter, with gratitude. Thank you for all you have done and been over the past year, but particularly in these past weeks. I am not sure that every parish community of faith could come through what we have come through in the ways that we have. I am in awe of the Spirit at work here at SJE. The way we have come through so much in these weeks is a solid assurance to me that we will have an even stronger foundation for the future. Indeed, we’re going to be OK.
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
The Gospel this week calls us to get things in right order. I don’t know about you but it’s an important wake up call for me and one I need to hear quite often. Even in the life of the Church, particularly for we who serve and minister, we can caught in people, places and things. Our relationship with Christ sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Even worse, sometimes we convince ourselves with the “heresy of action” as a priest friend of mine reminds me about quite often.
Like so many of you, I’m a doer. Give me a project and I’ll do my best to get it done. Have someone that needs some help, I’ll do my best to help. Needs something done, I’m on it. Yet in the midst of all of these “good things”, I can convince myself that I’m doing God’s work, serving the Church, helping those in need. While I hope I am, it’s not enough unless I placed the priority on my relationship with Christ.
These days of summer might be a good time for each of us to get our priorities in order and for others us of to “double down” on what we’re already doing well when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Preparing for Sunday’s mass has pushed me to look at that as was one event and encounter this past week. Last Saturday, I had the privilege to participate and to pray at the Ordinations to Priesthood last Saturday. (It’s here that I first met our new priest—Fr. Michael Plona! See picture to the right.) Participating in that liturgy reminded me of my Ordination five and a half years ago—December 3, 2011. I remember the joy that my parents and the communities I belonged to felt. I remember how life was radically dif-ferent after Ordination than before.
It has also called me to consider my own response to God’s call and how some times I am so concerned about the people, places and things that priorities can quickly fall out of order. Not to say these are bad things of themselves but perhaps take a more dominant role than they should. I find I can be caught up in meetings, paperwork, email, phone messages, dealing with this issue or that one and maybe the things of God don’t car-ry as much weight as they should. The “heresy of action” takes hold. All of these things can be rightful priori-ties. They’re just sometimes out of order.
Being new at something brings a renewed spirit to all that newness touches. I have been overwhelmed by the goodness of Father Michael Plona over the past few days. He has his priorities in right order. His “newness” is a good inspiration and reminder of our need to respond first to God’s call and then to the rest. In just a few days, he has made me rethink some things. Maybe his presence here can do the same thing for each one of us.
I remember my first days at the Parish of the Holy Cross in Nesconset. They were scary and intimidating days but also days filled with excitement and good spirit. I am going to bet Father Michael will know some of those same feelings. The community there took (and still does take) good care of me and made sure I kept things in right order. As they did that, they also allowed me to minister and to serve them. I hope this community can do the same.
I also remember my first Pastor, Fr. Jim McNamara (picture to the left). He was a gentle guide who showed me the importance of developing a powerful prayer life as a priority and from that, going forth to serve God’s people. His gentleness gave me the space to grow as a priest. He taught me a lot about priorities, priesthood and prayer. I hope and pray I can do the same for Father Michael. It’s a priority for me.
Please pray for me.
Dear Parish Family:
This is one of those transition times in the life of our parish and many others in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. It’s definitely another turn in parish life as we send the 8th graders forth from OLQA, send Father Suglia forth to St. Kilian’s in Farmingdale and prepare to welcome a new priest.
Graduation. Last Saturday, we had the privilege of praying with and for the eighth graders of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles Regional Catholic School at their Graduation Mass and Commencement Exercises. The young people in this class are a special group who I have been privileged to come to know over the past 10 months. They are a special group for many reasons. First, they’ve been created by God and called to holiness! Second, they have good families who are so present to them and have made tremendous sacrifices for them to attend Catholic school. Third, they have been formed into men and women of good character, in no small part, because of their attendance at OLQA!
Their graduation reminds me of the importance of Catholic education and I am happy SJE is a vibrant supporter of OLQA. I, personally, am grateful for every time I can be part of OLQA. These weeks are often transition times for students. Take some time and consider if OLQA might be a good school transi-tion for your child or grandchild. I think you'll be happy to be part of such a vibrant community of faith.
6 years + 2 years. This week is a big one for Father Suglia. Today, June 25th, marks the sixth anniversary of Father Suglia’s Ordination to Priesthood. While it is surely a day to celebrate, it’s a bittersweet day for our parish (and for him too!). Today at and after the 12 Noon Mass, we will pray for and send forth Father Suglia to his next priestly assignment—Associate Pastor of St. Kilian’s in Farm-ingdale. Moving is one of the toughest parts of this life and I hope in these days our prayers and support will make this an easier time for Father Suglia. We have many reasons to be grateful. While I have only lived here for a year, I am grateful for his friendship (a reconnection from our seminary days) and his commitment to various parts of our parish’s life, particularly OLQA Regional Catholic School and the Spanish community to name a few. I know this has been “good ground” for Father Suglia over the past two years and I know he will bring a piece of us with him to Farmingdale.
4 days. While Fr. Suglia has been a priest for six years, our new Associate Pastor will only have about four days of priestly experience. St. John the Evangelist has been chosen as one of five parishes to welcome and receive a newly ordained priest. Father Michael Plona will be the new associate pastor at St. John the Evangelist. I will ask Fr. Michael to share a little more about himself next weekend.
The assignment of a newly-ordained priest—as well as a seminarian in formation for priestly ordination, Paul Clores—is a great recognition of what I have come to know about this community. Bishop Barres and many others see SJE as a place where those in formation can learn more and more about what it is to serve God’s people as good and holy priests. Their formation and initiation, if you will, to priestly life is entrusted to us. It is both a great privilege and a great responsibility. He begins his assignment at SJE on Wednesday, June 28th.
1 year. On this Thursday, June 29, I will have been the Pastor of St. John the Evangelist for one year...and what a year it has been. I have spent some time in these days reflecting on some of my first encounters with staff members, the incredibly warm welcome you extended to me and the amazing support that you have offered throughout these months. In ways personal and parish wide, I do not think I could have survived this past year without that support and encouragement. I am filled with gratitude in more ways than you can know.
Change is not easy. I know, for some, my presence has been disappointing or discouraging. For that I am sorry. I know my own humanity has surely gotten in the Spirit’s way more than once in my time here. You’ve been good enough to let me know some of those times and I hope have helped me to become a better shepherd and servant. At the time of my installation in November, I quoted Pope Francis, writing: “Our priest is barefoot with respect to a land that he continues to believe and consider holy. He is not scandalized by the frailties that shake the human soul: aware that he is himself a healed paralytic.” I know, at times, I may have shaken “the human soul” with my own wounded humanity. If I have done that to you, I am sorry. I am forever a work in progress.
So these are transition times, for sure! Let’s pray for our graduates, Fr. Suglia and Fr. Michael Plona. And if you can, please say a prayer for me.
Dear Parish Family:
I have to be honest, I’m not looking forward to this weekend (I’m writing this column on Wednesday evening). Like some of you, this will be one of the “firsts” - the first Father’s Day without my dad physically present with my family and me. I am sure, like you, I’ll get through it. I would rather things be the way they were.
I actually remember last Father’s Day. We gathered at an Italian restaurant in Babylon and, looking back, can see that the struggles for my dad were not getting any easier. The months that followed did not change those realities. And last December, things radically changed.
Father’s Day can be tough for a lot of us for a lot of reasons. For some, like me, we’re mourning. For others, it’s a reminder of a loss from years ago. For others, it a reminder of the brokenness or weaknesses of our dads. For others, we harbor a pretty big “father wound”, as some spiritual writers have termed it.
This year, I have been pulled a little bit because of the Solemnity we celebrate today—the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It comes on a good day for us to not only reflect on the importance of the cele-bration of the Eucharist but also how it touches and heals us, strengthens and empowers us to be more Christ-like in our everyday lives.
I think of that because of my dad’s great devotion to the celebration of the Mass. When I entered the Seminary, my dad started to go to daily mass each day at Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip. I know why. He knew the importance of celebrating the Eucharist. He served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and read at Mass even after battling the effects of cancer and its treatment. He knew how important it was to serve at the altar. I even remember how bothered he was when they were going to have a few Sunday masses with no music. That did not go over well! He knew how important it was to pray fully at Mass. I remember him making sure he was at many of the “bigger” masses at which I presided — Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the like. He often had a few observations about the presider after mass too :)! There came a time when my dad could no longer receive the host or receive from the chalice. He still made great efforts to attend mass or to watch on TV or even to come here to SJE a few weeks before his passing. He knew the importance of praying in the midst of the assembly.
I realize more clearly that the celebration of the mass is another place for those sacred encounters be-tween heaven and earth. When I preside at Mass or concelebrate, the words in the Eucharistic Prayer, when we remember the dead, mean a little more. When I hear that someone requested that my dad be prayed for at mass, I pause for a bit. When I hold my chalice or wear my alb –which my Mom and Dad both gifted me with — they have a greater positive weight. All reminders of the intimacy that the celebra-tion of the Eucharist, of the Body of Christ, offers each one of us as individuals and as the community of faith, in heaven and on earth.
So on this day when we pause to reflect considerably on the gift of the Eucharist, let’s pray that we will not only receive the body of Christ but more fully become the Body of Christ. We might just find that it is the healing and transforming encounter with Christ that we need. Maybe today, Father’s Day, won’t be too bad of a day after all. Maybe the same for you.
Dear Parish Family:
This weekend is a weekend of mystery in the life of the Church. The Holy Trinity is often a source of many questions and, truthfully, questions that are not entirely able to be explained. Even more truthfully, I am not going to be able to answer them. There’s something engaging about living in the mystery of the Trinity. We try to embrace it, allow ourselves to be embraced by it and use the “clues” the Scriptures and the Church’s teaching give us.
I have a feeling the situation of our Church building is becoming a bit of a mystery. Some people are wonder-ing why it is going to take so long or what’s the status of the building or what can we do. Let me try to an-swer a few of the questions, then if you have others, I’ll answer those in the weeks ahead.
Why is it taking so long?
The major damage to the Church was not damage related to fire but to smoke and the effects of the various chemicals used to attempt to start much larger fires. Basically, we are going rebuild the entire interior of the Church. This includes the replacement of all pews (they could not be refurbished), new duct work throughout the Church (this will require going into some walls), replacement of the ceiling and recently installed light fixtures, a new organ, a new sound system, a new floor and likely a few more things. (We seem to find more problems as we go along.)
What are we doing now?
Right now, the primary work has been the removal of many of the items above and related cleaning. The soot and smoke damage seeped into just about every part of the Church. We have met with an architect and are in process of working with the Town of Brookhaven to secure the necessary permits. The process of arranging different contractors and coordinating these various ser-vices will naturally add to our time.
Was anything salvageable?
Yes! All of our liturgical furnishings (altar, ambo, Presider’s Chair) and the statues are all in relatively good shape. The reredos was not damaged nor were the Stations of the Cross or the stained glass windows. Everything is in need of a good cleaning but we’re working on that.
How can I help?
Right now, we’re in a place where not too much can be physically done. Certainly, we are in need of help with our auditorium set up and clean up and will likely need help with more projects in the months ahead. I promise I will let you know if and when help is needed. People have asked about making dona-tions and certainly donations are most welcome. We will use that money toward the rebuilding efforts. I am hoping not to have to undertake a capital campaign or fundraising campaign for this rebuilding project.
Are we going to be OK? Absolutely. No question about that.
P.S. Starting next Monday, June 19, our daily mass schedule will change. Daily masses will be celebrated at 7 a.m. and noon each day. Please check the bulletin each week to find out if mass will be celebrated in the convent or the auditorium.
Dear Parish Family:
As I write today (Wednesday before Pentecost Sunday), I want to talk to you about some practical realities of our parish in these days. These are some of the “normal” things we need to talk about in the midst of parish life and some that take on heightened importance in these days.
Because of some of the changes that the repair of the Church will require, I want to alert you to some events and changes in our parish calendar.
Vacation Bible Camp 2017.
After looking at the calendar and the uncertainty of space availability in July, we have made the decision to not hold Vacation Bible Camp in 2017. We will issue refunds to those who have signed up. The dates for VBC 2018 are already set—July 23—27, 2018. So mark your calendars today!
Fr. Suglia’s Farewell Celebration.
Save the date—Sunday, June 25—12 Noon Mass. We will gather for a special 12 Noon liturgy followed by a reception as we wish Fr. Suglia well in his new assignment as Parochial Vicar of St. Kilian’s in Farmingdale. Please make every effort to attend.
2017-18 Calendar Dates. Just a reminder to all ministry leaders that all calendar dates for the 2017-18 year were due this past Thursday to email@example.com. Any dates submitted after this point can not be assured of a space as we working to finalize our calendar in the month of June.
It wouldn’t be abnormal for a pastor to speak about collections and money, right? Honestly, we need to have a little conversation about that. In these days when the upcoming rebuilding of the Church will impact our budget as will the regular expenses of ministry and service here in the parish, I ask you to please be as generous as you can in the Sunday collection. I am unsure if we will take on a campaign for the rebuilding of the Church at this point. I will rely on the Finance Council for some direction on this in the weeks ahead. While we will surely accept donations that will be applied to the rebuilding of the Church (and have), the best way you can support St. John’s is through your consistent generosity in the Sunday collection. Regardless of insurance coverage, which I hope will assist us, the rebuilding of the Church is going to dramatically impact our annual budget. It is ONLY because of your generosity that we can continue to move forward in our efforts of outreach, evangelization and mission. Can I ask you to consider this in the weeks ahead and perhaps even “step up” your generosity in the Sunday collection particularly as we are heading into the summer and the end of the fiscal year? Without your support—financial and otherwise—we will soon find ourselves in a desperate financial situation.
Next Sunday, I hope you plan to come to our Parish BBQ! Before I arrived here, Father Walter had told me this is the event of the year. The truth—we need a good community building, fun event! So please make every effort to attend. I have asked that we not take up a collection for the BBQ this year. If you would like to make an offering or a donation you’re most welcome. Most important, for me, just come and get together, let’s have a great day as a parish community.
Though what has happened to us in these days is admittedly a bit overwhelming, I have been even more overwhelmed by how we have come together to witness to the power of Pentecost in our midst! So many of us have shed tears of sorrow over what has happened in our beautiful church. Pentecost reminds us that we will shed tears again, but this time tears of joy for what the Holy Spirit has done for us!
Come Holy Spirit, enkindle the hearts of your faithful here at SJE!
Dear Parish Family:
“What did I just go through?”
This question was asked by a young adult client of mine who had visited me in my last parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Knowing that a funeral was about to end and so was our session, we walked over to the Sacristy to visit the guest celebrant. I knew what was about to happen to this young man. In a span of about five minutes, he was asked why he was not a priest, told he should consider ending the relationship with the girlfriend (“we can take care of ending that”), told to shave and informed that the person who was speaking to him had celebrated mass just about every day of his adult life. What did that young man just go through? He had just met Msgr. James M. McDonald.
On Wednesday, I received an encouraging email from Msgr. McDonald about our Mass for Healing on Tuesday. He offered his support and expressed his great love for St. John’s. He wrote me, “You will find, however, that there are no people like those of St. John. Even more - our Blessed Mother will help you as she did me.” Is anyone surprised that he would write this to me? Today, at his present parish of St. Aidan’s in Williston Park, Msgr. McDonald will celebrate his 50th anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Whenever I think of him it is always with great awe and admiration.
Our paths have crossed in different ways over the years. He interviewed me before I entered the seminary. We both served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. When I learned of my assignment here, he was one of the first people I called. (Are you surprised that he had already heard about the assignment?)
Whenever we meet each other, there are often jokes back and forth about different things. I have been told that I am a “delayed vocation” and am “renewed” (not sure that’s a compliment). Any of you who attended the funerals of Ernie Vigliotta and Ben Pirraglia this past November know what I am speaking about. I often have a few quips back too! But he always, always, always ends with words of admiration, love and support and comments, “You’re not that different than me” (I think that’s a compliment).
One of the first people I thought of when I learned of last Friday’s events was Msgr. McDonald. I know of his love for Center Moriches and all of you at St. John’s. I also know how instrumental he was in getting our present building established and, yes, I know it was a challenging time for him and for the parish. My heart broke for him as I realized what was happening to the church building. My heart broke because I don’t think I know a more dedicated and committed priest or human being than Msgr. McDonald. He is often the first to write a note or send an email. If you’re sick or in the hospital, he’s there regardless of where you might be ailing. Calling others to the sacraments like no other. Supporting people through the annulment process. Celebrating weddings, funerals and baptisms wherever needed. Committed to celebrating of the Eucharist like no other.
Encouraging vocations anywhere and everywhere. Before he even knew me personally, he saw me a few times as a student and campus minister and asked, “Why aren’t you a priest?” While I did not know him well then, he certainly made an impression. I think of him during these difficult days at St. John’s. These days that are, at times, pretty overwhelming. I recall his amazing devotion. I remember his commitment to the people. I even smile at some of his classic lines and phrases. His presence helped to transform this parish through some pretty difficult times. His presence here on Tuesday was a good reminder that, indeed, we’re going to be OK!
In Jesus and Mary, let us pray in thanksgiving for the priestly presence of Msgr. McDonald. May today’s celebration be a source of joy and celebration for him as it is for the church.
In the second reading at mass this Sunday, St. Peter tells us to be sure to "give reason for our hope". As I write today about our parish, at first glance, it might seem hard to give reason for our hope.
A life has been a lost. A building seriously damaged. A local community shaken. A parish community broken. Yet, we are a people of hope. It's what the season of Easter is all about. We find light in darkness. We rise in death. We discover hope in despair.
Our parish community has been rocked in these past few hours. No question. But we will come through this because of the faith that makes us Catholic, a faith that transcends any building, that overcomes any tragedy.
We find reasons for hope in the many acts of goodness we have been recipients of in these hours. The hundreds of people who came to St. John's wanting to do something. The OLQA community for taking good care of our students. The staff at St. John's for working tirelessly to guide local officials. The incredible and amazing outpouring of service from the Suffolk County Police Department. The presence of Bishop Perez all day at SJE and the support of Bishop Barres - plus so many others who reached out to provide resources and express support. Yes - good reasons for hope.
Let us pray for and with one another in these days. Let us pray too for the man who barricaded himself in the church and whose life was lost today. Pray for his family and friends too. Prayer. Another good reason for our hope!
Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, pray for us. St. John the Evangelist, pray for us. Please be patient.
Dear Parish Family:
As we move closer and closer to the feast of Pentecost, the Gospels draw our attention to the working of the Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus assures us of the presence of the Advocate who will come and will never leave us as orphans (John 14). We seek and pray for the coming of the Spirit to not only comfort and console us but to inspire us to be advocates for one another.
This week, I want to share some good news about and for our parish family. After consultation with the Sister Ann, the Pastoral Team and the Finance Council, I am excited to announce that Alex Finta has been hired as the new Associate Director of Parish Social Ministry at SJE! This is indeed good news and, to take from today’s second reading, another reason “for our hope” at St. John’s (1 Peter 3:15). Alex has served here over the past year as a social work intern. Since his arrival in the parish and in the school, he has gently made an impact on the lives of many. Recognizing Alex’s talent and his deep desire to minister to the poor and vulnerable, as a parish we did not want to miss this opportunity for Alex and for St. John’s.
As the Associate Director of Parish Social Ministry, Alex will focus his work on the “peripheries”, the “going out” of the Gospel. A few years ago, Pope Francis said, “….we must open ourselves to the peripheries, also acknowledging that, at the margins too, even one who is cast aside and scorned by society is the object of God’s generosity. We are all called not to reduce the Kingdom of God to the confines of the “little church” — our “tiny little church” — but to enlarge the Church to the dimensions of the Kingdom of God.” This will be Alex’s focus in ministry. As he has done with our rapidly expanding Street Ministry, I expect Alex to carry this same vision and energy into some of our existing ministries and draw on his experience and wisdom to create more ways for you and me to bring the Gospel to those in need. This will be in many obvious and not so obvious ways as he tries to expand the ministerial dimensions of our parish.
We do an amazing job of ministering to those who come to our doors. For example, over the past two months, St. John’s served over 1200 individuals through our Outreach work, the Food Pantry and the Thrift Shop. We are indebted to Sister Ann and the hundreds of volunteers who make all of this happen. Alex has worked with Sister Ann pretty closely throughout his internship. With these existing ministries already in place, we hope to be able to do even more for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized in our parish community. Look for some new programs and ministries developing in this area as well as ways St. John’s will be more present in the local community, particularly to those on the peripheries.
It’s pretty clear why we are making this addition to our staff. How are we doing this? Well that part is because of you! Through your presence, generosity and financial support (particularly in the Sunday collection, the Parish Social Ministry Collection and the Poor Box) you demonstrate that caring for the poor and vulnerable is a priority for you and for our parish. This is another concrete action we are taking to care for those on the peripheries.
On a personal note, it has been a privilege to work and serve with Alex throughout this year. He is a man of great passion, witness and humility. Not only has he shared his many gifts with our parish community, but he has been open to the wonderful spirit that makes SJE the amazing parish that it is today. I am a better person because of his presence here. I am pretty sure you will be too!
With the help of the Advocate (John 14:16), I look forward to being an advocate with Alex and with all of you for those who are most in need.
Come Holy Spirit!
Dear Parish Family:
In my first months as a priest, I remember talking to a mother of two adult children. One of her adult sons was giving her a hard time. (We sons can be a handful!) She was getting a little upset and I said, “Oh, Mary, I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. I hope everything will be OK.” Without missing a beat, she looked up at me and said, “Don’t worry about me, Fr. John. They make us mothers tough for a reason.” She’s right! They make mothers tough for a reason.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers of the Church today! While I cannot help but think of my own mom and the amazing woman she is, our thoughts and prayers, today, are with all of the mothers of our parish community. When I think of my own mom, particularly over this past year, I’m in awe of the selfless and humble sacrifices she has made for my dad and for our family. Not easy but no complaints. It is what mothers
For so many women, in the spirit of the Blessed Mother, they offer their gifts for the good of our parish in so many various ways. How blessedare we as we give thanks to God for mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, stepmothers, mothers to be, and all the women of our lives who make God’s presence known to us.I cannot help to also think of those who find this day difficult. I think of and pray for women who have struggled to have a child or faced the sickness and loss of a child. I think of and pray for women who have suffered through a miscarriage or have endured difficulty and challenge in raising their children. I think of the moms who pray and battle and struggle with their children battling addiction. I think of and pray for the mothers who have had to make the difficult decisions that love requires, even when it means putting in some boundaries and limits.
Indeed, they make mothers tough for a reason. And we are all better because of it! Let us give thanks to God this day and always, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, for the gift of mothers in our lives and the life of the Church.
P.S. I want to thank you for your prompt and generous response to the Catholic Ministries Appeal. In our latest report, we have raised over $113,000 which is 114% of our diocesan goal. This is more than we raised in total last year. We reached the diocesan goal in about two months making one of the first twenty parishes to reach the goal. Last year, we were still trying to reach the goal in October. So thank you! I cannot tell you how happy and, honestly, how relieved I am that we have made our goal. While we are still short of our Challenge Goal of $130,000, this will be the last mention of the Catholic Ministries Appeal for this year. I will write to previous year’s donors who have not made a pledge and we will leave it at that. I have asked the diocese to no longer send letters to anyone and we will not include any additional envelopes in the Fall, as the practice has been in the past. If you haven’t made a pledge yet and planned to do so, can I ask you to please follow up as soon as you can? Again, I am so grateful for everyone’s support. It means a lot and makes a great difference.