Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lights in the Darkness: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, January 29th, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

            This morning Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?”
            I want to point out the obvious—there was no electricity in Jesus’ time.  Thus, when the sun went down it was dark.  To provide light to a home someone needed to take a clay lamp, fill it with oil and light the wick.  Today, we often appreciate electrical lighting when the power goes out or we are out camping.  On more than one occasion, I forgot a headlamp while hunting or camping.  Good thing Dad was around with his dozen extras! 
            Think of how ridiculous the scene is that Jesus set.  Someone had taken the time and energy to light a lamp—only to hide the light?
            What Jesus is saying is that in our walk with God, we cannot keep our faith to ourself.  We live in the darkness and we must keep our light shining brightly.  Plus, this light is not only for our own benefit.  When I am in the BWCA without a headlamp, it is a sort of obligation for my Dad to share his light.  Otherwise I could fall and crack my skull.  (Yes, I should have prepared ahead of time!)  We have an obligation to share our light of faith to the world.
            May we let our light of faith shine brightly today so as to allow Jesus Christ, the light of the world, to burn brightly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Talk on St. Thomas Aquinas

(Listen to this talk here).

Following our evening Mass to honor our patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, I gave a talk to our parishioners and our 7th-11th grade students in faith formation after a parish pot-luck.  This speaks in greater detail of our amazing patron. 

St. Thomas Aquinas: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 (Feast of our Patron, St. Thomas Aquinas)

Note: I gave two homilies today.  They feature much of the same material, but were given at two different Masses and thus I addressed two different age groups.  Both are linked to below.

(Listen to this homily given at our school Mass here).
(Listen to this homily given at our parish celebration Mass here).

            As I will be speaking in more depth about St. Thomas Aquinas later this evening, I would like to offer a few simple points about our patron here at Mass.
            The author of the letter to the Hebrews offers the following quotation: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds.”  St. Thomas exemplifies this promise of God in a powerful way.
            First—“I will write [my laws] upon their minds.”  What Albert Einstein was to physics, science and mathematics, Thomas was to theology, philosophy and faith.  He was one of the most brilliant men that walked on our planet!  He is one of thirty-five doctors of the Church.  Imagine how many Catholics have lived in our near 2000 year existence.  Now consider how many canonized saints there are.  St. Thomas was one of thirty-five given the title doctor.  Thomas got God’s law.
            Yet as a professor at seminary frequently said, St. Thomas was not a brain on a stick.  Listen again to the first half of God’s promise from Hebrews: “I will put my laws in their hearts…”  Thomas’ faith was extraordinary.  Late in life, St. Thomas had two mystical experiences.  One featured a deep experience of God Himself.  After this private revelation, Thomas said that all his work was straw (compared to God Himself), and quit writing. 
In another, Jesus came to Thomas and said he had written well of Jesus and asked what his reward would be.  Thomas basically got a blank check from God!  What would you have asked for?  An athletic scholarship?  Money?  New car?  Thomas answered, “Only you Lord.”
We have an amazing patron, who is also the patron saint of Catholic schools, all schools, students, teachers and universities.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

The Greatest Story Ever Told Session #13: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes

(Listen to this session here).

This week we continue in Wisdom Literature, the fourth section of the Old Testament books.  Today we focus on the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  The first gives practical wisdom to live in harmony with God and each other while succeeding in day-to-day living.  The second asks the question the rest of the Bible answers: "What is the point"?  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Law is fulfilled by Jesus Christ: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

            As we continue through the letter to the Hebrews we hear an insight about the Old Testament Law: “…the law has only a shadow of the good things to come.”  Jesus said as much as he fulfilled the Law in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets, I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
            This weekend I preached about how we may miss some of Jesus’ claims of divinity, while a first century Jew would have understood them completely.  Here is another example.  In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he says several times, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you…”  For example, he said, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  
What Jesus was referring to was the Law which was contained in the first five books of the Bible.  Who, but God alone, could claim to change God’s own Law?
            Jesus came to fulfill the Old.  In so doing he challenges us to love God and our neighbor.  May we have the grace to follow what is New today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gossip? Not here: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, January 26th, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

            When I was at St. John’s, I remember talking about an experience I had with Fr. Rich.  I can’t get into details, but it was understanding how much people talk about priests.  I said to Fr. Rich, “It is amazing that I would take someone’s deepest darkest sins to the grave.  Then these same people could go out and think nothing of gossiping about me!” 
            I don’t share this to start a pity-party, martyrdom, or a “woe is me” mentality.  (In fact, priests can be the worst gossipers.  We get together and often do so—this is something I am trying to work on, as is my priest support group).  I simply want to say that I have experienced the devastating effects of parish gossip first-hand.
            Jesus gives us words on which we should periodically reflect: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  Gossip leads to division, and it has no place in our parish.
            We must remember that we are on the same team—the same family.  No one should experience detraction or behind-the-back negative whisperings.
            St. Paul wrote two letters to our saint today—St. Timothy.  Do you know one of the themes of these letters to this young priest?  Unity.  In fact, one of the consistent emphases of St. Paul’s letters—and the entire New Testament—and Jesus’ own teaching—is unity.  Thus I believe I must bring up this topic frequently.

            In our world, it is easy to point to outside sources of divisive evil—ISIS, violent crimes, egregious theft, infidelity and the like.  Yet we must realize that the cure to division takes place first in our own hearts.
            If Jesus, Paul and the other apostles consistently examined things like gossip and detraction, so should we.  May we continue to grow in unity and joy!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

An example of generosity at our parish: Parish Bulletin--1-25-15

            This week I would like to highlight someone that has gone above and beyond the norm to serve our parish recently.  I consider him a hero for his expertise in maintenance, heating and other odds and ends.  His name: Dave Chute.  I want to personally thank Dave for the many ways he has served our parish through working with our buildings and grounds—for free!  Dave will probably not be thrilled with being the focus of a bulletin article, but I want to use his service as an example to us all.
            As I have stated before, our parishes have a rich tradition of our lay faithful investing in St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban.  I am very proud and very grateful for the many generations who have been generous in using their time, talent and treasure to serve God’s kingdom here at home.
            Back to Dave.  Dave is a newly retired handyman who, as his grandchild said, likes to keep busy.  He also likes to serve.  Dave approached us at coffee and donuts one morning and offered to oversee the boiler that heats our buildings.  We were delighted as we were advertising for such a role.  What we didn’t know was how busy Dave actually wanted to be—I frequently see him working around the parish with our heating/cooling, plumbing, supply inventory, garage, storage spaces and other stuff that I can’t describe (because I am not a handyman).
            Dave is an example of a win-win-win-win situation.  He gives of his time—win.  He gives of his talents—win.  This saves us big-time bucks—win.  And I bet if you asked Dave he’d say that he is blessed by this new opportunity—win.
            I have been preaching and writing about what it means to be a generous Catholic.  Too often we priests only talk about the money side of stewardship—Dave is a great example of how generosity with service and gifts can make a profound impact on the life of a parish and even our bottom line.
            What are the gifts and talents God has given you?  Have you wanted to become more involved at St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Columban parishes?  Do you have ideas or means to get stuff done?  Our parishes cannot run efficiently or effectively without your ownership and investment.  Please let us know if you would like to serve our parishes in a greater capacity.  We would be happy to put you to work!
            God Bless!

Catholic Schools Week: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Note: I gave two different homilies this weekend as we celebrated the opening of Catholic Schools Week at our 10:30 Mass.  I have posted both.

(Listen to this homily here).

           I have been in schools almost my entire life.  My parents were both teachers in health and phy. ed.  Dad taught me in driver’s training and Mom taught me in a class you adults will know.  For now I will simply call it “Values and Choices”.  Scarring!
            Following high school, I went to college to become a teacher, then I spent forever in seminary studying to be a priest!  Finally I became a priest, and both my first and current assignment I was blessed to be part of a Catholic elementary school.
            As we begin Catholic Schools Week I want you to know how grateful I am for all of our teachers, both those at St. Thomas Aquinas and our surrounding schools.  I know we have many teachers, coaches and other school staff in our midst who are helping form our kids.  I am a firm believer that teaching is not a career or a job—it is a vocation.  Thank you for your yes to teach!
            [To our students].  Happy Catholic Schools Week!
            I have a simple question for you this morning: what is your favorite part about being at St. Thomas Aquinas?  [Silence]…It could be…your priest?!  I like free time!  Free time?!  We need more work time!  I’ll have to tell the teachers to give you more homework!  Recess.  Now there’s a good one.  After religion and math, recess is the best class.  Mass.  Yes!  Jesus!  Ha!  That’s our standard answer for our Wednesday Masses.  When in doubt—it’s Jesus.
            I have said since I arrived here that our mission for our school is simple: Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.”  Here is something I have been thinking about as my highlight for our school.  How many days are you in school?  170.  And you are there seven hours a day?  Yep.  Well if I do some quick math, this is 1,190 hours for the year.  You come to St. Thomas Aquinas almost one thousand two hundred hours!  We are striving to make these hours, days, weeks and months periods that are saturated with Jesus’ love as we form your children academically and spiritually.
Thank you, parents for sending your kids to our school—and to our other faith formation programs.  We thank God for the great honor it is to serve you, your families and your children.  Know of our prayers and please continue to pray for the success of St. Thomas Aquinas School!

Jesus is God; does this matter to you?: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Listen to this homily here).

            The opening of our reading from Mark—from the first chapter of his account—seems innocent enough: “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”  While we note that this is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a more intense understanding at a deeper level is probably lost on us.  It was sure lost on me until I listened to a talk given by Fr. Robert Barron on a Lighthouse Media CD.
            In ancient Rome, military victories would be announced by a messenger who proclaimed the good news for the empire.  This is the same word that Mark uses when he states, “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel [good news] of God…”  This word would not have been lost on a first century Jew!  These were fighting words.  It was like Mark was saying, “Hey Romans, your good news which features an earthly kingdom and military victory pales in comparison to our Good News about God!”
            This is a sort of taunt by Mark!  Plus, Mark wrote his gospel account while in Rome.  He was writing the Good News of Jesus Christ in the belly of the beast.  And first century Jews would have understood this clearly.
            Jesus once asked his disciples a question.  He asks us the same question throughout the ages: “Who do you say that I am?”  C.S. Lewis argued that you could only answer this question in three ways; Jesus was either Lord, a liar or a lunatic.
            Yet today, the most common answers to this question are the only answers that are logically impossible—a good man, a good teacher or a prophet.  These are impossible answers if we understand that Jesus claimed to be God—which he did!  This leaves us with only two choices: Jesus was really God, or Jesus was something else.  But he could not have simply been a good man.
            I have heard in secular our critical circles people claiming that Jesus did not ever claim to be God.  This is false, especially when we get into the mind of a first century Jew.
            For example, remember when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?  The temple was the most important place for Jews because it contained God’s very presence.  Now Jesus was saying that he was replacing the temple!  Only God could do this.
            Or consider when Jesus said to a paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  The crowd which gathered rightly asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  Jesus healed this paralytic, showing that he was in fact God.
            The fishermen in the Gospel encountered Jesus and their lives were never the same.  Simon, Andrew, James and John left everything to follow Jesus.  They left their business, families and daily lives to follow Christ.  Do you think they would have done this for a mere man, even if he was good?  Would they have followed a mere prophet?
            Paul also proclaimed a definite change in the world after Christ.  Those who had wives should live as if they did not.  Those who wept should stop weeping.  Those who rejoiced should stop rejoicing.  Those buying stuff should quit.  Those using the world should cease.  Paul’s intention was to explain how Jesus Christ—the God-man—has changed everything.
            My question to you today: does Jesus make a difference in your life?

Hebrews and the Mass: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

            The letter to the Hebrews is a very deep work.  Its theological depth cannot be underestimated.  In seminary we had the chance to be taught this letter by a renowned biblical scholar who taught Scripture in Rome.  We studied Hebrews for four weeks and only began to plumb its depths!
            Two points today for your consideration.  First, many biblical scholars think that Hebrews was intended to be a homily at Mass.  Its purpose was to describe the Mass itself.  Today, for instance, we heard words like tabernacle, priest, sanctuary and sacrifice—all of which make sense in a liturgical context.
            Second, many of our brothers and sisters question us about the last word I mentioned—sacrifice.  Some misunderstand what we mean by calling Mass a sacrifice because they think we re-sacrifice Jesus.  They point to a verse from which we just heard: “He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.”  We do not believe we re-sacrifice Jesus; rather, we re-present the same sacrifice of Calvary at Mass.
            This is indeed a mystery—how can a Mass in International Falls in 2015 be the same sacrifice as in 33 outside of Jerusalem?  What helped me understanding this mystery more fully was learning of identity and distinction between moments of time in which Jesus’ sacrifice is presented.
            Consider what is the same about Mass today and the events of Calvary.  It is the same priest—Jesus.  I stand in persona Christi and it is really Christ, using his priest, who offers Mass.  It is the same victim—Jesus.  It is the same sacrifice—Jesus.  
            The distinctions between the altar and cross account for differences in time, place and appearance.  We are not magically brought back to 33—we remain in our present time.  Neither are we brought to Jerusalem.  Jesus does not come to us as a man, but his presence is real nonetheless under the forms of bread and wine.   
            Hebrews is a portion of Scripture worth revisiting and reading through slowly as it explains Mass and how it is the same sacrifice offered by Christ on Calvary.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An interesting article on Natural Family Planning from an unlikely source...

I found this article on which looks at a secular approach to the benefits of Natural Family Planning.  It provides some good food for thought as we continue to encourage NFP among married couples.  Check it out here: <>.

Note--beware that at least two of the links contained in this article are either inappropriate or anti-Catholic.  In no way am I endorsing any of these!

The Bible Points to Jesus: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

           Are you ready for your quiz this morning?  I am proud of the way you have been learning Bible verses, so I figured you’re ready for a quiz.  Did you study?  I’m just kidding…but I do have some questions for you.
            Kindergarteners, what is this called?  [I hold out a Bible].  A Bible.  Yep, and who is the Bible about?  Jesus.  Amen—the Bible is all about Jesus.  Actually, that is a very deep answer because even the stories before Jesus point to Jesus.
              Now the Bible is made up of two parts—can you name them?  First graders?  Second graders?  The New Testament and the Old Testament.  Very good.  Now I want you to see something…[I open the Bible to the beginning of the New Testament]…see how much longer the Old Testament is.  There is a lot before Jesus, but it still points to Jesus.
            Now, we heard a name in our first reading and Psalm this morning.  It was a long name and I am pretty sure no one here is named this.  It starts with M.  Melchizedek.  Wow, very good!  Now N. I’d offer you money to spell this for me, but you got my money last time.  What was Melchizedek?  A priest!  You bet.  And we heard that Jesus was also a priest, a priest in the line of Melchizedek. 
            Now check this out…[I open the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew to show many pages are between Melchizedek and Jesus].  There was so much time between Melchizedek and Jesus!  Yet the Old Testament points to Christ, and I think it is pretty cool how God made this happen.
            Keep up the good reading and memorizing your Bible.  It tells the greatest story ever and will always lead us to Jesus.

The Greatest Story Ever Told Session #12: Job, Psalms

(Listen to this session here).

Having concluded the prophets, we move into our fourth section of the Oldest Testament--Wisdom Literature.  This session includes reflection on the books of Job and Psalms.  Job and his "friends", caught in the timeless question--why do good people suffer--are surprised by God's mysterious response.  Psalms, one of the most foundational portions of Scripture for the Israelites, Jesus, the apostles and our Church is a school of prayer.

St. Sebastian: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 (St. Sebastian)

(Listen to this homily here).

            St. Sebastian lived in the third century during the time of the Diocletian persecutions.  He was a soldier in the Roman army and an impressive individual.  Legend has it that he was strong, attractive and courageous. 
            He lived a life that inspired others, even to conversion to Christ.  As Christianity was illegal under Diocletian’s reign, the emperor wasn’t thrilled that his own soldiers were being converted.  Sebastian was arrested and set to be executed with arrows.  He was shot several times and left for dead—but he survived!
            Now at this point, if I was Sebastian, I would have gotten out of dodge quickly.  But as inspiring as this saint’s courage and strength here to this point, he went above and beyond for his Lord.  As the story goes, he knew the emperor’s route through the city and hid in an alley until the emperor passed by.  When he did, Sebastian stepped out, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians and attempted to convert even him!  For this noble cause, Sebastian was martyred.
            I brought with me this morning some items of devotion to share, as St. Sebastian is my patron saint.  First, the statue was sort of a gift.  Fr. Rich (my friend and first pastor as a priest) and I were in Rome and I was struck by this beautiful piece—until I saw the price tag.  Fr. Rich asked how much I would be willing to pay to buy it, then put enough Euros on the counter to cover it—and this was not a small amount.  I am grateful for this gift.
            You can also see a small candle and stone.  Both of these came from San Sebastiano’s in Rome.  This basilica houses the remains of St. Sebastian and even held St. Peter and St. Paul for a time.  It is built over a crypt which is accessible to visit.  The stone comes from this crypt and I had lit this candle at St. Sebastian’s tomb when I last visited.
            Finally, the small reliquary on display contains a relic of St. Sebastian.  This, too, was a gift from Fr. Rich for my ordination to the priesthood.  It is a true blessing to have and has increased my devotion to my patron.
            St. Sebastian is the patron of athletes (which is why I chose him in high school), soldiers and archers.  He models the virtue of courage in the face of persecution—a virtue in which we all need to foster today.  He shows us the heroic witness of love for Jesus, a love which helped him offer his life for the faith.
            St. Sebastian, pray for us!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wounded Healers: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, January 19th, 2015

(Listen to this homily here).

            A portion of our first reading has been dear to my heart: “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness…”  This is one of those passages that as a seminarian, and now as a priest, I keep in my back pocket.
            My spiritual director once told me that priests are called to be wounded-healers.  He wisely told me to recognize that I am broken, sinful and weak.  It is only when a priest recognizes that Christ heals him that he can help heal others.
            What is amazing is that God, by becoming a man suffered for us.  He shows us what it means to offer himself in weakness, brokenness and suffering for our sins.
            We ought to keep this in mind.  Each of us needs healing—needs a savior—to overcome our fallenness.  Holding fast to this fact will inspire us when we work with others, especially those whom we find difficult.  If we lose sight of our own brokenness and healing in Christ, this is where judging, gossip and detraction come in.
            May we be faithful wounded-healers in our world.  There is so much brokenness out there and it can only be healed by our savior.

Theology of the Body: The Yes behind the No's: 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Listen to this homily here).

            I wish you could have all seen what I got to see Friday evening and Saturday morning.  I traveled to Big Sandy Camp in McGregor to join in the Theology of the Body retreat for teens.  On Friday evening seven of us priests heard confessions for two hours.  We had 170 kids go to Confession on a Friday evening.  These same young people went to Mass on Saturday and worshiped the Lord in Adoration Saturday evening.  While many of these kids didn’t want to be there at first, after a couple of hours they were open and willing to pray and learn.
            And do you know what they were learning about?  Sexual morality!  On a weekend!
            Now if I asked you to explain, or write on paper, what our Catholic teaching is regarding sexual morality—certainly if I asked the average person on the street what our teaching is—I bet it would feature a list: “No, no, NO, NO, NEVER!”  I find this curious because we would never describe anything else like this.
            For example, when my Ghanaian friends have asked about ice hockey, I don’t start with, “No hitting people with sticks!  No carrying the puck!  No taking off your skates!”  Their response to such an explanation—“Ben, what are you talking about?  I don’t even know what a puck is!”  Rather, I would explain hockey by saying, “Put this small and flat black thing—called a puck—in the net!  This is the main goal of hockey!” (No pun intended).
            For too long we have only understood the no’s of sexual morality.  The Theology of the Body by St. John Paul II articulates the yes.  St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians states that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  This is a major yes in God’s plan!  This series of talks by JPII examined Scripture passages like this to discern what it means for us to have bodies, gender and the capacity to love.  It has revolutionized how we approach one of the greatest gifts God has given us.
            JPII pointed to the beginning of our existence when God, out of love, created us in his image and likeness.  Unlike the angels, He gave us a body.  Unlike the animals, He gave us a soul.  He also created male and female to be different.  And can we all agree that God knew what He was doing?  After all, He is God!  He gave us gender, but this is not true of every species—angels and amoeba are two examples.  What does it mean for God to give us bodies that come in a male or female form?
            The heart of the Theology of the Body is love.  We have been created by love, from love and for love.  Love is the one word that summarizes our existence.
            While I hope to avail our parishes to deeper reflection on the Theology of the Body in the future, I would like to apply some of its basic principles to my own life.
            As a priest, I am a celibate man.  For starters, do you know how many people feel bad for me, think I am crazy or think of me as weird?  Please—don’t ever feel sorry for me!  Bishop Sirba never put a gun to my head and yelled, “You WILL be a celibate for the rest of your life!”  I chose celibacy freely, and while there are some no’s involved—a wife and children—there is a far deeper yes.
            I have said yes first to God.  Like the prophet Samuel, I heard God calling me to consider the priesthood.  After many years of prayer and discernment, I followed His plan for me to be a priest.  And as a priest I have experienced so much joy, peace and contentment.  I mean, do you think I walk around telling myself, “NO, Ben, you cannot have children!  NO, Ben, you cannot get married!”  Indeed, it is not always easy to be celibate, but I always try to focus on God’s incredible plan for my life.
            I love what my rector in seminary once shared.  He said, “Fellas, you need to know something right now.  There is no vocation to girls.  Some of you seminarians think it’s all about girls, girls, girls!  Get this in your head, gentlemen, there is either zero or one!” 
            If you are married, do you consistently live your life saying, “NO, I can’t be with her, or her, or her, or her”?  Or do you continue to live your life with and for your spouse and kids?
I also said yes to serving you.  For many years now I have prayed for all that I would minister to, and that my life may be spent in service to God’s people.  This is a humbling honor, and one which the celibate lifestyle inspires.
Finally, JPII looks to the cross as the ultimate example of what it means to have a body, to offer our bodies in love and to sacrifice for the beloved.  Jesus Christ, in becoming a man, offers the primary witness to laying down his life—his body—for his people.  And it is at the cross from which all the yeses of our moral teachings find their origin.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Six Month Review and Future Goals: Parish Bulletin--1-18-15

           As I reflect on my first months as pastor, I am grateful for many gifts God has given our parishes.  I will share some of my highlights that focus on our mission and then provide a wish list for 2015.
I am excited about our focus on our basic mission to love God, love our neighbor, seek the lost and make disciples.  Mass attendance is up, as is our faith formation programs and school enrollment.  Our parish mission was a huge success and we have given out 1,000 books and CDs to promote our Catholic faith.  Coffee and donuts are back and are here to stay!  We continue to reach out to the elderly through Mass and prayer services at our nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  The poor continue to be served in a variety of ways.  Our Remembrance Mass was a powerful opportunity to those who continue to grieve loved ones. 
In short, I believe we are being faithful to Christ’s basic call at our parishes.
As we begin a new year, here is a basic wish list for 2015.  The following may also serve as some parish resolutions and provide opportunities for your assistance and service.  Here goes!
·      Increase daily and weekend Mass attendance and number of Confessions
·      Offer a 40 Hour devotional during Lent and a parish mission in Advent
·      Celebrate parish and parish organization milestones and feasts
·      Provide many exciting opportunities for our faith formation students to grow in the faith, both at home and throughout the Diocese.  This will include discerning God’s will for our faith formation team and the possibility of hiring someone this summer.  As Mary Morrisseau retired, we will need a long-term solution after this semester.
·      Add fifth grade to our school and reach 50 total students
·      Keep pace with our current UCA assessment.  In the past six months we covered nearly half of our 2014 assessment—thanks so much!  By year’s end I pray we can keep up with what we are asked to contribute to the diocese in the present.  Ideally we could also cover the past debt as well!
·      Firm up our vision for our building and grounds.  I am grateful for the men and women who have served on our buildings and grounds committee as they assess our needs, options and finances.
Establish a Pope Francis Committee that will help us serve the poor, homebound, ill and disenfranchised efficiently