Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent.  The key figure this week is Mary.  She is visited by the angel, Gabriel, who tells her that she is to be the Mother of God.  Mary hesitates a bit at this news and asks “How can this be?”  The angel assures her that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that God will make this happen.  The angel then tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, in her advanced age, has also conceived a son and is in her sixth month of pregnancy.  The angel reminds her that nothing is impossible with God.  In hearing this, I imagine that Mary remembers God’s faithfulness to his people throughout the ages.  Surely she had to be aware of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah who hoped against hope and brought forth children in fulfillment of God’s promises.  Mary replies to Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Sometimes, we don’t always understand how God is working in our lives.  And every so often he sends a messenger (sometimes an angel) into our lives to assure us: “the Lord is with you, for nothing is impossible with God.”  Let us reflect upon Mary’s faithfulness to God’s will in her life and let us seek her intercession as we strive to be faithful to the Gospel and to God’s will in our lives.

The last opportunity (that I am aware of) this Advent Season to take part in a Communal Penance liturgy is this Sunday afternoon (December 21) at 3:00 PM at Christ the Good Shepherd Parish.  The church site of the parish is Saint Helen Church.   As you are making many last minute preparations for Christmas, I encourage you not to forget your spiritual preparation.  If you have not yet had the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of Penance, please consider attending the celebration this afternoon.  

Please join us for our last Advent Evening Prayer this Tuesday, December 23, at 6:30 PM here at Saint John Paul II Parish Church.  All those presently doing hospital ministry and ministry to the homebound are invited to join us for Evening Prayer followed by a short meeting.  Anyone who has never done this ministry, who is thinking about participating in it, and who is interested in finding out more about it is most welcome to attend as well.

This Thursday we celebrate Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.  We welcome all those who are “home for Christmas,” especially   all our college students and all family members from out of town who are visiting and celebrating Christmas with their families. Please join us for one of the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day liturgies which are listed in today’s bulletin.   May you and your families have a most blessed Christmas and Christmas Season!

This year, each family will be receiving a special gift as you leave Church at the end of the Christmas liturgies.  It is a book by Jason Evert published by Totus Tuus Press entitled: Saint John Paul the Great – His Five Loves.  It is a wonderful book about the life of Saint John Paul II, the challenged he faced, his deep faith and what motivated him in living out that faith.  I am sure that some of the stories within it will give anyone who reads the book a deeper appreciation for this saint of our times and the patron of our parish.   I was surprised, delighted, and truly moved by some of what I read in the book that I was never aware of while Saint John Paul II was pope.  Even though I knew he traveled extensively, I did not realize the close contact he had with people as pope.  I somehow thought that when he was at the Vatican, he was basically locked in his quarters, and apart or isolated from people, with the exception of his weekly audiences.  I guess my memories of him are mostly of his advanced years and his ailing health, and how he persevered to do what he could until he died.  So, I didn’t really remember the early years of his papacy until I read this book.  I do hope you enjoy it.  I thank those who made it possible for us to purchase these books for our parish this Christmas.

We had a great presentation last Sunday regarding the pilgrimage to Poland.  Hearing some of the history, seeing pictures landscape and churches, and hearing a bit about some of the saints connected with Poland created some excitement about what a great opportunity it will be to visit Poland.  We still have extra brochures available.  Please note that the early booking deadline (with a $100 reduction in the cost of the trip) has been extended to January 1.  Please note further details in today’s bulletin in the boxed section regarding the Pilgrimage to Poland.

Last week I noted that the musical instruments of all three of our merged parishes were evaluated by an independent professional auditor designated by the Office of Liturgy.  I also noted that this was customary in parishes that had merged so that the instruments that were the most valuable and in the best shape would be kept at the main worship site.  Since we were having continual problems with a couple of the instruments (constant need for repairs), it was timely for us to request this evaluation before we put any money into repairs.  After receiving our request, Father Jim Bessert, Director of the Office of Liturgy, appointed an independent auditor who assessed the three pianos and three organs that belong to Saint John Paul II Parish. I received a report and recommendation from Father Jim with the results. Per his directive within the letter, I shared the results with both Pastoral Council and Finance Council at their December meetings.  There were a couple of conditions that were noted: 1) that these arrangements are considered necessary and immediate but we still need to submit a master plan which would incorporate a more permanent arrangement of musical instruments, and 2) that we take care to maintain the Hillgreen Lane pipe organ located at the Saint Matthew Church site (i.e. tuning, playing/practicing on the instrument on a regular basis, and having a proper building temperature for maintenance) with the recommendation that serious consideration be given to the incorporation of that instrument (with all the technological advancements and augmentations) when creating the master plan for the parish with regard to the principal instrument in the future.  A summary of the report is as follows: three pianos (two grand pianos and one studio piano) and three organs (one pipe organ and two electronic digital organs) were evaluated.  Based upon the recommendation of the independent auditor and after consultation with the Director of Facilities Management for the Diocese, Father Jim proposed the following in response to our request to have the instruments evaluated.

  • Replace the Kawai grand piano located at the main worship site with the Baldwin grand piano presently located at the Saint Matthew Church Site. (Relocated Kawai grand piano to Saint Matthew Church Site.)
  • Replace the current organ at the main worship site with the Allen Organ located at Saint John the Baptist Church Site. (Relocate current organ to Saint John the Baptist Church Site.)
  • Secure a professional assessment of the present organ at the main worship site to determine cost of repair of the instrument and/or resale value
  • Share in detail the full report with the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils
  • Give report and rationale to Saint John Paul II parishioners
  • Secure the necessary professional services for re-location and set-up of instruments
  • Assure that dependable and usable musical instruments remain at the Churches for occasional use for weddings funerals, and all other liturgies that take place there

Both the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council, at each of their meetings decided that Saint John Paul II Parish should go ahead with implementing the present recommendations as proposed by the Office of Liturgy and noted that it makes perfect sense that we should be using and keeping the most valuable instruments and those that are in the best shape at the main worship site.

Blessings the last days of Advent
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ