I want to express my deep gratitude to all who played any part in making our parish celebration of my Golden Jubilee such a wonderful experience. I was totally overwhelmed by the kindness, love, and support you showed me. I know that so many of you worked behind the scenes for weeks working on preparations even if you were unable to attend the celebration. Thank you for your contributions to the liturgy, the dinner, and the program, and all the special touches that were part of them: Mass with the Bishop (and Father Jim, Father Pat, and Deacon Al), a special blessing, spirit-filled music, incredible participation on the part of the assembly, beautiful flowers, the presence of not only parishioners but of many people with whom I have ministered over the past 50 years, special worship aids and other printed materials, a classy dinner reception with all kinds of wonderful dishes prepared by you, a special cake made by one of our parishioners, a program with “speakers,” an entertaining “Sister-Act” song, and live music by a band of brothers led by one of our own parish members. I received so many words of Congratulations and Affirmation both at Church last weekend and at the reception. You showered me with many cards, heart-warming notes in them, prayers, Masses, and gifts. I was truly overwhelmed by the experience and have been basking in the joys of it all week. We really have some wonderful people who are part of Saint John Paul II Parish Community. You really know how to work well together to create something beautiful. I do hope that in the process of putting forth your best for me that some new friendships have begun to form and that you have come to appreciate the giftedness, generosity, and hospitality that is present among all of us. I don’t know how to adequately thank you for all you have done for me. Please know that I feel very blessed and proud of you. I will keep you in my prayers, thanking God each day for the wonderful people he has placed in my life at this time in my ministry.
This weekend the Church celebrates the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” We may wonder what fire Jesus is talking about. Could he be talking about the fire of God’s Word, a fire that moves us to be passionate disciples of Christ? Jesus may be desiring that our hearts will be set afire to make a difference in our world and in our Church. Sometimes the word passion is used to describe a fire that burns deeply within a person: a passion for a belief one holds, a cause one supports, a task one has undertaken, or a commitment one has made. When we have that kind of passion, people can’t help but be touched by the fire within us. It will affect them in some way. Jesus certainly had a passion and an urgency to preach God’s Word, to demonstrate God’s unconditional love for us, to invite us into his mission, and to help us realize the cost that comes with discipleship. This week we might ask ourselves: what words of Jesus create a fire with us? How to they move us in the direction of authentic discipleship?
Monday, August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even though there is no obligation to attend Mass this year (since the holy day falls on a Monday), I would encourage those who wish to celebrate Eucharist to take part in the 12:00 Noon Mass with Bishop Cistone at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption on Monday.
Our parish will have its annual Mission Appeal on the weekend of August 28th. Sister Marge Eilerman, a sister of St. Francis’ Missioners, will be speaking at the Masses. The sisters in her community serve the poor in the foreign missions in Mexico and at home in Appalachia. They work in remote areas of Mexico to build faith communities where there are no priests for regular Sunday Masses. They also give children living in extreme poverty the opportunity to obtain an education. And they respond to emergency needs for food, clothing, and medicine. Sister Marge has been working in Appalachia for the past 30 years. I am sure she will share some touching stories with you. Please keep her, her community, and their ministry in your prayer. Also, please discern how you may be able to support them with a monetary donation on August 27 and 28.
Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ