Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

The month of August brought a visit from Fr. Eric Mallam from the West African nation of Nigeria. September brought a visit from Fr. Lawrence Kimbowa of the East African nation of Uganda. Last Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. Mass brought a little bit of Africa to Jackson with the Karoline choir from the Ugandan Catholic Community of St. Mary’s in Waltham, Massachusetts. These very talented young people came down to perform at the dinner the evening before and asked if they could sing and dance at Mass the following day. If you were to go to an African parish, this is exactly what you would experience, well not exactly since the entire Mass would have been lively, not just a few parts! We may not be able to go to Africa but Africa came to us last Sunday! It was a marvelous celebra-tion of the Universality of the Catholic Church. As the third Eucharistic Prayer for the Mass says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting” the name of the Lord is praised. Images and a video clip are available online on our Face-book and our YouTube page.

On Tuesday the Finance Committee had their monthly meeting to review the parish’s finances. They requested that a three-year spreadsheet be prepared to study the weekend offerings, which they received prior to the meeting. The study showed a decline over a three-year period. (Keep in mind these are fiscal years that run July 1-June 30). Several factors can be attributed to this decline. Bishop O’Connell noted at our annual June Vicariate meeting that collections were down overall in the Diocese. These declines come from a lack-luster economy, slow to recover, with rising gas prices, rising food prices and the heavy tax burden people feel with little or no increase in salary and a State with moderately high unemployment. He said damage from hurricane Sandy also continues to impact many families. He also noted there are several factors experts say affect Sunday offerings negatively. They were; 1. Trans-fers of priests-more so when the Pastor is changed. 2. Scandal in a Parish and 3. When a priest takes a leave from the priesthood. The Bishop noted more than 2/3 of the priests of the Diocese have been transferred in the last sev-eral years. In fact he said the 2012 transfers have come to be called “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” when around 40 priests were officially notified that they were being transferred! St. Aloysius Parish has experienced all of these factors in a period of just under 18 months. We had three pastors in just 15 months from June of 2012 to October of 2013. Additionally we had a scandal break in September of 2013.

The turbulence of the parish experienced from 2012-2013 had an effect on our collections but the stabilization that has taken place from October of 2013 to the present brought a stabilization to the collections. This was pointed out in a graph one of the members of the committee handed out during the meeting. People of Faith experience diffi-cult times just like everyone else, but People of Faith also know that God is with them; He guides them through turbulent times. His Grace is alive and at work within the communities of faith who open themselves to the move-ment of His Spirit. Let us move forward in faith!

Great and exciting news! St. Aloysius School enrollment continues to rise; our number was 380 Students as of last week, our highest enrollment in 5 years!!!!!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

Posted in From the Pastor | Leave a comment

There Will Be Light

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the premiere of “Gotham.” I LOVE Batman, so unless they totally diverged from the original, there was no way I wasn’t going to like it. It’s reminiscent of the Fox network’s cartoon series, which is my favorite version, so I thought it was pretty good. It’s a bit dark (as it would have to be to be authentic) and fairly violent (so don’t watch it if you can’t handle some violence). Although it crammed the introduction of (in my opinion) too many villains in a sort of clunky way into the first episode, it gave excellent insight into the character of Detective Jim Gordon (who will be Commissioner Gordon, eventually) and set up Batman’s origin story in a very compelling way.

The most important line in the whole show came when Jim was first interviewing the young Bruce Wayne directly after his parents were robbed and murdered in front of him. Detective Gordon said, “No matter how dark and scary the world might be, there will be light. There will be light.” We see Jim’s commitment to the truth, and Bruce’s encouragement toward truth and hope.

Naturally, all I could think of in hearing this line was John 1: 3b-5, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Of course, I know that John wasn’t talking about Batman in this verse, he was talking about Jesus.

With a back-story like his, Bruce easily could have become one of the villains he ultimately keeps at bay as Batman. His very natural feelings of rage and vengeance could have consumed him. But, he had Alfred caring for him (and Alfred was a pretty amazing guy, himself), and he had Jim Gordon. These men were a light to Bruce, and their guidance helped him to not get completely stuck in the darkness of grief and anger. But, where does Batman hang out? In the shadows. He is the Dark Knight. Like Jesus, he enters the darkness where evil dwells. And like Jesus, his quest for justice, as dark as the world may be, is a light shining in the darkness. The darkness is not dispelled, but the light most certainly is not overcome.

So, this is a trick that we all need to learn—to be a light in the darkness without letting the light be overcome. Lucky for us, we have models to follow: Jesus, the Saints, Jim Gordon, Batman and countless individuals in our own lives (but, especially superheroes!!!). We need to model this light to others.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Posted in Jen's stuff | Leave a comment

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

As I noted in last week’s message, myself and Fr. Fernando were away at the annual Priest Convocation from Tuesday evening 9/9 until late Thursday 9/1. The theme was “Priesthood Today: Joys and Challenges”. It was presented by Fr. Stephen Rosetti, PhD, D.Min, President of St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Springs Maryland. He is a licensed psychologist and an adjunct professor at Catholic University of America.

He told us how happy and well-adjusted we were; good to know! Priests, he noted, had fewer mental health issues than the general population, though only slightly lower. More interestingly, about 90% of priests were happy compared with 47% of the general population. On the down side we were also overworked (47% felt over-whelmed) and bore more stress due to heavy work schedules but still happy to do more with less. The single factor accounting for priestly happiness and ability not to burn out in ministry, was the presence of close personal friends, the same factor for happiness for those outside the priesthood. As we all know, good friends make a difference in our lives; even the saints knew this secret to happiness! To Bishop O’Connell’s delight, ‘the survey said’ 77% of priests like their bishop! Fr. Rossetti’s findings were based on several studies done by himself, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the National Federation of Priest Councils and the Pew Foundation to name a few. It was a lot of data, statistics, numbers and such which could have made for a really boring conference but he was engaging and riveting. The sessions were two hours long and he held everyone’s attention, definitely a good speaker!

The last day was a presentation by Sr. Joanne Dress, DC Executive Director of Catholic Social Services for the Dio-cese of Trenton and Maureen Fitzsimmons of Catholic Charities. Sr. Joanne has been traveling the Diocese, meeting with all of the priests at our bi-monthly Deanery meetings to discuss pressing social service needs in our parishes. The single most important unaddressed need is short term counseling services; particularly from counselors who know and are able to honor Catholic belief and teaching in an individual’s faith life. They announced the formation of Diocesan Parish Counseling Services, a partnership between the Parishes, Diocese and Catholic Charities. The Priest of the parish makes the referral on behalf of the parishioner who can then take part in up to 6 short term sessions. Grants are available to those with financial need. The cost per session is a reduced rate of $75, with grant of $50 from the Diocese leaving the parishioner to pay the counselor $25. There is no insurance involved and none accepted for the program. Catholic and faith-based counselors have agreed to accept the lowered rate of $75 (current going rate starts at $150 a session). The counselors have made a choice to take part in the healing ministry of Jesus.

Finally, enrollment at St. Aloysius School this year has climbed to 379; our highest enrollment in years. The students met this past week with Fr. Lawrence to see how their ‘Quarters for Water’ program produced clean drinking water for children in Uganda. The students had a flurry of questions and were quite excited about the progress at the St. Lawrence School. They even saw the students in Uganda with the Rosaries they sent, and a picture of SAS students being held by St. Lawrence Students.

Thanks be to God that he has placed these good people into our path of faith. Thanks to all those who sponsored one of Fr. Lawrence’s Students. As Pope Francis reminds the Church on a weekly basis, the care of the poor and least fortunate is our responsibility and a Grace God gives us…”Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me”. The power of One to change the world for good, you are the one Jesus has called to do it!

Peace and Good- Fr. Bambrick

Posted in From the Pastor | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

When a parish has a school, it’s life revolves around a school calendar, this is merely a statement of fact, and so many things ‘start’ in September and ‘finish’ in June. Then there is the summer vacation break between.

So it is with our parish, too! September brings with it a flurry of ‘starts’. We have ‘started’ off well this year. Our School opened with 376 students, an excellent and healthy enrollment. I was present for opening day greeting our returning students on Tuesday September 2. We opened with afternoon conferences Tuesday and Wednesday for our teachers on Catholic Identity and Practice.

The Rosary-Altar Society had a great turn out for their opening meeting. The Holy Name was working on finalizing details for the Flea Market. Our newest Ministry, Change a Life Uganda, began their work seeking sponsorships and was well received. The RCIA Team was busy getting things ready for today’s Reception into Full Communion of the Catholic Church and Confirmation to take place at the 12:30 p.m. Mass. Religious Education is preparing to open the doors to another year of faith sharing. Our Small Christian Communities will have their annual day of Recollec-tion and Mass at Stella Maris Retreat House in Long Branch. PTA is working hard on supporting our school chil-dren. And so many other ministries, committees, groups and such are gearing up for many full and rewarding pro-grams for the coming year.

To say we are off to a good start is an understatement! We are blessed with so many faithful, caring, generous, kind, loving community oriented members with a global view. If you are not involved in anything, take a look at all those banners that have hung on the ramp rails on the right and left of the Church for the last 4 months. These are opportunities for you to become more deeply involved in the life of the parish. Our Pastoral Associate Jen Perry is available on Sunday’s to answer any questions to point you in the right direction.

On September 9-11 (Tues-Thurs) myself and Fr. Fernando were away at the annual Convocation of Priests. I am grateful to Msgr. Joe for covering the 8:00 a.m. Masses on Wed and Thurs. The Convocation is a once-a-year gath-ering of all the Priests of the Diocese with Bishop O’Connell to discuss important issues related to priesthood, par-ish life and the Diocese. Last week Bishop O’Connell’s column was printed in this space. He has been sharing criti-cal information on the state of the Diocese. Most importantly in the next 5 years more than 50 priests will retire. We ordain about 6 men a year. You can see that is a deficit of minus 4. When I was ordained we had 127 parishes staffed by nearly 300 priests. Today, due to the process of consolidation, we have approximately 115 parishes staffed by 165 priests. Our priests are also aging. The known factor is that 50 priests will retire however the unknown is how may will die or leave the priesthood each year. This year was particularly hard as more than a half a dozen priests left the priesthood. We need to both pray and encourage vocations to the priesthood. Pray for us your priests and our Bishop, these are challenging times. As Christians we do our best work on our knees in prayer!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

Posted in From the Pastor | Leave a comment

Bustin’ Our Brothers

This past Sunday’s readings told us that we need to tell people when they are doing something wrong or their sin is on our head. For some people, this was exactly the justification they needed to boss people around, to stick their noses where they don’t belong, and to judge others. Like Candice Flynn from “Phineas and Ferb,” they are always out to bust their brothers—looking to catch someone sinning and make them pay for it. But, that’s not what the readings meant.

In Ezekiel, we were told (well, Ezekiel was told…but, by virtue of our baptism, we share in the prophetic role, so it’s for us, too) that we are to be a “sentinel” or a “watchman.” In the olden days, that was the dude who sat on the castle or city wall and watched out for invaders, alerting the people within that danger was approaching so that they could be prepared and fight against it. It’s the same for us—we are supposed to keep an eye out for the evil one, helping to protect the people within our walls by alerting them to a clear and present danger. It is a matter of caring for the safety of your neighbors—both physically and spiritually.

So, now those of us who understand that we are NOT supposed to judge might have a question about how to correct someone who is in sin. The answer is—in love. Look at how Jesus deals with such a situation in the woman caught in (the very act of) adultery (Jn 8: 1-11). She’s dragged out of the house, presumably naked and apparently alone—there’s no mention of her partner in crime—surrounded by men wanting to throw rocks at her until it kills her, already throwing insults at her. Jesus—the only one fit to judge her—doesn’t. He doesn’t join in the attack against her; he doesn’t attack the men who were attacking her. He writes some unknown thing in the sand, and then says, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” When everybody leaves, he remains alone with her. He stands with her in her shame and asks her who condemns her. “No one, sir” is her response. He says, “Nor do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

You don’t have time to judge someone if you’re standing with them against a common enemy. If you enter into another’s pain, stand with them against that which threatens their safety, you are taking a very different posture than blame or judgment. That’s exactly what Jesus did—he entered our human situation, on our side, facing a common enemy, gently correcting us where we need it. This is how we live the command in the prophet Ezekiel. We are not out to get anyone, not to judge and not to bust. Just to love and invite.

 

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Posted in Jen's stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

This is a new column by Bishop David M. O’Connell intended to share information and inspiration with the Catholic Community in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. This column can be viewed online at www.dioceseoftrenton.org/welcome-to-our-diocese-today. It is hoped that you visit this website often to stay updated on what is happening in and around the Diocese, and to connect with Bishop O’Connell as he ministers to the flock throughout central New Jersey.

We will publish updates from this column in the bulletin as they become available.

OUR DIOCESE TODAY is a place to connect with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and the community of the Diocese of Trenton, including the clergy, religious and laity within our parishes, Catholic schools, diocesan minis-tries and social service agencies. We’ll be posting items of interest and inspiration, messages and reflections from our Bishop, and much more. Come back often to stay in touch.

I hope that these brief informational inserts in “Our Diocese Today” are helping Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton learn more about our local Church. It is important, especially as people form opinions, that they have the facts.

In the Diocese of Trenton, 7,537 new Catholics were baptized in the last year; a number that reveals a decline of roughly 30% since 2000. Of that number, 88% were infants and 12% were other children and adults. This down-turn has impacted potential Catholic school enrollments in the Diocese and will continue to do so.

Seven of the ten parishes reporting an actual increase in baptisms are parishes with growing Hispanic/Latino pop-ulations. St. Anthony Claret Parish in Lakewood, for example, registered 341 baptisms this past year. The Diocese needs to keep this data in mind for future pastoral planning.

Twenty-seven (27) of our 107 parishes in the four counties report more funerals than baptisms. Fourteen (14) of these same parishes indicate that funerals outnumber baptisms 2-to-1. Despite these numbers, pastors in the Dio-cese are reporting the trend in families not to request funeral Masses for deceased parents — including those who were faithful weekly or daily Mass attendants — but, rather, to prefer services held in the funeral home or at graveside. More catechesis about the importance of the funeral Mass as the most fitting conclusion to Catholic life on earth is needed.

The fastest growing segment of the population of Catholics in the Diocese are those in the 65 plus age group. Within the next 5 years, 1 out of every 5 Catholics will be over the age of 65. This will surely impact pastoral minis-tries offered in parishes throughout the Diocese.

These statistics and data are interesting, especially given reports from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in Washington, D.C., that the total Catholic population in the United States is actually growing, from 71.7 million in 2000 to 76.7 million in 2014. These numbers represent individuals surveyed who “self-identify” as baptized Catholics. When seeking Catholic population totals of those actually registered in parishes throughout the country, the national numbers are 59.9 million in 2000 and 66.6 million in 2014, still reflecting significant growth.

Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M. Bishop of Trenton

Posted in Bishop O'Connell | Leave a comment

Jesus Likes Fun

I was sitting in my office thinking I should write a blog, but feeling really uninspired. I was no fun Jesusso uninspired that I almost posted on Facebook, “I need to write but am completely uninspired. What should I write about?” Just then, I received a text from my friend, Amanda, with this cartoon. My immediate response to her was, “Depending on the fun, though, he’d go with you. Like, if it’s a swing set, he’d be right on it.” This is a good meme—it shows how sometimes we need to walk very boring, dry walks, and when we do, Jesus is always with us. He waits patiently while we go off distracted—He’ll wait as long as we drag our feet. And, when we turn off away from Him, we really aren’t going to find the fun that we thought was there. It’s empty, drier than the dry path we were already on, and unfulfilling. Great message, indeed!

But, then there are swing sets. And there’s other good fun. Jesus likes fun. He invented it. I think that, as Christians, we sometimes forget that God wants us to have fun! He was great at parties. Remember—Jesus’ first miracle was to make more wine when they ran out at a wedding—and it was the good stuff, too!

Not that Monty Python are great (or even good) theologians, or anything, but their brand of humor can offer a balance to our sometimes too grim view of God. Like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when God appeared to Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The conversation went like this:

We need to have an attitude of wonder and awe with God. We should be respectful, naturally, but we also have to make sure that we don’t do the injustice to God of thinking Him boring or always looking to find fault with us. Christianity; a relationship with God doesn’t mean all dry, dusty paths. It means learning to appreciate the dust when it comes along, to value God’s presence with us as we walk, to learn something on that part of the journey. But that doesn’t mean that we should make those paths our goal. Our lives shouldn’t be an entirely of dusty, miserable journey. God doesn’t want us to suffer through life. God wants us to make life-giving decisions that lead us to true joy. And fun—real fun. So, hit the swings, and take Jesus with you!

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Posted in Jen's stuff | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

This weekend we mark Labor Day. It has become largely associated with bargain sales, back-to-school sales, a day off, a long weekend and the harbinger of the last days of summer bliss. It can be all too easy to forget that it honors the worker, the labor and most especially the working poor. At the time of the Industrial Revolution working conditions and wages were abysmal and too often dangerous. Families were left impoverished when the working man of the house was disabled or died at work. Labor Day pays homage to workers throughout the land.

The Church has contributed much to educating humanity on the plight of the worker and the family. The worker cannot be separated from the family he or she supports by work. Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891 released an Encycli-cal Letter entitled “Rerum Novarum”, meaning “New Things”. Some would translate the title as “of Revolutionary Change”. Certainly the letter was a Revolutionary in its call to defend the rights of working persons and their fami-lies. It was then seen as a revolutionary document on Church Teaching. Even today with all the noteworthy advanc-es in working conditions and wages, Leo’s Encyclical letter still holds some revolutionary ideas. This year the letter will be 123 years old but still seems fresh. Here is one quote:

“Let it be taken for granted that workman and employer should, as a rule, make free agreements, and in particular should agree freely as to wages; nevertheless, there is a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, that remuneration should be sufficient to maintain the wage-earner in reason-able and frugal comfort. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.”

Rerum Novarum called for a preferential option of the poor, the Common Good of all, Rights for the working poor and the duty of the State to promote social justice through the protection of rights.

It has produced Seven Essentials of Church Teaching on Labor:

1. The Dignity of the Human Person

2. The Promotion of the Common Good

3. The Principal of Subsidiarity

4. Participation

5. Solidarity

6. A Right to Private Property

7. The Universal Distribution of Goods

It remains the Primary document and foundation for the Church’s Social Teachings and subsequent Popes have all drawn from it to magnify, strengthen and add to it the Church’s Social Doctrines.

The Great American Poet, Walt Whitman, (who lived, died and is buried in NJ) wrote a terrific poem about the American worker entitled; “I hear America Singing”:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the

deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the

morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at

work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Happy Labor Day to all workers!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

Posted in From the Pastor | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

Our summer days are drawing to a quick close, the garden is already in decline. I communicated with a friend of mine asking what her family was enjoying the last weeks of summer and she replied, ‘Summer? The kids are al-ready back in school, our summer is over’. They live in a State where the children return to school in August! I imagine many college students are already back to school and children are also preparing to head back. Parents and grandparents are busy shopping for ‘back-to-school’ supplies.

The Parish too is getting ready for the opening of the St. Aloysius School year 2014-2015. This year school will open with a workshop for our teachers on the Vocation of the Catholic School Teacher and how to build a Catholic Culture in our School. Our Schools, as Bishop O’Connell has said, must be Catholic in more than name alone. They must be seedbeds of Catholic Identity; everything in the School must by its practice in word and action, re-flect the Gospel, Church Teachings and Practice. We begin the new School Year with this focus. Studies show that Catholic identity is key to the success of Catholic Schools.

The Holy Father’s recent visit to Korea was a huge success in every respect. He continues to focus on witness as a means of attraction to Catholicism. People must be attracted to the Church by the good witness of Her members.

I want to congratulate Brother Rufino on his reception of first vows in the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Brother Rufino was formerly known as Andrew Poster. His parents, Gerard and Carol, are members of St. Aloysius and live in South Knolls. Brother is missioned in the South Bronx working with the poor. Pray for him and for Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life.

Enjoy these last days of summer; however lazy or hectic they may be.

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

Posted in From the Pastor | Leave a comment

A Natural Heart

If you keep up with the news lately, you could really get discouraged. There is so much Ezekiel 36 26senseless violence, true horror and just plain inhumanity dominating the reports. People are behaving like animals—both on our own soil and across the ocean. It seems that a total lack of reason, intelligence and conscience is consuming individuals, making them very dangerous groups causing unspeakable harm to innocent people. In today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, God tells us that He will, “give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.” (Ez 36:26) The things that are happening in Syria and Iraq, the Ukraine and even Missouri are so unnatural. The people involved seem to have lost themselves.

There is no point in oversimplifying what is happening in the world, and there’s no way I’m going to weigh in on the initial incident in Missouri—I don’t have all the facts, anyway—but a comment is needed on what follows. The people in Missouri who are looting and rioting (not talking about the peaceful protesters, here), instead of bringing attention to a real issue, have become the problem—destroying their own neighborhoods, visiting a reign of terror on their own neighbors—to fight injustice? Their cry of “Injustice!” is muffled and lost in their violence. And mob mentality doesn’t just grab the protesters; incidents of those who are supposed to be protecting the public get caught up, too. Those who should be promoting peace and justice contribute to the deterioration of it.

The group “Anonymous” who consider themselves activists (and who I think has good intentions) have called for a “Day of Rage” throughout the cities in America today in response to what is happening in Missouri. They would like people to lose themselves in violence with the purpose of driving out violence. That makes sense…SAID NO REASONABLE PERSON EVER. In their appeal they call themselves “our collective.” Borg much? The worst part is, some legislation that they would like to get passed IS reasonable—but they discredit themselves with their insanity.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. We are meant to be ruled by reason and compassion, justice and mercy. We are not ourselves. We need God to replace our stony hearts with natural hearts. Our society needs a new spirit. We each need to be our most natural, most authentic selves—the way that God designed us to be. It’s in each of us—we all have the potential to be healing to one another and to the world. We just have to let God take root.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Posted in Jen's stuff | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment