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

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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

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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

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Baby Pictures

I really like Buzzfeed. Their website is full of interesting stories, hilarious list articles (listicles?), updates on TV shows and movies that I like and ridiculous quizzes (…that I take all the time. Did you know that if I was one of The Doctor’s companions, I’d be Rory?! It’s true! I just took a quiz about it!  I have mixed feelings about it.  The quiz is right, but I’d rather not be a guy.) Not all of their content is appropriate for all viewers, but a lot of it is fun.   [Note: Like any other media outlet, you have to choose what items you want to click on.  Don't go on there and then write me nasty emails because you clicked on something that was obviously objectionable.]

Today, I came across a re-post on Buzzfeed from a group called Personhood USA. It’s a non-profit that works for the promotion of human dignity at all stages, races, whatever. [Note: Their stuff is very strongly worded, etc.  If you go on there, don't argue with me about what you see.]  The article is, “Top 10 Mind-Blowing Images of Human Life in the Womb.” I’m very excited because the article is clearly showing, as it states, that, “We’re all just grown up embryos.” It is so clearly a pro-life message. And, whether it was intentional on behalf of the individual from Buzzfeed or not, it’s put up there like it’s nothing. It’s a taken for granted truth.

I love technology, and I love when it is used to promote the dignity of human beings, and creation in general. The pictures are awesome, inspiring and undeniably human. My hope (and the hope of Personhood USA) is that people will see the person in them, and maybe question how and why our society has gotten to a point where we see these tiny humans as a “choice” instead of as a vulnerable person who needs our care and protection.  Share the article (the link is in the title of the article) and share the love.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

At the beginning of August a Circular Letter was sent to the world’s Bishops by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments concerning the Sign of Peace at Mass. It received a great deal of attention in the media and some self-proclaimed ‘experts’ decried the message as if it were the end of civilization. One shrill commentator went so far as to say the Vatican was against giving kisses to people! Some of the commentary was downright silly.

Here is what really happened. In 2005 the World’s Bishops gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Eucharist. One of the formal proposals made by the World’s Bishops concerned the Placement of the Sign of Peace during Mass. This proposal arose because of concerns expressed by the lay faithful and the clergy about disruptive behavior that was occurring around the Sign of Peace.

The Exchange of the Sign of Peace at Mass is, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, an Option left up to the discretion of the Priest Celebrant. In fact, the exchange already occurs before we all shake hands. The Priest says, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always” and the congregation responds, “And with Your Spirit”. The Rite is complete. He may exercise the option to include, “Let us offer each other the sign of Peace”. Then, in our country, everyone shakes hands.

What is amusing about this whole matter is the same people who were upset about the August Circular Letter are the same people who are vigilant about duplication in the Rites. Two signs of peace is duplication! But I digress.

Getting back to the August Circular Letter; the laity, the clergy and the bishops all expressed worldwide concern about the disruptions that often occur right before communion with the handshake of peace. The Bishops asked the Holy See for a study to determine a better placement that is less disruptive to the Communion Rite of the Mass.

Remember the Synod was in 2005 so there was no rush on this matter, it was carefully studied. After all the response came in 2014, nine years later! The Circular Letter was approved and endorsed by Pope Francis personally. The Congregation for Di-vine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments stated the Sign of Peace would remain where it is in the liturgy but more catechesis needed to be done about the ritual including the understanding it is optional. The letter suggested pastors might opt not to use it on certain occasions.

Certainly everyone has been at a Mass where the sign of peace is more like half-time at a stadium, where the solemn spirit of the liturgy was nearly crushed by noise and movement. Not everyone who comes to Mass, especially for special occasions like weddings, funerals, graduations, First Communions etc., is there for spiritual reasons. Sometimes un-churched,

non-Catholics, and non-Christians come and do not have an understanding of our customs and rituals. To them it is like some sort of intermission. A time to say, “congratulations” or “good luck” or “nice job” or some other greeting inappropriate to sacred worship. The Congregation for the Sacraments simply reminds all of us that the Liturgy, especially the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is a solemn time. They remind us the gesture of peace should be sober, brief and offered with decorum. We simply turn to our right and left and say to the person next to us, “peace be with you”. It is inappropriate to wander or walk around the building shaking every hand you can grab. It is certainly inappropriate and wrong to be saying, “hey, good to see you’ or ‘have a great day’ or ‘congratulations on getting a new car”, “sorry for your loss”, “have a wonderful marriage” or some other secular phrase.

The Circular Letter states, “If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly,” it can be omitted. But when it is used, it must be done with dignity and awareness that it is not a liturgical form of “good morning,” So when might be appropriate to not exercise the optional sign of peace in the form of shaking hands? Flu Season is one of those times that come to mind immedi-ately. Some other times might be funerals, weddings, graduations or any occasion where there is a mixed group of people attending.

It also beautifully states, “Christ is our peace, the divine peace, announced by the prophets and by the angels, and which he brought to the world by means of his paschal mystery…This peace of the risen Lord is invoked, preached and spread in the celebration [of Mass], even by means of a human gesture lifted up to the realm of the sacred.” It went on to say, “It is a wit-ness to the Christian belief that true peace is a gift of Christ’s death and resurrection, the exchange of peace comes after the consecration because it refers to “the ‘paschal kiss’ of the risen Christ present on the altar.” It comes just before the breaking of the bread during which “the Lamb of God is implored to gives us His peace.”

This Circular Letter serves as a good reminder for us to offer the Sign of Peace as it is intended, as a sacred moment between the consecration and the Lamb of God who is our peace and whom we are about to receive in Holy Communion. Not as an intermission, interlude or half-time greeting but as a reminder that Christ is our Peace. As we daily hear of strife around the world we recall it is the Prince of Peace, Christ the Lord, who is our Peace.

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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My Top Ten Favorite Excuses That People Give For Not Going To Church (and my snarky responses to those excuses)

Note: The snarky answers here are meant to be taken as pseudo-sarcastic and totally tongue-in-cheek. Please keep this in mind when reading.

1.  I Work 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week
First of all, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal—there are labor laws. Do you want me to help find

From Catholic Memes

Credit:  Catholic Memes

you a lawyer? Second of all, that’s not what your Facebook page says. Americans are super busy—we fill our time with all sorts of things. It does feel like we’re working all the time—believe me, I’m right there with you. My job takes me out week days, evenings and Sundays. Plus, my email, text and Facebook is on my phone, so I’m frequently doing “business” in my free time, too. That’s not good. We all need to take a break. But, God should be part of that break, not what we’re taking a break from. Worshipping with a community, receiving Christ—these things rejuvenate, not deplete. Take time out for yourself that is going to fill you up.

2. I Have Small Children
Oh, they’re the worst. Noisy little things… I have them, too. You know, the first thing they do when they exit the womb is scream? And it doesn’t stop there—if you bring them to Church they will choose the quietest time of Mass to scream like you’re murdering them—the homily, the Consecration—they know how to pick it. When my kids were little, I used to get ready for Mass and wonder what fresh hell I was in for this week. There were Sundays when my husband would take one of my screaming, writhing kids out of Church and I’d wonder if I would ever see either of them again (not enough to follow them, mind you, just enough to quietly ponder). So, why did we put ourselves through it? Because now they come with us cheerfully—not perfectly—but cheerfully enough. I still have to sit between them and give them the hairy eyeball once in a while, but dang if they aren’t listening. Church is what we do on Sunday. It’s the main event and the rest of our day and the rest of our week is better for it.

3.  Mass Is Sooooooooooo Booooooooring
Sometimes it is. I know. I’ve been to Churches where the preaching was less than stellar (not St. Al’s, of course), and the music was more like a dirge (not at St. Al’s; we have the best music ministry in the Diocese), and the community might have been comprised of undead. I was told when I was a kid, that it’s not what Mass brings to you, but what you bring to Mass—your attitude, your attention to the readings and prayers, the quality time you are spending with God, etc. That’s certainly one way to look at it. But, what Mass brings to us is unbelievable, and transcends bad music and boring preaching—it’s the True Presence of God in the Eucharist and a loving community.

4.  Church Is Full Of Hypocrites
Yes, it is, and as our Protestant brothers and sisters say, “There’s always room for one more!” A family is only as good as its best member, and is as bad as its worst member. A parish family is no different. Are we not up to snuff? Not quality people enough for you? Come! Make us better! That’s a huge part of belonging to the body of Christ—we are a group of broken, messed-up people who God makes better, and who make each other better. We could use your help.

5. Sunday Is The Only Day I Can Sleep In
Mass Times Conducive to Sleeping In: Saturday 5:00 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m., and if you really want to sleep in, 12:30 p.m. You know as well as I do that if there’s something you really want to do—like go fishing, golfing, spend a day in the City, whatever—you’re going to drag your sorry, tired bottom out of bed on a Sunday to do it. (Here comes the Catholic, Italian, Mother guilt!) You can’t spare a little time for God who gives you everything, but you can get up for your soccer league? You can’t give God 45 minutes of the time that God gave you in the first place to say “Thanks”? Sure you can. And we make it easy with our copious Mass times.
6.  Mass/Church Is Unrelatable To My Life
Yeah. No it’s not. Real Housewives Of New Jersey is unrelatable to your life. Gossip magazines and Candy Crush are unrelatable to your life. Mass is about who we actually are. We are reminded that we are children of God, brothers and sisters, and how we should be in relationship with one another. It’s belonging to a community that cares for one another, who share values. Mass—the prayers we pray together, the readings from Scripture, the quiet time with Jesus—puts us more in touch with who we are meant to be. We fail, we make mistakes, but Mass is where we are unconditionally loved by God, and invited into a deeper union with Him so that we can live more in a more fulfilled, loving way every day.

7.  I Can Pray At Home/ I Am Spiritual
You sure can pray at home! And you should! But, if you are a Christian, that is not enough. Jesus set his followers up to pray together, to be in community together, to go out to preach the Gospel together. He said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Mt 18: 20) This means that God (who, as a Trinity is Community) is more fully present to us when we worship with other people. And, Jesus gave us, with his own example, what that prayer should be. The Catholic Church has been doing Mass the same way since the 1st Century. Jesus taught the Apostles how, and we continue it.

8.  Having To Go To Church Is A Man-Made Rule
I’m not sure where this idea came from. I’m guessing from people who have never read the Bible. The second chapter of the first book of the Bible says that we are supposed to keep the Sabbath because God modeled it for us—not because He needed it, but because He knows that we do. In Exodus and Deuteronomy we have the Ten Commandments listed for us, which, number three is “keep holy the Sabbath.” Then, we have Jesus at the Last Supper saying, “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22: 19) and every time he meets someone after the Resurrection, they recognize him in “the breaking of the bread.” The Apostles, from the first days of the Resurrection set Sunday aside for Eucharist. It never wasn’t a part of who we are. Do you know that some groups Atheists are now having weekly meetings for community and some sort of ritual? It’s innate!!! We are hard-wired for community, prayer and God; and Mass is how Catholics do.

9.  I’m Excommunicated
No you aren’t. I’m pretty sure you’re not. Did a Bishop tell you, you are? Okay, you’re not. If you were married in the Catholic Church and divorced, you are still in full communion. If you are those things and got re-married without an annulment (or in your first marriage but not married in the Church), you are not in full communion, but you are not excommunicated. Or maybe you’ve been away or have some other problem—you are probably not in full communion. Not in full communion means that you are more than welcome to be part of our community, you can come to Mass and pray with us, you can be a part of things. But, you can’t receive Communion.  In some cases, it could be just a matter of going to Confession. If you want to get some info on how to get back into full communion, call the parish office (732-370-0500). We’d LOVE to help you!!!!

10. If I Walk Into A Church The Roof Will Fall Down On My Head
No it won’t. That has never happened, and far worse people than yourself have stepped through those doors! It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away from Church. God wants you back. We want you back. Come home. There really is nothing that should prevent you from feeling welcome and loved here. Come home.

Bonus: I’m Not Catholic
So what? That’s an easy one! Call me and we’ll fix that. 732-370-0500, ext. 205, or email: jperry@saintaloysiusonline.org.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

When someone is falling to pieces we sometimes hear it said, “He’s a Basket Case”. Let me share with you a “Basket Case” of a different kind, where the pieces fall together instead of apart. Last week some of you may have noticed we have a new Prayer Basket in the Gathering Space. It has a geometric pattern of bright yellow and natural rush colors. It was handmade in the village of Mygera, Uganda by one of the women there on behalf of the whole community as a gift to our parish in thanksgiving for helping to complete their water project.

These large baskets, ours has a lid but we have left it off, are often used to carry grain, fruit and other produce or to store it in the home. They can, if woven tight enough, even hold water – which is quite amazing. They are made from grass or leaves completely by hand. This basket will be used to collect your prayers to be carried to the Altar during Mass and laid at the foot of the Icon of Mary, Mother of Tenderness. To her we entrust our prayers and ask her intercession.

The Week of July 28th I took a class on Christian Iconography at St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merri-mack New Hampshire. It is a small liberal arts college in New England with a strong traditional Catholic identity. Professors are called ‘Fellows’ at this College. To be honest I cannot draw a straight line; however through the skill of Fellow David Clayton, I completed an egg tempora copy of an illumination from a Medieval Psalter. The excel-lence of his teaching was apparent when the entire class completed their Icons. If David is ever considered for can-onization this could be considered one of his first miracles! He has just published a very fine work on prayer for the family called, “The Little Oratory: A beginner’s guide to praying in the home”. You can find this gem on Ama-zon.com. He also maintains a blog on Art, Religion and culture called thewayofbeauty.org. We also had a wonderful field trip to a Russian Icon Museum in Massachusetts. One of the most reproduced Icons is the Mother of God un-der various titles.

I write this August 5, the Feast of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, the oldest Church in the West dedicated to the Mother of God. The first Basilica was constructed in the 4th Century by Pope Liberius. Mary appeared to Liberius and to a Patrician named John on the same night and gave each of them the same message. She desired a Church should be constructed in her honor at a place she would designate by a sign.

In the blistering heat and Humidity of Roman August snow covered the Esquiline Hill in Rome and Pope Liberius went to see the miracle and drew the outline of the Basilica with his Crozier into the Snow. The Patrician John Financed the project, he and his wife are entombed in the current Basilica. In the 5th Century the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) de-clared the Virgin Mary to be “Mother of God”. Following the Council of Ephesus Pope Sixtus III tore down the Liberian Basilica and built a grander building which is the one on the Esquiline Hill today.

The Feast is also sometimes called “Our Lady of the Snows” and on this day the faithful drop white Rose petals from the ceiling during Mass to commemorate the miracle of the snows in August. Pope Sixtus III preserved the ancient mosaics from the Liberian Basilica where they are visible on either side of the upper nave of the Basilica. The area under the main altar is called “the Confessio” and it is there the remains of the crib of Jesus are kept in a reliquary; it is the custom to sing Christmas Hymns in that Chapel when you visit regardless of the time of year.

Friday August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. Antici-patory Masses are on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and in Spanish at 7:00 p.m. On Friday Masses are at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 noon and 7:00 p.m.

Through the Prayers of the Mother of God, O’ Savior save us!

Peace and Good

–Fr. Bambrick

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis continually calls all the Christian Faithful to do all in their power to help the poor especially those who live on the periphery of the world. Through the efforts of Change-A-Life, a new ministry here at St. Aloysius Church, and those who partner with them, this small village on the periphery of the world community is being raised up.

On Thursday evening fourteen lay leaders of the parish met with Clare Polatschek (Parish Coordinator for the Change-A-Life Ministry) and Jean Semlar (President of Change-A-Life Uganda) for an information evening on Change-A-Life Uganda. Jean had just arrived home that morning at 1am and hand carried a letter from a 5th Grader who wrote on behalf of all her schoolmates to thank the parish for what we have done thus far. So I am dedicating the remainder of this page to Teopista Nakanemba’s letter to you, really a letter of love from the periphery of poverty!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

Dear Community and Church of St. Aloysius Jackson, N.J.

Before the water project was brought to our village, we used to buy water from the water-sellers, the water they sold was very expensive and used up a lot of our money. I myself was in boarding school and sometimes we used to not be able to bathe because of a lack of water for our community.

We mostly used unsafe water which led to a lot of suffering from many diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other sicknesses because the community lacked water which was safe to drink. We used to fetch our unsafe drinking water from contaminated wells and retention basins which were filled with garbage and waste products, especially run-off from the road next to the basins.

Before constructing a water project, people in the community had to fetch water from very far areas where the old person, young children and pregnant women could not afford to walk such long distances carrying cans to collect the water for the house. This was a real burden.

So when the Change-A-Life brought a water project to our area we were very anxious to see it! Now people are taking clean water and people have stopped suffering from diseases which have shortened their lives.

People are very happy to see the water project which will help them to run their homes, businesses and our schools. Our school no longer lacks clean water for preparing meals. Having clean water for meal preparation means students will be healthy and have energy to comprehend what our teachers are teaching us. So we, the students, are so very glad and happy to see the water project because you have solved a problem of water for our community.

The presence of water in the community, which has been brought by the Change-A-Life Uganda program, will at-tract many people in the area for safe water. Also on behalf of all students I thank your Church and community who participated in the provision of water for our community. I assure you that we are going to be well!

May God Bless You!

Yours Sincerely, on behalf of all the Change-A-Life Students,

Teopista Nakanemba

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They Were Naked, Yet They Felt No Shame

Warning: This blog is about sex. If you are offended by sex, please don’t read it. Actually, if you are offended by sex, maybe you should read it—you’re probably thinking about it wrong, and this might help.

In the beginning, when God created humanity, the first thing He said to them was, “Be adam and evefertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1: 28) That pretty much means, “go have babies.” (which requires sex) One chapter later, we are told that, “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.” (Gen 2: 25) So, we learn in the first two chapters of the first book of the Bible that not only is God pro-sex, but that it is not even dirty and neither is the human body. On the contrary—they are each a holy gift.

When the enormous, five month pregnant statue of Mary was placed in our new church, we got some complaints. Some women were offended that Mary was pregnant because it was “dirty.” “How could we think of her being pregnant? That’s disgusting.” (they said) After recovering from my initial shock at the boarder line heresy, I was sad to think that these good women—mothers all—thought that pregnancy was dirty (even Mary’s which was sexless!). I wondered at what shame they were carrying around.

To be perfectly fair, I must say here that before I had children, this blog could never have come from my finger tips. The RCIA team can attest to the fact that when I had to do the lesson on marriage and human sexuality, I would become the brightest shade of red known to humanity, never dare to make eye contact and really prefer to hide under the table. The ability to acknowledge the things I’m typing today came to me only after I had no shame left—I lost it all in the delivery room with my first son. That changes you…

I chalk my past embarrassment up to the unfortunate point that we are taught to be ashamed of our sexuality and sex in general. A warped portrayal of sex is so prevalent in our culture that we (naturally) react with embarrassment and deal with it in deep and abiding discomfort. We pass this on to the smaller people around us because a detailed explanation is either too awkward, or not appropriate. Instead, we have the misfortune of having to fumblingly change the channel, turn their attention away from the billboard and say a clumsy something about averting their eyes. We don’t want kids to see it because we know it’s not right. And it’s everywhere.

As with all holy gifts, we are expected to treat them with the reverence and dignity that they deserve. Sex should be considered with particularly great weight because it was a sort of “prime directive.” It is a way that humanity expresses our being made in God’s “image and likeness” (Gen 1:26) in a truly powerful way because it is how we: 1) participate in creation 2) express love for one another on a deep and meaningful level and 3) become so closely united that we (as married people) become one body. It is the perfect gift of one’s whole self to another—it’s meant to be a private thing. Not for display. Not for sharing with someone who’s not your spouse. Not for something to gawk at or for anyone else to be lusting after. It’s a mutual, loving gift between two married individuals.

When the gift is twisted and misused—that’s when it becomes dirty. When we see it out of its proper context, being used instead of gifted, when it becomes a spectacle instead of a private, intimate sharing, when the dignity of the individual is removed and a objectified bunch of parts is put in its place, when it degrades instead of builds up—that’s when it is dirty. And not dirty because it’s a “guilty pleasure”—but dirty because it’s a mockery of what it ought to be.

Pornography has become so “normal” in our society, and yet it could not be less normal (in reality) if it tried. It’s so disoriented from what God intended sex to be—it’s deviant. It’s degrading. It’s objectifying. And it has a very unfortunate effect on normal human relationships. This article from The Guardian shows the result of tests which neurologists did on how consistent use of pornography changes a brain. This article from Huffington Post (somewhat graphic, so reader beware—but if you can deal with it, it makes excellent points) speaks of the “neutering effect of porn.” People who use pornography have expressed that they become more dissatisfied with their partners after interacting with it. They lose their sex drive, and become more interested in the virtual sex that they are experiencing than in having real sex with an actual human being. Pornography has the opposite effect of what good sex does.

So, if you’re married, you should have lots of good sex with your spouse. It builds up a marital relationship. It is good for you! Let it be the gift that God means it to be for you—let it be the uniting, creative, joyous thing that makes you a stronger, more loving couple. See each other deeply—be fulfilled in one another—be loved. Live in God’s image and likeness.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

Summer is half over already, hard to believe! Why does it seem that Summer is the fastest moving season of the year? I hope you’re enjoying all the wonderful weather we have been experiencing.

Summer is also a time to visit and receive guests. We said goodbye to Deacon Al Gamalo on Monday as he left for the week long Diocese of Trenton Seminarian Retreat which ended on Saturday July 26 and then he is off to visit his family in the Philippines. He returns to St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore the third week in Au-gust to complete his last semester and is scheduled to return to our parish in December.

Next Sunday Fr. Eric Mallam of the Archdiocese of Kaduna in Northern Nigeria will be visiting here for a month long vacation. I first met Fr. Eric when he was assigned to me while on a one year sabbatical from teaching at the Archdiocese Seminary some 6 years ago. He currently is a pastor of a parish in Northern Nigeria. He is a very affa-ble and happy man who will greet you asking, “Are you Happy in the Lord?” He will look for an enthusiastic reply! Please welcome Fr. Eric Mallam who is due to arrive Sunday Afternoon August 2.

Religious Education (CCD) Registration is ongoing and the process is both simple and convenient as it is completely online – please be sure to register your child by August 1. After August 1 all children will be placed in the home study program and a late fee will apply. Classes begin in September and the staff has to know the number of re-turning children to plan the number of classrooms, teachers and books to order. A program in excess of 1,700 students requires a great deal of planning so if you want to have your child in a classroom program register by August 1.

Summer Vacation Bible School begins this week with the Theme “Weird Animals”. What does that mean? Well we will have to wait for the kids to explain it to us. I was just getting up to speed on Instagram now I have to figure out what weird animals are!

I know one animal that is not weird and that is Fr. Fernando’s dog, “Dante”. He is growing big and once in a while is a little mischievous (like eating ugly pillows) but most of the time a darling dog. He does occasionally act a little weird though, such as when he climbs over me on the couch like a mountain goat or steals my reading glasses and puts them in front of the door to the garage! Does that count as a “weird animal”?

Have a Blessed Week.

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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