Ferguson

The situation in Ferguson is horrible. Nobody can disagree with that. Tensions are running high, and there is chaos—even while the parents of the boy who was killed call for peace. No doubt a good deal of what is happening is the result of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of a bad situation, but to pretend that that is all that’s happening is irresponsible and immoral.

I don’t know all the facts—I wasn’t there—so I’ll not pretend to know how this case should have gone. I respect and feel a great sense of gratitude to the police officers who daily put their lives on the line for us. I have friends and family who are cops and they are excellent people who truly live to serve their community with justice and sincere concern for everyone they come across—even in tense situations. I also know that when they are dealing with the public, there is often more than what an untrained eye may see in what appears to be a very cut and dry encounter. Sometimes they are dealing with resistance that a camera can’t pick up and have to respond with what seems like unnecessary force. Most of these encounters are completed appropriately nonetheless, without harm being done to either party.

A million years ago, when I was in high school, the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles caused ripples throughout the country. Not unlike what is happening today, people were outraged, angered, confused and felt invalidated. Some responded with appropriate anger—others engaged in violence, looting and senseless forms of protest that only drowned out the message that they were presumably trying to make. All the way in Lakewood, New Jersey, the ripples of negativity went out—and some kids who had no business there, made their way into our high school and started some trouble. Lakewood had nothing to do with Los Angeles, right? Why on earth would there be rioting all the way on the other side of the country? Now, our “riot” was small potatoes, and easily squelched, but it did scare a French exchange student enough to demand to be returned to her country immediately, and some kids received minor injuries.

But, Lakewood was not unrelated to Los Angeles. There are individuals and groups who daily experience feelings of insignificance, injustice, indignity, unsafety and hopelessness all across our country. Economic depression, and cycles of violence, crime, fear, misinformation and consistent reinforcement of their worthlessness to society breeds in them hate, confusion and a lack of self respect. Throw in people who don’t care to be part of a solution, and you have a ready-made mob—just add water and agitate. If you were bullied and you see someone else getting bullied, old feelings rise again in you. If you were abused by an alcoholic parent and you see that abuse toward someone else, old feelings arise. If you grew up feeling insignificant and worthless, when you see someone else being treated that way, old feelings arise. We ought to be masters of our own actions and have the good sense to not get caught up in a violent mob; but tell that to shoppers on Black Friday. Tell that to fans at sporting events who go wild and riot when their team loses. Tell that to the Salem Witch Trials, the Communist Scare, the rounding up of all Japanese Americans during WWII and putting them in camps. Tell that to passersby who witness a violent attack on another person and instead of calling the police or intervening, stand there and record it with their cell phones. Our society has problems.

Whether the outcomes in the Rodney King case or in the case of Michael Brown were just or not, they bring our attention to a real problem in our society—the alienation and hopelessness that people are feeling and the suspicion and assumptions that we make about one another that lead to senseless violence perpetrated by and against them, and then by them, and then against them, and then by them and then against them. And we keep the cycle going.

It’s easy for us to sit back, miles away and make assumptions about individuals and groups we don’t know. It’s easy for us to condemn the justice system and dirty cops. It’s easy to pretend that we are God and that we have the right to judge “these people.” But, that’s not what we’re called to. We’re called to be peacemakers; to work for justice in our communities. We’re called to create a culture of mutual respect where people feel valued and have an opportunity to contribute. We’re called to treat everyone we meet like Christ and to make sure that our laws promote the dignity of all people. We are called to pray for peace.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Statement from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. on the announcement of Pope Francis’ plans to attend the World Meeting of Families.

worldmeetingfamiliesThe faithful of the Diocese of Trenton are most excited by today’s joy-filled news that Pope Francis will take part in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year. We look forward to celebrating with our neighbors to the west, and indeed all attendees from around the globe, both the Holy Father’s visit, and the extraordinary value that the overall experience promises to provide.

Archbishop Charles Chaput has been assured of our interest and support, and we are happy for whatever part we can play in this truly worthwhile endeavor.

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Forty

I’ve never been big on birthdays. In fact, I’ve been awful about them in the past. I only allowed a cake to be served for the sake of my children; but otherwise would have preferred to have let the day pass without notice. I’ve always felt guilty and mortified by any attention given to me, particularly on that day, because I never felt that I had earned it or deserved it. It was painful to try and accept the kindness that was being offered to me by family, friends and co-workers who cared enough to want to celebrate my life.

I’m so over it, now.

Over the past few months I’ve been watching my old (I have to be careful with that word, now) classmates and friends slowly hitting the “big 4-0” and getting ready to reach that milestone myself. I didn’t think of it with dread or anything—but birthday’s that have 0’s at the end of the number seem to carry a bit more significance than most.

Then, because of a silly comment I made yesterday, I got thinking about the significance of 40. My friend Jenn asked, jokingly, “So what are you, like 247?” and I replied without skipping a beat, “Well, it’s definitely a Biblical number!”

Then I got to relating to myself what 40 represents in the Bible. It rained for 40 days and nights when Noah was on the Ark. Moses was out in the desert for 40 years after fleeing Egypt as a wanted murderer before God called him to lead his people. Then, those people were lead through the desert for 40 years until they were ready for the Promised Land. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before He began His public ministry.

Forty is a time of trial, testing and preparation for something big. When you complete that God-appointed period of 40 (days, years; whatever), it means that you’re ready to do the big thing that you were meant to do.

Each Holy Saturday, I have a retreat for the adults who are going to receive their Sacraments at the Easter Vigil later that night. I always begin the retreat with the song “40” by U2. It’s taken from Psalm 40. Here’s a video of the song.


(You can read the actual Psalm by clicking here.) I use it because they have completed their 40 days of Lent preparing them for something new—something awesome. I also use it because they will sing a new song to God as they participate fully in Mass for the first time (receiving Eucharist and such). It’s an awesome, new thing that they are doing, and that God is doing in their lives.

That’s pretty cool. I remember when I was a kid people hating turning 40. They would say it was all downhill from there; it’s when your body starts falling apart—needing glasses, joints hurting, hair graying…mid-life. I was going to joke that maybe I should get me one of them mid-life crises, just for kicks. But, who wants crisis? I’m ready for the new great things God has planned for me. I hope my friends are thinking this way, too. We were born for greatness. We’ve gone through our appointed time and now it’s time to be great. What great things are we going to do?

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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That’s My Spot…

I have a problem. I think it’s a touch of OCD or something. One of the ways that it manifests itself is that I’m very picky about where I sit. I have “my spot” at almost every table, every couch I frequent and I have nearly knocked people down to get to a table first at a restaurant to get the seat that I want (although, to be fair, that’s also a product of being left handed and Sicilian). I am teased mercilessly for it. My co-workers make great sport of it, but I’ll tell you—if I took a picture of our lunch table every day, you would see that there is a pattern—they all have “their seat” but won’t admit it. My seat is the same for lunch, meetings and catechetical sessions, and I have a hard time concentrating if I have to sit somewhere else.

I thought that I had hit “rock bottom” with this issue a couple of weeks ago at RCIA when one of the Candidates brought his small children with him. His adorable little girl, not noticing my carefully staked-out space with my books and coat and phone and keys strategically placed to be unmistakably “my spot,” sat in my chair. I was out of the room at the time. When I came back, there she was. Adorable as anything; sitting in my chair. An interesting mixture of gasps and giggles escaped from the crowd assembled at the table. Like me, everyone wondered how I would respond. The session was on The Examen, a method of prayer introduced by St. Ignatius Loyola, and it’s all about reflecting prayerfully on your actions to gain more personal freedom day by day through an intentional relationship with God. This was a tricky situation. I stood there trying to figure out what to do when her Dad realized what had happened and swooped her from the chair and put her next to him. All was well, and the group had a good laugh. But, it shined a light on my craziness.

A few days ago I went to get gas for my car. As I pulled up to the station, I saw that the pump that I always go to was occupied. I caught myself being slightly miffed at this guy who was “in my spot.” Holy moly. I had actually laid an emotional claim to a gas pump. I pulled in to the one behind “my spot” and prayed, “Please, God, let this be rock bottom!”

I am aware of how insane this is—but awareness is not the same thing as a desire to change. All too often, we lay emotional claim to things that really don’t belong to us. We get angry about things that, frankly, we have no right to be angry about; we believe that we should have a say in the choices that other people make when we really don’t; we claim ownership of other people’s feelings and baggage when all it does is weigh us down. We accept blame for other people’s actions and let it be twisted into shame and self-hate. We judge, when that is an action that belongs only to God.

We can be very ridiculous in our assumptions of what we are entitled to. My chair and gas pump are outrageous examples of this. But some of the things we claim as our own can be very damaging to ourselves and others.

What are some of the things that you try to own that don’t belong to you? What effect do your actions have on yourself, the other and your relationship? How can you become free of the burdens of taking what doesn’t belong to you?

 

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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November 16, 2014 – Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parish Family,

Last week brought with it some new financial challenges for the Parish.

Our Well Pump stopped working.

When attempting to extract the pump it broke loose and sunk into the well. The pipe was then removed which revealed PVC pipe was used and the well pump had melted into the side of the pipe. The bottom line is we now need a new well and our well is 250 feet deep. This is going to be a huge expense we cannot afford at this time.

Gym, B-wing, atrium and storage room roofs have to be replaced.

Ms. O’Connor called to let me know the roofs in the B wing of the school and the gym were leaking badly; an understatement. I walked over to the school to find it raining in the gym, B wing, atrium and one of the storage rooms. The storage room beams and ceiling were also rotted. This is going to be a huge expense in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Again we do not have re sources to cover these expenses.

Loan default.

After the roof and well bad news we received MORE bad news informing us that the Parish was in default of one of the three loans on the New Church. In accord with the terms of the loan, pay-ment was due in full. Not having funds to pay off the loan, we fell into default. We were prepared to make our payment but there was no way we could pay off the loan. The terms were renegotiat-ed and the loan was extended another 5 years, however we incurred penalties, fees and interest.

Necessary repairs to the Old Church to convert it from empty space to a safe and useable Parish Hall.

Restoration and conversion of the old Church building space into a usable Parish Center are al-ready in motion and long overdue.

The cost to replace the well, pump, several large roofs and convert the old Church AND pay our loans will be challenging. We do not have funds to do the work that is necessary. The replacement of the roofs has been deferred for many years due to the loan obligations. The well was an unexpected issue. The well must be replaced and we are out of time on deferring necessary work on the roofs. A roof consultant, who was informed of our financial issues, is putting together a 3-5 year proposal. It combines emergency patching with a 3-5 year replacement plan. In addition, The “New” Church also has multiple problems; a roof that leaks like a spaghetti strainer being the primary issue. The roofing plan will also take into ac-count what can be done to stop these leaks.

Financially we have been doing fine in our ability to meet day to day expenses and our mortgage payments on the three loans for the New Church are able to be paid punctually. The finance committee has kept track of the budget and for the fiscal year 2014/2015 and gave unanimous consent to eliminate a part-time staff position to be sure we have a balanced budget.

Having one of our creditors calling for full payment on a loan was quite harrowing but it also revealed how delicate our financial situation is. Even as the Parish strives to be financially responsible and make sound financial decisions, extraordinary, unanticipated things like well failures, roofs and other necessary infrastructure repairs and maintenance can foreshadow financial disaster.

The staff and finance committee are dedicated to working on our mortgages and budgets.

What can you do??

Consider a major donation to help us with these building issues.  Make a pledge to new roofs or repair of the Old Church. We are considering a Capital Campaign for this purpose.

Increase your weekly donations.

Contribute to the Mortgage payment reduction using the monthly “Debt Reduction” envelopes (soon to be renamed “Mortgage Reduction”). These donations are used to pay down the principal which in turn reduces the interest we pay on the loan. Paying off the 3 loans is a major priority. With-out the loans we would be in very good financial condition.

Use online giving to assure we have a regular source of support.

Please help in any way you can. This Parish is our home, it is our Church, it is the House of God and our House as well. I know most of you are willing and ready to come to the assistance of our Parish; that is why I am sharing this information with you. Please prayerfully consider one or all of these things and make a difference so our Parish continues to be a beacon of spiritual strength, vitality and health.

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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Box Full Of Kittens

Tidy Cats cat litter company did a promo where stressed out people were invited to enter into a large clear box with a pair of headphones so that they could relax. I saw it in an article on Mashable called, “Kitten Therapy Is The Answer To Your Stressed Out Prayers.” It was cute. The stressed individuals were all interviewed before going into the box and told stories of the things that were upsetting them and, clearly distressed; they said that they did not know how to relax. The headphones had a guided meditation, and then one by one, kittens were sent into the box for the individuals to play with.

 

If someone would give me a giant box of kittens to play with, I would never leave the box. I. Love. Kittens. Who doesn’t? They are adorable.

But, the sadness in the face of one of the women when she said that she didn’t know how to relax really got me. In our culture’s loss of religious practice, there is a loss of knowing how to be quiet and how to find calm. Kittens are not the answer! Yes, animals do have a calming effect—they lower blood pressure and improve mental health—but kittens are not the answer.

We make ourselves Atlas—taking everything on our shoulders—maybe as some sort of a twisted punishment for some imagined failings in our lives, or some messed up sense of responsibility, or our culture’s value for a fierce sense of independence (I don’t need anyone…I can do it myself…). Whatever it is, we are overwhelmed. And we look to things that can’t possibly fill us to relieve our stress.

We are not alone. We are not self-sufficient. We need others and we need to know that beyond ourselves there is Another who actually is in charge of keeping the earth in its orbit and breath in our lungs and being the source of strength and ability for us. It doesn’t all rest on us.

If today you find yourself having delusions of messianic power and authority, take a moment to remember that you are not God. You are not Atlas, either. You need to chill—snuggle a kitten—sure. But, go to the One who is in charge and who can recharge you. Let God be God, and let yourself be God’s child. Spend some time in quiet prayer speaking and listening to Jesus who has been through everything you are going through and will always help you. This is where true peace comes from.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, 2014

main_transformDear Parish Family,

This year we are very blessed to have the talented David Clayton as our presenter for the Parish Mission. You may recall I wrote about a class I took in August on Christian Iconography at St. Thomas More College in Merrimack, NH. David Clayton taught the class on Icon painting. He is a disciple of one of the worlds most renowned living Icon Painters, Aidan Hart. David recently published a book on family prayer called The Little Oratory. He is a reg-ular contributor to the New Liturgical Movement Blog and has his own well regarded “Way of Beauty” Blog. He teaches full time at St. Thomas More College.

In keeping with Pope Francis’ emphasis on the family, it is only appropriate that this years’ mission focus on Families and be given by a husband and father. Joining David will be his wife, daughter and their unborn child. The theme of the three days will be How Families Can Transform the World through Beauty and Prayer. Each day will begin with chanted morning prayer (no skill required!). There will be an afternoon artistic presentation, chanted evening prayer and a nightly talk. Please set aside one or all three days to join us for this exciting and prayerful mini-retreat sure to charge your spiritual batteries. What better way to prepare for the greatest family event in human history, the birth of Jesus into the human family of Joseph and Mary!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

Wow, what a difference a week makes! In case you were away on a NASA Space mission….The Extraordinary Synod on the Family made headlines around the world on Monday when the Relatio post Disceptationem or “Speech after the debate” was released. This paper is a mid-synodal announcement, a general summary concerning topics that were debated in the first week of closed sessions. This past week the extraordinary synod met in small groups. There was, as one Cardinal put it, “Intellectually honest” discussions about many vexing issues related to family life in the Church today. Among the headline grabbers were the topics of homosexuality, cohabitation, separated/divorced and remarried, and contraception.

While the global news media found the open discussion of these topics to be earth shaking, the ‘Relatio’ did not say anything that is not in keeping with the practice of charity and mercy. While it may be shocking to hear Cardinals and Bishops discussing these topics in an open and public way; these complex and messy issues are dealt with reg-ularly in every parish on the globe. From a pastoral perspective it is helpful to hear our hierarchy discuss these real life issues in a meaningful way. The ‘Relatio’ however is not a final document nor is it an authoritative document, it is simply a summary of debate in the mid-point of the Synod. The Synod will produce a formal document to be used to guide the Ordinary Synod in 2015, the Ordinary Synod will produce a formal document of recommenda-tions to the Pope in 2015 and he will then decide what he will include in what is called an Apostolic Exhortation, a formal letter to the entire Church.

There should be no dichotomy between doctrine and pastoral practice as they support and inform one another, however the application must conform to an individual believer’s life in a way that helps them to move toward greater holiness, even those who live irregular lives. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us there is a Universal Call to Holiness. Each of us is a sinner of varying degrees and all of us are in need of the Mercy of the Father dis-pensed by the Son. Whether the worst sinner or one near sainthood, each of us is called by Christ to become Holy, each of us ought to be striving to journey to the House of Our Father. For some that journey is rough, scarred, rid-dled with potholes, twists and even detours and an occasional dead end. God speaks to each person in their heart; each believer must open their heart to the truth of God’s message as mediated by the Church which Christ estab-lished. Some truths are more difficult than others and many individuals, if not most, gradually move toward the truth.

Frankly, as a priest of 23 years I can say that on the parish level these issues have always been dealt with between the priest and the penitent. Pope Francis reminds us the Church is not a Storied Fortress but a field hospital for the wounded after the battle. Not everyone heals at the same rate or responds to the same treatment. The doctor of the soul must apply the medicine of Mercy in a way the patient can progress toward healing. This is what is at the heart of the ongoing debate of the Extraordinary Synod. It is past time that these issues, that are realities in parishes, are openly spoken of at the world wide gatherings of Bishops for the common good of all. After all, Christ wills that we dare hope all humanity be brought to salvation. Let’s not deliberately abandon any soul if we can help it! It is an exciting time in Salvation History to be Catholic!

Pray the Holy Spirit continues to enflame the hearts of the participants in the Synod to find new and creative ways, even surprising ways, to make the truth understood and lived in each believer.

Peace and Good –Fr. Bambrick

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Rejected!!!

Think of a time when you felt rejected by someone who loved (or was supposed to love) you. Maybe you did something wrong, maybe they misunderstood you or maybe you were inclined toward something that they did not approve of. You might still feel badly about it when you think on it (God doesn’t want us living in regret, so if that’s the case, confess it or talk about it and move on, please). But, those feelings shouldn’t punish you for the rest of your life, should they? (If you said, “Yes,” please get counseling.) You should be allowed to find peace and healing.

You may have heard that the Synod on the Family is going on in Rome now. They are talking about things that are upsetting people—like treating cohabitating couples with dignity, welcoming homosexual couples and their children into the life of the Church and working compassionately with divorced and remarried people to help them become in full communion. (See article from CNS here on midterm report) People are outraged. They feel the Church is acquiescing to society instead of holding fast to the law.

We are all on a journey—are you done? I’m not! Did God perfect you yet? He’s still working with me! It would be truly awful to be rejected and told to remain where you are if you came to the Church in the beginning of your journey instead of being welcomed and encouraged to know God better, to know yourself better and to live more fully in union with Christ.

I’ve worked for St. Al’s for 16 years, and in that time I have encountered people in different phases of moral and religious struggle; in real pain and confusion about God, their life choices and where they could fit in to a Christian community, who at that very moment were been moved to seek a deeper relationship with God. If we are the Church of Christ, we are supposed to welcome; embrace and reconcile anyone who God has called to deeper relationship. And yes—they are called. They don’t show up randomly—when we turn them away we are turning Christ himself away. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain… This I command you: love one another.”(Jn 15: 16-17) When we love one another and instruct with gentleness, we will bear fruit. You can’t imagine the beautiful, wonderful people I have had the honor of working with and the amazing things they are doing in their lives, their families and our church. What if we had said, “Oh; sorry…I see here that you’ve made mistakes. (Or) You’re not like us…This isn’t going to work out.” We would have rejected families who have so much to offer; so much fruit to bear–who matter so much to God.

The Church’s job is to promote human dignity and meet people where they are, inviting them, as Jesus does into the freedom of a life with Him. The Catholic News Service reported, “God’s laws are meant to lead all people to Christ and his glory, and if they do not, then they are obsolete, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.” (see article here) We need to live the law in a way that is loving and reconciling. That’s what Jesus did every day. If that’s not what we want the Church to be, we need to reconsider who we worship.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Dear Parish Family-

Last Sunday the Holy Father, Pope Francis, opened the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. An Extraordinary Synod is a meeting of the World’s Bishops, along with priests, deacons and lay faithful at the Vatican. The Holy Father has chosen the topic of discussion to be the many challenges facing families in our Church and in our World. The objective of the Synod is to confront these challenges in a pastoral way to assist families to grow in holiness most especially keeping in mind the power of God’s Mercy.

The media has reduced the many problems down to divorce/remarriage and homosexual unions, as if these were the only challenges facing families today. On the contrary Pope Francis, aware of these reports in the media, has warned that there are many issues and not just one or two of great importance. In addition to divorce/remarriage and homosexuality are issues of Immigration, refugee status, war, poverty, unemployment, underemployment, healthcare, disease, economic burdens and addiction, to name just a few. The Church is universal and so the

challenges confronting the West are not the same challenges confronting the East. The Challenges in the

developing world are far different than those confronting the developed world.

Pope Francis has been highly critical on Economic Injustice, particularly Capitalist systems that place production/profit over people, demeaning human dignity. He has concern over how young people are unable to find work and how the elderly are disposed of rather than recognized for their wisdom and how they act as anchors for families.

The Holy Father has invited nearly 300 men and women from around the globe to participate in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family but he said on Sunday that the whole Church must participate in the Synod. We do this by praying for the Synod. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that frank and true freedom of expression take place among the members gathered together. So that as the Pope stated, “A new Pentecost” might be enflamed within the family of the Church.

All of the modern Popes have emphasized the family as the Domestic Church, the Little Church of the home that is united to the Parish Church, the Diocesan Church and the Universal Catholic Church. It is within the family that faith is enkindled and practiced. Parents at Baptism make a promise to God that they will be their children’s first teachers in the faith by word and example.

The Holy Father has asked each of us, as members of families and parish families to pray for the success of the Ex-traordinary Synod, particularly to the intercession of Mary the Mother of God who was a wife and mother of the family at Nazareth and who was entrusted with the entire family of God by our Lord Jesus Christ from the Cross. To her, Mother of the Universal Church, we pray in this month of the Most Holy Rosary.

In 2015 the Ordinary Synod on the Family will be convened to continue and build on the work of the Extraordinary Synod and in 2015 our nation will host the International Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The family is the cen-tral and singular building block of a just society. Satan works to disrupt and destroy the family, for he knows they are most precious to Our Heavenly Father! With this focus on the family, the Church rises to meet the challenges that confront families and seeks to aid in the building up of family life.

Let us pray for families everywhere!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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