Brothers and sisters in Christ:
This past weekend, I experienced the blessing of a retreat for the deacons of the diocese. I know it was what I needed because as I write this it is days later, and I am still going over in my mind many issues that our retreat master brought up. One idea he mentioned that was not new to me, but which is frequently on my mind, is the concept of the "ministry of presence." Let me give you an example or two of what I think this means.
My wife Rosemary is a hero of mine. (And no, it's not because she puts up with me.) She and her staff of four other women teach a program in seven Catholic grammar schools and the New Brunswick middle schools where they present to the children a sense of their own self-worth, the importance of respect, and the value of waiting until they marry before engaging in sexual activity. Rosemary comes home with some real horror stories as you might imagine, but she has been doing this for over two decades now and the positive results in that population over that time have been real. In the New Brunswick schools (and to a lesser extent in the Catholic schools), most of the children come from single parent homes, some do not have permanent homes at all, some are targets of gang recruitment, and many experience other very serious problems at home (abuse) or at school (burnt-out teachers or uncaring administrators – at least in their minds). As a result, over the years Rosemary has seen many of these children look to her staff for support. Many children have confided to her staff deeply personal things they will not tell anyone else – one or two have even shared feelings so desperate that they had contemplated suicide. (Such children are, of course, referred to those who have professional training to deal with these problems.) The point: Rosemary and her staff are not there to be these children's mothers, yet when that is what seems to be called for, they are there...they are present to those children. The children somehow pick up on the fact that here are people who will show them compassion.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
St. Magdalen de Pazzi Commission for Evangelization and Adult Catechesis serves a mission of proclaiming the gospel to all people. This mission is broad based: it applies equally to those who do not know Jesus; to Catholics who have perhaps cooled or drifted from a life of prayer and Sacraments to the extent that they have become less than vigorous in their friendship with Jesus; and to steadfast faithful Catholics who could use rejuvenation and strengthening of their life in Christ.
Currently two commission activities are well established, and two are in their initial formative stage.
One of the signature activities the Commission regularly sponsors is Scripture study. We are excited to present the Winter/Spring study "Psalms" beginning January, 2014. In addition, "Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Lively Virtues" with Fr. Robert Barron will commence in February as our Lenten study. Please visit www.stmagdalen.org and the bulletin for additional information in December and January. Certain Bible study programs are repeated as more people come to realize the value of Sacred Scripture as being fundamental to understanding their faith. In the future we hope to add new courses in Church History and the Epistles of St. Paul.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
It's an exciting time in history to be Catholic. While there seems to be no end in sight to the bad news we see day after day in the news, there also presents a tremendous door of opportunity for a Catholic voice. The question that remains is this: will that voice be heard? And will the language of that voice be understood by today's secular culture? God has called all Catholics to reach out to others with the timeless gospel of Jesus Christ and to learn how to do that in a way the culture around us can understand and respond to. But let's be honest. The reality is that the vast majority of Catholics in the United States are not inclined to share their faith with others. Pope Paul VI confronted this issue head-on in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelization in the Modern World, when he stated:
"We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize. . ."READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
Our Youth Ministry exists to help parish high schoolers to be excited about being Catholic and to continue their journey in the Catholic Faith in the years after their Confirmation. Youth Ministry seeks to provide solid Catholic formation for teenagers so that they may be true "messengers" of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In order to fulfill this mission, we offer a variety of activities to demonstrate to our high schoolers that our faith not only exists in the pews at St. Magdalen's but also out in the world around us:
With October having been "Respect Life" month, we focused on the value of life. On Saturday, October 19th, a group of about 10 teens and 7 adults participated in a service project to help clean up a previously vacant convent in Phillipsburg that Life Choices will use for "Grandma's House," a place where child care and housing will be available to women who have nowhere else to go. We spent the day scraping peeling paint, taking down wallpaper, scrubbing floors, and cleaning windows in order to prepare the building for the necessary renovations to make it a home. At our October Youth Night in the parish center, we discussed the difficult topic of the Death Penalty and what our Catholic faith teaches us about human dignity.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
Have you seen the book "Why Catholics Can't Sing"? My thought is that the author never attended mass at St. Magdalen de Pazzi!! Mid-summer, I was blessed to become a part of your parish community as Director of Music and Sacred Liturgy. I have enjoyed hearing you raise your voices in joyful song and praise. Shortly after I arrived, a new parishioner came to me and asked how many music groups or ensembles are there at St. Magdalen's? Well, it took me several weeks to give her an accurate answer, because at every turn a new musician, singer, or choir member would approach me and introduce themselves! Now I can confidently say there is something for everyone, every age, every level of musicality or commitment.
Adult Choir – rehearses every Thursday evening to sing each Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. Mass as well as special events and holy days. The ability to read music is helpful, but not required. If you have a song in your heart, please come and share the joy of singing with us!READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
I have lots of questions today…and maybe a few answers. Without peeking, do you remember the last sentence of the Gospel today? Or if you are reading the bulletin prior to Mass, pay attention to that last sentence in Luke's Gospel: "But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" What did Jesus mean by this? One definition of faith is: a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Easy question, right? Faith is our belief in God. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this believes in God. But what does that mean? If we say we have faith and believe in God, how does that translate into our daily lives?READ MORE
This past Monday our parish was blessed to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which several hundred parishioners consecrated their lives to the Blessed Mother. They had prepared with intense prayer, spiritual reading and sacrifice for thirty three days in order to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit. The mass was beautiful and we ask the Blessed Mother to continue to guide these individuals as well as our entire parish into a more intimate relationship with Her Son, Jesus. We pray that Mary will shower St. Magdalen's with grace as we honor her for the month of October.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family:
Life is a gift, pass it on. This weekend we are invited to reflect on the gift of life. Most of the time we forget that life is a gift. It is easy to take life for granted. When health is good, when the job is good, when things seem to be working out…the reality is that discouraging things can come our way quite abruptly, we lose a job, we get a bad diagnosis at the doctor, a loved one dies. These are moments when we become sober and ask the hard questions of what "life is all about." Why am I here? Where am I going? These kinds of questions let us know that life cannot be taken for granted. We need more than things to fulfill us, but rather we need meaning and purpose. These are the things that make life.
The most fundamental proclamation of the Christian faith is that every life is unique and every life has value. The Church never tires of proclaiming the truth that life matters. Even life that is most vulnerable and considered by the wider society as dispensable; the unborn, the aged and the disabled.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family:
It was about nineteen years ago, while I was sitting in the pew, that Father Maccarone made a plea from the pulpit, "Please, we need catechists for our program. Please someone, do something!" My heart began to beat faster, I felt flush and knew he was speaking directly to me. "But I am not qualified and I certainly don't know enough," I thought. With fear and trepidation, I walked to the narthex and signed up to teach. Little did I know at that time, what God had planned for me. Since that day, I have been serving as a catechist, teaching 1st, 4th, and in the John Paul II Evangelization Program since its inception. In addition, to teaching, my husband Raul and I served on the Pre-Cana ministry team and also as high school youth ministers for a more than five years. This year, Father Tim asked me to serve in the role of the Parish Catechetical Leader to oversee the program through which our Catholic faith is passed on to children from kindergarten through high school.
The love of Jesus Christ is at the core of all the efforts of our catechetical program for children. Our parish is blessed to have 129 catechists whom couple their unique God-given gifts with a desire to share in Christ's mission here on earth. Together with Maggie Castles, the Assistant Parish Catechetical Leader, we do our earthly best to serve over the 950 students who are currently enrolled in our program. Of these, 120 will be preparing to receive First Penance and Holy Eucharist and 143 will be preparing to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church when they receive the sacrament of Confirmation.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family:
We are currently in the season of last chance vacations and shifting into the mode of "School" and resuming our regular activities that begin in the fall. Whatever we find ourselves doing these days of August: rest, relaxation, family reunions, back yard BBQ's…we always belong to God. It's a choice to recognize and see with the eyes of faith God's love and presence is everywhere.
I am excited to share with you a new way that our parish is taking a regular local summer activity and bringing the gift of faith to life. This week (August 21-25) St. Magdalen's will be at the Hunterdon County 4-H Fair with a booth for the whole duration of the fair. The purpose of St. Magdalen having a booth at the fair is very simple: to meet people where they are at and to let the community know that we are a presence here in Flemington and that they are welcome here at our parish. We are not going to the fair to try to convert people or to try and start arguments with people of other faiths, but rather we are going to engage people in conversations and be the face of Christ to them. This has been something that we have wanted to do for awhile and the Lord is just now opening the doors to make this possible. We were on a waiting list up until this past week when another parish dropped so we were next on the list. After we discerned the movements of the Holy Spirit, we decided that the Lord was inviting our parish into the great opportunity of evangelization and we are happy to see what the fruits of our yes will be. The fair runs from 10am-10pm, Wednesday through Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday. There will be people from our parish staffing our booth the whole time so I encourage you to stop by and check us out and invite your friends to stop by too. We should be reminded that inviting others is a great tool of evangelization that we can never underestimate.READ MORE
Dear Parish Family,
As the Beatles song goes, "all you need is love…"
Although it is nowhere near Valentine's Day, the past week or so has found me noticing all kinds of "love" all around me. Even in places I never expected to find it!
It started on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity itself shows us the love within the three persons of the Trinity. The love between the Father and the Son is so complete, so perfect, that the Holy Spirit is that love. Usually shown as a dove, the symbol of love, and used often at marriages in the time of Jesus.
Next, Fr. Joseph asked me to assist him at a ceremony for a couple that wanted to renew their marriage vows on their 45th wedding anniversary. They mentioned the key to their staying together included a sense of humor, mutual respect, and a deep feeling of love and dependence on God and their Faith.READ MORE
The metaphor of "inviting myself to the mirror to see my nose" as applied to our parish family
Dear Parishioners and visitors,
Allow me to greet you with the words that St. Paul addressed the people of the Church in Rome: "To you all, God's beloved in Rome, called to be his holy people. Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1, 7). It is a very beautiful salutation because it inspires us to realize that we are also God's beloved people and we are called to be his holy people.
On the other hand, I have realized that even if my nose is so near to my eyes, I have never seen my nose, other than in a mirror or photographs. Have you ever seen your nose with your eyes? Try it now. Anyway, the point I want to make is that even if I work and live in this parish, I have not been aware of the many good things that people do in this parish, which in reality are concrete pathways to holiness.READ MORE