Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Fatherhood shortage (Sunday homily)

 Even though next week is Father’s Day, 

I think fatherhood is the idea I want to focus on this week.

I’m going to talk about a couple of different things 

that aren’t obviously linked, but the connection really is “fatherhood.”

Let me start with the “Beacons of Light” planning process 

which the Archbishop is leading, regarding how best to provide 

for the 200-plus parishes of the Archdiocese.

First: what’s going on? The answer is that many of our parishes, 

as currently configured, are not healthy. 

If you measure things by our local situation, that may surprise you.

But we’re part of an Archdiocese that covers 19 counties,

and many places are facing a very different situation.

We talk about a shortage of priests, and that’s a real problem; 

but in many places, the bigger shortage is of people; 

and that means a shortage of volunteers and material resources.

This “Beacons of Light” project is about taking a big-picture approach

rather than dealing with it piece-meal.

As I said, this isn’t ONLY about not enough priests, 

but that is part of it; specifically, about having enough PASTORS – 

that is, priests who are in charge of parishes. 

So here’s something you may not have thought about:

Not all priests are cut out to be PASTORS. 

We have good, holy priests who are either too new, 

or else they just don’t have the skills to run a parish. 

We have 110 priests serving as pastors right now. 

But 58 of them are over 60 – that more than half!

And that means they will all be eligible to retire in the next ten years.

Of those pastors over 60, 20 of them are, in fact, over 70 – 

that means they are at or past retirement age;

even if they don’t want to retire, they may have to, at any time.

Meanwhile, we’re ordaining an average of four priests a year; 

But those new priests are not going to become pastors immediately 

and they shouldn’t! 

New pastors can do damage if they lack seasoning. 

I first became a pastor when I had been ordained only two years.  

I made some serious mistakes; it wasn’t intentional, 

and I not blaming anyone but myself, but experience matters.

Right now, today, the Archbishop has no “bench,” no back-up.

He’s brought in priests from Africa and India, 

some of whom will be returning to their native countries.

We can’t kick the can down the road any longer.

So what’s all this mean for Saint Remy?

Let’s start with the bad news.

It seems almost certain that at some point in the next ten years, 

the Archbishop will group our parish with one or two other parishes, 

and we will share two priests, but only one will be pastor. 

And if you wonder why, if there are going to be two priests, 

why not have both be pastors? 

Because that second priest will be someone fresh from the seminary,

or even an older priest, who isn’t otherwise suited to be pastor.

This has long been a possibility; I think it will finally happen.

The rest of your questions I can’t answer.

I can’t say which other parishes we will be grouped with.

The Archbishop is sorting through the situation in all 19 counties, 

and he will propose some groupings this September,

at which point we’ll all see them and be able to give input.

If you ask we’ll be “clustered,” that depends on things no can predict.

My health is good, but I can get sick and so can other priests.

Here’s what I think is good news and should reassure you.

I mentioned how in many places, parishes are emptied out.

They don’t have much happening; they lack volunteers and money;

and they are situated within miles of other parishes in the same boat.

None of that describes us.

So the kind of re-organizing that is likely to happen elsewhere 

is not reasonable to expect or fear here. 

For example, when I was in Piqua, 

we did combine two religious education programs into one, 

and combine offices. But those parishes are ½ mile apart; 

and there was a critical shortage of willing volunteers to teach CCD.

None of that applies to Russia.

I started by talking about fatherhood.

When we talk about our larger society, 

we’re facing a critical shortage of true fatherhood.

One of the things that makes our local community healthy 

is that we don’t face a plague of absent fathers.

That is directly tied to the health of this parish 

and of this northern part of our Archdiocese.

This helps explain why our area generates more vocations,

as the example of genuine fatherhood inspires more spiritual fathers.  

The readings highlight how great things 

can come from small, even discouraging, beginnings. 

The devil wants to discourage us and panic us;

Not just about changes in our parishes, but in our society as a whole.

Jesus calls us to keep calm and keep confident in his leadership,

no matter what else is happening.

This Friday, I invite all men of all ages, from 1 day old to 100 years old, 

to participate in our annual prayer walk. 

We’ll meet between 5-5:30 pm in the main parking lot.

This year we’ll car-pool out to Loramie-Washington Road,

So we’ll be glad for as many vans and big cars as possible.

As before, our walk will be all about praying for our community.

Our task as men is to guard and guide, including spiritually.

Over time, we will complete a circuit all around the parish.

We’ll have rides for those who can’t walk the route.

Then we’ll share fellowship afterward.

It’ll be hot; it’ll be tiring, and you may be tempted to think, 

what good does this do? 

All I can say is that we will be faithful and trust Jesus 

to make the seeds of faith grow in this community.

That is what you and I are called to do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Treasuring the Gift of the Eucharist (Corpus Christi homily)

 On this Feast of Corpus Christi, 

I want to talk about some practical things, 

particularly as we try to resume what was normal 

before this last, very abnormal year.

First, I want to thank you for the way take reverence seriously, 

not only during Mass, but before and after. 

I’ve been in churches where this has been lost,

where people are visiting and talking as they would anywhere else.

Nothing wrong with visiting – but it destroys prayerfulness.

This is a good time to talk about how we receive Holy Communion. 

You know that there are two options: 

receiving on the tongue, or in the hand. 

It’s no secret that I have encouraged you to receive on the tongue; 

but during the Covid crisis, 

a lot of people were uncomfortable with that. I understand that.

So what follows isn’t meant to override that concern, 

but to talk a little about the best way to receive the Holy Eucharist, 

whether you do it in the hand, or on the tongue.

Let me say that sometimes people come to Holy Communion 

with only one hand free, often because you’re holding a child.

In those cases, I’ll whisper, “I’ll put it on your tongue.” 

And this is the reason: it really isn’t reverent 

to try to juggle the Holy Eucharist with one hand, 

particularly when you are carrying a child.

Also, if you are receiving in the hand, please lift your hands high. 

That’s both very reverent: lifting Jesus up! It’s also practical.

If you are receiving on the tongue, this is going to sound funny, but:

You really do have to put out your tongue –

I’m not a dentist, I really don’t want to go IN there!

And whichever way you receive, it’s important to remain still.

Many of our younger parishioners are kind of rushing.

Parents, maybe you can help them remember these things?

I’ve told this story before, but it’s too good not to repeat it.

Father Randall Roberts was an United States Air Force chaplain 

in Saudi Arabia where, he explains, 

“any public Christian activity is punishable by imprisonment.” 

When he was going to offer Mass for American soldiers 

who were stationed in Saudi, soldiers would spread the word.

Because of the laws against any sort of Christianity,

Father Roberts had to celebrate Mass in a “remote area”

In this case, an abandoned recreation shack 

encircled by a chain-link fence.

Now, it happens there are many millions of foreign workers 

in Saudi Arabia – and a large number of them are Christians.

One of these foreign workers walked by; 

and when he realized Mass was underway, 

he “pressed himself against the other side of the fence.”

Here’s what Father Roberts saw:

He appeared to be straining his whole body – or at least his heart – 

through the chain-link fence, like water through a filter…

The sheer ecstasy in his face from being present 

at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – though not able to move closer – 

is an image that will be indelibly etched in my heart until I die.

I wasn’t there, but now, I will never forget that image.

And I hope you won’t, either.

What a gift we’ve been given!

May God give us the gift of loving the Mass, and the Holy Eucharist, 

like that poor man, and the many millions like him, 

who are starving for what is so easy and available for us.