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THANKSGIVING REFLECTIONS

Catholic Communications asked some students from our  Catholic schools in  the Diocese of Springfield to share their feelings of gratitude this Thanksgiving. The following are some of the sweet answers that came from them.

Kenneth Heisler of Blessed Sacrament School in Holyoke said:

I am thankful for my mother, Heidi, and my wonderful family. I’m thankful for me, that I was born.”

Kenneth Heisler

Matthew Ciesla,  a 3rd grader at St. John the Baptist School in Ludlow is so thankful he wrote a poem:

I give thanks for St. John’s, my school.
It is truly quite a jewel.
They teach me how to write and read
Math, Science, Art – all I need.

I learn to share and to be kind.
To help a friend, I never mind.
Thank you for teaching me all I need to know.
To become smarter and better as I grow.

Matthew Ciesla

 Ben LaCroix, a Kindergartener at St. John the Baptist School in Ludlow has a short but sweet sentiment.

I am thankful for my Mom and Dad.”

Ben LaCroix

 And  Emma deVillier, a 6th grader at St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield wrote an entire essay of gratitude. It is a delight to read.

Emma DeVillier

In school today, I was asked what I was thankful for. A lot of things immediatelycame to mind: my family, my friends, my teachers, my dog. But when I thought a little deeper and longer, I smiled because I had found a bigger present to be grateful for — my religion.

My religion is really at the center of everything I do. It helps me get thorugh the day when things aren’t going well. It helps me when I need to make a tough decision. It’s how I start each day, with a little prayer between Jseus and me hoping that everything goes well. It’s the conversation I have each night just befrore I go to bed. It’s what makes me special. It’s what makes me Catholic.

For me, my religion isn’t just going to church each Sunday for a short period and then forgetting about what the priest is talking about until the next Sunday. No, it’s a lot more. It’s about trying to be a better person each and every day. It’s about believing in being a better person, trying to understand the stories from the Bible and about Jesus. There are times when I have a hard time understanding all that’s being told to me, but thinking about the messages and believing that they are true as lessons to follow, somehow make it easier. That’s why I am an altar server and help out as much as I can at school and church functions. I want to be involved in my church and my religion.

In my home, our religion is very important. We go to church every Sunday, but my Mom is always reminding us to be good people and be kind to everyone each and every day. She is a great example of someone who lives a Christian lifestyle and believes her religion. I know that my parents are great role models for me and my brother and sisters because they make our home a constant reminder of how they want us to grow up as Christians practicing our faith and religion.

At Christmas time we pray bfore our manger scene for health and happiness for the coming year and each day when we have dinner together we start our meals by saying ‘Grace.’  These are little things but they remind me of just how special our religion is.

As I write this paper, there is one more thing about my religion that makes me thankful and makes me really smile. Without my religion, there would be no need for St. Michael’s Academy, my great Catholic school. It’s here to teach me about Jesus and strengthen my beliefs just like my home and family. That’s why I’m here. Yes, I am very happy and thankful for my religion and all that it gives me.

Smiling givers

Parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Springfield are evangelizing and helping others in a unique way. The religious education classes and their families are filling shoe boxes with useful and playful gifts  as part of Operation Christmas Child.

Fun in a shoe box

The boxes are gift-wrapped and the items are shipped all over the world to children in need. The gifts go to children ages 2 to 14.  And each box contains a message from the children in the religious education class and the Bible story of the the birth of Jesus.

Wrapping the shoe boxes

 At Mt. Carmel, 60 gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child were blessed at Mass on November 14. They went  Wilbraham Lifecare for shipping in time for Christmas. Details of this Christian global outreach can be found at www.samaritanspurse .org.
 

 

Happy helpers

 

 

More helping hands

Photos and information courtesy of Sister of St. Joseph Betty Matuszek, pastoral minister at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Springfield.

By Peggy Weber

My recent visits to Washington, D.C. make me think that I should be hired as a member of their Chamber of  Commerce. This city is amazing and the perfect place to think of our veterans.

I had not visited our nation’s capital since 1978! However, when our daughter, Elizabeth, moved to DC this summer to begin graduate studies in philosophy at Catholic University of America, our family headed down Route 95 to help her move into her apartment.

Our family has since returned to visit Elizabeth. It has not been hard to get anyone on board with making the car ride. We have been delighted with all that this amazing city has to offer.

Our family at the Lincoln Memorial

Honestly, we have just begun to explore all that Washington has to offer. But it has been a delight just to walk the National Mall and view the monuments and visit for free some of the amazing museums that are run by the Smithsonian.

I could fill this blog with positive comments on the Air and Space Museum.

And we loved the American History Museum. It contains such dear and varying treasures as  Kermit the Frog, Fonzie’s jacket and the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired the Star Spangled Banner in 1814.

My daughter, Kerry, and Kermit (Kerry is on the left.)

But what has stayed with me the most was our trek along the mall to see the memorials — especially one.

The Washington Monument is cool and I have since learned about how it is made from different bricks because they ran out of money while building it. I also found out that Pope Pius IX followed the example of other European monarchs in the 1850s and sent a block of marble for the Washington Monument. It is reported that  a mob threw it into the Potomac.

Notice the change in the color of the brick

 There was a strong anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment at the time. Work halted on the monument for several years and did not continue until after the Civil War. http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/pio-nono-the-washington-monument-and-the-purloined-block-of-marble/

Moving along the National Mall, I was moved by the gorgeous Lincoln Memorial.

and touched by the VietnamWall

 and the Korean Memorial.

 However, for me, the  most moving experience was visiting the World War II Memorial which opened in 2004.

World War II Memorial

I admit that at one point I just sat on a bench and cried. I put myself right near to the block of stone  that was inscribed with the word Okinawa.  And there I reflected on  my Dad who served in the Pacific in Okinawa with the support troops.

I remembered how he told me that he and his fellow soldiers  had to be wary of sniper fire or booby traps as they drove along the makeshift roads. And he described what it was like to look around at Sunday Mass and be reminded that some of the people who had been there the week before were no longer with them.

I asked him to write his autobiography in 1994, shortly before his death. He wrote: “While in Okinawa we had numerous attacks by planes, ships and Japanes soldiers. Eash Sunday at Mass the priest announced the following: ‘Today we pray for the following. Please remember their souls and the souls of all who died in defense of their country. As you go your way, ask yourself, is my house in order.’ I was told this in 1945. It has been the foundation of my faith for almost 50 years.”

My Dad on the left and a pal during World War II

The memories of pictures like this came back to me at the World War II Memorial.

I sat at the memorial and thought of my uncle, Ed Warner, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

I thought of my honorary Uncle Joe Hourihan who served in Europe.

I thought of my father-in-law George Weber who served in the Army Air Force in Burma.

I thought of my aunt, Mary Warner, who used her math and science skills in the war effort.

My Dad and his sister

I thought of my mother who helped with the USO and did her part with rations, and letter writing and prayers.

And I thought of all the young men, most of whom are gone, who protected our world from dictators, fascists, Nazis and real evil.

Even now, I cry as I type these word because I don’t know if these people really understand what an amazing thing they did. They saved our world!!!!

 Nor can I ever express well enough how grateful I am that I, my husband, and our children have been able to live in a world of freedom and prosperity because of these men and women.

I wish them and all serving in the military a very Happy Veterans’ Day!!!

Soldiers' statue at the Vietnam War Memorial

On Nov. 27, three men will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. Tucker Cordani, Ryan Rooney and Michael Wood will take an important step closer to their ordination to the priesthood in June. The diaconate ceremony will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral, 254 State St., at 11 a.m. All are welcome.

It seemed like an appropriate time to share this tender and thoughtful letter which was published recently by Pope Benedict XVI.

Letter to Seminarians

By Pope Benedict XVI

  “When in December 1944 I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: ‘Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany priests are no longer needed’. I knew that this ‘new Germany’ was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever. Today the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a ‘job’ for the future, but one that belongs more to the past.

World War II Germany

 You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalisation: they will always need the God Who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the God Who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with Him and through Him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough”.

  “In this letter I would like to point out – thinking back to my own time in the seminary – several elements which I consider important for these years of your journeying.

  “(1) Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a ‘man of God’, to use the expression of St. Paul. For us God is not some abstract hypothesis. … God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. … It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to His people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to ‘pray constantly’, He is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God”.

  “(2) For us God is not simply Word. In the Sacraments He gives Himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days. … In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age – the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.

  (3) “The Sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. … Even when we have to struggle continually with the same failings, it is important to resist the coarsening of our souls and the indifference which would simply accept that this is the way we are. … Moreover, by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognising my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour.

  “(4) I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community”.

  “(5) Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself. … I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! … The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people’s questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same. For this reason it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of Sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments. … It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. … I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of a knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious. … But you should also learn to understand and – dare I say it – to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications. … I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realisation that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity.

  “(6) Your years in the seminary should also be a time of growth towards human maturity. It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated. … This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person’s growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy. Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment”.

  “(7) The origins of a priestly vocation are nowadays more varied and disparate than in the past. Today the decision to become a priest often takes shape after one has already entered upon a secular profession. Often it grows within the communities, particularly within the movements, which favour a communal encounter with Christ and His Church, spiritual experiences and joy in the service of the faith. It also matures in very personal encounters with the nobility and the wretchedness of human existence. … The movements are a magnificent thing. You know how much I esteem them and love them as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Yet they must be evaluated by their openness to what is truly Catholic, to the life of the whole Church of Christ, which for all her variety still remains one. The seminary is a time when you learn with one another and from one another. In community life, which can at times be difficult, you should learn generosity and tolerance, not only bearing with, but also enriching one another. .. This school of tolerance, indeed, of mutual acceptance and mutual understanding in the unity of Christ’s Body, is an important part of your years in the seminary.

2010 International Night at St. John's Seminary

  “Dear seminarians, with these few lines I have wanted to let you know how often I think of you, especially in these difficult times, and how close I am to you in prayer.

For more information about vocations go to http://www.myvocation.com/.

 

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