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This homily was given by Deacon Leo Coughlin at a Mass on June 26 honoring Sister of St.Joseph Margaret McNaughton upon her retirement from St. Michael Cathedral Parish in Springfield.
In our Gospel today we hear Jesus say to his disciples follow me, but
a few had excuses of why they couldn’t just follow.
We learn that discipleship means leaving all that we have and
trusting in God. This surrender to God is different for each one of
Well, this weekend we are honoring our beloved Sr. Margaret
McNaughton, who on July 1, 2016 will be entering her 68th year as a
sister of St. Joseph. Sixty-eight years ago Sr. Margaret said yes to
Jesus and has followed Jesus ever since. It would take the better
part of this Mass to highlight all the wonderful accomplishments of
this beautiful Sister.
More to the point-just imagine that you were a young woman or man and
knew that this path of religious life was your calling. Every day I
stand in awe of all these fearless warriors of Our Lord. Many are
called, but few are chosen for a lifetime of service and devotion to
our Church. All of our sisters and priests, Sr. Eileen, Msgr. CC1,
but especially today, Sr. Margaret McNaughton.
What makes these people different from the rest of us? I have thought
about this many times…pure faith…plain and simple. Faith in the spirit
of God our Father, his holy Son and the holy Spirit that binds us all
Through these gifts, they give to us the love of God through all that
they accomplish every hour, every day, every year of their lives. We
love our sisters and priests.
Just as Mary said YES to the angel Gabriel, our Sr. Margaret said YES to Jesus.
My personal interactions with Sister are always eventful and with
great insight. She’s probably thinking what is he talking about? This
guy from Boston. Well, many times during our conversations, she will
pass on a great thought or idea or will tell me about a moving homily
she may have heard in the past.
Sr. reminded me of a homily she heard years ago. It went like this.
When we die and hopefully we get in to Heaven, there will be 3
surprises waiting for us.
1st WOW! I made it.
2nd. WOW! He/she made it
And 3rd as you look around and see the many people who are in Heaven
because of what you did to help them.
I told Sr. Margaret there will be thousands of people who are in
Heaven because of her.
So as you reflect on the Gospel, put yourselves in the shoes of the
disciples. What would we have done if Jesus asked us to drop
everything and follow Him? Would we have made excuses? Like some of
the disciples. More importantly, what are we doing today June 26th,
Are we doing what our Lord asked of us today? He is not asking us to
drop everything and leave our families or possessions, as he did with
1. He is asking us to LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS not just your next door
neighbors, but all of our neighbors. How are we doing with that?
2. He is asking us to pray daily. How are we doing with that?
3. He is asking us to honor our father and mothers. How are we doing
There are others that Jesus wants us to do. We know what they are.
How are we doing with those?
Just as our Mother Mary and Sr. Margaret said Yes to our Lord, we
have said Yes also, but along the way we may have slipped in one area
or another. The good thing is our Lord is always there to forgive and
lift us up because he is a loving, and most importantly of all, a
If we live our lives the way our Lord wants us to, then when we are
called home we will have those three surprises waiting for us. Thank
you Lord for promising us Eternal Salvation, IF we live the life you
want us to.
And thank you Sr. Margret for this homily, just like you…short and oh so sweet!
The following is the homily given by Father Daniel Boyle at the funeral Mass of Father Vernon Decoteau on June 6, 2016.
In the name of our Bishop, Mitchell Rozanski, our retired Bishop, Timothy McDonnell, Our Diocesan Priests, special priest friends, Father Richard Trainor, Father Charles Kuzmeski and his faithful, Parochial Vicar, Father Michael Pierz, Deacons, and Men and Women Religious, I would like to offer to Father Vern’s brother, Bruce, Shelby, Nicholas, Nicole, Jared, Scott, Michael, Taunt Eva, and his cousins and extended family members, as well as, the entire Parish Family of St. Francis, our collective sympathy and empathy at the death of our beloved Vernon. I also extend our thoughts and prayers to all of the faithful Vernon served during the 41 years of his priesthood, among them: St. Mary’s, Westfield, Cathedral High School, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Northampton, and since January of 1996, this magnificent Parish of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as, Wells and Ogunquit, Maine.
On the day of every priest’s ordination, the Bishop gives the following instruction, and for your prayerful reflection, I would like to share it with you.
This man, Vernon, your relative and friend, is now to be raised to the order of priests. Consider carefully the position to which he is to be promoted in the Church.
It is true God has made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ. But our High Priest, Jesus Christ, also chose some of his followers to carry out publicly in the Church in a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of mankind. He was sent by his Father, and he in turn sent the apostles into the world; through them and their successors, the bishops, he continues his work as Teacher, Priest, and Shepard. Priests are co-workers of the order of bishops. They are joined to the bishops in the priestly office and are called to serve God’s people.
Our Brother, Vernon, has seriously considered this step and is now to be ordained to priesthood in the presbyteral order. He is to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepard in his ministry which is to make his own body, the Church, grow into the people of God, a holy temple.
He is called to share in the priesthood of the bishops and to be molded into the likeness of Christ, the supreme and eternal Priest. By consecration he will be made a true priest of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, sustain God’s people, and celebrate the liturgy, above all, the Lord’s sacrifice.
He then addresses the candidate:
My son, Vernon, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with all mankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach.
Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church.
In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it with Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ.
When you baptize, you will bring men and women into the people of God. In the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With holy oil you will relieve and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world. Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God. Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.
Finally, conscious of sharing in the work of Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church, and united with the bishop and subject to him, seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and to seek out and rescue those who were lost.
In Today’s Gospel of Luke, which Father Vern chose himself, we hear the familiar passage of the disciples encountering Our Lord on the road to Emmaus, and how they came to know Him in the breaking of the bread. We hear these words and we think of Father Vern. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us, on the way, and opened the scriptures to us?”
Is that not what Vern, ever the teacher, did for us? He opened for us, the scriptures; for this, his beloved Parish of St. Francis in his preaching, for generations of faith gatherings and TOOLS (Teams of Our Lady). All this and so much more!
Besides his preaching and teaching, Vern had a wonderful, full, musical and entertaining life!
A few years ago, I invited Vern to join me on a Caribbean vacation in February. Unfortunately, a major snowstorm hit the Northeast! All flights from Bradley were cancelled. The ever-resourceful Vern discovered he could take a taxi from Bradley to the Amtrak station in Windsor Locks, and board a train to Penn Station. Once in New York City, he took a train to Baltimore and boarded a flight to a nearby island. He then took a boat to where I was waiting with the largest Gin & Tonic known to humanity. I told him, “Vern, you are the only person I have ever known to take a taxi, two trains, an aircraft and a boat to get here! You deserve this drink!” We proceeded to enjoy two wonderful weeks on the Island.
We have all heard the expression, “With my luck I’ll probably be at the airport when my ship comes in!” Well, that literally happened to Vern in Venice, Italy. He went to Rome to participate in the Ordination of Diaconate for Mark Glover at St. Peter’s Basilica. His plan was to then travel by train to Venice where as a Certified Member of the “Apostleship of the Sea”, he would board a cruise ship and assume the role of Chaplain for 12 days through the Adriatic, into the Mediterranean and back to the Port of Rome. However, upon arriving in Venice, he discovered there was no ship for him to board! It had been sent into dry-dock for refurbishing. While many others would have gotten angry, Vern, always good-natured, took things in stride, enjoyed the sights of Venice for a few days and flew home early!
Ever the Liturgist, Father Vern was one of the few priests, and I mean few, who embraced and loved the New Roman Missal. I said to him one day during a lively discussion regarding the New Missal, “Vern, who on earth uses words like consubstantial, oblation and imbued in normal speech?” In response he said, “Daniel, this is about moving the Liturgy from the kitchen into the dining room. This is fine dining, instead of fast food!”
From her book, Reflections, Barbara Bush recalls, “George and I were having dinner with friends at the Kennebunkport Inn when I noticed the man in shorts sitting on a stool at the piano. He had a glorious voice, and knew all the songs from the great Broadway plays. People gathered around the piano kept calling out songs and saying, “Sing it Vern.” Before we left, Betsy Heminway invited him over so we could tell him just how much we had enjoyed his singing. Since we were having a dinner later that week, George asked him if he ever sang for groups. He said that he really hadn’t, but he would. Then he went on to say that he was on vacation with his mother and that he was a Catholic priest. I have been teased for years because I said to him, “You can’t possibly be a priest; you’re in shorts.” Father Vern is not only a priest but a good one. His parish, St. Francis in Belchertown, Massachusetts is growing and many young people are joining his congregation. He has sung for us many times over the years, and he and his sweet mother, Ida, have become friends of ours.”
Former President Bush wrote these words following the death of Vern:
“Barbara and I send our heartfelt condolences to all of you at St. Francis Parish, who are mourning the death of your beloved pastor.
We loved your ‘singing priest,’as we liked to call him. I hope I am not revealing any secrets when I tell you we met Father Vern in a bar in our summer home of Kennebunkport, Maine. We were having dinner and he was belting out Broadway songs at the piano. Thinking he had to be a star of one kind or another, we asked to meet him so we could join his fan club. And yes we were shocked to learn he was not from New York or Hollywood, but was a Catholic priest.
But we were right about one thing – Father Vern was a star. He excelled at all he did, whether it was singing in our living room for friends and family, which he did for us a number of times or if he was fulfilling his mission in life – taking care of the good people of St. Francis Parish.
We were all blessed to know him. I know you will miss him terribly.”
My guess is I am not the first person to make this observation this week: our loss is heaven’s gain. I can only imagine the singing and dancing that is going on there right now. Even St. Peter must be gathered around the piano.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your celebration of the richly-lived life of Father Vernon Decoteau.”
George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States
Note that the Presidential Seal is on the first pew in the Church.
In the words of Father CJ last night at the Vigil Service, Vern was our friend, your Pastor, a faithful priest and for all of us “The Voice” that we will never forget! Let him speak to us once more in the way he knew best….. Vern’s recording of “Take Me Hand, Precious Lord” is played over the church’s sound system
By Hannah Green
Editor’s note: Hannah is a rising sophomore at Simmons College, a member of St. Mary Parish in Westfield and a summer intern at Catholic Communications.
Imagine being in a procession of people almost 200 strong, chasing the Eucharist through the streets of downtown Ludlow. Your feet are swollen inside your dress shoes, the humidity is boiling you from the inside out, and after leaving the first church in your route, you realize that there are three more to go. Could you continue? More importantly, would you?
If you listened to your brain, you probably wouldn’t. Invaluable as our brains are, they also happen to be excellent excuse-makers.
“You have a baby, you don’t need to go.”
“It’s your day off, why don’t you lay down on the sofa and relax?”
“It’s too hot out, you shouldn’t go outside.”
As much as our brains want to keep us physically happy and safe, they can’t always account for our spiritual needs. While you’re walking down the sidewalk in peak summer temperatures, your body is trying to figure out why, and working to convince you to get somewhere cool and comfortable. It’s not your brain’s fault that it’s trying to get you to head home; it’s just looking out for number one, and avoiding conditions that could dehydrate and tire you out is pretty high on its list of priorities.
So sometimes, like the folks following the Bishop and the Eucharist around last Sunday afternoon for the feast of Corpus Christi, you have to listen to your faith instead of your judicious friend upstairs.
It wasn’t the expectant embrace of the freshly frosted air blowing from air conditioners that drew people from one church to the next, but a desire to dedicate their day to God, and to celebrate his gift of the Eucharist to us.
They weren’t worried about the heat, carrying their children, or tackling the walk between all four parishes. As I watched and processed along beside them, following our reporter and videographer, I wondered, where did they find that strength? And how did they do it with the eyes of the world on them?
Well, maybe not the eyes of the world, but the eyes of the motorists, store owners, and pedestrians who happened to pass along their route down the sidewalks of bustling Ludlow streets.
As we drove in the Catholic Communications car to beat the procession to the next church, I noticed just how many people were watching this public display of devotion. In a little bakery, teenagers in white aprons and hair nets gathered in the front window, and at the repair shop next door, mechanics with sodas stopped their conversations to stare.
The odd thing is, if these parishioners had been in a different situation, a different location perhaps, and seen these many eyes on them, most would be horrified or overcome with something like stage fright. But not here, and not today.
How did they do it? I was still wondering this as they dispersed that afternoon, during my winding and long drive home, and even at night as I settled into bed. Where did they suddenly get that fearlessness, that perseverance, that strength?
Then I did what I usually turned to in moments where I was unsure, confused, or uncertain: I said a little prayer, and asked for help. And suddenly, I understood.
How many times had I felt weak, torn, or unfulfilled, yet found strength in my relationship with God? How many times had I felt empowered, strong, and whole by drawing on my faith as fuel?
Could faith overpower exhaustion, heat, and physical discomfort of such a strong degree?
The answer seemed obvious then—yes, it could. Hadn’t it brought others through even darker places before, such as times of excruciating physical pain and challenging mental road blocks.
The power of faith, and the power of our God, became all the more clear to me that day. Through God we are stronger than any obstacle we might encounter, and with God, we can overcome anything. Through this realization I find my own spiritual ease, and I owe it all to the faithful parishioners who never doubted why they were chasing the Eucharist through the streets of Ludlow one hot Sunday afternoon.
The following is the welcome address given at the 132nd and final Cathedral High School graduation.
By Julianna Campbell
Class of 2016
Bishop Rozanski, Sr. Andrea, Mayor Sarno, Mr. Miller, Mrs. O’Connell, Faculty and Staff, Parents and Friends, and the Class of 2016- Good Morning, my name is Julianna Campbell. Welcome to the graduation of the class of 2016. It has been a long four years, filled with many trials but also laughter and joy. Together we have endured more than what most high-schoolers face. We have made the best of what we had, regardless of the size and quality of the building. We have challenged each other and grown despite our class size. Every single obstacle that came our way, we faced it…together. We all have many unforgettable memories and I believe that I speak for the whole class when I say that it is a privilege to have gotten to know all fifty-three of my peers.
This years theme at Cathedral, was mercy. It is a perfect way to say goodbye to the legacy of Cathedral, while remaining hopeful for the future. I would like to share with you an excerpt from Pope Francis’s homily on Divine Mercy Sunday April 7, 2013.
“The Apostle Thomas personally experiences the mercy of God. … Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: “We have seen the Lord.” … And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief … He does not close the door, He waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. “My Lord and my God!”: with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by Divine Mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in His open side, and he discovers trust.”
Trust. He discovers trust. There are many times in these past few years when we often found it difficult to trust. Many of us came to Cathedral hoping to be on Surrey Road by our junior or senior year, but this was no guarantee. Junior year, when the future of Cathedral was in jeopardy, it was difficult to imagine our lives without our beloved school. The important thing to remember is that throughout our four years together, we may have doubted, become discouraged, or questioned our purpose but no matter what the Divine Mercy of God was present. It was present in the steady dedication of our teachers, the positivity of all the faculty and staff, and the moments of laughter emerging from every class. Whether it be overcoming an impossible Mr. Brodeur test together, the end of the year cookouts and baseball games, the Christmas celebrations, Ms. Leone and the library, or Mr. Dewey and his sarcastic jokes….these moments of joy are what kept us hopeful and fighting to make every single moment count.
It is a unique and powerful opportunity to be the last graduating class of Cathedral, but it is one we are honored to receive. Neighbors and friends always asked me “Do you regret your decision to go to Cathedral?” Every time, without hesitation, I said “no”. I have grown as person, in every aspect and in ways that I would not be able to elsewhere. It may have been challenging but these difficult times have molded us into persistent and dedicated leaders. If I had the chance to go back and do it all over again, I would make the same decision. I would come to Cathedral, where I would be met with teachers who love their jobs and students who would become some of my best friends.
I want to take a moment, on behalf of the class, to thank our teachers. There is no group of people more willing to offer help or words of wisdom than this group of people sitting before us. Going forward, leaving behind the safety of Cathedral, our dedicated teachers and staff, and the comfort of childhood, we must trust. We have to trust in our abilities, our talents, and ultimately God. No matter what happens we will find Cathedral and God’s divine mercy wherever we go. We just have to look for it. Cathedral is more than a building, it is a way of being. It is about persistence, dedication in the face of hardship, and mercy towards all. Cathedral may not physically exist anymore after this morning, but it will live on forever- in our legacy.