sr_constance_veit-head-shot1

 

By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
Director of Communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor
Grandparents Day is Sept. 11

For many young Catholics the defining moment of the summer took place in Poland, where Pope Francis joined over a million teens and young adults for World Youth Day. Although we Little Sisters of the Poor spend our lives in the service of the elderly rather than the young, we followed the festivities in Krakow with great interest. For us, the most exciting moment of the event came at the very end, when Pope Francis told young people that the best way to prepare for the next World Youth Day is to spend time talking to their grandparents!

WYD OPENING MASS POLAND

 

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has spoken to the young about the old. He did so at his first World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. “At this moment, you young people and you elderly people are condemned to the same destiny: exclusion. Don’t allow yourselves to be excluded … Make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of the population: the elderly and the young; do not allow yourselves to be excluded and do not allow the elderly to be excluded,” he exclaimed in 2013.

Speaking in Rio on the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, Pope Francis continued with the same theme: “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family … Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives. This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened!”

524331_472687076092525_806318260_n

Echoing these sentiments in Krakow, our Holy Father told the youth that if they want to be hope for the future they must talk to their grandparents because “a young person who cannot remember is not hope for the future.” As Little Sisters, we would like to offer young people some suggestions about how to talk to their grandparents and elders.

First, keep in mind that the elderly are not really very different from you. Although the means of communication and other technologies have changed since they were young, deep down your grandparents probably had interests very similar to your own when they were your age. Ask them about their greatest challenges in school, what they did in their free time, their memories of family life or, for those who are immigrants, what it was like adapting to a new culture.

If you are facing important decisions ask your grandparents’ advice. How did they discern what college to attend, or what career to pursue? How did they know that their future spouse was the right one for them? How did they navigate the ups and downs of married life, raising children and other important relationships? What advice can they offer you about getting a job, finding an apartment, or buying a car?

ORLANDO PRAYER VIGIL

 

Ask your grandparents about their joys, accomplishments and even their disappointments and failures. Invite them to share their values, their personal heroes, how they got through the tough times, and the role of faith in their lives. Confide to them your hopes and fears, your dreams and anxieties, and ask them to pray for you – the elderly are powerful intercessors!

Pope Francis seizes every possible opportunity to encourage young people to reach out to their grandparents because, as he says, “they have the wisdom of life and can tell you things that will stir your hearts.” He speaks from personal experience, often referring to the profound influence of his grandmother on his life. “I still carry with me, always, in my breviary, the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination,” he confides. “I read them often and they do me good.”

As Little Sisters, we are happy to help youth connect with their grandparents and other elders by offering volunteer opportunities to individuals and groups. We are sure that, like our Holy Father, you will learn lessons that will last a lifetime!

 

 

 

Advertisements

By Peggy Weber

me at press conference

I was blessed at age 27 to attend a press conference with Mother Teresa. You can see me in my mint green dress on the left. I have on a red ribbon and still wear my hair the same way. The photo is from Marquette’s archives and my daughter, Elizabeth, found it.

Soon-to-be St. Teresa was amazing.  I recalled the experience in an article for The Catholic Observer in 1985, when she was visiting the Diocese of Springfield.

I still cannot believe I asked her about her retirement plans. But I will always remember her kindness, her eyes and her smile.

Enjoy this article from the archives and enjoy my photos from a day long ago that I remember quite well.

FROM THE CATHOLIC OBSERVER

“Strong, clear, loving blue eyes. That’s what I think of and remember best from my meeting with Mother Teresa of India four years ago.

I was working for the Catholic Herald newspaper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when it was announced the famous missionary would visit the Midwest and be given an award from Marquette University. I was assigned to cover the award’s Mass and attend the press conference.

mother teresa

In preparation for the event,, I began reading all about the Yugoslavian girl who joined an Irish order, taught in India and then began her own order which serves the poor and dying. Her work and reputation were so impressive that I was not prepared to see a tiny, frail little woman walk into Mass.

But even in her ‘little way’ she radiated strength. All during Mass, people were taking pictures of her (me too) but she didn’t look around. She was there to pray and communicate with her Master. She did give one big smile though, when two young Indian children were part of the Offertory procession.

mt with priests

Later she admitted that she didn’t like having her picture taken. She said she offered it up for the souls in purgatory. The with a grin she added, ‘I must have helped a lot of souls today.’

When laughter filled those incredible eyes, I thought to myself –now I know what it means to see Christ in another human being. She was magnificent. She was demure, aging and a foreigner, but she was witty, serene and strong. She held firm when reporters hounded her about her pro life stand and she said, ‘abortion is the greatest poverty a nation can experience.’

She showed so much love when she asked her listeners to discover that the poor and dying are somebody, too. She never wavered in her stands on church issues yet she also was so calm and forgiving.

mt signing book

When it was my turn to ask a question I couldn’t think of anything ‘tough’ to ask her.  Most of the ‘good stuff’ had been used by the secular reporters but I wanted to speak with her. So I asked her about her future plans for herself and her order. (She was 70-years-old then). I can’t recall her answer exactly, but I do remember that she smiled at me and I looked  into her eyes and if at that moment she had asked me to come to India to work I would have said yes. There I was trying to be an objective reporter but she was so impressive. And the beauty in her magnificence is that she doesn’t really think it’s a big deal. After all, she is just doing what God asks of us, to love one another.”

 

julie

By Julie Beaulieu

Catholic Communications reporter

At almost age 3, my daughter, Viola, had not been to Six Flags New England yet. When I found out about Catholic Youth Day at Six Flags this summer, I thought it would be a great opportunity for her first experience.

Entering the park early, Viola was already in awe walking through and seeing all of the attractions. We both wore Mater Dolorosa T-shirts, since she will be starting preschool there in September. As we entered the picnic area for Mass, Viola felt right at home with our faith community. She recognized our crew from Catholic Communications, our parish family from St. Michael  Cathedral in Springfield, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski. She said to me during Mass, “I want to see Bishop Mitch.” I took Viola to the middle aisle and said, “There he is with the pink hat (referring to his zuchetto).” Viola replied, “Oh, he looks so cute.”

In his Homily, Bishop Mitch discussed the importance of play, relaxation, and recreational time. He said how it was important for the kids present to have fun before beginning a new school year. And, he added that adults  need time to de-stress and relax as well. Viola enjoyed the music, and, even though we were not in a church building, she still was able to identify that we were, “in church.”

Viola said, “Mommy, I want to see Bishop Mitch,” and I replied, “We will, after Mass.” We waited in line with all of the children to shake the bishop’s hand and get our photo taken. Since I’ve known Bishop Mitch, he has been very kind and approachable to the youth of our diocese. This is very evident in events I have attended and events I have covered for Catholic Communications.

mass

Next, we were able to go on the rides. Viola was very excited. Because of her petite size, she was still one inch short for the height requirement; therefore, I needed to sit with her on the rides. I didn’t mind at all.

Happily I recalled how each year I went to Six Flags as a youth with my family. At the time it was called Riverside.  For more than 20 years, my father was a printer at Haino Business Forms in Springfield, and each year they had their summer picnic at Riverside. My older half-sister and I would look forward to that day all year.

Although it looks much different now, the Thunderbolt roller coaster still stands strong, and I recalled that the entrance to the picnic area was behind it. Each year, I sat with my mom for bingo, anxiously awaiting my twelfth birthday so I could play, while my dad had a beer and played horse shoes with his work buddies.

I remember the year I dropped my stuffed animal in a mud puddle in the parking lot and cried. And,  I recall when my mom got her toe sliced open in the fun house. It was a good lesson about not  wearing sandals to the park. Most of all, I remember when my dad won a giant poodle for me. Before I knew it, it was the summer of 1988, and my last trip to the shop picnic before turning 18.

julie and v

When I heard my daughter’s laugh and saw her smile, I recalled how that amusement park is a place where families make happy memories, and now, on Catholic Youth Day, it is also a place where God is present, and memories are also made with parishes, Catholic schools, Catholic youth groups, and our faith community.

 

 

 

fr. frank

By Father Frank Lawlor

Administrator, St. Mary Parish, Westfield

The following reflection first appeared in St. Mary’s Parish bulletin.

This weekend I celebrate my 60th birthday!  I officially become an old man!  Unfortunately for the past year or two I have been feeling very old and this calendar marker has simply confirmed the obvious.  But this occasion has given me pause to look back a bit and to reflect on how I got to where I am.  One of the realities of my life these days is waking up on many mornings with a simple question or a prayer (depending on the day)…How did I get myself here?

The answer is unquestionably the Holy Spirit and I urge all of you to spend time in your prayer talking to this third person of the trinity, asking for guidance and strength.

A little more than 6 years ago I was sitting on the top floor of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Boston wondering why I wasn’t satisfied in my work.  I had two secretaries and a large staff and lived a life that I could have only dreamed of 20 years earlier.  I was in charge of hundreds of people who generated 30-40 million dollars a year….but I wasn’t happy.  I prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance and oh boy did I get it.  Be careful what you pray for.  This Holy Spirit has an incredible sense of humor and I am certain he was roaring with laughter as he sent me back to my beginnings.

ordination hands (1)

In late August of 1976 my parents dropped me off at a seminary in Baltimore, MD. It took me 38 years until I was finally ordained.  I must be a slow learner.  I have to have the Guinness Book of Records for the longest stay in a seminary.  During those years I lived and loved and grew.  The Holy Spirit was always at my elbow guiding me along a not so simple path.  Thank God he got me out of the seminary when he did and allowed me to experience life.  I would have been the most naïve, rule-book-toting priest that anyone had ever seen.  During my “year off” to “think about things” I experienced the joy of marriage, the awesomeness of a family, the challenges of a business career and all of the roller coaster of emotions that go with each.  I was present for the birth of my children, and sat next to my son while he successfully battled cancer.  I also sat through endless dance recitals and t-ball games.  I stayed up late waiting for my daughter to come home from dates and walked her down the aisle at her wedding. I have even visited my son’s office at the top of one of Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers. I have experienced the joys and tribulations of life in all of its vibrancy.

ordain_056

Now at sixty I find myself at a new place with new challenges.  The road that began in the mid-seventies has now led me here to St. Mary’s, to a parish that I am both familiar with and learning about.  I am excited about the prospects for the future and determined to do what I can to get us there.  I am a lucky man.

The Holy Spirit and His sense of humor will continue to accompany me on this life journey.  I really have no idea what the next intersection will bring but I am certain that by trusting in that Spirit and surrendering to His guidance we will all be okay.  As I cross this “old-man” threshold I thank you for the trust and support that you have given to me and I ask that you pray for me and for each other so that we will all have the faith and courage to face the life that the Lord has planned for us.

given3

By Laura Suttenfield

I am a 20-year-old Catholic woman and I always thought I knew what that meant. Have you ever heard of “the feminine genius”? I definitely had. Have you always thought it sounded kind of mushy, and never bothered to find out what it meant? I definitely took no action towards enlightening myself. I didn’t want to be associated with anything gross. Little did I know that the feminine genius was about to rock my world when I encountered women who didn’t only know what it meant; they lived it, and encouraged me to do the same.

The GIVEN Forum, sponsored by a group of women’s religious orders, seeks to empower women through faith formation and networking to be leaders in their communities. it’s what I and Claire Nauman, both rising juniors in college, and both from Belchertown, were able to go to from June 7 – 12 in Washington, D.C. this past month. The theme that shaped that particular week was: Receive the gift that you are, realize the gifts you have been given, and respond with the gift that only you can give.

given1

The GIVEN Forum brings together 300 Catholic young women from every state in the country, all of whom possess skills, desires, and motivation to share their gifts and talents in the Church and in the world. Another hundred sisters from various religious communities joined us as mentors, small-group leaders, and facilitators. Every woman who was accepted received a complete scholarship to attend which covered all travel and meal costs, specifically intended to symbolize the Church’s encouragement of young women.  The sponsor was the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, or CMSWR, and funded through the generosity of, primarily, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The GIVEN Forum was focused on action. In the world, there are a lot of calls to action that perhaps stem from good desires but are arrive at the wrong conclusions (pro-choice? Anti-immigration?). What better to counter that than action rooted in prayer and in the enormous velocity that women have for their own God-given ideas and inspirations – all in service to others, and out of love? The 300 women in business, academia, communications, and sciences, are not the future of the Church. These women are the Church, and the New Evangelization is right now. We were privileged to listen to several speakers each day – including none less than: Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at George Mason University; Dr. Carolyn Woo, the CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Sr. Maria Theotókos Adams, SSVM, a beautiful speaker and educator; and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, a founding member of the Sisters of Life and the chairperson of the CMSWR, who before entering religious life was a professor of psychology at Columbia University, and who inspired the vocation of a priest in our diocese.

given

The GIVEN Forum was beyond inspiring, but the point of writing this article is not so you, my brother or sister in Christ, can leave vaguely thinking that something happened that a couple of young women really liked a month ago. What have you been given by God? Do you realize that you are a gift? How much time do you spend in dedicated prayer, with just you and the Lord? How much time do you spend thanking Him for these gifts? How have you put these gifts to the service of others?

I now know what the feminine genius really means, and it’s nothing less than the unique capacity of women to give of herself to others. Edith Stein got a lot of love at the conference as a saint and a scholar particularly interested in what it means to be a woman of God, and the quote on the cover of the 100+ page binder that was handed out to all of us as we checked in perhaps says it best. “A woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”

given2

I had the opportunity to go to confession during that week, and the priest called me to reflect on the Forum’s mission statement – to realize the gift that I am, the gifts that I have been given, and to respond with the gift that only I can give.

The priest asked me, “What is the gift only you can give?” I responded, “Myself.” He said, “Then start giving.”

Read more about Laura’s experience at:

http://www.iobserve.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=5444&cntnt01returnid=59

given4

 

 

camp2

By Stacy Dibbern

Stacy is the manager of the Annual Catholic Appeal and special projects. She and her husband, Jamie, were first-time volunteers at Camp Sunshine. 

What did you do on your summer vacation?  Isn’t that the question we are asked most when we return from a week’s absence?  Well, this year, my husband Jamie and I volunteered at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine.  Camp Sunshine is a camp that serves families of children with life-threatening illnesses.  The unique thing about Camp Sunshine is that the whole family attends camp together- sick kids, siblings, parents, and in some cases, grandparents, all without paying a penny.  Each family is sponsored by generous donors.

The session began on Saturday morning with the arrival of camp volunteers.  There were about 80 volunteers for our session- Oncology week.  Volunteers came from as far away as Florida and represented families, schools and church youth groups.  They ranged in age from 16 to one couple in their 60s.  Many of the volunteers were camp families at one time.

As “rookie” camp volunteers, Jamie and I were unsure what to expect.  We had applied for volunteer positions in early spring and knew a few people who had worked at camp before, but as with anything new, we were a little nervous preparing for camp.

Upon arrival, we were met by Carol, a camp staff member, who gave us our room keys and name tags.  We were rather early (many of our family and friends joke about how we are always early!) so we found our room and unpacked.  We were told that we might be sharing our room with other volunteers so we chose the room with two beds in it, leaving the bunk beds and the futon for anyone who might be joining us later.  It turned out that we had the room to ourselves!

beds

After unpacking, we still had time before the volunteer orientation so we decided to explore the grounds.  What we found was a magical place- complete with a mini-golf course, climbing wall, “wishing pond” (more on that later!), lakefront beach, volleyball court, playgrounds and really cool outdoor kitchen.  We were in love with the place and we hadn’t even met anyone yet!!!

At 11:00 the volunteers gathered in the dining hall for our orientation and assignments.  Jamie was assigned to “Kitchen Crew” which meant that he was helping to prepare and serve three meals a day to more than 200 campers and volunteers.  The Kitchen Crew consisted of three staff members and about 15 volunteers.  I was assigned to the “Tot Lot and Nursery” which serves children from birth through 5 years old.  I was going to be working one-on-one with a 4 year-old boy who has ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia).  I was a little nervous- would he like me?

Families started arriving at around 2pm and we were ready!  There were volunteers assigned to help families with their luggage, greeting families, and many other activities.  Jamie and I didn’t have a specific assignment so we decided to sit on the front porch and greet folks as they arrived.  We heard harrowing stories of long car rides (it was Saturday of the July 4th weekend!!) and clogged highways but every family was all smiles when they jumped out of their cars.

Dinner was the first time we all gathered together- yellow shirts (volunteers) were told that if a camp family is in line behind you, that you should direct them to the front of the line.  Many of the parents in the camp families weren’t comfortable with this “rule” but the kids loved it!!  This mealtime ritual continued throughout camp and the parents got a little more comfortable with it (especially when there was ice cream for dessert!)

camp

Each day, the Tot Lot & Nursery volunteers gathered in a pre-school style room complete with more toys, games and ride-ons than you could imagine.  We had a fenced-in play lot outdoors that included a sandbox, swings, slides and houses for imaginary play.  Our youngest child was 16 months old- he was so adorable!!  We had a total of 9 campers in the Tot Lot.

On Tuesday, a group of three Navy SEALs and one Coast Guardsman completed the “No Man Left Behind” Challenge to raise awareness and funds for military families to attend camp.  They headed off on bicycles at 8 a.m. from the front parking lot and biked 15 miles, then swam ½ mile, then ran 3.5 miles, then biked another 15 miles, then ran another 5 miles then swam another 2 miles, and finished off the challenge with a 5 mile kayak trip to the shores of Camp Sunshine.  All completed in under 7 hours- these guys were so cool!  Then they stayed at camp for the rest of the week just hanging out with the kids and playing Newcomb Volleyball, dancing, singing, whatever the campers wanted!

sunshine

A typical day included parents dropping their children off at 9 a.m. in their groups and heading off to their own activities.  Parents had group therapy sessions, challenge course activities and games such as Super Dooper Bloopers.  At noon, parents would gather their children and head to the dining hall for lunch.  The young ones (up to age 8) stayed with their families for “rest time” until 2 p.m., while the 9-12 and teens went back to their groups.  At 2 p.m. the little ones returned for afternoon activities.  Play-doh, movies, mini-golf or arts and crafts were the favorites.  At 5 p.m., parents again retrieved their kids for dinner and whatever evening activities were planned. There was a masquerade ball on one night, fireworks on the 4th, a talent show and the Celebration night.  Celebration night included launching “wishboats” on the pond.  Children decorated their wishboats during arts and crafts time and on Wednesday night, the entire camp gathered around the wishing pond.  This was a very emotional event- some of the families have children who are still receiving treatment for their various cancers.  After the wishboat launch, we went inside for the Celebration Show- a time for each group to get up on stage and do a skit of some sort.  The Tot Lot group sang Yankee Doodle while playing various instruments.  Each group had a great time and got a standing ovation!

camp1

While saying goodbye was difficult- we had developed some very strong bonds with many of the camp families- Jamie and I knew that it would not be the end of our service to Camp Sunshine.  We have already decided that we will give at least one week each summer to serve the wonderful families there.  We also decided that our goal this year will be to sponsor one family to attend a session at camp, a $2500 endeavor.  Upon our return, we reached out to family and friends asking them to consider making a donation to this very worthy cause.

 

southbridge1

The following is the homily for the Fifth Anniversary of the Establishment of St. John Paul II Parish, Southbridge, MA. and the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Notre Dame Church given by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski. 

2 Chronicles 5:6-10, 13-6
1 Corinthians  3: 9c-11, 16-17
Matthew 16: 13-19

 

        Bishop McManus, Fr. Joyce, brother priests, deacons,

women and men religious and dear parishioners of Pope St.

John Paul II parish:

        When Bishop Thomas Beaven arrived here in

Southbridge to dedicate this Church of Notre Dame, what

awe he must have felt to see such a beautiful church, an

astounding steeple that graces this town and an interior that

welcomed him to an antechamber of heaven.  We gather

here today, one hundred years after Bishop Beaven

dedicated this magnificent church, still in awe of its beauty

and in awe of the great faith of those who have gone before

It was their sacrifices that built this church and it is a

physical representation of what was so dear to them as they

settled in Southbridge from their towns and villages in                   

France.  Similarly, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the

establishment of Pope St. John Paul II parish, we thank God

for the love of our Catholic Faith that the Polish, Irish and

Spanish ancestries have brought to this area of Southbridge.

southbidge

In the early part of the last century, immigration to this

part of Massachusetts was based upon the industrial works

that were so predominant here, the various mills and

factories that provided a living for families.  The churches

that were established reflected the ethnic makeup of the area

and provided a touchstone for the people to have a

connection with both the lands from which they came and

the faith that was the fabric of their lives. 

        In the first reading from the book of Chronicles, we

hear of the great rejoicing of the Hebrew people when they

dedicated the temple built under the reign of King Solomon.

Not only did the people find that they had a home on earth

for God to dwell, but they themselves felt at home with God.

The Lord’s glory filled that temple and brought great joy to

       southbridge2                        

The people of Israel.  It was the fulfillment of God’s

Promise made in the book of the prophet Ezekiel 37:27,

“My dwelling place will also be with them; and I will be

their God, and they will be my people.”  What greater

joy can we have than the abiding presence of God with us

In His covenant sealed with the Body and Blood of His Son.

When the sacrifice of Christ is manifested at each Mass, we

participate fully in the presence of God and not in a cloud,

but in the bread and wine, we are nourished and sustained

with this food for the journey.

        Throughout his life, St. John Paul II was ever conscious

Of God’s presence to him, especially in the sad times of his

youth.  As a young child, he lost his mother and later his

older brother; as a teenager, he lost his father.  Who else did

he have but the God who gave him life and the Blessed

Mother to give him the mantle of her protection.  After such

tragedy, he suffered through both Nazi and Communist

 southbridge3

                                               

persecution that sought to obliterate both Faith and

Homeland.  Yet, though all of this, he persisted in his

priestly vocation, gathered the young people to strengthen

their faith, accepted the will of God when he was called to

be a bishop at age 38 and offered himself sacrificially to the

Universal Church when he was elected Pope on October 16,

1978, the feast of St. Hedwig.

southbridge4

        St. John Paul teaches us the importance of remaining

faithful, even in the most adverse times, to God who is ever

faithful to us.  If anyone had the excuse to become

embittered at life, Karol Woytyla had many reasons.  Yet,

his faithfulness to God allowed him to be for the world of the

late 20th and early 21st centuries, a Witness to Hope, as

George Weigel entitled his biography of this great saint.

        In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples the question:

“Who do people say that the son of Man is?”  It seems to be

a general question of curiosity.                                          

After they give their answers, Jesus makes this a very

personal question, “And you, who do you say that the Son

of Man is.”  Over these years, beginning one hundred and

seventy-five years ago when the first Mass was celebrated in

Southbridge by Father James Fitton, SJ, through the

churches of St. Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Hedwig,

Notre Dame, St. Peter, so many have sought to answer Jesus’

question with the response of their dedicated Faith.  The

question that Jesus poses to His Apostles in the Gospel is

also asked of us.  We seek to answer it, not only with our

lips, but by living as those redeemed in His Blood, following

Jesus’ invitation to us to live the Gospel.  Our Faith is a

dynamic one; ever changing to adapt to the needs of our day,

yet rooted in teachings of Jesus.  Our ancestors who arrived

in the United States as immigrants faced many challenges,

poverty, discrimination and isolation being but a few that we

know.  Yet, it was their faith that carried them through,                                              

rooting them in the values we hold dear as Catholics and

allowing them to thrive in this area.  We, too, face our

challenges today.  Secularism, apathy, a bias against

anything religious and I might add, Catholic are part of

our world of 2016.  Yet, we celebrate the same Gospel that

enlivens our Faith, gives us hope and brings us closer to

our God and one another.  As the presence of God filled

the temple of Solomon, so Jesus promised to be with us

always, even until the end of time.  St. John Paul II, our

parish patron, gloried in this promise of Jesus and knew

that God’s promise to us would never fail.  May we live

following this great saint’s example, filled with the Joy of the

Gospel and the light of Faith, to bring to the community of

Southbridge and beyond the hope that always goes before

us!

 

 

 

mm

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
us.
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
together.
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.

mm1
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,
2016.
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
the disciples.

mm2.jpg

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
with that?
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
forgiving  God.
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!
AMEN

Father Vernon Decoteau Nov Mirror p11

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.

Decoteau, Vernon P.jpg

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!”

george-hw-bush

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

corpus christi

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.”

corpus christi 4

“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.

IMG_6995

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?

IMG_6991

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.

corpus christi 2

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?

IMG_7015

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.