Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
This week as I write this bulletin article I am in Louisville, Kentucky, and we are hosting the National Workshop on Christian Unity.
As you probably know, I’ve been serving as the President for CADEIO, or the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, for the past six years. My job has been to coordinate the efforts of diocesan ecumenical officers across the country, to help facilitate the teachings of the Church, bring the developments of national dialogues to the local level, and to provide formation and education for those whom bishops appoint in their dioceses as ecumenical officers. This year also will be the eighth year that I have served on the National Planning Committee for this National Workshop. This Wednesday, at our General Assembly Meeting, we will elect a new President for CADEIO. Our Constitution requires that the President serve only two three-year terms; I will have completed these on Wednesday of this week. I’m retiring!
So, as you might imagine, the work going into finding new leadership, charting the next course for a new president, and defining our next goals for the Association is underway.
To be honest, I must say that the idea of retiring from this role at this particular moment in time, for me, is a relief. I have found so much travel taking a significant chunk out of our parish life. I want to thank you for your patience while I have been doing this work outside of the parish, it is important. I will still be involved in the work of ecumenism and interreligious affairs locally; I simply will not have a national leadership role any longer and probably will get to stay closer to home.
Again soon, we will begin the celebration of parish First Communions during Sunday Masses. Last year we started a new program where, instead of celebrating First Communion at one large Mass for a large number of children, we spread more than 200 children’s First Communions during Sunday Masses over a four to five-week period.
Sometimes, large parishes are referred to as “sacrament factories.” So many people receiving so many sacraments can tempt us to try to provide the most expedient solutions for sacraments, and often times we discover this is not ideal. Over the past years, our First Communion Masses have become so impersonal, sometimes even irreverent. Our church size limits the number of family members who can participate in each celebration, and we find that families no longer celebrate the sacrament of Eucharist in the context of the Sunday Mass. By scheduling our First Communions to a Sunday Mass, we discover that The community is better able to celebrate the sacraments with the families of those receiving First Communion.
Beginning the first weekend in May, if you attend a Mass where children receive First Communion with their families, please be sure to stop them after Mass and congratulate them. Tell them how meaningful it is that you are able to witness their First Communion, and how it reminds you of your First Communion when you were young. Tell them how significant it is that you’re able to celebrate with them in their lives.
Too often the temptation is to think that when we receive a sacrament, it is meant for us alone. The reality of sacramental theology, however, teaches us the sacraments are intended for the community itself. Not for the individual—it is an opportunity for the community to celebrate the grace of God and the reception of those gifts as something that bring the community to life. None of us received a gift from God without the instruction to also share it.
Allow these celebrations with children in our parish to restore in you the memory and the understanding of the great gift of Eucharist that you have received. Of course, it is the Eucharist that draws us together. It is the Eucharist that provides for us the meaning of our life. It is the Eucharist that calls us to our final goal, and the temporary celebration of thanksgiving until that gratitude is perfect and fulfilled in heaven.
God bless you.