From Our Pastor ~ 30 August 2015

From Our Pastor ~ 30 August 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Earlier this summer I met with several dedicated individuals to talk about how we might enhance our Pro-Life ministry at Saint Mary and have more of an impact on our city.

It is important to pray; we pray a lot. It is important to speak the truth; we speak. It is also vitally important to do something to help provide alternatives to  abortion—we have supported and volunteered with very generous donations of time, talent and treasure to local organizations such as Birthright, Mary’s Shelter, and others.

Still, the fact is, even though there are no corporate providers of abortion in the Fredericksburg area, statistics show that we are third in the state only to Fairfax and Richmond: 37.2% of the pregnancies in the Fredericksburg area are terminated early by abortion. From a national standpoint, I also wonder if the number seems to be down across the country due to the fact that there are so many easily obtained contraceptives that cause a spontaneous loss of a child’s life before he or she can register as a statistic.

The simple fact that recent videos—which are widely known by all—are widely ignored by our leaders is a damning judgment of our culture.  But pointing fingers and shouting has rarely proven to be useful. We must educate, we must embrace people in difficulty, we must be people of mercy. And we must do this visibly and powerfully in order to cut through the confusion of this age. Life is good, life is a gift, and every person is made in the image and likeness of God. His beauty and goodness are not to be destroyed. Pope Francis uses this as a central theme in his recent work on the Care of Creation. It is a crime to be cruel to pets…what is wrong with this picture?

A conversation I had recently with a mom still chills me. I was wondering out loud why so many young people leave the Church so soon after receiving the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. She said that from her experience, many youth today confront a profound contradiction: follow the Church—but take this pill “just in case.” It’s the slippery slope of departure. They learn to follow one teaching, but ignore others. And in doing so, drift away from Truth.

Education. We need to teach children about their beauty, their dignity as children of God. The world is a mess. They don’t need to have crushes on popstar- bad-example-teens and idolize the person who wears the least clothes. They are a gift and they need to save that gift for a person who they really love and to whom they want to give their life, as Jesus does for them.

Support and Welcome. We need to go out and find ways to show we care. God said it is mercy he desires, not sacrifice. If we weren’t sinners—all of us—we would have no need of a Church. Jesus wouldn’t have had to go to all this Trouble to love us. It was the sinners that he went out on the road to seek out, to love and to reassure that he came for them despite the onlookers who judged him for what he was doing. We need to be people who are known first for our loving welcome, not our self-righteousness.

As a sign of that welcome we have made a decision. As grateful as we are for the tombstone commemorating the unborn that was placed on our property by the Knights many years ago, I think it is time for a strong, symbolic change in communication. Over the years there have been many women who have told me that they felt punched in the gut every time they drove in our parking lot to come to Mass or make a visit in church. They had made a mistake, they were very sorry, always will be. But did they have to be reminded of it every time they came to church? “The church,” one older lady told me, “should be a place of refuge for us who grieve our mistakes.”

If today’s statistics are right, and one out of four women have experienced the horror of abortion, and are getting to church, then we are opening a lot of wounds without even intending to do so.

There was a time when these tombstones were placed everywhere, but not any longer. People have realized that a positive message goes farther.

I have ordered a life-sized bronze sculpture of the Holy Family to be placed in the island in front of the Parish Life Center. We have already paid half, it is not cheap, but I believe this is the right thing. Jesus is standing in Mary’s lap, Joseph stands alongside them. It will be placed on a brick pedestal so that it will be clearly visible, even when the parking lot is full of cars.

Maybe you can help us pay for it, will you? It is an extraordinary expense and we didn’t budget for it, but I feel this strongly about it. It will be a testimony to the love and mercy of God during the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy.

God bless you.

 

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ 30 August 2015

Express Announcements ~ 30 August 2015

* We welcome Fr. Gary Wiesmann for our annual mission appeal. The second collection this weekend is for the Diocesan Missionary Appeal, for the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica.

* Join people of all faiths for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, as proclaimed by Pope Francis. Hosted by Shiloh Old Site Baptist Church at 7pm on Tuesday, September 1.

* Save the date for these upcoming events:

  • Parish Ice Cream Social, Cakewalk and Dance, Saint Mary’s fall social, come to see everyone, enter the cake decorating contest, put on your dancing shoes, Sunday, September 13, 4-7pm. Before the Social begins join us for our first 1-mile Fun Run/ Walk at 3:30pm, starting at Walmart Garden Center and going to the school. For all ages, join us.
  • Parish Life Weekend: get involved in parish life and work, Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20.

* Don’t forget! Manna Food Drive for the Fredericksburg Food Bank is coming up the weekend of September 12-13 at all Masses! Bring food and donations for those who are hungry.

 

From Our Pastor ~ 23 August 2015

From Our Pastor ~ 23 August 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Beginning this week we will start again with registrations for the Called and Gifted Program at Saint Mary.

If someone told you that there was a way to make sense of the questions you may have about how God is calling you to serve him and the Church as a lay person—if there was a program where you could logically reflect on  our life and discover a particular direction based on the gifts that you have received, perhaps even gifts you’ve been ignoring all these years—wouldn’t you be interested?

Here’s how it works. You attend the Workshop on Friday evening and Saturday until 3pm, October 9 and 10. After a preliminary inventory and consideration of the different gifts with which God blesses his people, you decide  which gifts you would like to “experiment” with, to see if this is really the way God is leading you. You schedule a meeting with one of our trained peer-to-peer consultants (people like me who are trained in the  program to help you in the discernment process) and decide which gifts you would like to focus on for now. Then, we schedule a six-week series of small group study and discussion, based on seeking the fullest expression of these gifts in your life.

We have had over 500 people in the parish complete the Workshop, half of those have followed through with the consultation and small group meetings. Not a one of them that I have spoken with has ever said that they felt it was a waste of time or something they would have ever discovered on their own. It opens doorways which maybe you thought were closed, it gives a fresh outlook on life and the way that God interacts in a living, intimate way with you.

It is important that you register soon. Last year the large Workshop we hosted included a few people from each of 14 different parishes, some local, some from far away. As the word gets out, this gets more and more popular. I don’t want precious spaces to be gone when Saint Mary people start to inquire about registration. We have 350 spaces—space is limited—because that is about all we can accommodate in the gym out at Holy Cross around tables for the Workshop and for lunch. Please don’t wait and discover that seats are filled.

I hope you’ve had a chance to look at the lineup of adult education that we are offering this year, too. It is extensive, thanks to the education committee of our parish council who continues to add more classes for adults. This year I am glad that we include such a diversity of topics. In addition to these, we intend to add also an introductory class on forming healthy attachments in dating and marriage which will be good for singles and married couples, and a class on Lectio divina prayer which I will teach. And we are developing the calendar more each week.

Last week at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
Last week
at the Cliffs
of Moher in
Ireland.

Finally, it is that time of year when I get excited about our fall kick-off social for the parish. Make plans now to bake an award-winning cake and come for our old-fashioned Cakewalk, dancing to a live band, and as much ice cream as you can eat. The DJ stops the music outside on the school patio and everyone stops; a number is called. If you are standing on it, you choose from all the cakes that people have donated. Really, it is like musical chairs, except that everyone eventually wins.

Anyway, it starts at 4pm on Sunday, September 13. Cake judging will happen at 4:15pm. Every year we have late arrivals after the judging has already started—cakes that probably would have won if they had arrived on time!

 You will be very pleased with the spirit of good will and fellowship as we spend a beautiful afternoon together and relax as a parish. Please plan to come.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ 23 August 2015

Express Announcements ~ 23 August 2015

* Parish offices will be closed August 24 while staff members attend a staff retreat.

* Join us to build up a robust ministry of ushers and greeters. Consider serving the Church in this manner. Call the office and add your name to the list for the meeting August 29.

* Parish Leadership Dinner for all ministry leaders, Tuesday, August 25, 5pm.

* Next weekend, we welcome Fr. Gary Wiesmann for our annual mission appeal—this year, on behalf of the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica.

* Save the date for these upcoming events:

  • Parish Ice Cream Social, Cakewalk and Dance, Saint Mary’s fall social, come to see everyone, enter the cake decorating contest, put on your dancing shoes, Sunday, September 13, 4-7pm.
  • Parish Life Weekend: get involved in parish life and work, Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20.