Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Life's a Beach!

Dear Parishioners,

By the time you read this message, I should be back from my all-too-brief vacation.

Being raised in Wildwood-by-the-Sea, NJ, I grew up loving the beach and boardwalk.  I still like to soak in the sun when I am able, although I get continual warnings from my skin doctor to “be sure to use your sun-block!”  I spent most of this vacation time on the beach.

While sitting under my umbrella a few days ago, a group of teens camped out behind me.  They were playing with their electronic devices and the “music” was blaring quite loudly.  I couldn’t help but hear the lyrics (or at least some of choice the words)!  Emanating from what appeared to be some type of rap “music”, I heard the notorious N-word at least 25 times or more in the various songs being shouted, as well as a few select 4-letter words interspersed continually.  I would be hard pressed to call any of it music.  It was a gross insult and assault to any person’s sensibilities.

As the day progressed I saw the same group drinking beer and passing around a funny looking cigarette while swimming in the water.  None of them appeared to be over 18 years old.  Oh, how I worry about today’s youth!

When I thought about the various matters troubling today’s young people, I also realized that my generation had its own problems.  With the drinking age at 18 at the time, alcohol was easily accessible (through many of the seniors) at the high school level.  The combination of drinking and teenagers was ultimately bad news.  Drugs were starting to be more prevalent and accessible.  Add to it all the growth of a free-love society, and the path to the future became an even more destructive one!

Today the problems seem to start to be grave at an even younger age.  Blame it on the breakup of the family, the lack of parental supervision, the internet, the availability of drugs and alcohol, the decline of religious practice and morality, etc., and I wonder what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years from now.  They say that the pendulum swings back and forth.  I sure hope, for humanity’s sake, that it will reverse course and soon be headed in the other direction.

When St. Paul came to Corinth, it was a notorious sea port filled with vice.  When he went to Rome, he had to face the immorality and corruption within the Roman Empire.  All the cities he visited had their own particular problems and degrees of sinful behavior.  To the people of Ephesus, he wrote the following:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5: 1-5)

I hope and pray that we all desire to have some inheritance in the Kingdom of God.  This means that we must strive continually to conform our lives to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures.  It is important that this message gets out to everyone, including (and especially) our youth.  

Pray for them.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dealing with Change

Dear Parishioners,

People have asked me at various times why our priests are moved so often.  They say that just when they are getting used to a particular person, then he is transferred to another assignment. 

In the past, some of our diocesan priests spent a long time at one assignment.  Msgr. Joseph Stoerlein, who died this past year and was previously assigned to St. Joseph Church, had been pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Vineland for 32 years.  Chances are we will not see a similar situation again with the policy that is currently in place in the Diocese of Camden.  Pastors can usually expect to spend a term of six years at a particular assignment with the possibility of being renewed for another six years.  While there are sometimes exceptions made, this is now the common expectation.

Regarding parochial vicars (associate pastors) and various special assignments like hospital chaplains or teachers, the duration of assignment can vary widely.  I had been in the education apostolate for 20 years prior to coming here.  Fr. Larry Polansky was with us just about two years as hospital chaplain.

Now our parish faces additional changes.  With the reassignment of Fr. Larry to St. Peter Church in Merchantville, some adjustments had to be made.  Fr. Christopher Onyeneke, who is one of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (M.SS.CC.) from Linwood, will serve part-time as hospital chaplain and part-time as my parochial vicar.  Fr. Christopher is from Nigeria and will officially begin on August 1st.  We welcome him to St. Joseph Church!

Additionally, Fr. Alvaro Diaz who is serving the Hispanic community both in Ocean City and here in Somers Point (as well as assisting with some Masses in English), will no longer be assigned to St. Joseph Church as of August 1st.  The simple truth is that our parish cannot afford the salary/benefits of two part-time priests without depleting the remainder of our meager savings.  Fr. Alvaro will continue to live and minister at St. Damien Parish in Ocean City.

Our seminarian, Mr. Anthony Infante, will leave us in the beginning of August to continue his studies at Seton Hall University.

On behalf of our parish, I extend my thanks to Fr. Alvaro and to Anthony for the time that they spent at St. Joseph Church.  Our prayers and best wishes are with them as they continue doing the Lord’s work.

We must all remember that we are on a pilgrimage through life while here on this earth.  Our true home is intended to be in Heaven with God.  The many changes that we experience in life remind us constantly that we are not meant to be here forever.  Christians should not become too complacent with their situation in this life.  Recall a parable from the Gospel:

Then (Jesus) told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?  Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  (Lk, 12: 16-21)

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Making the Same Mistakes . . . or Even Worse

Dear Parishioners,

It was the 20th century philosopher and author George Santayana who is noted for the quote:
 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

All of us who are Christians as well as our spiritual ancestors, the Jewish people, are able to refer to sacred, inspired texts—the Torah or the Holy Bible—reminding us of important lessons from salvation history.  These lessons of Scripture are timeless and must be understood as relevant for every age because God’s truth never becomes insignificant or out-of-date.

At various times in the history of the Jewish people, the covenant with God was broken.  The people worshipped false gods, led immoral lives and failed to heed the warnings of the prophets.  Because of their rebelliousness, they often paid a most severe price.  They were exiled from their land, enslaved or even killed.

In the Second Book of Kings (Chapter 22 f.), we read of the reign of King Josiah (641-609 BC) and how the Book of the Law was rediscovered in the Temple during his time.  Unfortunately, the people had become oblivious to their obligations concerning the covenant with God. “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his garments.” (2 Kg. 22: 11)  The tearing of one’s clothes is an ancient tradition among the Jews, and it is associated with mourning, grief, and loss.  The King realized that he and his people had not been living up to the covenant and he feared the consequences of their infidelity.  He began a series of religious reforms.  He set himself to the task of cleansing the land from idolatry.  He wanted to make it right again before God.

Why do I make reference to this story?

I think that if we forget to draw upon the teachings of the inspired Word of God, we will repeat the mistakes of the past and wind up suffering the consequences of our actions.  We have to remain faithful to our part of the covenant with God.  This covenant with God has to be seen through the Person of Jesus Christ. . . For this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant . . . .  We hear these words of consecration at every Mass.  Jesus established this covenant and sealed it in His own Blood.

Are we faithful to the covenant or have we abandoned it?  Are we committed to worshipping the true God?  Do we seriously keep His commands?  Do we know and live the words of Sacred Scripture?  Do we pray daily?  Do we buy into the ways of the world around us and wind up compromising our Christian values?  Do we seek to do the will of God in our lives?

The call of the prophets was for the people to return to the Lord and to be faithful to the covenant with God.

Be modern-day prophets and get this word out to the people around us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing Hope

Dear Parishioners,

“Father, I told my children that I don’t want grandchildren.  This world is currently too scary to bring children into it.”

It was not the first time that I heard a comment similar to this in recent days.  I actually wonder how many people may silently hold the same belief?

How do I respond to this type of thinking?  After all, as a celibate, I have no children or grandchildren of my own.  However, I do have nieces and nephews—currently ten of them—and I worry about each and every child that I see as if it were my own

The above mentality borders on hopelessness and despair.   It is a people without hope that no longer wants to create.  Often they see no future, no opportunity,  no purpose or meaning to life itself.

I recall a familiar and often repeated phrase of Saint John Paul II (the Great) as he quoted words of Sacred Scripture:  Be not afraid!  Do not be afraid!

When he became Pope, these words inaugurated and resonated throughout his pontificate:

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.  Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.  Do not be afraid.  Open wide the doors for Christ.  To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.  Do not be afraid.  Christ knows "what is in man".  He alone knows it.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart.  So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth.  He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.  We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man.  He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.  October 22, 1978, St. Peter’s Square

When a civilization moves further and further away from Jesus Christ and the message of His Gospel, hope is lost.  When prayer is infrequent and the practice of the Christian faith becomes sporadic or minimal, the purpose of life can be severely distorted.

Human civilization has been through some pretty difficult times already.  If the great leaders—especially the holy men and women who were the great saints of their time—threw in the towel, chances are I might not be writing this article today.  It was often a strong faith, a love for Jesus Christ and a determination that comes from God’s inner strength that gave people the courage and resolve to accomplish deeds beyond what the ordinary human can do.  Alone and unaided by God we are bound to fail.

Saint John Paul II was a man of great courage because he was man of deep faith.  He faced an assassin’s bullet, lived through the Nazi terror and World War II and battled Communism in his native Poland, just to mention a few challenges during his lifetime.  I think that he may have known what he was talking about.

Be not afraid!

St. John Paul II, please pray for us!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some Good Advice

Dear Parishioners,

I wish I had saved the letter.

A Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee sent a letter to me while I was in the college seminary.  It was a time in my life when I was seeking some serious direction and advice.  I was a bit disillusioned with things that were going on in the seminary and with the moral character of some of my fellow seminarians.  I was also disappointed with some professors and their actions.  Needless to say, even in a place where men were preparing to be priests, things were far from perfect.  The seminary situation proved to be a real testing ground for my vocation.  

Unfortunately, I learned from an early time in my training that not everyone played by the rules and did what they were supposed to do.  I knew very well that I was an imperfect sinner as well.  (Regrettably, I still am.)  However, I was trying as best I could—albeit imperfectly—to model my life and behavior after the pattern of Jesus Christ and His teachings. 

Weren’t we all in this together?  Shouldn’t we be helping one another as brothers and strengthening one another rather than bringing others down and even leading others astray?  Shouldn’t some of the professors be better examples to the students in this situation?

The words from the monk are ingrained in my mind and heart:  “If all the world should go astray and everything seems upside down, you go on faithfully serving the Lord.”  He challenged me to live the Gospel and to be a disciple of the Lord while holding nothing back.

Sometimes it may seem that we are fighting an uphill battle.  Perhaps it may appear that we are completely alone in our struggles.  Yet, I truly believe that there are many, many good people out there who want to follow the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him.  We know that even Jesus’ hand-picked followers had their flaws. One of them denied Him and one of them turned on Him in a historic betrayal.  Perfection was lacking, even among His most intimate followers.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians seems to ring true especially today:

. . . Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. . . . Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (Philippians 2: 12b, 14-16)

We can look at the world today and want to throw in the towel.  What can I do with such a mess?

I still want to follow the Lord and be His disciple.  

And I will go on remembering the monk’s words to me.  They have proved invaluable.

Fr. Ed Namiotka