Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Parables and the Kingdom of Heaven

Dear Parishioners,

Jesus often uses parables to get his message across.  Most times I prefer someone to be clear and direct. Tell me exactly what you mean! Don't give me a song and a dance!  Give it to me straight!  However, Jesus frequently does not do this.  He may answer a question with another question. He may remain silent. He may tell a parable.

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.
One thing that parables should make us do is think.  At times, we may come to different conclusions or even be left confused.  Jesus would explain parables to his disciples privately to help them understand their meaning as he did with the Parable of the Sower last week (Mt. 13: 1-23) or in today's Gospel about the Weeds in the Field (Mt. 13: 24-43).  Just because Jesus may use symbolic, poetic or a type of flowery language--make no mistake--even in the use and explanation of his parables, he could be quite forceful when speaking about certain things (like a fiery furnace and wailing and grinding of teeth!)

Next, there is this concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Living in a nation that does not have a king and even established its unique identity by declaring independence from a king, the idea of kingship may be foreign to many and perhaps, repugnant.  I vote! I pay taxes! No one is going to tell me what to do!

Be careful, however, when we refer to God.  We are creatures; God is Creator.  God is absolutely sovereign.  We were brought into being by God's great love and given intelligence and free-will, noting how we were created in His image and likeness.  Respect for God (fear of the Lord) and all that God is (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-holy, all-merciful, all-loving, transcendent, eternal, etc., etc.) gets lost in a secular society.  We suffer from shortsightedness, a desire for pleasure and immediate gratification and an ever-increasing absence and possible disdain for any matters considered religious, sacred or holy.  Even the absolute sacredness of human life itself has dramatically and horrendously diminished.

When Pope St. John Paul II gave to us the Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for meditation and reflection, I initially thought that the third mystery was somewhat ambiguous.  Why was the Proclamation of the Kingdom (and the Call to Conversion) so important?  With time, I have personally realized a deeper appreciation of this mystery.  Allow me to share this descriptive synopsis of the mystery:

The preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk. 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk. 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn. 20:22-23).

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God and through His Incarnation Heaven and Earth were united.  

May we do our part to build up His Kingdom here on Earth!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Seeing things with a New Set of Eyes (Mine!)

Dear Parishioners,

As a high school administrator for about two decades, I would instruct my fellow administrators to enter the school building each day with a “new set of eyes.”  I would try to do this myself as part of a morning ritual.  I looked around the school and asked myself various questions:  What did I observe today?  Is there anything that I had become so familiar with that I almost overlooked it or took it for granted?  Who was there?  What were they doing?  What was my overall impression?  What did I see?

For the next weeks and perhaps months, I will be going through my observation ritual at the Sunday and daily Masses at Holy Angels Parish.

First, I will certainly formulate some initial impressions at the weekend Masses as I begin looking around:  Do people actively participate?  What are the crowds like?  How is the music and singing?  Are people friendly towards one another?  Do people leave early?  Are there many families and children?  Can the priest and the readers be heard?

Similarly, I am sure that you will be observing me (and the two other new priests assigned to the parish):  How long is the homily?  Is it interesting?  Can he sing?  Is he friendly?  Can I understand him?  Is he reverent?

In between unpacking, becoming familiar with the staff and parishioners, checking out all the buildings and facilities, preparing for the relocation of the elementary school, and many other routine duties, I will certainly need some time to pray.  It is prayer that will sustain me/us.  Personally, I find that when my prayer life is in order, the rest of my life seems to flow more smoothly.  Pressures will inevitably be there, but prayer helps to make things more bearable.

Do you notice how we pray for Pope Francis and Bishop Dennis Sullivan at every Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer?  The many responsibilities that they hold certainly deserve a regular remembrance in our prayers.  Similarly, could you remember to say a prayer or two for your new pastor and the priests/deacons of our parish on a regular basis?  We need and depend on your prayers as well!  Know that you will be remembered in my Masses and when I pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) each day.

As time passes, my hope is that this parish will grow in deeper holiness together with your priests.  This can only happen if we pray for each other, support each other, and be willing to reach out and help each other.

I realize that some of our parishioners may be on vacation during the summer.  I will also be taking some vacation time later this month as has been my custom.  However, when things return to more of a routine in the Fall, I anticipate observing and learning the rhythm and personality of this parish.

In the meantime, know that I will be looking around—continually.  I’ll let you know later what I see!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Nothing like the "deer in the headlights" look!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

From the (New) Pastor’s Desk . . .

Dear Parishioners,

Hello!  This is a letter from your new pastor!
At my last two parishes, I was accustomed to writing a letter for the bulletin each week.  I hope that you will not mind if I continue the practice here at Holy Angels.

Change is usually not easy for any of us because it can cause a disruption in one’s routine, create an unfamiliar situation, and may necessitate certain adaptations.  As a priest ordained thirty years, I have had to move and change assignments quite a few times:  from National Park to Hammonton, to East Vineland, to Vineland, to Buena Borough, to Somers Point and now to Woodbury.  In each instance, the change involved leaving certain familiar circumstances and people whom I loved and cared for, to meet new people and face new challenges.  Each experience has contributed, I hope, to making me a better person and more compassionate priest.

Let me tell you something about myself.  I was born in Philadelphia but my parents bought property in Wildwood when I was just two years old and my family subsequently moved.  I am the oldest of five children, four boys and a girl.  My father is deceased and my mother still lives at the shore.

I attended St. Ann’s School and Wildwood Catholic High School.  After high school, I entered the seminary and attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia) for college.  My next four years were spent at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.

I have spent twenty years educating high school students—six years at St. Joseph High School, Hammonton and 14 years at Sacred Heart High School, Vineland.

Typically, people have two regular questions about me.  1) What is your origin of your last name?  I am frequently told that it appears Japanese.  Then they meet me and see that I stand six feet six inches tall and hardly look Asian.  My heritage is Polish-American and my name is most easily pronounced two letters at a time:  Na-mi-ot-ka (Na-MEE-ot-ka).  2) Did you play basketball?  Yes, I played in my younger days but I was never really that good.  Unfortunately, height does not equal talent.

As I take on this new assignment I have a couple of requests of you, my parishioners.  First, please pray for me!  I will certainly need your prayers and support as I begin this new chapter of my life.  Next, please be patient as I try to learn the rhythm and personality of the parish.  Every parish is different and it takes some time for a pastor to become to become familiar with its unique character and challenges.

What I can promise you is that I will work hard, pray for you each day, take my priestly calling (vocation) very seriously and attempt to leave Holy Angels a better place because of my being here.  With the grace and mercy of God, I hope that we will all grow in holiness together.  Throughout my life I have sought the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to help me follow whatever God’s will is for my life.  I invite you to do the same.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

(What I write each week will be posted on my web site:  www.fr-ed-namiotka.com with a link from the parish web site to follow.}

I look forward to meeting all of you over time!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An End . . . and a New Beginning

Dear Parishioners,

For some reason, six years seems like an awfully short period of time in this instance.  I arrived at St. Joseph Parish, (Somers Point) just in time for the summer of 2011.  I was not familiar with the local community but I was welcomed quickly and warmly.  I was determined that I would do my best to serve the people where I was now assigned.  I was also the closest that I was ever assigned to my mom in North Wildwood, which has been an additional blessing. 

Little did I know that hurricane Sandy would subsequently take its toll on the Jersey shore.  The unforeseen consequence was that I would spend nine months getting to know the former pastor (Fr. Josef Wagenhoffer) as he moved back into the rectory after his home was damaged by the severe flooding.  This too was a blessing as it helped the transition to move smoothly.

Over time, I lived at the rectory with Fr. Joe, Fr. Bob Gregorio, Fr. Larry Polansky, Fr. Christopher Markellos, and seminarian (now deacon) Anthony Infanti.  I worked regularly with other priests including Fr. Peter DiTomasso, Fr. Alvaro Diaz, Fr. Christopher Onyeneke, Msgr. Arthur Rodgers, Fr. Steve Curry and Fr. Pat Brady.  Moreover, my two deacons, Bob Oliver and Steve Theis serve the parish well.

I truly hate saying “goodbye.”  I will miss you, the parishioners, the wonderful St. Joseph Regional School family, the religious education (PREP) students, the hard-working, dedicated staff, and the Sisters of St. Joseph (who have been part of my life since I was in the first grade).  Mr. Ted Pugliese, the school principal and I, have worked together very well and I am truly grateful for our friendship.   After I told the elementary school students, faculty and administration that I was being transferred at the final school Mass, many of the younger students lined up to say goodbye and this just about broke my heart!

Have I been able to accomplish everything that I intended to do?  Unfortunately, no.  I thought that I would have an additional six years to finish what has been started.  All the unfinished business will have to be left to the next pastor.  (As I write, I know that Bishop Sullivan and the Priest Personnel Board are discussing my replacement.)

As I have written before, priests are all too human We struggle.  We fail.  We hurt.  Unfortunately, we sin as well.  I hope that I have been able to contribute in some small way to making this parish a bit better.  I especially hope and pray that the presence of Jesus Christ was more apparent by something that I have tried to say or do.  My desire has been to help many more people to see Jesus more clearly present in their daily lives through my priestly ministry and leadership.  He must increase while I must decrease!

As of July 1st, I will be moving on to Holy Angels Parish, Woodbury.  There I will have an elementary school, a hospital and a parish approximately three times the size of this one.  Bishop Sullivan will be my neighbor—right up the street.  I have some familiarity with the area as I had served as a newly-ordained priest at St. Matthew’s Church, National Park (now a part of the parish since its merger).

I thank God if I have helped you in any way.  I ask His and your pardon if I have hurt you or caused pain or sorrow in your life in any way.  I can honestly say it was never done intentionally.  I ask you once again for your prayers.  Just a little remembrance . . . occasionally?  Please.  I will continue to remember all of you in this parish in my prayers and at the altar during Mass.

May our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, her spouse, intercede for us all!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(soon to be former) Pastor

A Spiritual "Triple-Header"

Dear Parishioners,

During the next three weeks, the weekend Masses will celebrate some very significant mysteries of our faith:  Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ).

Pentecost Sunday recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Jesus promised that when he left this world He would send His Spirit to strengthen and guide His disciples.  The Holy Spirit continues to direct the Church and to remind us of what Jesus taught. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us (#688) about the Holy Spirit and the Church:
The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:
- in the Scriptures he inspired;
- in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;
- in the Church's Magisterium, which he assists;
- in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ;
- in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;
- in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;
- in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;
- in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation

Trinity Sunday focuses on the mystery of the Triune Godhead as revealed to us by Jesus.  Recall that the Jewish people were strict monotheists.  It must have been quite a startling revelation for them that the One True God is a unity of three Divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus made known the mystery of the Trinity for us. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life.  God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (CCC, #261) This teaching is not something that we would be able to figure out for ourselves without God’s revelation.


Corpus Christi (which is celebrated in the universal Church on a Thursday—the day of the Last Supper-- but moved to Sunday in the United States) is all about the gift of the Holy Eucharist.  How can the Son of God be truly present under the form of bread and wine?  The Catechism instructs us:
It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way.  Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us "to the end," even to the giving of his life.  In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love. (CCC, #1380)
Volumes have been written and countless sermons preached over the centuries on each of these topics.  From a pragmatic point of view, why not take time during the next few weeks to reflect on the wisdom of the Catechism as it tries to enlighten us about our Catholic faith?  We should continually seek greater understanding and clarity as we try to delve more deeply into the precious mysteries of our faith that have been revealed to us.

Fr. Ed Namiotka