Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Married? How’s your Relationship?

Dear Parishioners,

When I was newly ordained, a couple from my parish asked me to go on a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  As you might expect, my first reaction was somewhat puzzled.  I am obviously not married.  What would be the benefit of me attending such a weekend?

Over a quarter of a century later, I can honestly say that this experience (and its aftermath) had one of the most profound and lasting effects on me as a person and on my priestly ministry.  This is probably not something that I would have chosen to do myself.  It would certainly not even be on my “radar screen.”  Yet, what happened as a result can only be described as life-changing.  And it was thanks to a couple who simply invited me to try such an experience.

For approximately twenty-seven years, I have been presenting the Marriage Encounter Weekend usually twice a year.  Together with a team of three couples, we present a series of talks to couples (and sometimes to priests and religious) with the goal of making good marriages better.  The Marriage Encounter Weekend is not primarily designed for troubled marriages.  It is meant to open up the lines of communication between husband and wife in what is essentially a private experience between the husband and wife.

What it did for me personally was help me understand married couples (and their families) better, help me open up lines of communication, help me better understand my relationship to the Church—the Body of Christ--and also to understand my feelingsFeelings, in particular, are not something most men know how to deal with or choose to deal with at all

Ladies, have you ever felt that your husband sometimes doesn’t seem to understand you?  Guys, are your wives sometimes still a mystery to you in many ways?  Do you both ever wonder if there is more to life than what you are currently experiencing?  Then maybe it’s time to try a Marriage Encounter Weekend.  You can be newly-married or married for fifty years.  It does not matter.  The weekend can help to make any marriage better.

If you are married and desire more for your marriage, I invite you to consider attending such a weekend.  The next two weekends that I am scheduled to present are October 17, 18 and 19, 2014 and December 5, 6 and 7, 2014 (beginning on Friday evening) at the Golden Inn Hotel and Resort in Avalon.  For further information, you can check out the South Jersey Worldwide Marriage Encounter website (http://wwme-southjersey.org) or call (609) 742-4035.

Many people are afraid of the unknown, afraid of change or may not want to “rock the boat.”  I invite you, and ask you to suggest to your spouse the possibility of attending a Marriage Encounter Weekend

I can only tell you from experience that it indeed has life-changing possibilities!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why a "Second Collection" Each Week?

Dear Parishioners,

The question has been raised to me at various times asking why our parish has a weekly second collection.  Let me take a few moments to explain.

Some collections are simply beyond our control.  They are mandated by the diocese for special causes.  These include the collections for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the Catholic Communication Collection, the Retired Religious Special Collection, the Pro-Life Collection, and the Catholic University of America Collection, to name a few.

Then there are times when an unexpected and unplanned need arises and the Bishop asks for our assistance.  The collection to help the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God with the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa, or the collection to help the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year (2013) are such examples.

At other times we work with missionaries who make an appeal on behalf of their religious order or their diocese.  Fr. Wilson Paulose recently spoke to our parish on behalf of the people of India and the Diocese of Berhampur in which he works.  The second collection that week went to the missions in India.
Locally, we have used the money from this second collection to help with necessary maintenance, repairs and improvements to our grounds and buildings above and beyond what our budget would normally allow.  Have you noticed how recently five ceiling fans have been added to the nave of the church (which circulate the air in the warmer months but, more importantly, will keep the heat down—because heat rises—in the cold months).  Have you noticed that the interior church walls have been repaired and painted, and that the front church doors and exterior pillars are currently being repaired and painted?

What are some of our future needs (for which we could earmark some of our second collections)You probably realize that the cornerstone of the church building reads 1956 and I suspect that some of the repairs that we anticipate are a result of the age of this building (nearly 60 years old).
Our sound system is old and on its last leg.  While it is currently working, you might notice a black cord that runs discreetly across the sanctuary because the altar microphone died earlier this year.  Our body mic (which the deacon and priests sometimes wear) and handheld mics all need to be replaced.  The amplifier in the sacristy is old (and, incidentally, I am told is borrowed from the man who repairs it).  These repairs/replacements will necessitate a few thousand dollars to do properly.

Next, the heating and air-conditioning chillers (the green, rectangular boxes under the windows) are in need of cleaning and refurbishing.  Needless to say, they are far from energy efficient.  The estimated cost of doing all of these is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

We help subsidize St. Joseph Regional School.  In fact, every parish in the diocese, whether they have a school or not, is required to subsidize some regional Catholic elementary school.  Wouldn’t a special second collection to help with our parish subsidy seem appropriate?  Our current subsidy is about forty-four thousand dollars per year.

Then there is always the unforeseen.  Our current parish savings is approximately forty thousand dollars.  One unforeseen, major repair could wipe that out instantly!

Quite frankly, I wish I never had to take up a second collection.  I wish everyone would electronically tithe each week and we could eliminate most second collections.  (Electronic giving would help us to plan better and to be more assured of a regular source of income.)  I wish more than a quarter of our population went to church each week.  (Those of you reading this column in the bulletin are probably not the ones I actually need to reach.  Thanks for your ongoing support!)  I wish, I wish, I wish!

Until I find the genie in the bottle to grant these wishes, I guess a second collection each week is painfully necessary.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Monday, September 1, 2014

Parish News and Information

Dear Parishioners,

First of all, at the request of Bishop Sullivan and on behalf of the Diocese of Camden our parish will be hosting a young man desiring to be a seminarian (and ultimately a priest) for our diocese.  Mr. Anthony Infanti will live at the rectory and will be working in our parish in various capacities:  visiting the sick in the hospital as well as the homebound, helping in the school, assisting with our religious education program, reading and serving at Mass, and various other tasks.  Please welcome and prayerfully support Anthony so that he will one day serve as a priest in our diocese.

Next, I remind everyone to keep in mind our three basic goals as we strive for the renewal of our parishlove God, love your neighbor and make disciples.  We will be working to create a welcoming atmosphere, attempt to provide good liturgical music while our priests and deacon will strive to deliver insightful, thought-provoking homilies primarily based on each Sunday’s readings.

I certainly hope that all Catholics would realize the importance of weekly Mass attendance.  The desire to hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached, and a longing for Jesus, the Bread of Life should be at the heart of a Catholic’s spirituality.  Quite frankly, there is nothing more important for parish life and for the life of the universal Church than attendance at and participation during Mass.  I was reminded by today’s reading for daily Mass (Luke 4: 16-30) how Jesus “went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day.”  If it was important for Jesus to have this custom, then shouldn't this be our practice with our Mass attendance?

We continually request volunteers to help around the parish.  There are needs at various Masses for readers, servers, ushers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and choir members / leaders of song.  Perhaps you can help clean the church, join a service or fundraising committee, oversee parking during weekend Masses, teach religious education, or volunteer your gifts and talents in some other capacity?

A pastor with the clergy and religious can help set the tone for a parish.  Yet, the heart of any parish is its people.  The more prayerful and dedicated we all are to Jesus Christ, the stronger and more vibrant this (or any) parish will be.  The fruit of prayer will be the various good works that will be both inspired and accomplished with God’s grace.

I realize all too well that I can’t do anything without the grace of God and your support.  I hope that you recognize that I hate asking for money, but I comprehend all too well that we can’t pay our bills, maintain our buildings and grounds or continue our many programs without it.  Please be as generous as your means allow.

As our regional school reopens and the presence of our youth once again becomes a daily occurrence, please pray for our students and their teachers, and the administration and staff.

May we work together to build the Kingdom of God!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Giving Up on "Organized Religion"

Dear Parishioners,

These days we often hear people say something like:  “I am a spiritual person, but I don’t associate with any particular religion or denomination” or “I don’t go to church, but I pray.”  It seems as though certain people have given up on organized religion and no longer faithfully “practice” the faith that they may have been baptized into, or any organized faith for that matter.  They may say that they are “Catholic” but it means no more to them than belonging to a club or organization.  It is not a way of life and they certainly do not consider themselves primarily as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Some parents may rationalize or even justify this thinking for their teenage or adult children by saying things like:  “Well at least they believe in God” or “I hope they come around someday because right now other things are more important to them.  It’s probably just a phase that we all have gone through.”

What are we observing regarding certain formerly accepted Catholic Church practices are the following: 

  • Some parents are not necessary getting their Children baptized as the Church recommends.  Canon (church) law actually states the following:

Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it. (Canon 867)

  • Numerous marriages are not taking place according to Church requirements.  Cannon 1108 reminds Catholics that: 

Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses . . . .

Yes, there are times when certain permissions or dispensations are granted for specific circumstances, but a marriage is supposed to take place ordinarily within the church (a sacred place) before the properly authorized persons (usually a priest or deacon).

  • Overall weekend Mass attendance is down below 25% of registered parishioners in our area. Besides the general interpretation of the Ten Commandments that the Lord’s Day is meant to be holy ["Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy" (Ex. 20: 8)], the Precepts of the Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2042) teach the following:

The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

  • I add the absence of other important practices like receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation regularly, because of the mentality that I don’t need to go a priest, but I can go directly to God.  Jesus words to His disciples, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained,” (Jn. 20: 23) seem to be pretty clear to me.

The words of this week’s Gospel (Mt. 16: 13-20) remind us that Christ built a Church upon a weak, impetuous sinner named Simon whom he renamed Peter (the Rock).  The Church consists not of the perfect or of the sinless, but rather of sinners in need of the mercy and love of God.  I concur with the sentiment of Peter when He admitted to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn. 6: 68) The Catholic Church may not be perfect because it consists of imperfect sinners, but it is still has Christ as its Founder and Head, and I choose to go nowhere else to find spiritual nourishment.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

Dear Parishioners,

During the past week I have celebrated four funeral/memorial Masses.  Death is something right in front of me on a regular basis.  It makes me think so often about the brevity of life here on earth.  Even if we were to live a hundred years or more, what is this brief time compared to eternity?  I often say that life here on earth is like a blink of an eye compared to eternal life with God.

Human beings usually have many questions at the time of the death of a relative, friend or loved one.  Is there a God?  What is God like?  Is there such a place as heaven or hell?  Where is he/she now?  Where will I wind up someday?

I take great consolation in the words from Preface I (of the Eucharistic Prayer) for the DeadIndeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended . . . .  We believe life in heaven with God is without sickness, death, pain or suffering.  It is lived in the presence of the Communion of Saints, those people who have gone before us and who were found worthy to enter the presence of God.

This week we celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (August 15).  The Catholic Church teaches that when her earthly life was complete, Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven.  She is in Heaven with the angels and saints able to pray for us and to intercede for us, her spiritual children.  It makes logical sense that she who was protected from original sin by God from the time of her conception (the Immaculate Conception) and who lived a life of willing acceptance of God’s will— “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) –should now be in Heaven.
As a point of clarification, the Blessed Virgin Mary receives special honor/veneration that the church refers to (in Latin) as hyperdulia.  She is the highest of all the saints and angels who also deserve praise and honor that the Church refers to as dulia.  God alone deserves worship or adoration (latria).  If anyone ever questions us as Catholics inquiring why we worship Mary or the saints, the simple truth is that we do not.  As part of the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints, they deserve honor, but not worship which is solely reserved to God.

In addition, sometimes people confuse the Assumption (of Mary) with the Ascension (of Jesus).  We believe that both are in Heaven, but Mary was taken up into Heaven while Jesus, as the all-powerful Son of God, had everything that He needed within His power to return back to Heaven to join His Father and the Holy Spirit when He chose to do so.

Mary and all of the saints in Heaven give us something to which we can all aspire.  I hope that we all want to be with God in Heaven for all eternity.  However, most of us are probably not expecting to go right at this moment—but we should always be prepared.  No one but God alone knows the day or the hour.  (See Mt. 24: 36)

Fr. Ed Namiotka