Tuesday, June 28, 2016

L.G.B.T.



Dear Parishioners,

In many circumstances today we see the letters L.G.B.T. used on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.  Political candidates have indicated their L.G.B.T. support.  National attention was recently drawn to the Orlando nightclub shooting where the victims were identified as belonging to the L.G.B.T. community.  During my retreat last week at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, one of the many talks presented to the priests, deacons and seminarians concerned the Catholic Church and its teachings and relationship with people who identify themselves by one of these designations.

I was particularly moved during the presentation by David Prosen, a member of Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church ministering to persons with same-sex attractions (SSA).  David told his personal story, the conclusion of which can be summarized as follows:  “I know that I am a Catholic man.  That’s my identity.  I used to think I was gay.  I’m not gay.  I am David, a Catholic man.”

In essence, David no longer labeled himself as gay, but rather saw himself in light of his baptism into Christ Jesus.  David was an adopted child of God, first and foremost.  His same-sex attraction—which he has struggled with all his life and he continues to have— did not make him who he was.
 
David’s testimony led me to do some homework.  He gave us a list of materials and encouraged us to look into the matter in more depth.  I refer you to a 40 minute online video entitled:  The Third Way:  Homosexuality and the Catholic Church (www.blackstonefilms.org).  This relatively recent film (4/27/14) accurately captures the Catholic Church’s teaching and provides a beautifully, pastoral approach to understanding people with same-sex attraction.

More than likely, we have known someone who has a same-sex attraction.  Whether they are out” or not is irrelevant.  We all need to remember that people are greater than their sexual attraction.  All normal human beings have a sexual attraction.  Yet, my sexual attraction does not primarily define me and your sexual attraction does not primarily define who you are.  Rather, I am Fr. Ed, a baptized Catholic man and an ordained priest.  I attempt to live a chaste life, as we are all called to live chastity.  This is done by a married person being completely faithful to his or her spouse lifelong.  For a single person, a religious or a priest it means not engaging in sexual activities or having relations outside of the marriage covenant, regardless of sexual-orientation.

(What is written here does not attempt to explain fully the reason the Catholic Church cannot sanction gay marriages.  That is a topic for another day.)

However, I encourage all people to see each other in a manner similar to St. Paul:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3: 28)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A "Spirit-Filled" Experience


Dear Parishioners,

I have wanted to visit the Franciscan University of Steubenville for some time now.  I have known quite a few of its graduates over the years.  They all seemed very fond of their alma mater.  Most importantly, they seemed to continue to practice their Catholic faith long after their college days.  I recall one of my former professors speaking of how the place was uniquely "spirit-filled" and boasted of the wonderful, young people on campus.  So when Deacon Bob Oliver asked me if I would like to join him this year for the annual Priests, Deacons and Seminarians Retreat, in a moment of weakness (and probably temporary insanity), I said yes!

After a drive of seven hours or thereabouts--mostly on the scenic PA turnpike--we arrived at the campus in Ohio.  Back to those glorious days of dorm rooms with notoriously uncomfortable single beds!  What! Oh darn! No roommate to get used to!  Shucks!  Yet, there were still the common bathrooms (psst, someone just passed gas rather loudly as I entered through the bathroom door this morning), the oh-so-tasty cafeteria food, the long walks up and down hills to go from building to building.  You just gotta love it!  College 101 revisited!  Dreams (nightmares?) of Animal House!  Woo-hoo!  To be young again!  NOT!

On a more sobering and serious note, the first conference began Monday night with the music ministry warming us up with a couple of songs.  Gathered were over 100 priests, about 50 deacons and 30 or so seminarians.  We were here for a common purpose--to Come to the Table--the theme of this year's conferences.

Last night's opening talk, powerfully delivered by Dr. John Bergsma, spoke on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) as seen through the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt.  Dr. Bergsma is a former Protestant pastor who converted to Catholicism.  His witness (and unique perspective) on the inestimable value of this sacrament and its capacity to deliver a person from bondage and sin, appeared to touch many hearts and minds.   Everyone was then given the opportunity to receive the sacrament employing the many priests who were present, including myself.

The celebration of Mass followed with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, NY as the principal celebrant.  Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR,  delivered a passionate homily setting the tone for what I suspect will be a continued call to all of us to be more authentic witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I look forward to the upcoming conferences by presenters such as Dr. Scott Hahn (another Protestant pastor and biblical scholar who converted to Catholicism), Fr. Jonathan Morris (often seen on TV as a news contributor), Deacon Ralph Poyo, Caroline Gambale-Dirkes, and various others.

Know that you will be remembered in my prayers and Masses this week.

I hope to return back to Somers Point more "spirit-filled."  Let me know over the weekend if you see a difference.  

(Keep quiet if you don't.)


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An Unexpected Arrival



Dear Parishioners,

Last week I received a call from the Camden Diocesan office informing me that Bishop Sullivan has assigned Fr. Christopher Markellos as the full-time Parochial Vicar (associate) for our parish.  I was surprised, but glad, to hear the news!  Fr. Markellos comes to us from St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, where he was the Director of Catholic Identity for the school.  The change is effective as of July 1st.

It will be nice having Fr. Markellos around the rectory.  It has been rather quiet here since both Fr. Larry Polansky and seminarian Anthony Infanti left us this past year.  Fr. Christopher Onyeneke, who is a religious order priest (Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary), will continue to work as the chaplain at Shore Medical Center and help us here on an as needed basis.  Our two (married) permanent deacons, Mr. Robert Oliver and Mr. Steven Theis, will also continue to assist at the parish.

In addition to the personnel changes, a few facility improvements are in process as a result of our Capital Campaign (Celebrating 70 Years:  Embracing the Mission, Continuing Our Tradition) initiative.  A new digital piano has replaced the aging baby grand piano in the choir area.  The fire sprinkler system is currently being installed in the church basement.  We have obtained the bids for a new sound system that will, most likely, begin to be installed in August.  The old slate roof on the rectory garage is being replaced as I write this.  Also, the HVAC system is being studied by a company to determine what is the best and most energy efficient way to heat and air-condition our church.  I am happy to see so many things in process, with more to come!

With all the changes and improvements being planned, may we always keep in mind the importance of growing as disciples of the Lord Jesus.  My ultimate goal as pastor is to help people to know, love and serve Jesus Christ.  I try to guide people in whatever way I am able toward union with God in Heaven.  I certainly cannot do this alone.  It involves a united effort from all of us.  Please do your part to encourage weekly participation at Mass in your families and to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) regularly—I suggest monthly.  Always pray daily in your homes.  Try to learn more about your faith—perhaps by bible study, reading a good Catholic book, listening to a Catholic CD (available in the vestibule of the church), etc.  We provide links to many of these matters on our parish website:  www.stjosephsomerspoint.com/.

Faith needs to be nurtured and not left dormant.  I remember reading a line from the Venerable Bishop Fulton J. SheenThere are no planes in the spiritual life; we are either going uphill or coming down.  Too many things in this materialistic, secular world can distract us or even attempt to suck the very soul / life-blood out of our lives.  In my view, without the sacraments—especially the Holy Eucharist—this struggle would seem near impossible.  Jesus knew what we needed and gave us the means toward holiness of life and union with Him.  Try to be open to all that the Catholic Church has to offer.

To me, it’s a shame that more people do not take advantage of His many precious gifts and His rich, unfathomable mercy.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor                    

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Few Words at Graduation




Dear Parishioners,

Last Monday night (6/6/16), I preached the Baccalaureate Mass for St. Joseph Regional School's 8th grade graduation.  I share with you a synopsis of my homily:

During your recent reception of the sacrament of confirmation by Bishop Sullivan, you were asked to choose a confirmation name--usually stemming from a saint who impressed you.  When I was ordained, I too chose a patron saint, with whom I want you now to become more familiar.  I was inspired by the life and example of a Franciscan Friar--a priest--who lived during World War II.  Fr. Maximilian Kolbe gave me a vivid example of how to imitate Christ by his selfless love of others.

Towards the end of his life, Fr. Kolbe was imprisoned in a death camp in Poland--the infamous Auschwitz. Whenever a prisoner tried to escape from this prison, ten people were chosen to die as punishment and as a deterrent to others from trying to escape.  When one of the ten chosen prisoners started to cry out that he had a wife and family, Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and offered his life in place of the married man.  Fr. Kolbe was placed in a starvation cell and left to die.  For weeks before his death he led the other prisoners in prayer and song until he was eventually injected with carbolic acid which killed him immediately.  His act of selfless love was a motivation for me to be a priest dedicated to the service of and love for others.

As you leave this school and move on to various high schools, please remember to imitate the selfless love of Christ.  Take the Catholic faith that you were given and nurtured with here at this school, and witness it to others.  There will be many changes in your life--both good and bad.  As your time here ends, your future begins somewhere else.  Wherever you may go, remember that Jesus is always with you.  Pray to Him.  Be faithful to Him.  Trust Him.  Listen to Him.

You have reached a point of accomplishment in your lives.  However, I hope that you all realize that the purpose of our lives is much more than obtaining a piece of paper that we call a diploma or a degree.  Handing God a diploma or degree is not what is required for one of us  to wind up in heaven--to have union with God--someday.  Living a life of loving God and others, caring for the poor, sick and neglected, forgiving and showing others mercy is what God looks for in our lives.  By carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy--which I know you had to study in preparation for your Confirmation--is a good start.

Chances are you will probably forget most of what I say to you here tonight.  However, I left you a little remembrance in your pews to remind you of my words.  At each of your places I placed a holy card with the picture of St. Maximilian Kolbe on it as a reminder.  Think of him and the example of his selfless love and let it be a continual reminder for you as it is for me.

May God bless you and all of your families and friends who join us here tonight--especially your parents who provided you with this opportunity to receive a Catholic education.  

Always be grateful for what you have been given.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 

St. Maximilian Kolbe
           

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Having a Sense of Balance in One's Life


Dear Parishioners,

I consider a true friend a person who tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear.  When I was newly ordained, one such friend indicated to me that I seemed to be changing my behavior in ways that were not necessarily flattering.  This person helped me to put matters in perspective and to realize certain things about myself that I had not identified on my own.  The way of fools is right in their own eyes, but those who listen to advice are the wise (Proverbs 12:15).  In other words, only the fool keeps his own counsel. 

At another time in my life, a good friend handed me a piece of paper with one word on it.  The note simply read balance.  My daily routine was then filled with stress and a multitude of responsibilities.  Things were far from balanced.  I had to re-evaluate the priorities in my life.  Was I praying enough?  Did I get adequate sleep each night?  Was I eating healthy meals?  Did I exercise regularly?  Did I have the insight and humility to seek out and to talk to someone to help me?

I think we all need this sense of balance in our lives.  We have become a society where we are often too busy, running around and constantly doing.  In the midst of all the activity, I find that important spiritual matters tend to get neglected.  Prayer is pushed aside as not that important.  Soccer or baseball games, shopping, or various leisure activities take precedent over going to Mass on Sundays.  People, perhaps, may still go to confession before Christmas and Easter, but not necessarily frequently in order to become more spiritually attentive and open to God.  Things of the world generally outweigh the things of God. We may suffer harmful effects as a result, perhaps without even realizing it.

When we don’t pray regularly—and I don’t mean occasionally throwing a prayer up to God for some particular need or want—we become spiritually lethargic.  God indeed speaks to us in the silence, in the depths of our hearts.  We need to listen to that interior voice of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding us.  We need to be reflective, introspective people.

If we are made of body, mind and soul, is the soul being fed?  The Sacred Scriptures nourish us.  The Holy Eucharist—the Bread of Life—is true soul food.  How much of a priority do these have in my life?

Where did I leave off in my religious education?  Was it in 8th grade or even earlier, after Confirmation and CCD (now referred to as religious education or PREP)?  The sad joke is that for many CCD (the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) actually stood for Communion, Confirmation and Done.

Other matters are also important, such as adequate sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise, etc. in order to keep a balance in life.  From my own personal experience and testimony, however, when my spiritual life is in order, almost everything else becomes more balanced.  A few words of wisdom given by an elderly priest many years ago still resonate with me:  Take care of your spiritual life.  Everything else will fall into place.

So please consider these words some sound advice from a true friend.  Don’t be offended if I ask:  Is your spiritual life in order and your life truly balanced?


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor