Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being “Connected” to a Parish


Dear Parishioners,

What I have to say here this week is, by no means, official dogma.  These are simply my thoughts on the current situation in our parish and in our diocese as we move forward into the future.  Time will tell if my perspective is accurate or if I am somehow missing the point.

One of things that I have tried to emphasize over my years as a priest is being “connected” to a particular parish.  (My family, being originally from Philadelphia, saw people identifying themselves primarily with their home parish.)  I have usually thought a person or family should be anchored or rooted in a parish that they considered their own in order to be spiritually nourished.

Today, many people will more commonly “shop around” to find a church that will suit their needs for a short term solution rather than for a long haul commitment.  The typical scenario is that a person, couple or family seeks out a church where they can get married or have their child baptized or have a deceased loved one buried or any of a number of occasions where a church and one of its ministers is needed for a specific time and purpose.  If people still go to Mass each week, they may float around to whatever church has a Mass time to suit their current plans or schedule.

The recent re-configuration of parishes throughout the diocese—while seen as critical by its leadership so that the entire diocese does not go “belly up” in the future—has not necessarily helped the situation.  People saw their parishes merged and re-named or, in some cases, closed entirely.  Similarly, schools were reconfigured, renamed or closed as well.  The  parish where parishioners were baptized in, received their first Holy Communion in, got married in, donated a statue to, refurbished the stained-glass window in, etc., etc., was no longer there as they had known it for years.  Any long-term connection was severed and people were told to move on and accept their new situation.

Given the fact that we have also lost quite a few generations of Catholics over the years who no longer practice their faith regularly or may have found another denomination that currently suits their needs,  our parishes continue to struggle for future existence.  Many younger Catholics don’t see a necessary connection to the local parish, don’t practice their faith regularly, don’t support the church financially, and continue drift along without a spiritual compass.  Why are our young people the way they are today?  Consider all of the above factors, combined with the materialistic, hedonistic, egocentric culture in which we live.  Doesn't seem to be a real rosy picture, does it?

Without an intimate connection to a parish by its parishioners, the future of this or any parish is rather tenuous.  Certain individuals or certain families may still retain this strong relationship to their parish.  However, I fear that for the vast majority of Catholics in our area, they will just drift along and wonder "why?" when their churches are no longer there for their families and for their spiritual needs in the future.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Easter!

Dear Parishioners,

Easter Sunday is here once again.  AlleluiaAlleluia! Christ is Risen!

Many secular ideas, traditions, and customs have found their way into our culture at Easter (as well as other sacred times like Christmas).  They are not necessarily bad in and of themselves.  However, they tend to miss the profound Christian spiritual message.

For us as Christians, nothing is really more important than Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead.  Easter is about Resurrection.  It is about eternal life.  It is about hope.
    
Starting a church the way Christ did seems like it should have been a recipe for disaster.  Pick a rag-tag bunch of mostly uneducated disciples—one who denies you when the going gets tough (Peter) and one who betrays you (Judas).  Preach to the general public for only a few years, very mysteriously at times.  Pick an area of the world oppressed by foreign rule.  Pick a time in history without the internet, Twitter, radio, television, newspapers or mass media as we know it today.  Allow yourself to be tortured and then put to death without offering resistance.

Should the Catholic Church still be around over 2000 years later?  Not if it were solely a human endeavor!

When everything seemed like failure, the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples:

While they were still speaking . . . (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  (Luke 24:36-40)
Resurrection made all the difference, then and now.

The Catholic Church still remains despite all obstacles, built on the foundation of Christ—the Risen Christ.  The message of Jesus continues to be proclaimed and offers salvation and hope to those who willingly accept it and let their lives be guided and changed by it.

May the joy of Easter bring meaning and hope to your lives, today and every day!

Happy Easter Sunday!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Microcosm of the Entire World



Dear Parishioners,

The last time that I took my mother on a cruise was almost four years ago when I turned fifty.  We travelled to Alaska together at that time.  It is no secret that I have become my mother’s unofficial social director for many years now since the passing of my father in 1995.  I am the only unmarried child.

When my mom turned eighty this past November, I began to make plans for us to take a cruise once again—this time to the Western Caribbean.  Our recent cruise included the Cayman Islands; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico.  Besides visiting areas of South and Central America that I never even imagined that we would ever see, the weather was simply magnificent—high 70’s or low 80’s each day—compared to the miserable weather that we have experienced in New Jersey this winter.

This is the first time that I went on a cruise as the ship’s chaplain.  Although I have been on a few trips before, it had been simply as a passenger.  I would usually offer Mass each day in the cabin privately with my mom as the congregation.  Not this time, however.  Each day I celebrated Mass for a substantial congregation consisting of the ship’s passengers.  Besides offering Mass for the passengers, I also was asked to celebrate a Mass for the crew on Sunday night.  Most of the crew members sign a contract agreeing to work for over a half of a year at sea at a time, and so the presence of a priest for Mass while at sea was very important to many of them.  There were crew members from the Philippines, from India (Goa), from Mexico and from other areas of South and Central America who were all Catholic.  I was very privileged to be there for them.

While my mom and I were attending one of the evening performances in the ship's theater, an entertainer mentioned that there were people from over fifty countries aboard the ship, including both passengers and crew.  I thought that this was quite amazing.  We were a little world community floating around on the Caribbean Sea—a microcosm of the entire world.  There were various cultures and languages, multiple religions and people of all shapes, sizes and colors.  A person might have a similar experience when visiting one of the major cities of the world—so many people with so much diversity!

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how God can know and love each of us personally.  It is easier to think that somehow I am rather insignificant and am lost, hidden or even forgotten somewhere in the immensity of the great crowd.

One of the readings for Mass during my cruise helped to put this all in perspective for me:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

(Is. 49: 14-15)

Thanks Lord for the many blessings that you bestow upon us continually!

May I never forget your abundant goodness and blessings shown to me (and my mom)!


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

       

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Goes Through the Pastor’s Mind?


Dear Parishioners,

Here we are, almost at the beginning of spring, and snow is still covering the ground.  Global warming I guess!

Our 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration is currently underway and will be completed by the time this message reaches the Sunday church bulletin.

I have had a lot of time to think and to pray.  I was edified by the people who took the time to attend an extra Mass or two or to spend some quality time in adoration of Jesus in the Blessed SacramentCould you not keep watch for one hour? (Mk. 14:37) Thank God for you!  You are the backbone of our Church.

However, I continue to worry.  The overall numbers are dwindling.  The age of the active parishioners tends to rise significantly.  We have lost a few generations of Catholics somewhere in the middle (young adult to middle age) and I don’t know how or if we are going to get them back.  Jesus, we certainly need your help!

The simple reality, as I see it, is that there is a spiritual battle going on.  Spiritual warfare, if you will.  It’s a battle for souls.  It is a matter of life or death.  Eternal life is promised by following Jesus—I am the way and the truth and the life. (Jn. 14: 6)  Yet, we are surrounded by a culture of death.  Senseless violence is all around us—war, murder, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide.  We are a society plagued by multiple addictions—drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gambling, materialism.  Yet, we must be a People of Life, promoting a Culture of Life“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture.”  Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae.

It can seem overwhelming if we let it get to us.  Christians—followers of Jesus the Christ—have to be a people of hope.  I suppose that there wasn’t a more hopeless scene than to witness your spiritual leader mocked, rejected, beaten, spat upon, and crucified in front of your eyes.  Would I have the courage to stand at the foot of the cross like Mary, John or Mary Magdalene?  Would I deny Jesus like Peter?  Would I flee and hide like the vast majority of His apostles?  Would I be so influenced to follow the crowd—everybody’s doing it—to yell “Crucify him!  Crucify Him!” as well?

I know that I can only do my part each day.  I need to be as faithful to Jesus as I possibly can.  I need to keep plugging away and not lose hope.  Jesus loves me and sustains me.  I am so thankful for His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. (Jn. 6: 51)

Jesus has gotten me this far in life and I believe He will continue to take care of me.  I can’t live without Him.  I really can’t understand how anyone could.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making a Lenten Inventory


Dear Parishioners,

I write you this letter during the Lenten season—a time of introspection, calling us all to conversion—to encourage you to use this time for increased spiritual growth and involvement in your parish.  Here at St. Joseph Church we are working hard on many levels to build up the Kingdom of God.

Let’s take an inventory of some of the many things that have happened at the parish since I arrived as pastor in June, 2011.

Spiritually, in addition to our regularly scheduled Masses and services, we have had some important events like our Saints Event, Living Nativity, Living Stations of the Cross, Ecumenical Lenten Prayer Services and Luncheons, a biblical presentation by actor Frank Runyeon, Days of Recollection with Fr. John Collins, CSP, 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration with guest homilists Fr. James King and Fr. Jon Thomas, and an added Pro-Life Mass on Wednesday evenings.  To benefit our Spanish community, we have held various devotions and celebrations including the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We hold retreat days for our First Holy Communion and our Confirmation students.  We re-initiated our Children's Liturgy of the Word on two Sundays each month and our Children's Choir.  In addition, our Filipino community has enhanced our music ministry through the Couples for Christ Choir.  Penance Services and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation are made available throughout the year, but especially during Advent and Lent.  Please check our weekly church bulletin, our web page or our facebook page to see the many opportunities that are offered!

Since I have mentioned technology, to improve our use of it in the parish we have revamped our web site (www.stjosephsomerspoint.com) complete with a mobile version for your smartphones, improved our phone system to make it more accessible, added a facebook page for our parish, and I personally publish a spiritual blog entry each week (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com) in conjunction with the weekly church bulletin.
   
Some of the most obvious enhancements have been to our physical plant.  Our parking lots were resurfaced and relined.  Our annex building’s exterior was sealed and painted and the Pre-K 3 rooms renovated and relocated into that building.  We added a “cry room” to the church for parents with toddlers and infants.  Our stained glass windows are being repaired and restored.  Repairs have also been made to the bell tower, to the rectory building and walkways, and to the convent.  Currently, the cracks in the interior walls of the church are being fixed and the entire interior should be repainted just in time for Easter.

As you can see, we are doing our part to help our parish—yours and mine—to grow and increase.  All I simply ask is that you assist us in what we are trying to accomplish.  Weekly participation at Mass is essential!  Your presence in our pews together with regular, ongoing giving to support our many spiritual endeavors and the physical upkeep of our campus, will help ensure the future of this parish.

It has been said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  We can’t just sit back and do nothing and expect everything to continue without interruption or possible decline.  We need your continual help, and I am asking for it now once again.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor