Thursday, February 27, 2014

Helping to Build the "House of Charity"

Dear Parishioners,

I once heard it said that God can never be outdone in generosity.  I believe this is so true!  When we give from our substance, and not merely our excess, we are giving a truly sacrificial gift.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son!  (John 3:16)  There can be no more perfect, sacrificial gift than this.  God showed us what it truly meant to give from substance.      

Within the next few weeks you should receive a letter and brochure from Bishop Sullivan regarding the 2014 House of Charity – Bishop’s Annual Appeal.  The theme this year is Unearthing the TreasureI hope you will take a few minutes to review those materials and the wonderful opportunity that a donation to this vital program will provide.

By your gift to the House of Charity, you show the many who are in great need of pastoral, charitable, educational and social ministry in our Diocese that you treasure them in Jesus’ name.  When you make a sacrificial gift to the House of Charity, you offer the treasure of hope.  You offer the treasure of God’s love.

You should be aware that here in our parish we benefit directly from this appeal.  It is the Diocese of Camden, through its House of Charity appeal, that supplies a full-time hospital chaplain to our local hospital—Shore Medical Center.  Hopefully, you are familiar with the long standing tradition of how our many chaplains have faithfully served the hospital, while also assisting at St. Joseph Church with Masses, confessions, etc.  For this reason, in addition to the many other services that are provided throughout the diocese, it is important that you consider making a donation to this appeal.

Remember too that if we make or exceed our parish goal, a percentage of the money collected comes right back to this parish for local use.

Please know that I am most grateful to you for your continued generosity to our parish, and for your willingness to consider the needs of those less fortunate in our community.  I ask you to pray for me and our community as we seek to live the Gospel and serve each other in Jesus’ name.

As we begin the season of Lent next week with Ash Wednesday (March 5, 2014), may I suggest that you reflect on the sacrificial love that Jesus offered by his passion and death.  His example of complete self-giving should inspire and motivate us to a more perfect love and charity for others.      

May God continue to bless you and your family.


Fr. Ed Namiotka


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Little Sisters of the Poor

Dear Parishioners,

As I write today, I am visiting a classmate from Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  The trip was more than social.  Fr. Bob was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer and is preparing to undergo treatment.  He is currently living with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their home for the aged just outside of Richmond, Virginia.  Please keep him in your prayers.

This morning I went to pray in the chapel centrally located in the home.  It is such a blessing to begin my day being able to spend quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  No matter where I have travelled throughout the world, whenever I am with the Blessed Sacrament, I am truly home.

I watched as the sisters came into the chapel at varying times early in the morning to pray.  I was edified to see their love, reverence and devotion for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Recently, it was this religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who caught national attention by their lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services Mandate (HHS), part of the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) requiring the sisters to provide contraceptive, abortion and sterilization services to their employees against their core religious beliefs.  On January 24, 2014 the Supreme Court sided with the sisters and has enjoined the federal government from enforcing the HHS mandate against the sisters, pending their appeal.

This HHS mandate has a direct impact on all religious believers—not just Catholics.  Regarding the mandate, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has written the following:  “. . . With its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers.”  The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion without government interference (known as the Free Exercise Clause).  The US bishops have continually stated that the US government has clearly overstepped its bounds by this mandate.

The foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Jeanne Jugan, so cared for the poor and elderly of her time in France that she was able to establish a religious community respecting the life and dignity of every person, regardless of wealth or age.  To mandate a religious order such as this to provide anti-life procedures (contraception, abortion and sterilization) railing against their core belief (respect for the life and dignity of every human person) should make us all take note and become more vigilant regarding legislation which apparently violates both our US constitution and our religious beliefs as US citizens living in a free society.

I know that the power of prayer can do more than we could ever imagine.  I wonder how many silent prayers of these dedicated sisters have been lifted up to God early each morning on behalf of the sick and dying, the poor and the elderly whom they have chosen to serve?  Isn’t it strange that a lawsuit filed on behalf of these humble sisters resulted in an injunction with the unanimous support of the US Supreme Court?

Thank you sisters for your dedication to the poor, for your sacrificial love for Jesus and for the humble prayers you offer each day.  I pray that many other women be inspired to follow your example and the example set by your foundress and consider joining the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Catholic Funerals Revisited

Dear Parishioners,

A few years ago I wrote a column on Catholic Funerals for my previous parish.  Normally, each Catholic parish has a fair number of funerals each year.  The priests and parish staff are acutely aware of our need to comfort families and to provide the necessary spiritual guidance at this most difficult time.

A few trends, however, continue in our society that I think, once again, need to be addressed.
First, the norm for a Catholic funeral is at Mass.  It is important that we focus on the saving action of Christ accomplished for us by His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  The Mass itself is the most perfect prayer and sacrifice that can be offered for our loved ones.  Nothing is more efficacious.  It is a re-presentation of Christ’s Salvific Act.  The funeral rite contains such rich symbolism reminding us of our connection to Baptism.  Moreover, we have the opportunity to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus to strengthen us.

Sometimes those who are not familiar with the proper Catholic protocol might encourage simply having a funeral service in the funeral home.  While the service may bring some comfort to the family, theologically it is never the same as having a Mass offered for that person.  Please think of the eternal soul of the deceased and have their funeral rites take place during a Mass.  It is also important to pray and to have Masses offered for the soul of the deceased.  While flowers are a nice gesture, a Mass offered for the deceased is much more beneficial spiritually.
Second, it is specifically stated in the funeral ritual that “there is never to be a eulogy” during the funeral Mass (Order of Christian Funerals, #27).  Over time this practice has found its way into our liturgies and has become a somewhat “acceptable” practice.  However, the funeral liturgy should be more about the saving action of Christ than a tribute to a deceased person.  The proper place for such a eulogy is either at the funeral home, before the Mass begins, graveside (weather permitting) or at the meal that is usually served after the funeral.  The Catholic funeral liturgy is not about “praising” and “canonizing” the deceased no matter how good the person was but about us realizing what Christ has done for us by His death on the cross.

Third, the choice of music should always be religious in nature and appropriate for a church funeral.  Secular music (popular or sentimental) is never appropriate during Mass.

Finally, since there are more cremations taking place these days, I remind those who choose this option what the Catholic funeral rite tells us about the proper placement of the ashes or cremains:

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.  (Order of Christian Funerals, #417)
I mention all of the above to guide families with their decision making at this most difficult time.

Fr. Ed Namiotka