Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Something about Our New Deacon



Dear Parishioners,

Recently I was informed by Bishop Sullivan that we will have another permanent deacon assigned to our parish, beginning October 1, 2015.  Deacon Steven Theis and his wife Mary will be a wonderful addition to our St. Joseph family and I feel blessed now to have two deacons on our staff.

I asked Deacon Steve to write something for this bulletin to that I may introduce him and his family to our parish:

Mary and I are married 20 years.  We have 2 boys, Christopher (17) and Nicholas (16).  They attend St. Augustine Prep where Chris is a Senior and Nick is a Junior.

I was ordained on May 21, 2011 by Bishop Galante and assigned to the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit in Mullica Hill, NJ.  In 2012, I took a job in Kansas City, MO and we moved in June.  I was assigned to the largest Parish in the Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese.  St. Therese located in Parkville, MO is a vibrant and exciting Parish with just over 3,400 families.  We returned to Ocean City in June of this year and I work for Public Service Electric & Gas as a health and safety professional specializing in occupational psychology.

I am a two time cancer survivor.  My first battle was Stage IV head and neck cancer and my second diagnosis was less severe as Stage II thyroid cancer.  I understand all too well what it means to be bloodied and beaten at the foot of the Cross, scared and praying for mercy.  Since that time of dealing with the treatments and recovery of cancer, I have been actively involved with many people affected by this disease. I am extremely humbled to walk with those on their journey fighting this horrible disease while they try to save their life.

I look forward to getting acquainted.  Please know that you are in my prayers. Please keep my family and me in yours. God Bless.

Peace,
Deacon Steve

Needless to say, Deacon Steve desires to spend some of the time of his deaconate ministry helping at the local hospital.  He will also be able to preach and assist at Mass (primarily during our weekend Masses), baptize, visit the sick, and perform any of the other tasks that a deacon is able to do within a parish.  I know that you will welcome him as you have already welcomed Deacon Bob Oliver and his wife Shirley.

As the Church continues to face the varied challenges that lie ahead of us, I am glad to have the assistance of another permanent deacon to assist at our parish.  My sincere thanks go to Bishop Sullivan for giving me this opportunity to work with both Deacon Steve and Deacon Bob.

Please pray for all of us that we may continue to bring Christ to all the people that we serve.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Friday, September 18, 2015

Welcome Pope Francis!



Dear Parishioners,

During the course of my life I have had the privilege of personally seeing two popes—St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The year after I entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia for college, we were told that Pope John Paul II was coming to Philadelphia (1979) and would visit the seminary.  I was already so proud that the pope was from Poland, the land of my family’s heritage.  Then I heard that we would receive him in our seminary chapel!  Wow! I could not believe it. I was even interviewed by one of the local Philadelphia television stations regarding my thoughts and feelings concerning the papal visit.

Later, I saw Pope John Paul II again in Miami (1987) after I was ordained.  All of the newly ordained were invited to concelebrate an open-air Mass with the Holy Father at Tamiami Park.  I almost concelebrated Mass with him. Unfortunately, a lightning storm suddenly came upon us and the Mass (which was already in progress) quickly became a Liturgy of the Word service as the crowds were immediately dispersed from the field where we were situated.  Oh well!

In 1993 Pope John Paul II travelled to Denver for World Youth Day.  I drove across the country with another priest making a pilgrimage to Cherry Creek State Park for an outdoor Mass.  Finally I had the opportunity to concelebrate an entire Mass with the pope with the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the distance.  In subsequent years, I again concelebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II at Giants Stadium (1995) in the Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ.  I remember that there was a tremendous rain during that Mass and I was completely drenched by its end.

(For a detailed description of my meeting Pope John Paul II in Rome, click here.)

When Pope Benedict XVI came to Nationals Park in Washington, DC, I was able to concelebrate Mass there with him.  This time the sun shone brightly and I got to encounter him once again.  I had previously  been in attendance with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as he delivered a talk in St. Martin’s Chapel (in the college division) of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary a few years earlier.  Little did I know then that he would eventually become pope.

Now Pope Francis comes to the United States (Washington, New York, Philadelphia) and I, unfortunately, will not be able to see him personally or concelebrate Mass with him.  Sundays involve a number of Masses (5) celebrated here in the parish, besides the time and travel considerations and the security issues required to concelebrate with the pope.  Like many of you, I will be watching the pope on TV and trusting that an optimal view will be provided by the TV cameras.
    
I reminisced how after I had experienced the energetic and enthusiastic seminarians (and faculty/guests) during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the seminary chapel in 1979, I went back to the now deserted chapel.  There I was with the Blessed Sacrament.  I realized that I was completely alone with the Son of God.  Yes, here He was truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, no crowd, no noise, just us.   

While it is nice to have the opportunity to see the Vicar of Christ, to me there is nothing better than spending time with Christ Himself.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Couple Clarifications


Dear Parishioners,

Recently the office staff and I have received various questions about some directives coming recently from Pope Francis.  One area concerned the forgiveness of the sin of abortion and the other concerned annulments.  I will attempt to shed some light on both of these matters.

Bishop Sullivan tried to clarify what a priest is able to do in the confessional by having a letter read at all the Masses a few weeks ago.  The essence of the letter was the following:

A misunderstanding on the part of some was that local priests had not been given [the permission to absolve the sin of abortion] until now.  Thus, some Catholics may wonder whether they were properly absolved in the past.  They were indeed.  There is no need at all to worry about the past.  Sins that have been confessed and absolved are absolved.  In the Diocese of Camden, permission to absolve from the sin of abortion was granted by Bishop McHugh to our priests in 1990.  Pope Francis is now universally extending that permission to priests in other parts of the world who previously did not have it.  This is just one more way that the Holy Father is emphasizing the Lord’s abundant mercy which he has done since the first days of his pontificate.

The sin of abortion is considered a grave sin as it involves the taking of an innocent human life.  All priests now have the permission to absolve this sin in the confessional.  In the past, this sin had been considered a sin reserved to the bishop for absolution because of its seriousness.

Next, an annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.  Bishop Sullivan released a statement on Pope Francis’ instruction on this issue.  Its essence is below:

The Holy Father made it clear that the Church’s law and pastoral life are ordered to the practice of charity and mercy and ultimately the salvation of souls.  In fact, Pope Francis made it clear that he is “not promoting the nullity of marriage, but the quickness of the processes, as well as a correct simplicity” of annulment procedures.  These changes have resulted from the world-wide consultation for last year’s Extraordinary Synod and the recommendations of a commission of canonists impaneled by the Holy Father to review annulment procedures and the Church’s law.

An annulment is not a “Catholic divorce” but rather a declaration that something essential was absent in a marriage that a couple attempted.  Sometimes people may not seek an annulment of an unsuccessful marriage because of the anticipated length of the procedure, the perceived cost, the possible misconception of illegitimacy of any children from that bond and other reasons.  Some do not want to revisit the pain that resulted from an ugly divorce.
 
Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Mercy of God has led him (and us) to find ways to extend this mercy to people who experience these and other difficult life situations.  

Please take the time to investigate more about these matters.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Universality of the Church



St. Andre Bessette
Dear parishioners,

Whenever I travel, I inevitably seek out some of the local Catholic churches and make a brief stop at each.  This was true of my most recent trip to New England and Canada.  Vacationing with my two priest-friends, we visited some magnificent edifices including St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral in Quebec City, and the Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua in Longueuil, (just outside Montreal) Canada.  A highlight for us while in Montreal was a pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory.

What struck me in particular during this recent visit to the Oratory were the many languages, cultures and peoples.  I recognized French, Spanish, Italian and English being spoken by various visitors.  I identified people from India, Africa, Korea and China—some even dressed in native garb.  While there were people at the Oratory who were obviously tourists visiting a beautiful or interesting place, there were also people of faith coming as pilgrims to see this magnificent church and its saint—Brother Andre Bessette.

As reported by the shrine:

Brother André, born Alfred Bessette, surely is one of the most popular Québecois of the 20th century. Even before he was canonized in 2010, his reputation for holiness crossed frontiers and influenced generations of people.  At first assigned to be doorkeeper at Collège Notre-Dame, he was then named caretaker at that house of prayer which he shepherded into existence on Mount Royal. The religious brother welcomed thousands of distressed people or those who were looking for a ray of hope. He listened to them and recommended that they pray to Saint Joseph in whom he had full confidence. Any number of miraculous healings took place there and hearts turned toward God. Today, Saint Brother André continues to be an inspiration and a friend for women and men of any religious practice.

People prayed, attended Mass, lit candles, purchased religious articles and toured the shrine with varying degrees of reverence, respect, understanding and faith.  There were men and women, the elderly, children and infants, the handicapped and the infirm.  The colors of skin included shades of black, white, yellow, red and brown with the many variations capable of rivaling a 120 box of Crayola crayons.  This was a clear picture for me of the universal “Catholic” Church.
   
I also reflected on the priests who have served our parish of St. Joseph—coming from countries like Ireland, India, and Africa.  We shared heritages from Italy, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, to name a few.  Ideally, the common denominator and unifying factor is a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior. 

People may come to an oratory, (or a church or cathedral) for the beauty, out of curiosity, or desperate for answers.  Through the intercession of St. Andre and St. Joseph and the many other saints in heaven, may they leave with a deeper faith and realization of the love that God has for each of us through Jesus Christ.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor

St. Mary, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Interior
St. Dunstan, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island


Interior

Notre Dame, Quebec City

Interior
        

Interior
St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil
St. Joseph Oratory, Montreal

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Thinking Out Loud



Dear Parishioners,

Throughout history, politics and religion have started wars.  Therefore, I tend to avoid certain subjects that evoke strong feelings, especially when I am trying to have a peaceful meal, or when I am in mixed company (and I am not sure of one’s religious background or political leanings).  I attempt to keep matters civil and generally have a live and let live attitude toward many issues.

Regarding politics, currently we are preparing for another presidential race and it appears to be heating up quickly.  What I particularly worry about are those who are not informed of the issues (and their various implications) and people who base their decisions on reasons such as a candidate’s likeability or popularity instead of more substantive reasons.  What also intrigues me is those who will vote for a particular candidate solely because of party affiliation.  (I once again state emphatically that I have never sold my soul to any particular political party and I base my vote on the substantive issues, while considering a candidate’s moral character and belief system.)
    
Certain concerns should be important for Catholics (and, in fact, for all people with faith in God as creator).  A person’s honesty and integrity seem paramount.  How one values human life should never be minimized.  Will the candidate’s political positions reflect the biblical values and principles that have guided civilization from its earliest days?  What does the person’s past track record tell us about future decision making?  Is political correctness more important than moral truth?

Regarding religion, I believe that my Catholic faith should guide how I do all things in life.  A properly formed conscience should assist me in my decision making.  This means that my faith needs to guide and inform my vote.

We have seen biblical examples of those who have stood up to kings and rulers on principle—being anything but politically correct—and were not afraid to speak the truth regardless of personal consequence.  Notable is John the Baptist who objected to King Herod’s choice of wife and was ultimately beheaded because of his unwavering stance (see Mk. 6: 14-29).

America’s future is going to be shaped by those we choose to represent us in public office—especially the office of President.  I suggest that we become informed of the issues, learn about the candidates from their own words and current/past actions (and not just what the PC media wants us to hear about them.)

What worries me is that my singular vote, which I intend to take the time to prayerfully and intelligently make, can be nullified by someone else’s uninformed vote or by a vote that is motivated by a less-than-altruistic political or social agenda.

That is democracy as we know it in America.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


How Do We Refer to the Mass?


Dear Parishioners,

Whenever I read an article about the Mass in secular publications, I note the way in which it is referenced and, in particular, how the author describes the priest’s actions.  Recently, I have seen such descriptions indicating that the bishop performed the mass, or the priest held a mass, the pope delivers mass, the pope leads mass, or the priest presided at the mass.

In times gone by, I have heard people say that they were going to hear Mass.  Similarly, it was the priest who was going to say Mass.  The Mass was also spoken of as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  I still use this phrase that I learned from my morning offering as a child.

There are various ways that I prefer to speak about the Mass:

Remembering that the priest is offering a sacrifice of bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, I like to say that I am going to offer Mass.  When I begin daily Mass, I usually note that “Today’s Mass is being offered for . . . .”  You might notice the frequent use of the word oblation (offering) found in many of the prayers of the most recent English translation of the Mass.  We are reminded that the priest is indeed offering the most perfect sacrifice of Jesus Himself to God the Father.  Recall the prayer (doxology) at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Through him and with him and in him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” “Amen.”    

Some time ago I heard it said that the priest should be praying the Mass (above and beyond simply going through the motions and not merely reading/saying the words that are written in front of us).  We speak in terms of Eucharistic Prayers, orations, etc. which remind us that we are praying during Mass.  Pope Benedict XVI urged priests with the following:  “. . . We must think of the various forms of the prayer of a priest, first of all daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the center and wellspring from which all the forms receive their ‘lifeblood’. . . . “ (May 3, 2009, Priesthood Ordinations in St. Peter’s Basilica)

On a side note, there is nothing more frustrating for me to see people in the pews not even attempting to pray with me during Mass.  I can perhaps understand those who don’t like to or can’t sing, but not to pray the Our Father or not to participate with the prayers and responses?  I know there can be 1001 reasons/excuses that people could give me for this, but if Mass is a prayer, I don’t think that we should be standing there like zombies.

It may also be said that a priest celebrates the Mass and I am the celebrant at Mass. When more than one priest offers the Mass together, we refer to them as concelebrants.

How we speak about the Mass usually indicates what we think about it or what we believe happens during it.  There are multiple facets of what the Mass actually is and what happens during it.  I have only skimmed the surface of the many ways of looking at and describing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

If we take the time to understand the mystery before us at the altar, perhaps we can come to the realization that we are truly experiencing a foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy awaiting us someday.  

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor