Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Catholic School Advantage


Dear Parishioners,

I can’t remember a time in my life when I was not associated with a Catholic school.

I began in kindergarten at St. John Cantius School in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia.  The parish school was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.  When our family moved to Wildwood in the 1960’s, I had as teachers the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, PA at both St. Ann’s Regional School and Wildwood Catholic High School.  I was off to the seminary at age 18, first to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and then to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg MD.

As a deacon, I lived at Transfiguration Parish in W. Collingswood, NJ.  The sisters who staffed the parish school were all from Ireland, belonging to the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  After my ordination to the priesthood, I was assigned to St. Matthew’s Church in National Park, NJ, where the parish school was staffed by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, a Polish congregation.

I was then assigned to teach at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, NJ and remained there for six years.  After moving to Vineland, I became principal of Sacred Heart High School and was assigned there for 14 years.  When I became pastor of Queen of Angels Parish in Buena Borough, we had an elementary school—Notre Dame Regional School.  Now I am here as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Somers Point and we have one of the largest elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden—just shy of 500 students.

As you can see from my personal history, the Catholic school tradition is ingrained into my very being.  I cannot imagine what it would be like without a local Catholic school forming students to know, love and serve Jesus Christ while preparing them mentally, physically and spiritually for the challenges of life.

We begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week and I thank the dedicated faculty, administration and staff of St. Joseph Regional Catholic School for their hard work and dedication.  Our Principal, Mr. Ted Pugliese strives to make the school a beacon of Christ’s light for our community.

Every Catholic parish in the diocese has an obligation to support our Catholic schools which is newly designated as 13% of all parish budgets.  Bishop Sullivan had also inaugurated a special second collection to be taken up this weekend to support all the Catholic schools throughout the diocese.

I personally thank all parents who make the personal sacrifice and choose to send their children to St. Joseph Regional Catholic School.  I ask parents of school-aged children to be open to and to investigate the possibility of sending your child/children to our Catholic school, if you do not already do so.  While I understand that everyone may not be able to afford the full tuition, I know there is some limited financial aid for those who qualify.  Why not investigate the possibility?

While no school is perfect and can always meet the needs of every child, Catholic schools that proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ clearly and encourage families to live it faithfully give students a firm foundation for the challenges of life and offer them hope in an often confusing and troublesome world.


I am a proud product of Catholic schools.  I can truly see the benefits and the advantage that it has given me in so many dimensions of my life.  I believe that my vocation as a priest was fostered first in the home and then cultivated in the many years of a Catholic school environment.  I am grateful for the priests and sisters that had a great influence on my life and thinking.  I hope that I have been able to give back to Catholic education some of what I have received over the years.  

Please join me in promoting St. Joseph Regional Catholic School and all our Catholic schools.
.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor               

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Seeking the Divine Physician


Dear Parishioners,

Next week our Parish Nursing Ministry, assisted by the Knights of Columbus Council 10220, will be sponsoring a “Healing Mass.”  To be more precise, it will be a Mass with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick incorporated within.

Perhaps some still have recollections of the term Extreme Unction (last anointing) when a priest anointed people prior to their death.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church sheds some light on the matter:

The Anointing of the Sick “is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death.  Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.” (#1514)
 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again.  If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated.  It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation.  The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced. (#1515)
Many times I have had to convince people in the hospital or the homebound that they should be anointed, while alleviating the fear that they were not they were not actively dying.  I remind people that the sacraments are for the living and not to wait until the moment of death or until after a person has died to call for a priest.  When a priest is called in advance, he is able to give a gravely ill or elderly person the Last Rites which consist of the Anointing of the Sick, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) and Holy Communion (Viaticum).  Priests cannot hear a person’s confession or give them Holy Communion after they have died.  Additionally, even though someone may conceivably have been anointed after death, this is not the intention of the sacrament.

Also, to prevent an abuse of the sacrament, a person should not be requesting it because he or she has a sore throat or a headache, but there should actually be a “serious illness or the frailty of old age.” (Catechism, #1520)  Moreover, the sacrament should not be confused with those times when some liturgical or paraliturgical ceremony takes place where everyone in church is invited to be anointed with “blessed oil.”  This type of anointing ceremony is not the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and can cause uncertainty and confusion in laity and clergy alike.

Finally, the Catechism (#1532) tells us what the sacrament does for the sick person: 

 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: 
- the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
- the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
- the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
- the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
- the preparation for passing over to eternal life.
Jesus is the Divine Physician and He can heal in mind, body and soul.  The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is meant to help those seriously ill or elderly who are in need of the strength and healing that Jesus can provide through the instrument of the priest.  Please consider joining us to pray for and to support our sick and elderly.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

57,762,169



Dear Parishioners,

They say that we can ask the computer any question.  Whether it’s Siri, Google, Galaxy, Cortana or some other voice recognition device or system, we can now ask, and the answer will be given to us.  Sounds almost biblical, doesn’t it?

So I asked Google: “How many abortions have been performed in the United States since 1973?”  I chose this year since it was the date of the historic United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973) which legalized abortion.  The answer I was given was 57,762,169—referencing a 2015 article from www.LifeNews.com.  The number would actually be greater if we bring the statistics to our current 2016 date.  Sounds like a lottery jackpot.


Just how many people is that?  It is more than the entire population of the following countries:  South Korea, Ukraine, South Africa, Spain, Colombia, Sudan, Argentina, Poland and many others that have a total population of less than 50 million people.  We have literally aborted the population of a fairly large country—just in the United States alone.  Imagine what the worldwide number of abortions is!

This statistic tells me a couple of things.  First, I believe that many people have no Idea how tragic this situation truly is.  As a nation we have become complacent with slogans like: The Right to Choose! or Keep Abortion Safe and Legal! The right to choose what?  Death . . . extermination . . . murder . . . infanticide?  Maybe we should label it differently.  Is abortion ever safe and legal for the unborn child?  Is it not, rather, a death sentence for him or her?  And how about the physical, psychological, and spiritual damage that is done to the woman herself?  One cannot just expect to rip a developing baby from the womb and then anticipate there to be no consequences whatsoever.

Next, it is unbelievably tragic that a moral evil (abortion, the taking of an innocent, human life) can be seen and touted as something good for women, for civilized society, or for humanity itself.   As if we have some moral right to kill innocent human life?  When a society abandons God’s moral law, distorts its meaning to suit its own selfish purposes and/or replaces it with a deception advocating and glorifying the means by which a large portion of humanity is exterminated, we are in grave danger.


 
We, as a nation, have drunk the Kool-Aid.  The Rev.Jim Jones was not the only one leading a mass amount of people astray and to the ultimate consequence of death.  I am continually hearing politicians advocate the choice for an abortion as a right, as something good, as something that must be defended.  And Americans will continue to drink the Kool-Aid.  And babies will continue to die, in numbers too great to even imagine.

Just think of the loss of potential human life.  Did we already abort the one who would cure cancer or Alzheimer’s?  How about the next great composer or inventor?  Has he or she already been poisoned or ripped apart?  Did the next great political or church leader already wind up as medical waste?

 

I know that I have been pretty blunt.  Yet, somehow I don’t think what I say is going to change things dramatically.  I fear that we have become too stiffed-neck (see Dt. 9:13) or hardened of heart (see Heb. 3:15), as those previously condemned in the Bible.

January 22, 2016.

Almost 60 million babies.

Does it matter?

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Reflecting on Our Baptism


Dear Parishioners,

There are times when we are reminded that we are baptized Christians.  Whenever we walk into a Catholic Church and bless ourselves with holy water, we should recall that we are baptized.  On Easter Sunday, the priest will ask that we renew our baptismal promises (in place of reciting the Nicene Creed) and will go up and down the church sprinkling us with the newly blessed Easter water.  As an option for the penitential rite at Sunday Mass, the priest may also sprinkle us with the holy water recalling our baptism.  Additionally, the Baptism of the Lord provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our own baptism.

Baptism makes us a Christian.  We are not born in union with God but alienated from Him because of original sin.  While we did not commit this sin, all humanity was wounded or stained by the disobedience of the first humans. (See Romans 5:12-21)  We are not born into Grace (God’s life) but receive this life through our baptism.  By baptism we are cleansed from original sin (and any personal sin if we are old enough to know and commit sin).  We become adopted children of God though Christ.  The Holy Spirit now dwells in us.  We die with Christ in baptism so as to one day share eternal life with Him.  We are welcomed into the Catholic Church and become a member awaiting full initiation (which comes with First Holy Communion and Confirmation).  We need to reflect often on what baptism has done for and to us.

We remain in God’s grace unless we sin mortally.  The concept of serious or mortal sin tells us that a particular sin (a willing, thought-out choice that we make involving a grave or serious matter) can once again alienate us from God’s grace.  Apart from original sin which we inherit, we choose to sin.  Fortunately, it is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) that once again restores our baptismal graces and reconciles us with God and the Church.  I tell people that every confession is a new beginning for us and we become a new creation because of God’s abundant mercy.

The Church still advocates infant baptism.  I recall how it was important for so many in past generations to take seriously the teaching of the Church that infants be baptized in the first weeks following birth.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  “The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.”  (#1250)  The gift of Faith is so precious that I personally cannot understand how someone would knowingly deny or unnecessarily prolong his or her child from receiving baptism.

Baptism is one of those sacraments that is never repeated—once baptized, always baptized.  It imparts a permanent character on us that is not removed—even by sin.  Sin, however, can prevent baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.  Hence, there is a need and an obligation to be reconciled of any post-baptismal sin (especially mortal sin) by means of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

So I ask that you think about your own baptism and all of its implications.  Parents who have not yet presented your children for baptism are reminded to take this obligation very seriously.  If you bring a child into this world, you are responsible for his or her upbringing, physical and material needs, love and emotional needs, as well as his or her eternal salvation.  We are only saved through Christ Jesus.  There is no other way to the Father except through Him. (See Jn. 14:6)  Baptism is the way to eternal life because it is the means by which we allow Christ to be truly Lord of our life.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor