Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whatever Happened to . . . Advent?

Dear Parishioners,
This time of the year always seems to be so much of a hassle.  What used to be the beginning of the Christmas shopping season with Black Friday, now has moved even earlier and earlier.  Many worry about sending Christmas cards, baking Christmas cookies, decorating, cleaning the house for guests, putting up the Christmas tree, buying gifts, (and wondering how I am going to pay for all those things that are now on my credit card!)
What does any of this really have to do with Christmas—the birth of Christ?
If you are honest, wouldn’t you just love to forget about all of the social pressures that are placed upon us by a consumer-driven society and all of the commercialism that eclipses this sacred season?  I still love A Charlie Brown Christmas because it reminds us all of this very point.
Advent is meant as a time for spiritual preparation for Christmas—four weeks of spiritual preparation!  Most of us are not even aware of this preparatory season let alone take the time to observe it.  The Christmas season doesn’t really begin until Christmas Eve.  Soon after people are already tired of Christmas and begin taking down the decorations and the tree.  The (ever-more secular) Christmas songs disappear from the radio and the Valentine’s Day displays start appearing in the stores (right behind those huge after-Christmas sales!) 
I have a suggestion for you.  Cut back on the materialism.  Don’t buy into the consumer mentality.  Buy a few less gifts. (Who needs those outrageous credit card interest rates anyway?)  Bake fewer cookies. (My bathroom scale has continually reminded me that while they may taste good, I really don’t need their residual effects hanging around my gut for prolonged periods of time!)
Rather, do something spiritual that helps to focus on Christ.  Pray a bit more. Go to confession.  Help someone unfortunate.  Visit an elderly person.  Read the Bible.  Keep Christ in Christmas.
I can’t take away the stress that often comes this time of year.  But by following my advice you may help to reduce it slightly.  (And save a few bucks as well!)
Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Dear Parishioners,

With Thanksgiving approaching, I ask that you take the time to consider and reflect on the things for which you are thankful.  Most of us will find times when we like to moan, groan and complain about many things.  However, it is a good practice to take an inventory of the things in our lives that we might take for granted or fail to fully appreciate each day.

A statement that I heard quite some time ago seems to put things into proper perspective:  “I used to complain about the shoes I wore until I met the man with no feet.”

Am I thankful for that fact that I am alive?
            Aborted babies never had that opportunity.

 Do I thank God every day for my health?
            The hospitalized and homebound might long for days without pain and the ability to get out of bed.

Do I take my faith for granted?
            There are still places in the world where people suffer and die for being a Christian.

Do I go to bed each night with a roof over my head and a full stomach?
            The homeless and those in line at the soup kitchen are probably envious.

Do I have a family with whom to spend the holidays?
            The orphan, widow or widower, soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, or person in prison might not have such good fortune.

If I can read and understand what this reflection is all about, am I truly grateful?
            The blind, the mentally ill, a person with Alzheimer’s, or simply an illiterate person might not be able to do what you are doing right now.

Need I say any more?  Please give thanks.  

I thank all my parishioners (current and former), and my family and friends for your continual, loving support.  (I apologize for any time when I failed to thank you or may have taken you for granted.)  

To me, there’s no better way to give thanks than by participating in the celebration of Mass on Thanksgiving Day.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Observations and Recommendations (So Far)

St. Patrick Church (Woodbury)

Dear Parishioners,

Some time ago, I mentioned in one of my weekly letters that I would be looking at the overall situation here at Holy Angels Parish and then get back to you with my observations.  So, what has become apparent to me in the time since I have arrived here?

First, I realize that I have had to make some personal adjustments to my style of ministry.  I was used to being very present at church each weekend.  I would be at the back of the church after most (if not all) of the Masses in Somers Point.  It was my opportunity to meet and greet the parishioners regularly.  However, I only had a single church building to go to and it was adjacent to the rectory.  Now I have three churches and a worship center being used regularly.  Having failed in any attempts at bi-location in the past, I know I just can’t be everywhere at once.  How can I possibly be at the 9 AM (National Park), 9:30 AM (Woodbury), 10 AM (Woodbury) and 10:30 AM (Westville) Masses, even if it is just to say “hello” to the people.  It’s a physical impossibility.

Then came my health issue (heart attack).  Perhaps, it is God’s subtle hint (or not-so-subtle hammer to the head) telling me to slow down and re-prioritize what I am here to do.  You are not in Kansas anymore Toto.  I can’t be present everywhere.  I need to pick and choose what a priest/pastor needs to do and allow someone else to do the other things.  Easier said than done at times!

Second, there is a need for a continual outreach to the children and young families within the parish.  From my rather high vantage point (6’6”), the backs of too many heads are greying and it is noticeable to me that the young are not present weekly in any healthy and vibrant numbers.  Minimally, the young and their families need to be evangelized or re-evangelized and helped to understand the importance of being at Mass each week.

Third, the physical plant of the parish is simply overwhelming.  With about a dozen buildings and their surrounding grounds to maintain, I am proposing the creation of a Building and Grounds Committee to assist me.  I had such a committee in some of my former parishes comprised of general contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. who volunteered as parishioners to evaluate and make a long-range plan of what needs to be done with the parish facilities.  If you are interested or know someone who may be well-suited for such a task, please contact me at the rectory.  This could conceivably remove a considerable amount of stress from my life.

Next, I propose expanding the Bereavement Committee of the parish.  Three aspects of this ministry seem very important to me when someone dies:  those who can comfort and help plan the funeral liturgy, ministers to be present at the funeral liturgy itself to greet, serve, read, etc. (as needed) and ongoing personal follow-up as time passes.  In my past parishes, some of the most effective and helpful ministers have come from those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and want to help others with their grief and loss.

The above observations and suggestions are just the beginning.  Your input, insights and suggestions are certainly welcome!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tying Up Loose Ends

Dear Parishioners,

Do you have a “to do” list?  Very often there are things in our lives that we push aside until later, when we have time.  Perhaps, there may be some issues that we just don’t want to face right now.  Putting these matters into a spiritual context, I compiled a list of some questions that we might ask ourselves to see whether or not there are some unresolved concerns in our spiritual lives:

  • Should I be taking more time to pray each day?
  • How often do I open the Bible to read and to reflect on the Sacred Scriptures?
  • Have I been meaning to get to Mass more often and on a regular basis?
  • Has it been too long since I made a sacramental confession?
  • Do I volunteer my service to my church in some capacity or do I wait for someone else to do it?
  • Do I tell the members of my family that I love them often?
  • Do I pray for my spouse and my children (or my parents)?
  • Do I take my spouse (or family) for granted?
  • Am I holding a grudge against anyone?
  • Have I forgiven someone who has hurt me or asked forgiveness from someone whom I have hurt?
  • Have I recently visited that family member or friend who is homebound or institutionalized?
  • Is there someone from my past who I have lost contact with and never taken the time to get in touch with again?
  • Have I made that donation to charity that I had intended to do?
  • If I am struggling with some issue, have I sought out professional help or someone qualified to assist me, or do I choose to go it alone?
  • If I have failed at something, have I prayed for the courage and strength to begin and to try again?

I realize that there are times in all of our lives when we may feel overwhelmed, out of control, down in the dumps or just simply tired.  Personally, I have found that when my spiritual life is in order and I minimize any unresolved spiritual issues, the other matters in my life seem to fall more into place.

Jesus gave us two great commandments:  to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Mt. 22: 36-40).  Let’s try not to complicate matters and work to keep the spiritual things in our lives in proper perspective and in right priority.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Monday, October 9, 2017

With Sincere Gratitude . . .

Dear Parishioners,

Last week I never got the chance to put my weekly message into the church bulletin.  As I shall explain, there was a very, very good reason for this.
On Tuesday morning after I ate some early breakfast, I prepared to concelebrate the 9 AM daily Mass.  However, sometime before Mass I began to experience severe chest pain.  It was as if someone were standing on my chest making it hard to breathe.  The pain shot down my left arm.  I was nauseous.  I sat on my bed at the rectory thinking that I might be having a heart attack.  I had the classic symptoms.  I popped a couple baby aspirin into my mouth and sent a text message downstairs to the parish secretary.  She immediately came upstairs to help me.

To make a long story short, 9-1-1 was called, the ambulance arrived, an EKG was taken and I was quickly on my way to the hospital.  When I arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, I was taken to the heart catherization lab.  There they discovered that two of my arteries were 100% blocked and the doctors proceeded to place three stents strategically in those arteries after they were re-opened.

It all happened so rapidly.  I was in and out of consciousness.  I remember some of the conversations going on, but not everything.

Subsequently, one of the doctors informed me that there was no major heart damage despite the blockages.  Thanks be to God!  I was back to the rectory by Thursday evening and once again concelebrated daily Mass the next day.

I am a very fortunate man.  There is a history of heart problems in my family.  My father died of a heart attack at 64Both his parents died in a similar manner in their early sixties.  One of my younger brothers had a heart attack last year at 52.  Like me, he survived it.  Need I go on?

Incidentally, I have faced my mortality several times in my life.  I almost drowned in the Atlantic Ocean twice.  I could have been killed or seriously injured in a couple of nearly-averted car accidents—one of which saw my car spin out-of-control a full 360 degrees on black ice on a two-lane highway when I was in the seminary.

Believe it or not, I try to be super cautious.  I see my doctors regularly.  I have my blood work done every three months.  My cholesterol and blood sugar are under control.  I had been losing weight, walking and exercising at the gym.  Nobody, including me, saw this coming.  Except God, of course!

I thought of one of Jesus’ parables after all of this happened:

Then [Jesus] told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12: 16-21)
Truth be told, I do not really fear death itself.  What I fear is not being right with God when I die.  How important it is to be in the state of graceWe are given many tools to assist us:  Confession, the Mass and Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Sick, etc.  Take advantage of them before it is too late!  One never knows.

Hopefully, I’ll be around for many years to come.  There is no absolute certainty, however.  All I can do is go on faithfully serving the Lord, while trusting in His merciful love.

Thank you Lord for some more time!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(PS, thanks for your prayers!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

“Father, I’d Like to Buy a Mass” (Masses and Mass Intentions)

Dear Parishioners,

Occasionally, someone will come into the parish office / rectory with the following request:  “Father, I’d like to buy a Mass.”

Quite frankly, I would have to respond, “Sorry, they’re not for sale.”  We are not in the business of buying or selling sacraments or spiritual things.  This is referred to as simony.  We read the following about Simon the Magician (from whom this practice gets its name) in the Acts of the Apostles:

When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money.” (Acts 8: 18-20) 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered to God, the Father.  It is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Jesus, begun at the Last Supper and completed on the Cross.  Each Mass is usually offered with both general and particular intentions.  Members of the faithful can ask to have their particular intention(s) included in a particular Mass—what is commonly referred to as an announced Mass.  The Mass is usually offered for a deceased person or for the intentions of someone still alive.  In our parish, the intention is announced in the church bulletin, at an appropriate point during the Mass itself or both.

Then there is the issue of the Mass stipends

It is the Church's constant practice, as Paul VI wrote in the Motu Proprio Firma in Traditione that "the faithful, desiring in a religious and ecclesial spirit to participate more in intimately in the Eucharistic sacrifice, add to it a form of sacrifice of their own by which they contribute in a particular way to the needs of the Church and especially to the sustenance of her ministers." (Decree on Mass Stipends, Congregation for the Clergy, Feb. 22, 1991)
Mass stipends are intended to support your priests.  At various times and in different cultures, these donations provided entirely the means of support (for the basic necessities) that a priest needed in order to live.  Today, in our society, priests receive a salary.  The stipends, however, are still regarded as an offering (donation) by which the parishioners continue to share in the sustenance of the priests.

Requesting to have a Mass offered is the greatest spiritual gift that we can give to anyone—living or deceased.  It shows our belief in the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in Jesus’ saving action.  It joins our particular intention to the greatest, most efficacious, salvific work singularly accomplished by Jesus Himself—His Passion and Death on the Cross.

I encourage you to have a Mass offered regularly for your deceased loved ones and for various special intentions for the living (especially the spiritual well-being of family members and friends).  

As pastor, I remember you in all my Masses and particularly in the pro populo Mass that I offer for you, my parishioners, weekly.

You can’t buy a gift like this!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Some Thoughts on Catholic Funerals

Dear Parishioners,

Catholic parishes generally have their fair number of funerals each year.  The priests are acutely aware of our need to help comfort families and to provide the necessary spiritual guidance at this most difficult time.

There are a few trends in society, however, that seem to be all too frequent today and I think they 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 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.  We also can receive the Body and Blood of Jesus to strengthen us.

Sometimes those who are not familiar with the proper Catholic protocol might encourage having just 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 specifically stated in the funeral ritual that “there is never to be a eulogy” during the funeral Mass (Order of Christian Funerals, General Introduction #27).  Over time this practice has found its way into our liturgies and 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 recommended place for such a eulogy is either at the funeral home, graveside (weather permitting) or at the meal usually served after the funeral.  (At a family’s request, I have reluctantly permitted someone to say a few words prior to Mass so that it was not actually part of the liturgy itself.)    

Personally, I have had some bad experiences with eulogies over the years.  These range from a minister of another denomination beginning to “preach” at the funeral Mass and to contradict Catholic teaching; to people being so emotionally distraught that they could not finish what they wanted to say; to someone using biblical references to Jesus Christ and applying them directly to the deceased person.  The bishops, priests or deacons are the only ones “ordained” to speak on behalf of the Church from the pulpit.  We have a duty to bring people to Christ and to worship and adore Him.  The liturgy in not about “praising” and “canonizing” the deceased no matter how good the person was.

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 and 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)

Bishop Sullivan reminded me at my installation Mass of my role as the “chief teacher” of the parish.  I hope that I am being faithful to this task and pastorally sensitive as well.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Ongoing Search for God

Abbey of the Genesee

Dear Parishioners,

I thought that some things would never change.  I am pretty sure that since I have been making a retreat with the Trappist Monks at the Abbey of the Genesee (beginning in 1979), the initial daily prayers (Vigils) began at 2:25 AM.  This past summer, the schedule of prayer changed!  We now begin at 3:30 AMWow!  An extra hour of sleep!  I am still in shock!  Everyone who is relatively sane, however, is probably still in bed comfortably rolling over.

Yes, it is now the middle of the night on my first day of retreat.  I am preparing to join the monks for their initial office of daily prayer, now beginning at 3:30 AM.  People elsewhere have just gotten into bed or have recently fallen asleep at this hour.  Most of the college students down the road at SUNY Geneseo are probably still frolicking out and about as are many of the nocturnal creatures that lurk throughout various college and university campuses. 

Not the monks, however.  They are just starting their day at the monastery.  Pretty early for most of us?  Absolutely!  Yet, they do this each and every day as a matter of routine--freely chosen routine.  Not only are we encouraged to get up early to pray with the monks, but the retreat I am on is silent.  No frivolous talking or conversations are allowed.  No TV or radio in the retreat house.  Obviously, I brought my laptop so that I could write a few reflections such as this throughout the week.  Finding a Wi-Fi connection to post them to the internet is another story.  (Thank God I learned how to set up a mobile hotspot through my phone.)

Granted, the monastic life is certainly not for everyone.  However, it can teach us many valuable lessons.  The monks' radical lifestyle is a profound witness to something beyond this world.  They search for God in silence.  Their serious, intense, deliberate prayer reminds me of how little time I actually give to prayer each day.  Material things that I/we may cling to are just not that important here.  A basic white habit with a black scapular and belt on top of some work clothes is pretty much the norm.  No fashion statement.  Prayer, work, reading, study, self-denial, a personal relationship with God, are apparently what matters.  Simplicity to the extreme.  My room has a chair, desk and bed.  Showers are down the hall.  Certainly not some luxury hotel or spa.  Pope Francis would be proud.

I have found that the spiritual life is filled with paradoxes and mysteries.  Why would anyone deny oneself?  Why give up having a family and home?  Why pick up the cross and be a disciple?  Why bother? 

. . . To learn to love deeply, to open the heart for God, to find peace and joy, to answer the call to discipleship, to know and love Jesus . . . .

My past experiences at the monastery have been some of the most profound, life-changing, rejuvenating times throughout my life.  I keep coming back, since I was 19 years old.  The monks are getting older, as am I.  Some faces change.  Much remains the same.  The abbey chapel was renovated not too long ago and is brighter and more inviting.

What God has in store for me this visit is beyond my limited knowledge or foresight.  Yet, I keep searching.  I keep getting up very early in the middle of the night.  I keep following that mysterious "call" that has led me here once again to seek the Lord in monastic solitude.  Come. Lord Jesus!  Please pray for me.  

Fr. Ed Namiotka

PS, You are remembered in my thoughts, prayers and Masses!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Dunkirk and Harvey

Dunkirk Evacuation

Dear Parishioners,

This past summer I saw the movie Dunkirk at the theater.  It was a moving story about Allied troops being rescued as both the military and civilians cooperated in a remarkable rescue attempt.  Here’s a synopsis of the movie:
In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated. (IMDb)
It struck me how the teamwork of civilians and the military led to an otherwise improbable great rescue.

Recently, we watched as Hurricane Harvey drenched areas of Texas and the Gulf coast reminding me of the account of Noah and the great flood.  Again, the cooperation of neighbor helping neighbor and civilians working with federal and state government agencies and the military, helped to save so many people who were caught off guard.  People came from different parts of the country.  There were police, fire-fighters, EMT’s, swift water rescue teams, the American Red Cross, Animal Rescue Corps, the Cajun Navy, FEMA, the US Coast Guard, and many, many volunteers and organizations working hand in hand.  Rescuers employed jet skis, monster trucks, helicopters, military vehicles and boats of every size.  People responded with donations of food, water, clothing, blankets, pillows and money.  Strangers came together and cooperated.  They helped one another.

At various times of tragedy, the best in human nature often becomes more apparent.  Despite the disaster, people seem to rise to the occasion.  I saw this after 9-11, Katrina and Sandy, and now Harvey.  People came together to help one another, to sustain one another.  Good surfaced despite the evil or tragic cause.

We all need to take a lesson from the selfless behavior of so many of the rescuers.  Their sacrifices and willingness to serve others—knowingly or unknowingly—follows the example of Christ (and his sacrificial death on the cross).  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) Rescuers were willing to give of themselves, even risking death, for the benefit of others.  Their valiant efforts saved many, many lives.

For Jesus’ disciples, His death on the cross seemed a tragedy and disaster.  It was not fair.  How could this happen?  However, what took place on the cross, what seems to be death, defeat and loss, was transformed into something life-giving and salvific.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Goodness ultimately triumphed through and despite apparent tragedy.

I am sure there will be many other tragedies and disasters—natural and man-made—we will have to face in our lifetime.  Yet, I am confident that when people come together and cooperate, when we are willing to give of ourselves for the sake of others, when we are more Christ-like, no catastrophe will have the final word.

Pray for the victims of Harvey and other natural disasters in our country and throughout the world.  Pray that the best of human nature will always rise to the occasion.  Our future civilization truly depends on it.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

A rescue from Hurricane Harvey       

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Promoting Our Catholic School

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.  As pastor of St. Joseph Church, Somers Point, we had one of the largest elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden—just shy of 500 students.

Now I am here at Holy Angels Parish witnessing and facilitating the opening of Holy Angels Catholic School in Woodbury.

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.

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 during the year 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 Holy Angels 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 Holy Angels Catholic School and all our Catholic schools.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting More Out of the Mass

Dear Parishioners,

In general, Mass attendance these days is far from stellar.  In our area, calculations seem to be that approximately twenty-five percent of our registered parishioners attend Mass on the average weekend.  Some of the sad comments that have resonated over the years include:  I don't get anything out of the Mass, Mass is boring, or I'm / we're just too busy.  As pastor, I can simply bewail and lament the situation or I can offer some suggestions to help people appreciate the wonderful gift that we have in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Here are some of my thoughts:
  1. Mass is a ritual and an act of worship.  Its general pattern does not change.  There is a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist each and every time.  Knowing this, it is important I understand that Mass is not meant to be entertainment--like watching a show or performance--but worship.  Today's liturgy involves the active participation of the congregation:  voicing the responses, singing, listening attentively, praying, making various gestures and movements, etc.  Just being present (punching my time card) is not the same as active participation.  An act of the will is involved in which I choose (actively) to worship the Living God. 
  2. Not every Mass will appear earth-shattering or every homily be super interesting.  Ritual, by its nature, can become somewhat routine.  While some things do change in the Mass like the color of vestments, the hymns, the readings, the prayers, etc., the general pattern does not.  For a greater awareness and appreciation of the beauty of the Mass, the participant needs to delve more deeply into its rich mystery with all of its symbolism and subtleties.  Read a book, take a class, watch a video, or listen to a CD explaining just what is happening during each and every Mass.  This should help enhance one's appreciation of what occurs at Mass.  Moreover, homilists vary in oratory skills, intelligence, and preparedness.  While not every homily will necessarily motivate or impress an individual, one or another might provide particularly good insight and inspiration.  Some homilies might actually be life-changing.  However, when a person is not present to hear them (does not come to Mass), the possibility of being edified or inspired by them might not even exist.
  3. Reception of the Holy Eucharist and Mass attendance need to be clearly distinguished.  Catholics are required to attend Mass each week and on Holy Days of Obligation.  This responsibility has not changed in our time, although it is noticeably disregarded.  It doesn't matter what the subjective state of the person is--sinner or saint.  For example, a person unable to receive Holy Communion (for whatever reason) is nonetheless still required to attend Mass.  Reception of Holy Communion is not a requirement for attending Mass.  One needs to be in the state of grace (not conscious of any grave sin) in order to worthily receive Holy Communion. Otherwise, the person first needs to seek out the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession).  However, anyone unable to receive Holy Communion can and should make a Spiritual Communion instead while realizing that Christ is also present at Mass through the Sacred Scriptures, in the person of the priest and where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name (the Church or Mystical Body of Christ).  The essential point here is that all Catholics need to attend Mass weekly.
  4. Preparation for Mass and reflection on the Scripture readings can help enhance the experience.  Reading the Scriptures for Mass ahead of time is a valuable way to benefit more fully from them.  What is God saying to me?  As a priest preparing my Sunday homily, I often begin right after the weekend Masses to reflect on the Sacred Scriptures for the following week.  Taking the time to pray ahead of time (instead of rushing in late or at the very last minute) also can put one into the right frame of mind.  Moreover, the motivational Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly suggests keeping a Mass journal with personal reflections from the Sunday readings.  This practice can help one to become a better listener and more reflective.  The Mass readings can be found online and in various monthly publications which often include prayers and reflections on the Scriptures.
  5. Volunteer your services.  Becoming a reader, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, altar server, usher or choir member are various ways for a person to get more actively involved at Mass.  From my youngest days as an altar server, I preferred serving at the altar to sitting in the pew.

I have personally found that when I give God time in prayer and worship as I am supposed to do, I inevitably find the necessary time that I need to accomplish the many duties I have.  However, when I begin to cut corners or make my prayer and worship a lesser priority, my days often become more chaotic and burdensome.  

Perhaps there is a connection here?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Assumption: Our Upcoming Holy Day

Dear Parishioners,

With the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary coming up on August 15th, I thought that this article might be helpful.  

A question is frequently asked: “Why do we have to attend Mass some years on a particular holy day, and on other years there is no obligation to attend Mass?”

Holy Days of Obligation often generate confusion and need clarification. In the universal Catholic Church, there are ten of these days. However, each individual country is allowed--through its conference of bishops (the U.S.C.C.B. in America)--to decide which days are to be observed and how they are to be observed.

Back in 1991 in the USA, the conference of bishops chose to move the observation of some of these Holy Days to Sunday (such as Corpus Christi, and the Epiphany). Still, six are retained on their actual calendar dates:
·         January 1--The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
·         Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter (40 days after Easter)--The Ascension of Our Lord (Ascension Thursday)
·         August 15--The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
·         November 1--All Saints Day
·         December 8--The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
·         December 25—Christmas

What is perhaps one of the most confusing aspects for almost everyone is the question: “Why are we obliged to attend Mass some years and not others?” Basically, when the Holy Days fall on a Saturday or a Monday—being so close to Sunday—the bishops of the USA removed the obligation to attend Mass on those days. This is true except for the Immaculate Conception (the Patroness of the USA) and Christmas. We observe these days no matter when they occur.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, I want to make a few important points for you to consider. First, if the universal Catholic Church has considered these days holy, then they deserve our attention, consideration and observance no matter when they occur (or whether we are required to attend Mass).  Second, I hate to see people become so legalistic that we are constantly looking to observe the absolute, bare minimum that we could possibly do for God. We should develop an attitude of generosity toward God and not an attitude resembling something like a minimum daily requirement. What if God had that type of attitude toward us?  Finally, these holy days should be a reminder for us to try to bring the sacred into our daily routine.

There are so many things that can distract us from God in the world today. Recalling and observing these sacred days and the events that they represent are a good way for us to Christianize our lives, family and world. I hope to see you in Church at Mass on these days because you want to be there, not because you sometimes are obliged to do so.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Recharging My Battery (Once Again)

Sunset at the beach on vacation

Dear Parishioners,

Some people may find it hard to believe—since I have to do it practically everyday of my life now—but one of the greatest fears in my life was speaking in public.  When I initially contemplated a priestly vocation, I actually thought that it would be great being a priest—just as long as I didn’t have to say anything publicly.  I know that this particular fear exists for many people.  I have worked to overcome my anxiety over the years, with God’s grace.

That being said, I still very much like being quiet and alone at times.  Whether in my room, driving in my car, praying in church, or walking along the beach, I like my quiet time.  Basically, I am an introvert.  This means that usually I get re-energized when I am alone.  It’s not that I don’t like being around people or haven’t been able to develop the necessary interpersonal skills required as a priest.  Extroverts get recharged being around people.  I am just the opposite.

I think that knowing who I am and trying to understand myself, helps me to comprehend some of the decisions that I make. Why do I gravitate towards a silent, monastic retreat?  Why do I find so much solace praying quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament?  Why do I usually vacation in places where I can find quiet and peace of mind?  (Why am I writing this to you from one of those quiet places now?)

I am on a brief vacation right now recharging my battery.  (Although I recently arrived at the parish, my vacation had been arranged well before I would be assigned to Woodbury.)  I like the beach—having grown up at the Jersey shore in Wildwood—and so I frequently spend time near an ocean or shore.  For a brief time, I will be alone (with God, of course!).  I have already met up with a few friends who usually vacation when I do so that I am not completely by myself.  My ultimate goal is to be refreshed and renewed when I return to the parish.  I have time to pray (especially the Mass as I bring my travelling Mass-kit with me), to read, to write, to exercise and just to relax.

Reflecting on Jesus’ life, He too was found at various places—by the sea (Mt. 4:18), in the wilderness (Lk. 5: 16), up the mountain (Mk. 6: 45-46, Lk. 6: 12), in the garden (Lk. 22: 39-46)—where He could pray, reflect and be alone.  I suspect He knew best how to find the necessary quiet time after days of preaching, teaching and active ministry.

I usually find that it does me a world of good to withdraw from the daily routine for some extended time and to find a corner of the world where I can recharge my inner battery.  Besides, the parish staff (wherever I've been) usually agrees that I am much more pleasant and easier to work with after some time away!  Just think of how good this vacation time is for them!

See you in another week!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Getting ready to celebrate a private Mass

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Seeing things with a New Set of Eyes (Mine!)

Dear Parishioners,

As a high school administrator for about two decades, I would instruct my fellow administrators to enter the school building each day with a “new set of eyes.”  I would try to do this myself as part of a morning ritual.  I looked around the school and asked myself various questions:  What did I observe today?  Is there anything that I had become so familiar with that I almost overlooked it or took it for granted?  Who was there?  What were they doing?  What was my overall impression?  What did I see?

For the next weeks and perhaps months, I will be going through my observation ritual at the Sunday and daily Masses at Holy Angels Parish.

First, I will certainly formulate some initial impressions at the weekend Masses as I begin looking around:  Do people actively participate?  What are the crowds like?  How is the music and singing?  Are people friendly towards one another?  Do people leave early?  Are there many families and children?  Can the priest and the readers be heard?

Similarly, I am sure that you will be observing me (and the two other new priests assigned to the parish):  How long is the homily?  Is it interesting?  Can he sing?  Is he friendly?  Can I understand him?  Is he reverent?

In between unpacking, becoming familiar with the staff and parishioners, checking out all the buildings and facilities, preparing for the relocation of the elementary school, and many other routine duties, I will certainly need some time to pray.  It is prayer that will sustain me/us.  Personally, I find that when my prayer life is in order, the rest of my life seems to flow more smoothly.  Pressures will inevitably be there, but prayer helps to make things more bearable.

Do you notice how we pray for Pope Francis and Bishop Dennis Sullivan at every Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer?  The many responsibilities that they hold certainly deserve a regular remembrance in our prayers.  Similarly, could you remember to say a prayer or two for your new pastor and the priests/deacons of our parish on a regular basis?  We need and depend on your prayers as well!  Know that you will be remembered in my Masses and when I pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) each day.

As time passes, my hope is that this parish will grow in deeper holiness together with your priests.  This can only happen if we pray for each other, support each other, and be willing to reach out and help each other.

I realize that some of our parishioners may be on vacation during the summer.  I will also be taking some vacation time later this month as has been my custom.  However, when things return to more of a routine in the Fall, I anticipate observing and learning the rhythm and personality of this parish.

In the meantime, know that I will be looking around—continually.  I’ll let you know later what I see!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Nothing like the "deer in the headlights" look!