Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Examining the Current Parish Situation

Dear Parishioners,

Every once in a while I think that it is a good idea to stand back and examine how things are going in the parish.  Personally, I am rarely satisfied with the status quo.  I ask myself: How can we better serve the people given the current resources (financial and personnel) that we have?  Are we properly planning for the future?  How do we reach out to the inactive and disengaged Catholics in our area?  What are we missing?

Specifically as your pastor, I ask you, our parishioners: are your sacramental needs being met?  A priest is specifically ordained for certain ministries which only he can perform:  offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, absolving sin in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and anointing the sick and dying in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  This leads me to question:  Is the current Mass schedule satisfactory (times and frequency)?  Are there enough opportunities given for confession?  If people are serious ill, do they understand the need to reach out to the priest before an actual emergency for anointing?

  • The Mass times were established before I arrived as pastor.  Attendance, from week to week, never seems to be quite consistent.  Should the times be adjusted or are they satisfactory?
  • We currently offer the possibility for confession only on Saturdays each week.  The numbers are never too great at that time.  During Advent and Lent an additional opportunity is given after all of the Masses on a chosen weekend.  Should we make other opportunities available?
  • Holy Communion can be brought each week to any homebound parishioner desiring it by an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or a deacon.  A priest should be requested for the specific purpose of sacramental confession and anointing of the sick whether at home or in the hospital.  A Catholic hospital chaplain is assigned to all of our local hospitals by the diocese.  In what ways can we minister to the needs of our sick, homebound or dying better?

Other areas that I think need to be addressed include reaching out to inactive or fallen away Catholics.  Should we engage in some type of parish census or door-to-door evangelization effort?  This would necessarily require the help of many parishioners willing to visit their own or other neighborhoods.

Frequently, our youth participation becomes a topic of concern in the parish.  Do we have more volunteers willing to help with Children’s Liturgy, with our newly-formed youth group, with religious education classes and sacramental preparation?  [Remember that all who regularly work with youth are required by the diocese to submit to a criminal background check and must attend a NJ Child Assault Prevention (C. A. P.) program.]       

Forthcoming will be a survey about these and other topics.  However, I wanted to get people thinking ahead of time about what we can better do as a parish to meet the needs of our parishioners.  The ordained (priests and deacons) cannot be expected to be personally responsible for every aspect of any parish.  The most effective parishes have great parishioner involvement and support, realizing that there are many gifts, talents and abilities coming from the parishioners within any given parish.

If not me, then who will do it?

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Eavesdropping on a Dinner-time Conversation

Dear Parishioners,

Tired after a rather busy day in the parish, I decided to go out for dinner (by myself) to a nearby oriental restaurant.  I was seated at a table in very close proximity to a youthful couple.  We might as well have been sitting at the same table; we were so close to each other.  They appeared to be much too young to be married.  They had a bit of that twinkle in the eyes that said that they were quite interested in each other romantically.
There I was, minding my own business.  I could not but hear their entire conversation as I pretended to look at and play with my Smartphone.  They discussed various matters—most of which seemed to me like just-getting-to-know-you small talk.

Then my interest was piqued.  The young fellow informed his date:  “You know there are no U-Hauls in a funeral procession.”  Hey wait a minute!  That’s a line that I have often used!  Where did he hear this?  (I had “borrowed” the phrase from a talk I heard Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR give many years ago.)  Where was this guy going with his conversation?

He continued as I rather nonchalantly listened more intently.  “I guess life means that we try to experience as many good, happy things as we possibly can for as long as we can.  We don’t know when it is all going to end.”  I waited for some additional “wisdom” about an afterlife.  I hoped that there would be some mention of God and of a divine plan for us all.  No such luck.  This was not forthcoming.  I recalled the phrase:  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!  Is life solely about trying to experience as many good, happy things as we can before we die?

The couple came to mind later that night as I could not readily fall to sleep.  With continued restlessness and perhaps a bit of insomnia, I turned on the TV for a brief moment.  I stumbled upon a spoof of the 70’s-80’s band Kansas singing their hit song Dust in the Wind on a late-night show.  “All we are is dust in the wind . . . everything is dust in the wind.”

What was I hearing God say to me today through all of this?  Without a sense of purpose and direction given to us by our Christian faith, the meaning of life remains unknown, or becomes lost or distorted.  As Christians, we should realize that we are not merely dust in the wind but rather divinely created beings in God’s image and likeness.  Life’s main purpose is not simply to experience as many good, happy things as possible, but to try to know, love and serve a God who loved us into existence and wants us to be with Him for all eternity.  The message of the Gospel is good news for a reason.  It is meant to give us hope as we realize meaning, purpose and direction in life.  We are given the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ!

I was tempted to interject my thoughts into the couple’s dinner conversation that evening.  In the end, I resisted.  They didn’t realize that I was listening, that I was a priest and I didn’t want to give them indigestion on their date.

On the other hand, maybe I should have given them some unsolicited food for thought!

Fr. Ed Namiotka