Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The 2018 "House of Charity" Appeal: Walk With Me

Dear Parishioners,

It is once again that time of year when our bishop, as spiritual leader of the Diocese of Camden, makes an appeal for our help with the various ministries and programs of the diocese.  The operation of a diocese is very much like the operation of a parish, only on a much larger scale.  Essentially, we—as a parish or as a diocese—can only do the things that our financial means allow.  We depend on the generosity of our parishioners to support both.

The House of Charity-Bishop's Annual Appeal has been made in the Diocese of Camden since 1964—for 54 years now!  So it should come as no surprise to any of us.  Since we know that this appeal will be made annually, I ask that each of our parishioners/families prepares or budgets for it.  Again, it should come as no surprise, like an emergency collection would be after some natural disaster.

There are those among us whose financial means allow them to make a most generous gift.  I am extremely grateful for what they can do.  However, so many of our financial resources often come from the sacrificial giving of the average parishioner or family.  Remember the story of the widow’s mite (See Mk. 12:41-44 or Lk. 21:1-4)— the two small copper coins—from the Gospels?  Jesus praised her sacrificial giving even though it seemed minuscule in the eyes of many. 

Let me break this situation down a bit.  If I put aside less than $20.00 per month, I could easily make a $200.00 contribution annually.  Many of us probably could do substantially more, if it were truly sacrificial giving.  The average gift within the diocese last year was about $365.00.

This weekend (February 3-4) we will show the 2018 House of Charity video at Mass, followed by an “in pew” solicitation.  Please help us as a parish and as a diocese with this appeal.  You can make an outright gift or make a pledge which can be completed over time.  We ask you please to act this weekend if possible to save us time and money by having to send out additional letters or to make additional follow-up phone calls.  Please think and pray about this appeal and I request that you make your decision and commitment as soon as possible.

There is a saying that all politics is local.  Remember, when we reach this year’s goal, we will receive 10% of what is collected for use back here in our parish.  Additionally, 75% of all funds received above our parish goal is returned to our parish.  This year's parish goal at Holy Angels is $170,456.49.

So, on behalf of our diocese and our bishop, I humbly ask for your assistance with this appeal.  As my parishioners, I hope you realize that I infrequently ask for money.  I am generally uncomfortable with this task.  However, there are many who will undoubtedly benefit from our financial gifts and sacrifices and I appeal to your generosity on their behalf.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Catholic Schools Week!

Dear Parishioners,
We begin our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week (January 28-February 3, 2018)

We are happy to announce that Bishop Dennis Sullivan will celebrate Mass for the school children during this week! 
I write here to share with you my belief in the importance and value of our Catholic Schools. Although this letter is addressed to all parishioners, I particularly hope that those of you who are parents of school-aged children might rethink the possibility of a Catholic school for your children.  I admit that I write with a certain bias towards a Catholic school education having attended Catholic schools for over 21 years (from kindergarten through seminary and graduate school.)  Subsequently, I had been a teacher and/or administrator in Catholic schools for 20 additional years.  I value each of these 40+ years and hope to have many more working for and with Catholic Schools.    
What does a Catholic school have to offer?  The simple answer is the integration of faith, morals and the love of Jesus Christ as part of the life of the school.  If this is not the top priority of any particular Catholic school, then I will be the first in line to see it close.  Catholic schools need to be more than just academically sound but also truly CatholicOur faith is that important!
On the elementary level, the administration, teachers and staff of Holy Angels School are working very hard to accomplish this task.  Together with strong parental support the school is an extended family.  I have witnessed the school community living out its faith, constantly improving its academic curriculum and developing new programs while it is experiencing a renewed, strong interest by many families in our area.  I am very proud to be the Pastor and partner of this wonderful, truly Catholic school. 
We are also fortunate to have numerous diocesan and private Catholic high schools in our proximity:  Gloucester Catholic, Camden Catholic, Paul VI, and Bishop Eustace.
Over the years I have found that not everyone's needs can always be met in a Catholic school.  I also realize that no Catholic school is perfect because they are made up of imperfect human beings.  Yet, if the students are supported by loving parents who practice their faith and those students try to live out the teachings of their faith as articulated every day in the classroom, then I think that Catholic school graduates are as well-prepared as anyone to face the challenges, trials and tribulations that life may present.  I encourage families who have not seriously considered a Catholic school to pray about it, make an appointment to visit or attend an open-house and see if a Catholic school may be the right fit for your child(ren).  

Yes, the added expense of tuition is difficult.  (Limited tuition assistance may be available for needy families.)  Yet, isn’t sacrifice usually a necessary part of obtaining something truly valuable?  There is no better short or long term investment you can make than in the education and spiritual formation of your children.  
My thanks to those parents who currently make the sacrifice to send your children to a Catholic school and to those who take the time to consider one!

Fr. Ed Namiotka    

But It’s Just So Ordinary!

Dear Parishioners,

We are back to the time of the Church year that is known as Ordinary Time.  Sounds so boring to our fast-paced society, doesn’t it?  Many people seek the spectacular (entertainment), the exciting (vacations, travel), that which stands out and draws attention to ourselves (hair styles, fashion, tattoos, piercings), anything not quite so mundane.

But when we get right down to it, much of our day and our lives involves a basic routine:  get up, brush the teeth, shower, have a cup of coffee, go to work, eat three (or more) meals during the day, sleep, etc., etc.  Repeat daily.  Repeat weekly.  Repeat monthly.  Repeat annually.

In the course of this routine, is there time set aside for God?  Where in the daily or weekly schedule is there time for prayer, spiritual growth and the other-worldly—time for God?  Ordinary time in the Church is a good reminder for us that not every time or season is special (like Advent/Christmas or Lent/Easter) but can be simply ordinary.  And it is often in the ordinary things of life that we can find God. 

Recall the passage from the Scriptures:

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
"Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by."
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD--
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake--
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire--
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
(1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a)

God was not in the heavy wind, the earthquake or the fire—the spectacular, the exciting or the extraordinary.  He was, however, found in the ordinary—the tiny whispering sound.

God’s presence may be discovered regularly in a child’s smile, in the beauty of nature, in a simple act of kindness or in the depths of our hearts.  He is found in a married couple’s love, in those who care for the sick or suffering, or in those willing to forgive after being wronged. 

For believers, we find Jesus, the Son of God in an ordinary piece of bread and some wine consecrated into His Body and Blood.  He is found where two or three ordinary people gather in His Name in prayer.  He is present in the Sacraments, in the Sacred Scriptures, in His Mystical Body—the Church, and in the Ordained Priest acting in His Person.

Even though things in this world may be ordinary, it doesn’t mean that God can’t use them or reveal his presence through them.  Nothing ordinary about that!

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Green Vestments (worn during Ordinay Time)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Epiphany

Dear Parishioners,

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

As far as I can remember, this popular carol, referring to the three kings from the East, has been sung annually during the Christmas season.  The carol itself was written in the 19th century by the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr., an Episcopalian clergyman.  Popular folklore has grown over the years regarding them, although the Sacred Scriptures dedicates only twelve verses to them in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 2: 1-12).

First of all they are called magi in the bible—not kings.  Speculation has it that they were astrologers, although the term itself sometimes refers to a magician or a Zoroastrian priest.  In any case, they were observing a star in their pursuit of the newborn King of the Jews.  There is no mention that there are actually three of them, but the number of gifts seems to lead people to draw that conclusion.

With time the magi have been given names—Caspar (Kaspar), Melchior and Balthazar—although there is no biblical basis for this either.  We are told that they brought three special gifts to the Christ Child—each seemingly with a unique significance:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  While there are varied interpretations of the meaning of these gifts,  gold is usually seen as a royal tribute paid to a king, frankincense as a sign of divinity and myrrh as an embalming oil as a symbol of death or, perhaps, healing.

What is the spiritual significance of this event known as the Epiphany?  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation.  The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.  Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 528)

Marking above the door in the year 2010

In Spain, the Philippines and various other countries throughout the Spanish-speaking world, various traditions have sprung up surrounding the Three Kings with forms of gift-giving attached.  In a European tradition, the initials of the king’s names are marked in chalk above the doors of homes (for example,  C+M+B or K+M+B) as a blessing for the New Year.  Other cultures celebrate the kings with a special ring cake concealing a figure of the baby Jesus inside.

No matter what traditions surround the celebration of the Epiphany, we need to always remember that Jesus Christ is King!

O come let us adore Him!

Fr. Ed Namiotka