Friday, June 29, 2018

Being "Catholic" and "American"



Dear Parishioners,

As a nation, we celebrate our Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July.  I think it is important to consider a few things as Roman Catholic citizens privileged to live in this country.

First, we have the freedom and the right to practice our Catholic faith.  We acknowledge that we are “One Nation, Under God” in our pledge of allegiance.  “In God We Trust” is printed on our currency.  While it is not specified who that God is, our nation has conceded a dependence on a Higher Power greater than all of us.  As Catholic Christians, we see this through the prism of our faith in Jesus Christ.  He revealed to us most fully who God is.  Our Bill of Rights (First Amendment) says clearly that congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.  Every time we walk into a church, go to Mass, attend a baptism, witness a church wedding, etc. we should be thankful for the wisdom of our founding fathers.
          
Second, we have the right to speak freely when we disagree with government policies or laws.  However, this must be done civilly and respectfully.  Inciting violence, spewing hatred, exhibiting bigotry, and being anything other than Christ-like is simply far removed from the teaching and example of Jesus.  Could Jesus be critical of authority?  Absolutely!  Consider how he called out the Pharisees, elders and religious leaders as a brood of vipers (Mt. 12: 34), whitewashed tombs and hypocrites (Mt. 23: 27).  His words could be piercing and could foment resentment and even hatred by his opponents.  His cleansing of the temple (Jn. 2: 14-22) shows how he could be passionate and forceful in what he said and did.  Yet, ultimately, he submitted to civil and religious authority even as it culminated in torture and death on a cross.

Should we, as Catholics, speak up against the atrocity of legalized abortion, condemn racism and discrimination, denounce sexual abuse, and decry all forms of injustice and evil in our society?  Unequivocally, yes and without the fear of reprisal from our government.  Again, the First Amendment protects us here.
         
Third, while we do not live in a theocracy, our Catholic faith can and should have an influence on public policy.  Our First Amendment does not establish any one religion as the acceptable or correct one.  God is not our king.  We have an elected president and elected government officials.  However, as Catholics we have as much of a right as anyone else to try to influence and shape public opinion and policy.  Are we a Christian nation?  Technically, we are not.  This does not mean that we should not be willing to be that light of the world (Mt. 5: 14) as Christians were within the Roman Empire or within other government systems throughout history.
      
I have said many times that I am not committed to any political party.  This is because I hold that my soul belongs to Jesus Christ alone and not to any political party.  At times, I have disagreed with both major parties on issues.  Most likely, I will continue to do so.

Rather, I strive, imperfectly, for holiness of life.  My goal is eternal life.  As a Roman Catholic, I am very proud to live in this country and to be an American.  

However, I try not to forget this important thought from St. Paul:  Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3: 20)

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Priestly Triage



Dear Parishioners,

Sometimes when I describe my life as a priest to others, I explain that I often feel like I am doing constant triage.  Those of you who work at the hospital or in the medical profession probably understand this best.  I attempt to prioritize the many concerns in front of me and then take on the most urgent tasks first.  Is someone seriously ill or dying?  Who needs my time and attention the most?  What are the things that only a priest can do—is ordained to do?  Pope Francis mentioned something similar in a few of his messages: The church seems like a field hospital, where the first order of the day is heal the wounds, not measure people's cholesterol.  I couldn’t agree more.

There are so many important, urgent matters that the church needs to face these days.  I think firstly of the need to help bring people to God—to let all people see the love that Jesus Christ has for them

In days gone by there might have been plenty for a priest to do by simply remaining at the rectory or in the office waiting for someone to drop by, seeking his assistance.  Today, more than ever, I think the priest needs to go among his people, to seek out and to bring back those lost sheep that have strayed.  Maybe this will involve visiting a home or family.  Maybe a matter will be discussed over breakfast or dinner.  To the consternation of some, I have never really been the type of person who simply remains in an office, at a desk all day.  I tend to be on the go, out and about quite frequently.  I realize that this might be frustrating for people who come to see me, who expect a call to be returned immediately or who are looking to obtain an instant answer from me.  Sorry.

What do I see as those important matters where a priest needs to be spending his time?  First, only a priest can celebrate Mass and offer this most perfect sacrifice to God.  From the Mass we receive the Most Holy Eucharist, hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached, and worship as the Body of Christ—the Church.  Second, only a priest—in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation—has the privilege to forgive sins in the name of Jesus.  In my estimation, time spent hearing confessions is time well-spent.  Again, only a priest can anoint the sick and dying in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.   A priest should be called when someone is elderly, seriously ill, in danger of death, in the hospital, preparing for major surgery, etc.   

From my experience in the confessional and in various other circumstances, I have found that some of the most urgent needs of parishioners include the need to regularize marriages, the ongoing desire for healing and forgiveness in people’s lives, various addictions affecting people and their far-reaching impact, the increasing lack of knowledge, understanding and practice of the Catholic faith, and a general disconnect with many of the teaching of the Church.   

I pray each day that God helps me to be an instrument of His Grace, His forgiveness and His healing.  A priest needs to be Christ’s visible presence for others in the world.  Imperfectly and unworthily, I attempt to carry this out daily.    

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Pastor


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Parish Update (June, 2018)




Dear Parishioners.

It’s hard to believe but it is almost a year since I was appointed pastor of Holy Angels Parish.  I feel compelled to thank you for your warm welcome to me and for the patience you have shown me during this first year.  (Admittedly, I had some complicating factors earlier with my heart attack and subsequent recovery.)

Now for some important parish news.  This past Thursday we made settlement on an office building at 81 Cooper Street, Woodbury.  The building was for sale for some time now.  With the approval of our parish finance council, the diocesan board of consultors and the permission of the bishop, it was purchased by the parish.  The intended future use of the building is as a consolidated parish office building.  The plans include various offices for the secretaries, bookkeeper, priests, deacons, religious education, and others housed under one roof.  The building itself is ready to undergo some cosmetic improvements as well a cleaning and “sprucing up” prior to our occupying it.

When the building was considered for purchase, the determining factors included its spaciousness, and its proximity to our church parking lot (next door), church (across the street), and rectory (diagonally across the street).  Currently, the parish priests and the deacons do not have sufficient offices from which to work.  Additionally, the priests literally live over the shop providing limited privacy during most of the day. This, and other issues, should be resolved with the proposed movement and consolidation.

If you pass the former Most Holy Redeemer property on Delsea Drive (Rt. 47), you can see the “for sale” signs present.  In fact, we are currently negotiating the terms of sale for all four of the buildings and the property at that location.  When the particulars are finalized, I will notify you in more detail.

At the mandate of the diocesan board of consultors, we are investigating and developing plans for our ministry center (former convent).  All possibilities are being considered while determining the current condition of the building, its suitability for future use, cost factors, etc.

When I began as pastor, I was made aware of eleven major buildings plus various other structures (garages, sheds, etc.) that the parish owned.  With the proposed sale and purchase, the number will become eight.  This will reduce the utilities, upkeep, insurance and other costs to the parish.  It should also make a dent in the current parish debt which is approximately $2.5 million.

Finally, I make you aware that we will begin our Catholic Strong campaign in the fall.  Most parishes are already conducting this campaign (supported by our diocese).  The bottom line is that it is a financial drive to fortify each parish on various levels—especially in its ministries.  An unprecedented 70% of the money raised stays in the parish with 30% supporting the diocese.  More details will be forthcoming over the summer months.

As pastor, the spiritual well-being of you, my parishioners, is my primary concern.  However, my responsibilities go far beyond, involving many fiscal matters.  Please pray for me.  I am truly grateful for your support at all levels.

Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor



Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Harvest is Abundant . . .



Dear Parishioners,

Hopefully you are aware that Bishop Dennis Sullivan ordained two priests this weekend for service in our diocese:  Fr. Anthony Infanti and Fr. Joshua Nevitt.  Congratulations to them both!  It is nice to see two more (YOUNGER) members of our diocesan clergy.

For some time now, more priests die and retire each year than we see ordained for our diocese.  Next year, regrettably, there are no scheduled priesthood ordinations.  The Diocese of Camden was blessed for many years to have a fairly large number of priests to supply the needs of the people.  Many rectories had two or more priests living in them.  Things, however, have changed regarding the number of active priests.  Fortunately, many retired priests in our diocese continue to supply some of our needs—especially Mass on the weekends.

Various Gospels (e.g., Luke 10: 1-12. 17-20 and Mt. 9: 32-38) contain the words of Jesus:  The harvest is abundant, but laborers are few. . . .  He tells us to askto pray—to the master of the harvest for workers.  Do we?  Everyday?  Do we pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our own families?

I have heard it suggested to me on numerous occasions what the church needs is married priests or women priests.  I know a married Orthodox priest who once told me, “Don’t let them tell you that married priests is the solution to the vocation crisis.  Our priests can marry, and we still have a shortage.”  Protestant ministers, who are usually married, tell me much of the same.  They still see a decline in clergy (as well as church attendance).  By the way, the option of women priests in the Roman Catholic Church was officially closed by St. John Paul II when he wrote the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and stated:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

For me, the crux of the problem is multi-faceted.  Our society does not revolve around God or the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith is minimized or seen as irrelevant.  Many, if not most, Catholic families do not go to Mass each week, if they indeed go at all.  Our cultural values teach the young to be successful and wealthy, but not necessary to do what God wants you to do.  Priests, at times, have been ostracized (dare I say demonized?) and are seen as “suspect” by the media and others for the horrible and most-regrettable sins of a few.  The moral authority of the Church is undermined, mocked and seen as extraneous to daily life.  People are no longer taught or are willing to make sacrifices in life, as evidenced by a lack of those responding to a priestly or religious vocation (and even to the many demands required by married life).

I give tremendous credit to those men and women who answer the “call” today and attempt to follow the Lord’s invitation to be a priest, sister, deacon or religious.  The world needs them now more than ever to be bold, counter-cultural disciples in a world of confusion, doubt and even hatred towards all things Christian.   

The rest of us must continue to pray most fervently.


Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor 



Fr. Anthony Infanti


Fr. Joshua Nevitt
    

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I Place my Trust in Thee


Dear Parishioners,
June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  For fourteen years of my life I had worked at a high school named for Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.  The motto of the school is: Fac Cor Nostrum Secundum Cor Tuum.  (The translation of the Latin is:  Make our hearts like unto Thine or Make our hearts like Your Heart.)
The image of the Sacred Heart centers on a devotion to Jesus’ physical heart as representing His Divine Love for all humanity.  The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light.  It is bleeding, pierced by the lance-wound, surrounded by a crown of thorns, and surmounted by a cross.  The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire represents the transformative power of Christ’s love.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque is associated with the devotion to the Sacred Heart.  She entered the Visitation Convent in 1671 and six years later Christ appeared to her in a vision in which she said:  "I could plainly see His heart, pierced and bleeding, yet there were flames, too, coming from it and a crown of thorns around it.  He told me to behold His heart which so loved humanity.  Then He seemed to take my very heart from me and place it there in His heart.  In return He gave me back part of His flaming heart."
In all, there were four revelations, during which the now-familiar Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart were made, the last of which ("I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.") is responsible for the nine First Fridays' devotion.  Also requested by the Sacred Heart was the establishment of a feast in His honor.  We now celebrate this Feast of Sacred Heart on the first Friday after the octave of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, in addition to honoring the Sacred Heart every first Friday of the month.
Now that you have a brief history, the “heart” of the matter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) is whether or not we are becoming more Christ-like and whether our hearts reflect Christ’s love for us.
The simple prayer said daily--Make my heart like Your Heart--should remind us of the task in front of each of us.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor