Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Some Sacred Silence

Dear Parishioners,
Before Sunday Mass this past weekend, I hid myself in the balcony to pray my rosary before Mass.  I prefer some extended quiet time before Holy Mass begins. 

Someone told me that Pope St. John Paul II would literally spend hours in prayer preparing to celebrate Mass.  It was said that he became oblivious to his surroundings, so deep was his spiritual communication with the Lord.
I dare not compare my self to such a holy man as St. John Paul II.  However, I do see the value of and the need for the time to prepare spiritually prior to Mass.  Sometimes I may be thinking about the readings from Sacred Scripture.  Other times I may be contemplating exactly what I am going to say in the homily.  Frequently, I think about the people that I want to remember to pray for during the Mass.  Perhaps I may be finishing some prayers committed to memory.  At other times I just want to be quiet, clam and reflective.
No matter what I may be doing at the particular moment, the time prior to Mass is really important for me to focus on the sacred mysteries about to be celebrated.
So, do not be surprised that I do not seem “talkative” or “conversational” prior to Mass.  Sometimes I have walked into the sacristy in my previous parishes and the topics of conversation ranged from politics to sports to the latest gossip.  I do not think that I am wrong in saying that there is a time and a place for everything--and for me, prior to Mass is not the place for small talk.  The pandemic restrictions have somewhat curtailed this small talk prior to Mass, but not entirely.  Please realize when I am preparing myself to celebrate sacred mysteries--to re-present the events of the Last Supper and the Agony and Death of Jesus on the Cross--I am trying to focus on what I am about to do.  Nothing else is more important to me at that time.

I also think that the same quiet, reflective time needs to be honored immediately after the reception of Holy Communion.  With the rearrangement of the reception of Holy Communion after the conclusion of Mass, I worry about the practice of people taking off right out the door after receiving Holy Communion.  It seems to be so contrary to what I have been instructing people for the past decades concerning the necessity of making a proper thanksgiving after receiving Our Lord.  I deliberately take time after Holy Communion, once everything is settled, just to be quiet and to pray.  It is also important to remember that the faithful should make a Spiritual Communion, if they are unable to receive Holy Communion for some reason.
Our society is noisy enough.  A little quiet time helps us to tune in better to the spiritual things around us.  Here is something to think about:

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.  There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kg. 19: 11-13a)
So please don’t think that I am rude, anti-social, or impersonal when I simply just want to be quiet and reflective.  Perhaps someone around you may feel the exact same way.   

The Lord is often found in the silence at the depths of the heart.
Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Most Unusual Summer

Dear Parishioners,

It is hard for me to believe that we are more than halfway trough July and I have not been to the beach even once.  I am something of a beach bum since I was a young child.  Growing up in Wildwood, it was frequently to the beach in the morning/afternoon and to the boardwalk in the evening with a babysitter, while my parents operated their hotel/restaurant business.  That is, until I was old enough to work.  Then, like most of the population in this seasonal resort town, I would tackle one or two jobs to earn tuition for Catholic school and to accumulate some spending money for the rest of the year.

Throughout the course of my life I have worked various summer jobs.  Growing up in the restaurant business, I did everything from busboy, to waiter, to dishwasher, to short-order and prep cook, to cashier, to maître ‘d or host.  Then I worked for a few years as a short-order cook at the Wildwood Diner—the 7 to 3 shift (making breakfast and lunch).  I was employed as a checker (cashier) at the A&P Markets and in the deli for ShopRite.  During my seminary days, I drove a truck and did some sales for the Wildwood Paper Company.  But enough about my ancient past.  The last thirty-three years have been as an ordained Roman Catholic priest.

Once a week, I usually spend an overnight with my mom who has a condo in North Wildwood.  I check up on her, do some errands, cook a few meals, and keep her company.  During the quarantine, I went three entire months without visiting her.  Since she is now eight-six, I think it is ever-so-important to spend some precious time with her.

It is strange trying to get to know people in the parish as they are introduced to me with their face masks/coverings hiding their appearances.  Don’t people intentionally wear masks to rob banks?  It’s going to be hard for me to remember people’s faces under the current conditions and restrictions.  Please be patient!

I have felt like I was living behind the iron curtain for my first week—no internet, no TV and poor cellular service in the rectory.  I have had little contact with the outside world.  The internet and TV should be installed this week.  As for the cellular service . . . that’s another story.  I have often thought that I might like being a monk.  Maybe I need to re-think this?  I have been warned many times to be careful of what I pray for because I might get it.

I will be spending some time getting to know the life and rhythm of the parish, unpacking my stuff and finding my way in this new locality.  This part of Camden County is not as familiar to me as other parts of the Camden Diocese.

I probably echo the sentiment of many when I say that I hope things will return to some regularity or  normalcy sometime soon.  However, there is one thing that I am assured of despite the uncertainty of our times:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13: 8).

Everything else seems to be something of a crap-shoot these days.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

The North Wildwood Beach

The Wildwood Diner

Monday, July 20, 2020

From the (New) Pastor’s Desk . . .

St. Thomas More

Dear Parishioners,

Hello!  This is my first letter to you from your new pastor!
At my last parishes, I was accustomed to writing a letter for the bulletin each week.  I hope that you will not mind if I continue the practice here at St. Thomas More.

Change is usually not easy for any of us because it can cause a disruption in one’s routine, create an unfamiliar situation, and may necessitate certain adaptations.  As a priest ordained thirty years, I have had to move and change assignments quite a few times:  from National Park to Hammonton, to East Vineland, to Vineland, to Buena Borough, to Somers Point, to Woodbury and now to Cherry Hill.  In each instance, the change involved leaving certain familiar circumstances and people whom I loved and cared for, to meet new people and face new challenges.  Each experience has contributed, I hope, to making me a better person and more compassionate priest.

Let me tell you something about myself.  I was born in Philadelphia but my parents bought property in Wildwood when I was just two years old and my family subsequently moved.  I am the oldest of five children, four boys and a girl.  My father is deceased and my mother still lives at the shore.

I attended St. Ann’s School and Wildwood Catholic High School.  After high school, I entered the seminary and attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia) for college.  My next four years were spent at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.

I have spent twenty years educating high school students—six years at St. Joseph High School, Hammonton and 14 years at Sacred Heart High School, Vineland.

Typically, people have two regular questions about me.  1) What is your origin of your last name?  I am frequently told that it appears Japanese.  Then they meet me and see that I stand six feet six inches tall and hardly look Asian.  My heritage is Polish-American and my name is most easily pronounced two letters at a time:  Na-mi-ot-ka (Na-MEE-ot-ka).  2) Did you play basketball?  Yes, I played in my younger days but I was never really that good.  Unfortunately, height does not equal talent.

As I take on this new assignment I have a couple of requests of you, my parishioners.  First, please pray for me!  I will certainly need your prayers and support as I begin this new chapter of my life.  Next, please be patient as I try to learn the rhythm and personality of the parish.  Every parish is different and it takes some time for a pastor to become to become familiar with its unique character and challenges.

What I can promise you is that I will work hard, pray for you each day, take my priestly calling (vocation) very seriously and attempt to leave St. Thomas More a better place because of my being here.  With the grace and mercy of God, I hope that we will all grow in holiness together.  Throughout my life I have sought the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to help me follow whatever God’s will is for my life.  I invite you to do the same.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

(What I write each week will be posted on my web site:  www.fr-ed-namiotka.com with a link from the parish web.)

I look forward to meeting all of you over time!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Friday, July 3, 2020

Time to Say Goodbye . . . Again.

Dear Parishioners,
Unfortunately, I have come to the end of my time at Holy Angels Parish.

One of the most difficult times for me as a priest is when I have to say goodbye to people that I love. Maybe they move away.  Perhaps I am being transferred to a new rectory or assignment.  Then there are those times when death strikes—undoubtedly the hardest goodbye of them all.   I admit that I am not good with these circumstances.  I would rather avoid the situation and just move on.  Maybe it will cause less pain.
Sadly, I have been at Holy Angels only three years.  This has been a great assignment because of the wonderful people!  I hope that I have been able to contribute just a little to making the parish a bit better.  I especially hope and pray that the presence of Jesus Christ was more apparent by something that I have tried to say or do.
Have I been able to accomplish everything that I wanted to do?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Many plans were left undone.  Any unfinished business will have to be left to the next pastor.  Sorry for that.  Priests are all too human.  We struggle.  We fail.  We hurt.  Unfortunately, we sin as well.  I have realized both my fragile humanity and my mortality over the past few years.
Looking back, many things have happened in three years.  First, there was my myocardial infarction (heart attack) after only being here for three months.  About six months of rehabilitation followed.  Meanwhile, Holy Angels School was opened at its new location.  Sadly, the sale of the former Most Holy Redeemer campus occurred subsequently.  Then came the purchase and renovation of our new office building at 81 Cooper Street.  I still chuckle that I was not even able to use my new office even once after not having an office in the rectory for the past three years.  Oh well.  Then the coronavirus and quarantine came . . . .  It has been some roller-coaster ride!
Now I am off to be Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Cherry Hill, NJ.  I will begin this new assignment next week.  Fr. Joseph Byerley, a former Parochial Vicar, will return to Holy Angels as the new Pastor, effective July 15, 2020.  I know that you will show him your love, support and encouragement.   

I plan to continue writing.  I have posted my past parish bulletin articles online for almost a decade. The blog is entitled A Pastor's Thoughts (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com).  If my thoughts and writings were interesting, helpful or amusing to you, I invite you to check out my blog.
Otherwise, this is goodbye to all of you.  I thank God if I have helped you in any way.  I ask His and your forgiveness if I have hurt you or caused pain or sorrow in your life in any way.
I ask you once again for your prayers.  Just a little remembrance, every once in a while?  Please.  I will continue to remember all of you in this parish in my prayers and at the altar during Mass.

I was told many years ago that when a priest leaves a parish, 20% of the people will swear by him, 20% will swear at him, and for 60% it won’t make much of a difference at all.
I hope this isn’t really true.
In Jesus and His Mother Mary,
Fr. Ed Namiotka
(Soon to be former) Pastor

Fr. Joseph Byerley