Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Being “Connected” to a Parish

Dear Parishioners,

What I have to say here this week is a reflection on parish life that I initially made while pastor of a previous parish. These were/are simply my thoughts on the situation in far too many parishes in our diocese as we move into the future.

One of things I have tried to emphasize over my years as a priest is the importance of being “connected” to a particular parish. (My family, originally from Philadelphia, saw people identifying themselves primarily with their home parish.) I have usually thought a person or family should be anchored or rooted in a parish that they considered their own in order to be spiritually nourished.

Today, many people will more commonly “shop around” to find a church that will suit their needs for a short term solution rather than for a long haul commitment. The typical scenario is that a person, couple or family seeks out a church where they can get married or have their child baptized or have a deceased loved one buried or any of a number of occasions where a church and one of its ministers is needed for a specific time and purpose. If people still go to Mass each week, they may float around to whatever church has a Mass time to suit their current plans/schedule or attend a church where the particular preacher may appeal to them.

The past re-configuration of parishes throughout the diocese—while seen as critical by its leadership so that the entire diocese does not go “belly up” in the future—has not necessarily helped the situation.  People saw their parishes merged and re-named or, in some cases, closed entirely.  Similarly, schools were reconfigured, renamed or closed as well. The parish where parishioners were baptized, received their first Holy Communiongot marrieddonated a statuerefurbished the stained-glass window, etc., etc., was no longer there as they had known it for years. Any long-term connection was severed and people were told to move on and accept their new situation.

Given the fact that we have, over the years, also lost quite a few generations of Catholics who no longer practice their faith regularly or may have found another denomination that currently suits their needs, many of our parishes continue to struggle for future existence. Numerous younger Catholics don’t see a necessary connection to the local parish, don’t practice their faith regularly, don’t support the church financially, and continue to drift along without a spiritual compass. And we wonder: Why are our young people the way they are today? Consider all of the above factors, combined with the materialistic, hedonistic, egocentric culture in which we live. Additionally, young people have been disillusioned or even scandalized by the poor example of Church leadership. Doesn't seem to be a real rosy picture, does it?

Without an intimate connection to a parish by its parishioners, the future of this or any parish becomes rather tenuous. Certain individuals or certain families may still retain a strong relationship to their particular parish. However, I fear that for the vast majority of Catholics in our area, they will just drift along and wonder "why?" when some of their churches are no longer there for their families and for their spiritual needs in the future.

I pray I am wrong, but I am not currently convinced otherwise.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Another Side of "Sin City"

 Dear Parishioners,

This past week I was in Las Vegas, Nevadaa.k.a., Sin City.  However, as I have explained for the past four decades, I have a friend there from my seminary days, Auxiliary Bishop Gregory W. Gordon.  The bishop and I attended St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia for college and we have remained friends ever since.

The occasion for this recent visit was the 90th birthday of his mother Carole.  His mom and mine are approximately the same age. The last time I was in Vegas was to attend his Episcopal ordination two years ago. He was the first auxiliary bishop ever appointed in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a part of the country where the Catholic Church is growing in leaps and bounds. A number of years ago, I stood with the then Fr. Gordon as we surveyed the desert land that would become his future parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Henderson, NV.  He had to build it from the ground up. Today it proudly boasts of a parish family in proximity of 10,000 families!  There is also a newly established Catholic school in the parish.  The area has grown so large that another neighboring Catholic parish will be established in the immediate future.

Proof of the continued Catholic growth there is the fact the Las Vegas has recently been elevated to the status of Archdiocese. On June 29th, Archbishop George Leo Thomas, the current Ordinary (head bishop) for the archdiocese, will be presented with the pallium (a symbol of his office) from the Hoy Father. Las Vegas was once part of the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas.  Subsequently, it became its own diocese.  Now it has been elevated to the status of archdiocese and has its own auxiliary bishop.  The rapid growth continues! 

Over the years I have attended various ceremonies within the diocese.  I saw confirmation classes too large to be held in parish churches, necessitating the use of the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer on the south part of Las Vegas Boulevard (the strip). I have offered Mass and heard confessions for huge congregations from many cultures and backgrounds. There is a sizable Latino community.

Vegas has morphed from a small gambling oasis to a large metropolitan vacation destination in a little more than a century! Having personally observed the tremendous growth of Las Vegas over the years, I see how this city and its archdiocese now rivals particular parts of the country where the Catholic parishes have become mega-parishes.  (The state of Florida comes to mind.)  While the northeast part of the country is in noticeable church decline (recall the mergers, closures and sale of church property), other areas are experiencing the need for considerable expansion.

Incidentally, as my plane was landing, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup.  Who would have ever thought that an ice hockey team would win a championship in the desert of Las Vegas?

Only in Vegas!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Monday, June 12, 2023

40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration at St. Thomas More Parish

Dear Parishioners,

Next week, we celebrate the feast day of our patron saint, St. Thomas More (Wednesday, June 22). The date is shared with another English martyr, St. John Fisher. At that time, our parish will observe 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration from Wednesday evening, June 21 to Friday morning, June 23. 

Following an evening Mass at 7 PM on June 21, the Blessed Sacrament will remain continually present on the altar in the church for private prayer and adoration. We will add an extra evening Mass at 7 PM on Thursday evening (in addition to our regular morning Mass at 9 AM). Fr. Nicholas Dudo, the Vicar for Clergy for the Diocese of Camden, will be the guest homilist during the two evening Masses. The closing Mass on June 23 (9 AM) will be followed by a Eucharistic procession and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

I truly believe that when we take the time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is an opportunity for tremendous blessing not only for us as individuals but also for our families and for our entire parish family. I do not ever want us to take for granted the great gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Time spent with Him is indeed a grace-filled time. We can express our love and adoration for Jesus, thankfulness for our blessings, and contrition for sin (our own and the sins of others). We can also intercede for one another and petition the Lord for our various needs. It is an invaluable time to spend with Jesus Himself, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

When we come into the Lord’s presence, Jesus can transform us. Come sit or kneel before the Master and open your hearts to Him. By our very presence there, we give Jesus permission to change our hearts and our lives. We may think that we go to pray, to petition and to worship, or even that we are doing God a favor by spending some of our precious time with Him. Our Lord Jesus truly desires that we spend time with Him, listening to Him. Remember, we are created to spend eternity with God and we can foster that precious relationship now before Jesus' Real Presence. We do not need to worry about what prayers we should say, what spiritual readings we should be reading or what we should be doing in His Presence. Just being with the Lord can be life-changing. He can soften our hearts, heal our wounds, inspire us and guide us. He can give us an inner peace that nothing in this world can match. Making the commitment to spend time with Him is part of the process of falling in love with Him. (Many parishioners have already experienced various spiritual gifts and blessings by spending time with Our Lord daily, during our established adoration time in chapel from 9:30 AM to Noon, Monday-Friday.)

What I am again request from you, my parishioners, is that you dedicate at least one hour sometime with the Lord in adoration during these three days. (Ideally, this should be in addition to any time attending Mass.) This devotion will continue for two nights—around the clock—and I need your help and cooperation in order to accomplish this. Could you please think about dedicating an hour in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament? Why not encourage members of your family to pray as a family for an hour? Perhaps a group or organization within the parish can make a holy hour together (Small Christian Communities, Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Faith and Justice Team, choir, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc.) I especially need a few night owls to cover the late hours! We are arranging to have added security at night.

Sign-up sheets will be available at the doors of the church so that we can be sure that there is always present with our Lord. Please assist me in making this a special time for our parish as we adore our Eucharistic Lord. This is certainly an important part of our parish's Eucharistic renewal. 

Fr. Ed Namiotka

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Life's a Banquet!

Dear Parishioners,

“Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” This is a line taken from the movie Auntie Mame (1958) starring Rosalind Russell. While many people will use this quote to emphasize that we need to live life to the fullest—go for the gusto, so to speak—I want to apply this phrase to what is unfortunately too many people’s attitude toward the Holy Eucharist.

Each and every Sunday (and, in fact, every day) we are invited to the Banquet of the Lord’s Table: “Do this in memory of me.” We have the precious opportunity to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we (should) believe that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus’ Real Presence given to us as our spiritual nourishment for life’s journey.

How do we respond to this invitation? After all, it is always our choice in the end. By the current Mass attendance statistics in parishes, the response is abysmal at best. Apathetic is probably a good adjective to use describing today’s average Catholic. Sadly, less than 15% of Catholics in our area attend weekly Mass. I have heard the many, many excuses why some people choose not to go to Mass:

“It’s boring.”

 “I’m too busy”

”All the priest does is talk about money.”

“Father was mean to me.”

“The bishop closed/merged my church.”

“The priest is too conservative/liberal/political/boring/egotistical/irreverent/long-winded.”

“I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on . . .  .”

“I have other things to do.”

“I am spiritual but not religious.”

“I’m divorced and not properly married in the Church.”

I can’t force anyone to come to Mass, to receive the Holy Eucharist, to participate in what is the true lifeblood of any parish. Neither could Jesus:


Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.  A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.  The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.  (Mt. 22: 1-10)

We are all invited:  saint and sinner, rich and poor, black and white, sophisticated and simple.

Unfortunately I realize some may not at this time be able to receive the Lord in the Holy Eucharist for various reasons. Come anyway and pray and worship with us!  Pray that the Lord will show you a way to get your situation in life in proper order.  Learn about making a spiritual communion.

Come to the banquet of Eternal Life!  Be spiritually nourished!  Don’t starve yourselves!

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
(St. Thomas Aquinas)

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.

Fr. Ed Namiotka