Tuesday, April 30, 2024

First Holy Communion and the May Crowning

Dear Parishioners,

When I received my First Holy Communion almost six decades ago, I was in first grade, not the traditional second grade. (Incidentally, the very next year, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation.) First Holy Communion was on a Saturday morning and I received as part of a rather large class of students—approximately 50 or more.

Depending on the parish, First Holy Communion frequently is on a Saturday (usually in May) or may also be celebrated at one or more of the Sunday Masses.  With our small size, the seven First Communicants here will be receiving at the 11 AM Sunday Mass this week.

Sometimes I have been asked why First Holy Communion is celebrated in this manner instead of in a separate group as in some other parishes. There are a number of reasons for our current practice (which, incidentally, has been in place prior to my arrival as pastor about four years ago). Let’s first look at our diocesan guidelines for sacramental preparation:

The preferred option for the celebration of First Eucharist is within the Sunday Liturgy.  It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates [the liturgy.]  Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is the ‘sacrament of unity’ (SC 26*).  Liturgical services pertain to the whole Church.  Rites are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, and should as far as possible be celebrated in this way rather than by an individual or quasi-privately.  (SC 27*)  Eucharist is the crowning jewel in the sacraments of initiation and should be celebrated within the parish worshipping community.  It is recommended that the celebration take place during the Easter Season when the Church traditionally welcomes her new members.  (Sacrament Guidelines when Sacraments of Initiation are not Celebrated Together, Looking to the Rite of First Eucharist, Diocese of Camden, 2005)

It is critical to remember that the two families that should be most important in the children’s lives are their domestic family and their Church family.  The parents are the first (and need to be the best) teachers of their children in the ways of faith.  It is also necessary to consider that we are preparing the children to be a part of the regular worshipping community that we call the Church.  While it may look “nice” or “cute” to have all of the children together in one (or two) ceremonies with their classmates and friends, it is much more essential to emphasize for them the bonds of family and Church.  Essentially, we are not preparing them to be with their current friends (who may not be their friends past next week), but to be regular, practicing members of the Catholic Church as experienced through their local parish family.

Let me again quote our diocesan guidelines:

Children should be made aware that Eucharist is not a “once and done” sacrament. Therefore, there should be encouragement to the children (and their parents) to form good habits of weekly celebration of the Eucharist.

We all have much to learn from each other and to teach one another. We should rejoice to see our children share in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church, as lived and experienced in our parish family.  If the faith is not handed on to, experienced and practiced by our young, then eventually our Church will be nothing but a bunch of empty, lifeless buildings.

Congratulations to our First Communicants! My prayer is that your faith in Jesus Christ will grow ever stronger as you receive another important sacrament in your spiritual journey. 

Also, we will be honoring our Blessed Mother Mary today (during this month of May) with the traditional May Crowning led by our First Communicants.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(*SC  Sacrosanctum Concillium 12/4/63, a document of Vatican II)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Latest Parish News and Information


St. Thomas More

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we say goodbye to Sr. Ann Byrnes, RSM who has been a part of St. Thomas More Parish for about 15 years. Sister Ann decided to retire this year after heading our Lifelong Faith Formation program and our Faith and Justice Team.

Sister Ann’s various duties included preparing candidates in the O.C.I.A. (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, and helping to train the altar servers, lectors, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. She would assist during the weekend Masses to make sure that everyone was present and the liturgies ran smoothly. Sister assisted me when it was time for rehearsal during the Holy Week liturgies.

Sister was responsible for many of the seasonal programs in our parish.  Most notable, she would promote, organize and facilitate our Small Christian Communities (S.C.C.) during Advent and Lent. At Christmas, she organized and promoted our Lessons and Carols. She was responsible for getting the speakers for our Sacred Scripture seminars and many of our parish missions. She regularly informed me of those she was aware of who were sick or dying. She helped with funeral preparations. Among the many other tasks, I think her personal favorite was leading the Faith and Justice team.

I know that there are many, many things that she has done behind the scenes, well before I ever arrived at this parish. I personally and publicly thank her for the many contributions she has made to this parish on behalf of all of us! Sister Ann, we wish you well in your retirement. You have our prayers and best wishes for the future!

Please realize that we are looking for a replacement for Sister to fill the future position of Coordinator of Catechesis, Lifelong Faith Formation and Evangelization. As I had mentioned several months ago, St. Thomas More Parish has begun the application process to seek a committed, active Catholic to serve in this position. This person will be responsible for oversight of all catechetical ministry to every age group within the parish. The coordinator initiates, organizes and facilitates various programs and services relating directly to the evangelization and the education of parishioners in the Catholic faith. The coordinator seeks to meet the needs of parishioners in the areas of catechesis, youth and young adult ministry, adult faith formation, and sacramental preparation, including adult Christian initiation. The applicant must be a practicing Catholic in good standing in the Church with an in-depth knowledge of the Catholic faith (BA, or MA preferred). The coordinator must have working knowledge of computers and technology. The applicant must be willing to be involved in the spiritual life of St. Thomas More Parish. Salary and weekly hours are negotiable. This position reports directly to the pastor. Anyone still wishing to apply for this position should submit a résumé to me personally, by regular mail or e-mail (fr.namiotka@gmail.com). The appointment of this position needs to be made in the next month or so.

Finally, I take a moment to thank everyone who has been so kind and thoughtful to me during the loss of my dear mother. I have no idea how I could ever thank everyone enough for the Masses, cards, flowers, donations and personal expressions of sympathy to me and my family. On behalf of my brothers, sister and entire family, thank you from the bottom of my heart! It means so much to all of us. Be assured of a remembrance in my thoughts, prayers and Masses!

Fr. Ed Namiotka 


Sr. Ann Byrnes, RSM

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

God's Grace

Dear Parishioners,

God’s Grace is truly amazing to me. There are many ways of thinking about how God works in our lives. A realization of His life active and present in us is itself a gift.

I regularly see God at work during the ordinary experiences of my priestly ministry. Especially during Lent, on First Fridays and First Saturdays, and on many other occasions during the year, I have witnessed God bring forgiveness and healing to repentant sinners who were contrite and seeking God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance. Christ was present to them. Whenever I go to the hospital or do a home visitation to offer the Anointing of the Sick to someone who is sick or dying, Christ is again present there bringing spiritual comfort, healing and forgiveness. When I go into the chapel and witness numerous parishioners spending time adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament after daily Mass, indeed believing in His true Eucharistic Presence, I see Christ with His people. I could go on and on with such examples.

If you look around, Christ continues to be present and to work among His people. He is true to His promise: . . . “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) He was there at the wedding I witnessed last week. He is at each Mass that I celebrate, whether publicly or in private. He is here as I pray with or for someone who asks for my prayers. He will be here during Sunday’s baptism. He is even there each time I have to face suffering and death.

People will sometimes tell me that they don’t believe in God or that He doesn’t seem real to them. Why does God’s presence seem so real and obvious to me? It’s not that I am some mystic or spiritual guru. I am just an ordinary person, an unworthy sinner like the rest of humanity called by God and graced with the gift of ordination despite my own unworthiness.

As you continue your spiritual journey during this Easter season, why not make a conscious effort to look for and to be attentive to God’s Grace working in your life and in the lives of those around you? He is here with us in the poor, the suffering, the dying, the lonely, the young child, and the elderly. He is present in obvious ways and when we least expect it. He is present in the big events of life and in those quiet moments speaking to the depths of our hearts when we are alone in our inner room.

If you have a hard time perceiving Him, ask Him directly to remove any spiritual blindness from which you appear to be suffering. Fidelity to daily prayer is so essential in forming a relationship with Christ. A thorough sacramental confession can be the quickest and most direct way to experience His presence as healing, forgiveness and mercy enter into your life. And, of course, be aware that Christ is really and truly present (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) in the Holy Eucharist as the priest offers the Mass.

He is here with us—all around us!

Don’t miss Him.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Easter __________.

Dear Parishioners,

Could you please fill in the blank for me?  Easter ____________.

1.  Bunny

2.  Candy

3.  Egg

4.  Bonnet

5.  Parade

6.  Table (Meal)

7.  Basket

8.  Bread

9.  Card

10. Flowers

11.  →Sunday ←

(If you picked #11, then you at least know a hint when you see one!)

Easter Sunday, the Octave of Easter and the Easter season have come. Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is Risen! We now await the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Many secular ideas, traditions, and customs have found their way into our culture. They are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. As Christians, however, nothing else is really as important as Christ conquering sin and death and rising from the dead. Easter is about Resurrection. It is about eternal life. It is about hope.    

Starting a church the way Christ did seems like it should have been a recipe for disaster:

  • Pick a rag-tag bunch of mostly uneducated disciples—one who denies you when the going gets tough, and one who betrays you.
  • Preach to the general public for only a few years, mysteriously at times.
  • Pick an area of the world oppressed by foreign rule.
  • Pick a time in history without the internet, radio, television, newspapers or mass media as we know it today.
  • Allow yourself to be tortured and then put to death without offering resistance.

Should the Catholic Church still be around over 2000 years later?

When everything seemed like failure, the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples:

While they were still speaking . . . (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  (Luke 24:36-40)

Resurrection made all the difference, then and now. The Church still remains despite all obstacles, build on the foundation of Christ—the Risen Christ. May the joy of Easter bring meaning and hope to your lives, today and every day!

Please continue to celebrate the joy of Easter! (And prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well!)

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Homily for Good Friday (2024) - Fr. Edward Namiotka


Coincidences or Signs from God?


Dear Parishioners,

For the past two years I have attended priest conferences given by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. This year I also plan to attend. Priests gather from all parts of the country to listen to talks on the Sacred Scriptures, to pray together, to offer Mass together and to socialize at a resort in Lakeway, Texas (near Austin). We have the privilege of hearing from Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. John Bergsma, Dr. Edward Sri, and others who bring great insight to the Scriptures and Catholic theology. By having attended these annual workshops, my hope is that my preaching and teaching from the pulpit each week has become more informative and inspiring.

Coincidentally, my first full day in Texas is also the day of the total solar eclipse which will be seen in the early afternoon as the path is directly over us! Moreover, the day is also celebrated as the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord (transferred from March 25th because it fell in Holy Week). Let me say that it should be rather interesting to be in Texas during this time.

The Sunday after Easter (this weekend) has been designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

On April 30, 2000 (Divine Mercy Sunday of that year), Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

According to the notebooks of Saint Faustina, Jesus made the following statements about this day:

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)

Devotion to Divine Mercy is also associated with an image painted as Jesus wished, based on descriptions by Saint Faustina. The words that accompany the image are "Jesus, I trust in Thee" ("Jezu, Ufam Tobie" in Polish). The rays coming from Jesus' body represent the Blood and Water that poured forth from the wound He suffered when pierced by the lance.

The devotion is practiced by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novena to the Divine Mercy—both of which may be prayed at any time, but especially at "The Hour of Great Mercy" – 3:00 PM, the hour our Lord died, and in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday. You can find out more about these topics by going to the website for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception (marian.org).

I find it particularly interesting that after working to promote devotion to the Divine Mercy and even writing an encyclical about God’s Mercy — Dives in Misericordia or Rich in Mercy (1980) — Pope St. John Paul II died during the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

Was this just another coincidence or truly an indication of the hand of God continually at work in our world? 

With all that is happening throughout the globe today, we all need to say and believe: Jesus I trust in Thee!

Fr. Ed Namiotka