This week's message from Father Al...
A few reminders of what is happening in the parish:
This Tuesday, October 30th at 6:30 pm in the cafeteria we will have a follow-up session to our Town Hall Listening Sessions on Clergy Sexual Abuse. At the previous three sessions, there was great truth being spoken and we need to clarify where we go forward from here. I invite everyone to come to this meeting as we look at the next step in both the healing process and in making substantive changes in the parish and the Church as a whole.
This week we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints which is a holy day of obligation. Please check the bulletin or parish website for the Mass Times.
November 2nd is All Souls Day and at 7:00 pm on Friday evening we celebrate a special Mass of Remembrance praying for and remembering all those who have died in our parish this past year. All are welcome but especially the loved ones of those who have been buried from our parish this past year.
In a few weeks, we will have our annual financial report. It was a good year and I am looking forward to keeping you updated.
Jackie Abel, our Director of Communications and IT, will be leaving our parish staff on October 29th. We thank Jackie for all the good she has brought to the parish and wish her all the best in her future endeavors. Ayana Elmore, our IT person at the school, will be jumping in with the bulletin and website in the future. Please be patient as we make this transition.
As we continue Respect Life Month, I think it is important for us to realize what we do as a parish to honor, help and respect life. Here are some of the groups and organizations that uphold life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death…and every stage in between!
Sometimes people will say (wrongly) that the Catholic Church is only concerned with the life of the child within the womb but that is far from the truth. We are concerned with life at all its stages. We are Pro-Life! Never be afraid to stand up for life! How good to be a Church that stands up for Life!
A number of things of note this week:
Our Eucharistic Devotions (40 Hours) starts this weekend. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we will have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during the day and at 7:00 pm each evening we will conclude with Evening Prayer and Benediction. Sign-up sheets for adoration are available in the vestibule. I encourage you to come each night to hear Father Anthony Dill and Father Saied Louka speak to us about our Eucharistic Lord.
We are looking for a few parishioners to volunteer as part of our Baptism Mentor Program. This program helps prepare young parents for the baptism of their first child. We provide all the instructional material. Please consider this wonderful ministry.
In response to a lot of questions, I want you to know that any money contributed to Saint Joan of Arc Parish such as Sunday Collections (envelope or online giving) or as a gift to the parish funds (Memorials, Heart of the Parish, Mustard Seed, Capital Campaign, etc.,) belong to the parish and is OUR money to support our parish ministries. The same is true for our parish school. The only money that goes to the diocese is monies collected for the Bishop’s Annual Lenten Appeal. Any assessments such as to Bishop McDevitt High School or to support the Hospital Chaplains go directly to the high school and to the hospital chaplains. The Diocese of Harrisburg does NOT take OUR money. Our money pays the bills and salaries and benefits of employees and supports all the parish ministries here at Saint Joan’s! Please continue to be generous to our parish! Any questions, please give me a call.
*Note: The Diocese of Harrisburg issued a letter from the Bishop as well as a statement of financial accountability that was published in our September 30th parish bulletin. You can read those items .
Let me continue from last week* with some more liturgical guidelines.
Always remember to genuflect when you are entering the pew. Genuflect literally means “to bend the knee” and it is an act of reverence to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. If you really cannot genuflect because of physical issues, make a profound bow (from the waist) as a sign of reverence. Teach your children how to genuflect as well.
We have aids (hymnals) that lead us through the Mass and provide the readings from Sacred Scripture. These can always be helpful but it is also good to learn how to truly listen at Mass. If, for example, we are using a Common Psalm (as we did throughout the summer), it is better to listen to the cantor and concentrate than flip through the book trying to find it in print. Most of the time, we miss the whole Responsorial Psalm.
During the Creed, we are all called to make a profound bow at the words “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” (We genuflect on the Solemnity of the Annunciation and Christmas!)
Here at Saint Joan of Arc, we receive Holy Communion starting from the back. Start up for Communion as soon as the priest receives Holy Communion. Always be aware of people around you and show kindness!
Take time to pray after receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Do not leave immediately after receiving. While there may a real reason to leave Church occasionally before Mass is ended, try to stay until the final blessing (at least) and even for the final hymn.
Next week: Reminders on how to receive Communion!
*To read Father's column about Liturgical Guidelines, please click here
With Labor Day behind us (and the traditional end of summer vacations), we settle back into the routine of work, school and parish life. I think this is a good time to remind all of us some liturgical guidelines regarding the Mass. Today, just a few basics:
Try to get to Mass before it starts in order to pray and become recollected in your heart.
Warmly welcome one another but keep small talk to a minimum so people can have a chance to pray and prepare for Mass.
Sing the hymns! Listen to the readings! Respond when appropriate! Try to be fully present to what is happening during the entire Mass.
Don’t slam the kneelers.
Move into the pew if latecomers arrive. I know you got there first but it really is an act of kindness.
After Mass, please take any conversation into the vestibule or outside. Often people are praying or a Baptism is going to take place and silence is important. (And, yes, I need to remember this one too!)
Be welcoming of visitors and be patient with your priests ( we each have gifts but we don’t have ALL of them!)
Next week we will go into a little more detail about other parts of the Mass!
Please be reminded that Father Al will hold a Town Hall Meeting tonight in the wake of the sadness, anger and disappointment following the release of the Attorney General's report. This meeting will take place at 7:00 pm in the Our Lady of Grace Room of the Saint Joseph Center (located in the old parish office space).
If you are not able to attend, there will be two other opportunities with meetings also scheduled for September 8th (following the 9 am Mass) and September 9th (following the Noon Mass). To read more about these meetings, please click here
Some GOOD NEWS about our priests and seminarians:
Congratulations to Father Modestus who graduated from the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at the Hershey Medical Center this past week. Along with his duties as Catholic hospital chaplain and all he does at the parish, Father Modestus has been taking two years of intensive training and studying through the hospital. From all night stints at the hospital to writing papers and lots of reading, Father has worked very hard without any complaining. We have a good man in Father Modestus!
We say goodbye to Father Ignatius. He has been reassigned by his Dominican Community to be a chaplain for the Marines stationed in North Carolina. It has been a delight to live and work with Father Ignatius and I know many have been touched by his joyful liturgies. Thank you, Father, and God bless you!
I am happy to announce that our parish has been chosen to have seminarians placed here as part of their Pastoral Formation Education Program. Matthew Collins from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut and Jonathan Fioramonti from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia will be here with us on Wednesday afternoons and will be learning about ministry to the sick in the hospital, in nursing homes and in visits to shut-ins. It is an honor to help form seminarians on their road to the priesthood.
Keep your priests and seminarians in your prayers. We need them!
In the wake of the sadness, anger and disappointment at the release of the Attorney General’s Report, it is important for us in the parish to begin to talk about this and share our thoughts and feelings. Father Al will be hosting three Town Hall meetings to gather with concerned parishioners. You are invited to share your ideas on how to move forward with healing and also in making real changes in the culture of the Church. Father will use this opportunity as well to explain what we do here in the parish to safeguard our children.
Each of the three meetings will take place in the in the Our Lady of Grace Meeting Room located in the St. Joseph Center (the old parish office space). Meetings are scheduled for:
*These meetings were first announced in Father's weekly bulletin column on August 26th. You can read his message here.
“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of everlasting life!”
These words of Saint Peter in today’s gospel are in response to Jesus’ question whether they too shall leave him along with the many who turned away from him after his teaching on the Holy Eucharist. It is Jesus alone who has the words of everlasting life. May we always stay close to him.
In the wake of the sadness, anger and disappointment at the release of the Attorney General’s Report, I think it is important for us in the parish to begin to talk about this and share our thoughts and feelings. I would like to gather with all concerned parishioners on the following days:
These town-hall meetings will meet in the Our Lady of Grace Meeting Space of the Saint Joseph Center (the former secretary’s office in the old parish office). I would love to have your ideas on how to move forward with healing but also in making real changes in the culture of the Church. I also would like to let you know what we do here in the parish to safeguard our children. Please know that you are in my prayers!
Father Al has received many requests to share his Homily from this weekend. You may read it below:
Homily by Rev. Al Sceski: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B
During this month of August, the gospel at all of our Sunday Masses have been taken from the 6th Chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, the great “Bread of Life” discourse. I really thought that I would be giving a homily each week on a different aspect of the Holy Eucharist.
But of course, for the past few weeks I have been talking about the Attorney General’s Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse.
I am assuming that after three years with you as your pastor, you know that I don’t shy away from talking about things but I have to say for me personally this is very difficult because I too am filled with anger, disgust, sadness and complete frustration at the sins of my brother priests and the sins of Church leadership in the wake of the sickening details that have come out in the release of this report.
I have had a few parishioners already this week tell me that they can no longer be part of the Church; others that they can’t be involved in parish ministries at this time; some have told me they will not support the diocese and the parish financially; still others who tried to give voice to what they are feeling and realize that there isn’t really a venue for the laity to be heard. I am not sure that there is a real place for us priests in the trenches to be heard either.
But as I thought about how difficult this is for us---laity and clergy—and all the emotions we are going through, I realized that it cannot be about us! It really has to be about the victims, about the survivors, about the safety of our children.
One of the things that I have been uncomfortable about this week is the emphasis on what we have done to alleviate the problem of clergy sexual abuse in the past 16 years since 2002. We HAVE made strides and we continue to do so but as I said to someone this past week, “If a husband cheated on his wife twenty years ago but keeps on insisting “look how good I have been for the past 16 years”, it falls on deaf ears. The wife is filled with pain and hurt and anger at the infidelity and she cannot think about the good things the husband has done.
This is true for us in the church as well. We have heard horrible, sinful, detestable things about the priests and bishops who should have been faithful and watching out for the Church and it is awfully hard to think about the good things.
What we need to do now is acknowledge our pain and hurt and anger and be honest. Some in the Church want to run away from the Church itself; some want to sweep it under the rug; others just want it to go away. None of these things are the solution.
In a number of places in the gospels, Jesus tells us that only the child-like can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And he is right. But that means the childlike NOT the childish. What the Church needs now more than ever are adult Christians who are able to face this problem head on. We need to be honest about the issues, we have to deal with a culture which allows it to continue and be covered up, and we need to have adult, honest, blunt discussions about what it is that Jesus demands of us.
This will take courage, honesty and a strong faith. Maybe this does bring us back to today’s Gospel. Jesus is the Bread of Life who gives eternal life to those who receive Him. Every day when I celebrate Mass, right before I receive Holy Communion, I pray silently the following prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your Death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most Holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments and never let me be parted from you.”
Free me from my sins…free me from all evil…keep me faithful to your commandments…never let me be parted from you.
You see, it is what Jesus does in and through us that matters. It is Jesus who frees us from our sins and from all evil and keeps us faithful to his commandments; it is Jesus who allows us to never be parted from him.
The trouble is that the Church often forgets this. We think it is about us. Our gifts, Our talents. Our abilities. We think that we have all the answers. We assume we know where the Lord is leading us and so often we are just listening to our own voices.
We usually think, “not God’s way but MY way” and in doing so we inevitably fall into sin and along the way we crush the faith and innocence of the little ones in our midst. Take a look at the history of the Church and tell me if I am wrong.
The only answer is Jesus Christ. He is the one who gives eternal life. He is the one who brings healing.
There is another pray that the priest has the option of saying silently before receiving Holy Communion and it goes like this:
“May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”
It is only by receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ—and truly be changed by it—that the Church can find healing in mind and body. We can never grow weary of doing what is right; we can never be afraid to speak the Truth. It will be difficult but we must always remember the words of Jesus, “The Truth will set you free!”
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