Celebrating Our Parish Feast with a Week of Mercy

Celebrating Our Parish Feast with a Week of Mercy

Dear Parishioners:

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On Monday we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. On our Patronal Feast we pray for the continued intercession of our parish patroness for our parish and school. We begin with a Solemn Feast Day Mass on Monday at 9:00AM. The homilist for the Mass is Fr. Brain Morris, a native son of OLM Parish and a graduate of OLM School. He now serves as the Associate Pastor at St. Luke Church in Barrington. I hope you can join us for the Mass but if you cannot, please spend some time on our Feast Day praying for our parish and the intercession of Our Lady of Mercy.

Following the Mass on Monday, we continue the celebration at the OLM Saints and Scholars Golf Tournament at Warwick Country Club. This should be a fun filled day as we golf in support of our parish and school. I am grateful to Providence College Basketball Coach Ed Cooley and UConn Basketball Coach Dan Hurley who are golfing with us! Please pray for good weather and for the novice golfers like myself!

The Week of Mercy continues as on Tuesday at 7:00PM as we gather to pray and reflect with sacred music. Join us in payer and reflection before the Eucharistic Lord as we listen to beautiful sacred music. Father Stephen Battey, the Associate Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Bristol, will offer a talk on the meaning of mercy. Father was ordained just last June and is a fine young priest and gifted preacher. I hope you might join us as we pray together as a parish family and reflect upon the meaning of mercy in our lives.

On Wednesday night we continue our Celebration of Mercy by gathering for an Act of Mercy. Join us for “Socks and Sandwiches for the Homeless” at 6:00pm on Wednesday. We invite all OLM families to join us in the OLM Cafeteria as we make sandwiches for the homeless. All you need to do is show up with a new pair of adult socks and be willing to make a sandwich for the poor and hungry! This a great opportunity to put mercy into action, so please join us!

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We end our Celebration of Mercy on Friday night with the OLM Octoberfest. This new event replaces the Parish Picnic we’ve had in previous years on Sundays. This fun-filled family event is a great way for us to gather as a parish family. We will have German food including bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut, hot dogs, German Potato Salad, German Apple Strudel, German Pretzels and of course German Beer! Join us under the tent or in the Biergarden. Bring your own Bavarian Beer Stein or purchase a commemorative OLM Stein. There are games planned for the kids and adults alike. Raffles and prizes! Tickets are on sale after all Masses this weekend. OLM Octoberfest is a great new and fun-filled way to end our Celebration of Mercy Week!

The German tradition of Octoberfest begin with a celebration in anticipation of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony in October 1810. In late September, the citizens of Munich attended the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the upcoming happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's fields") in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

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We won’t be having horseraces at OLM but we will gather to celebrate as a parish family as we anticipate the month of October dedicated to our patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Octoberfest is this coming Friday, September 28th from 6:00pm until 9:00pm. Stop by and say hello, celebrate our parish and our faith under the tent. We will have German music and I am told some people might even wear traditional German Lederhosen (leather shorts)! A Celebration of Mercy is here! Let’s honor Our Lady of Mercy, our parish patroness and guide, with prayer, with acts of mercy, with sacred music, and with a little fun! Pray to Our Lady of Mercy and beg her continued intercession for our parish and for your own needs! Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us!

Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Sox! Go Pats!!!

Striving To Be Saints and Scholars at OLM School

Striving To Be Saints and Scholars at OLM School

Dear Parishioners:                     

On this past Wednesday we had our Annual Back to School Night for OLM School.  It is  night in which parents meet with teachers and discuss the excellent work being done in the classroom.  There is also a time for all the parents to gather and hear from the Pastor, the Principal and the Parent Teacher Group President.                                      

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This year we have 255 students enrolled in OLM School.  It is  decrease from last year’s 290 students.  This decline in enrollment is a trend that is effecting every Catholic School in the state. The demographics of a declining population of families having young children is the chief cause of the trend.  In Rhode Island, our population continues to get older and many young couples forgo having children or even getting married at all.

OLM School continues to excel in many areas including academics, the arts and sports.  Our Mission to educate and develop the future saints and scholars of our Church and society remains at the heart of what we do each day.  This Mission includes a fine formation in the Catholic Faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

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A few years ago, Damien Woody the former Pro-Bowl Offensive Lineman for the Patriots choose to send his seven children to Catholic School even though he and his family are not Catholic. When a fellow parent asked him why he chose  a Catholic School for his children, he answered, “My wife and I believe that a school where they love God will love my children.” 

God’s love is truly the center of what we do at OLM School every day.  Each day the love of God and of our neighbor are not only taught but also lived out in the words and actions of our faculty and students. Each day our students are encouraged to strive to be saints and scholars.

Catholic schools are about love and if OLM School is truly all about love, then this love must be sustained and nourished. That is why I am so happy that our OLM School children not only begin and end every day with prayer but also come together to celebrate Mass once a week. They also receive God’s mercy in Confession  four times a year.  All this is done to sustain and nourish the foundation of Catholic faith and God’s love they learn about in the classroom each day.

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The measure of success at OLM School or at any Catholic school is not to be solely found in academic achievements, athletic victories, or artistic accomplishments.  After all any student at any school can expertly learn to add and to subtract, to read and to write, to run and throw or to paint and to sing.

Catholic education is not about being “socially useful.” Nor is it simply about good “values” and discipline. Catholic education is about developing saints and growing the seeds of holiness and flourishing God’s love in the hearts of students. Our Lady of Mercy Church was built by our ancestors in faith in this parish.  Their generosity and witness made our faith possible, their love and faith made this parish and school possible.

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We’ve inherited this legacy of faith, love and sacrifice. They sacrificed for love of God in the hope that OLM Church and School would remain faithful and holy for the decades and centuries ahead.  They sacrificed and  lived daily in hope that the foundation they built would always thrive as a strong and loving community of Catholic disciples.  They wanted a parish school not merely to educate our children but  to develop the saints and scholars so needed in our 21st century.

So please pray for our parish school and for its success in developing students who will be saints and scholars. Your prayers for the school’s students and faculty are appreciated and always needed.  So please keep them in your daily prayers!

I also invite you to consider supporting the Mission of OLM School by joining us for the Saints and Scholars Golf Tournament on Monday, September 24th.  It will be a great day of golf and fun in support of the little saints and scholars at OLM School. The tournament is at Warwick Country Club and more information can be found at the parish website.  There are a few spots left, so sign up soon. Join us and see if you can beat either Fr. Barrows or myself on the course!

Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Sox! Go Pats!!!

 

Summer Collapsing Into Fall

Summer Collapsing Into Fall

Dear Parishioners:                    

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It’s September and Labor Day has come and gone!  School is in full swing and summer is coming to an end.  It seems to have gone too quickly once again this year.  As Oscar Wilde  said: “…and all at once, summer collapsed into fall.”                                  

With the coming of fall, comes the beginning of our OLM Religious Education Program.  On Sunday, September 16th, we celebrate Catechetical Sunday.   Our  dedicated  RE Teachers  join us at the 10:30am Mass as we pray for them and commission them to teach the faith to the children of our parish. The  theme of this year’s Catechetical Sunday is "Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ.”  

We are grateful to the many parishioners who volunteer  as catechists here at OLM.   Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for us to pray for them but also to reflect on the role that each one of us has, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all of us to rededicate ourselves to this mission as a community of faith, hope, mercy and love. 

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I am grateful to the many OLM families who annually take part in our RE Program.  Each year a few hundred of our parish children participate in our RE Program.  Mickey St. Jean and Doug Green do a tremendous job ensuring our program runs smoothly and teaches the children the fullness of the faith. If you have not registered your child for RE, please do so today.  RE Classes begin on September 30th!

Also this fall our OLM Confirmation Candidates are gathering for their retreat in preparation for the Sacrament. I ask you to please continue to pray for these young people as they prepare to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Confirmation is to be celebrated on Sunday, November 11th at 5:00pm by Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville.   

Also we begin once again this fall the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Program at OLM.  Fr. Barrow and a dedicated group of parishioners meet weekly to teach and discuss the Catholic Faith with those interested in becoming Catholic and those Catholics in need of full initiation into the Church.  There is more information in the bulletin about this great program. 

If you or someone you know is a non-Catholic or a Catholic in need of the Sacraments of Communion and Confirmation, please  contact Fr. Barrow.  The RCIA meets each week to explore and learn more about Christ and His Church.  And then at Easter our RCIA Candidates are fully initiated into the Catholic Church. 

Of course, September also means that we are gearing up for the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, our Parish Patroness, on September 24th.  We begin the celebration at 9:00AM on Monday, September 24th, with the Feast Day Mass.  Fr. Brain Morris, a native son of OLM and graduate of OLM School, is our homilist this year. Following the Feast Day Mass at 1:00PM we have our 2nd Annual OLM Saints and Scholars Golf Tournament at Warwick Country Club.  You can sign-up to play or sponsor a tee online at the parish website.  Golfers be forewarned, both Fr. Barrow and myself are playing this year!

On Tuesday night of our Feast Week, our talented parish musicians and choirs join us for a Holy Hour of Mercy.  We are to gather before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer with our reflection aided by beautiful sacred music.  Fr. Stephen Battey, a fine young priest, is to offer a reflection on mercy.

Then on Wednesday night of the Feast Week, I invite you and your family to join us for an Act of Mercy, “ Socks and Sandwiches for the Homeless.”  We will be making sandwiches for the homeless.  All you need do is come to the OLM School Cafeteria with a new pair of adult socks and help us make the sandwiches! 

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Finally in lieu of the OLM Parish Picnic, we begin a new tradition at OLM.  On Friday, September 28th we celebrate OLM Octoberfest.  Join us under the tent for German food, beer and music.  This family event includes games for both adults and children!  If you like bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels and a beer in a stein, join us!

Yes, summer is collapsing into fall but there’s still plenty to celebrate. Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Sox! Go Pats!!! Oremus pro invicem,  let us pray for each other.

 

Courage and Character in Stormy Seas

Courage and Character in Stormy Seas

Dear Parishioners:                    

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Last weekend Senator John McCain of Arizona died and is to be laid to rest this weekend.  He was an American Hero who exhibited great faith and courage throughout his life.  As a young Navy Pilot he endured incredible suffering and torture while held as a prisoner of war  during the Vietnam War.        Yet he overcame this adversity and survived. 

He went on to serve our nation as a distinguished Member of Congress and U.S. Senator.  Let us pray for the gentle repose of his noble soul, may he rest in peace. Senator McCain, a true profile in courage, once said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to act despite our fears.” 

His words offer us inspiration as we continue to face the problems in our Church.  Fear can easily overcome us and lead us into despair. We face many challenges in our Church, in our world and in our lives, let us do so with   faith, hope and courage,

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In Character Is Destiny,   one of the  many books he authored, Senator McCain wrote of the stories he learned from his parents and at school. The book is a compilation of stories  of heroes, both famous and obscure, whose values exemplify character and courage.

Included in the book are many profiles of courage including Sir Winston Churchill, who offered simple and sage advice: "never give up!" McCain includes the story of Mary Clarke, who left her life as a Beverly Hills socialite to work in the desperate conditions of a Mexican jail.  George Washington is lauded by McCain for his wisdom and ability to adapt in the face of battle. 

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Although not a Catholic himself, Senator McCain writes about several Catholic Saints including Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Catholic priest in Auschwitz who offered to take a condemned man's place. St. Thomas More, a Catholic layman who took on a king and died a martyr for the faith, is also featured.  And  so is St. Joan of Arc, a young girl who exhibited great faith and courage and became the Patroness of France.

It is  people of character, faith and courage such as these as well as Senator McCain himself who came to my mind this week.  If ever there is a time when our Church and our world  cries out for men, women and children as well as religious sisters, priests, deacons and bishops of character, courage and faith it is in this moment in our history. St. Thomas More reminds us:   “You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.”

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This past Wednesday was  the first day at OLM School. The first day of school is always a day of joy and hope as students return and others arrive for the very first time. It was great to welcome them all to OLM School! Our parish school declares its mission to teach our students to strive to be saints and scholars.  We pray for our students, families and faculty that they continue to grow in the faith, knowledge and love of  God and strive to be saints and scholars!

I offer my sincere thanks to the many families who make the sacrifice to send their children to OLM School.  Their commitment to Catholic Education and their support of our school is deeply appreciated.  I also thank our excellent faculty for their sacrifice and commitment to our school.  May God bless OLM School with abundant graces this school year!

In the bulletin you will find a copy of an article from the Providence Journal by Kevin O’Brien, the Director of Compliance for the Diocese of Providence.  I think you may find it very informative about the Diocese of Providence’s work in fighting abuse in the Church.  If you would like more information about the policies and procedures of our Office of Compliance, it is readily available on the Diocese of Providence’s website. 

In your name, I offer congratulations and best wishes to long time OLM parishioners, John and Terry Romano. On Labor Day, they  celebrate their 95th and  100th birthdays! John and Terry are at Mass every week, in fact John continues to usher at the 7:30am Mass. We wish this wonderful couple continued health and happiness.  May God bestow his  choicest blessings upon them and their family!  Happy Birthday!!

I wish you and your families a  Happy Labor Day! Be well. Do good. God Bless. Oremus pro invicem, let us pray for each other.

 

"Do You Also Want to Leave?"  Homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Do You Also Want to Leave?" Homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for August 26, 2018

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time B

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Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

It has been difficult to be a Catholic these days.  We’ve heard and read about the crimes and sins that have infested our Church.  And like you, my heart is full of sorrow and anger that shepherds betrayed so many innocent of the flock, causing unspeakable pain and suffering. I am personally outraged.  It is an occasion calls forth justice and surety that it never happens again. 

I stand before you today ashamed and appalled, and I share your sense of deep betrayal.   No doubt the Lord’s question has entered our minds, “Do you also want to leave?” 

This question has echoed in my own mind and heart.  For in my 23 years of priesthood my faith has never been so tested, my mouth so bereft of the words to describe the despair in my heart. 

Today's Gospel passage about our Lord's teaching on the Eucharist was so shocking, that "many of his disciples" simply refused to accept it. As a result, they stopped following Jesus and returned to "their former way of life."

Christ asks those who stayed with Him: "Do you also want to leave?"

It was a moment of crisis.  The Twelve didn't understand, any more completely than everybody else.     Yet they stayed.  So why did they continue to follow the Lord?

They stayed because they trusted in him, in his person.  They put more faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, than in their own limited ability to comprehend God’s plan.

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I’m sure all of us here know people in our family, among our friends and neighbors who have left and walked away.  Some who will stop following the Lord.  That the Church I love and serve would cause this fills me a deep pain and sorrow. 

But today, brothers and sisters, here and now, Christ asks each of us:  “Do you also want to leave?” 

So why do I choose to stay? Because the words of Simon Peter make the path clear:  “Master to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”  

Speaking for myself, dear friends, I  choose to stay because I love Jesus Christ, my brother, my friend, my Redeemer and Savior; I love his church; I love his priesthood, and I love you, his beloved people.  I stay because Christ my Lord and Savior is here and you his people are here.

I stay because even in the midst of such evil and darkness, I’m still able to see the light of Christ shining in your goodness and charity, in your mercy and compassion, in your fidelity and solidarity.

I stay because I see daily the devotion, the good works and the faith of people who continue to believe that God calls them here.  So many good and faithful people who remain committed to the beliefs and virtues handed down to us by those who’ve gone before us in faith.   I see so many who daily honor those who left us a legacy of charity, mercy, goodness and holiness - not a legacy of scandal, shame and sin. 

Many who have gone before us knew great trial and tribulation in their times. And yet they stayed.  Some even sacrificing unto death, so that we could continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  They built up his Church, to stand as refuge of love and a beacon of hope so that others might come to believe what they themselves were convinced: that you Jesus Christ are the Holy One of God.

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I stay because I too am convinced that the Crucified and Risen Christ is here. The Christ who knows betrayal. The Christ who feels righteous anger. The Christ who conquers sin. The Christ truly present to us in his Sacred Body and Blood. The Christ we must turn to in these times of despair.

In this moment, in this Church, at this Mass, we must turn to the Holy Spirit to beg for his guidance. We pray the Father of Consolation and Healer of Souls comfort all who are suffering right now: victims, family members, people who find their faith in God shattered.  We pray for the Holy Spirit to purify our Church; to instill the courage and integrity needed to confront evil in those who lead us, and  instill fidelity in those who serve us. 

And my dear people, I pray that despite my own unworthiness and my own sinfulness, I might become a better priest of Christ, a holier priest of God.   

I pray, pleading: “O Come Holy Spirit, Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.”

 Every day Christ asks me as he asks each of us: "Do you also want to leave?"

In the midst of despair, withfaith, with hope  the only answer I am able to mutter is:

 “Master to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”  

In Dark Times, Turn to the Light of Christ

In Dark Times, Turn to the Light of Christ

Dear Parishioners:                     

Like all Catholics over these last weeks, I too have been full of anger, disappointment, and shame at the events reported in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  The news of such evil and betrayal perpetrated by priests and bishops is shameful and shocking.                                  

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There are times when words fail. This is one of those times. What I read in the Pennsylvania grand jury report is distressing beyond words. I have to admit that I am at a loss to understand how such unspeakable evil has been allowed to fester at the heart of the Church.                 

The abuse of children, especially sexual abuse, is a stain on our Church and also on our nation’s collective soul. It is heartbreaking and devastating, and as we have seen time and time again it knows no bounds.  It is present in the Church, in schools, in universities and in sports programs.                  

The past weeks have certainly stretched my faith as I am sure they have stretched your own. The   tragic events brought to light are the cause of a great deal of shame, righteous anger, and a call for answers and action by many Catholics. Still more anger is rightly directed at those who have been complicit in keeping some of these serious sins from coming to light.            

I understand such anger. For as a priest I too am full of a sense of betrayal and rage.  And so, like you I continue to struggle to comprehend such evil that has stained our Church that I serve and love so deeply.  The author Victor Hugo said: “Where there is darkness, crime will be committed. The guilty are not merely those who commit the crime, but those who cause the darkness.”

         Such darkness that looms over our Church calls us to respond with faith in the light of Christ.  The Church is a divine institution made of up sinful people.  Our focus must remain upon our faith in Jesus Christ and his abiding presence in his bride the Church.  We can find comfort and consolation in these dark days when we turn toward the Crucified and Risen Christ. The Christ who knew betrayal. The Christ who experienced righteous anger. The Christ who conquered sin.

In my own life as a priest it is Jesus Christ I turn to for  divine guidance and strength in such trying times.  Our Church has faced many trials in the past and will undoubtedly face more in the future.  Christ, however, is the same yesterday, today and forever! And so we turn to Christ our Light, with faith and  in prayer.                    

Pray for the healing of the victims of these crimes. Pray for justice for all those who are so deeply hurt and those who have committed such evil.  Pray for our Church, that this might be a time of repentance and purification.  Pray for priests especially the many who have faithfully served and bear the shame and scandal of their fallen brothers. Pray for bishops that they might act with courage and integrity in dealing with these events.  And let us pray for one another that we might not lose hope and drown in despair.                

Reflecting upon this evil and upon the depravity of sinners within the Church, we are often tempted to despair. The temptation to despair in light of all of this is natural. However, despite the evil and the sin, and with our righteous anger, we are called to move forward in faith, to rely upon God’s promises to us, and to work hard to make every bit of difference we that we are able.

I encourage any survivors of abuse to contact our Diocesan Office of Child Protection and Outreach, which offers resources and confidential support to any who have suffered from abuse and who seek help.  They can be reached at 401-946-0728.  I also encourage all to seek more information online at dioceseofprovidence.org/office-of-compliance.

On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to the Church in response to these events which is included in this week’s bulletin.  He states: “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

         Pray for the strength and grace to face these challenges.