Our parish is blessed to welcome our bishop, Most Reverend James F. Checchio, who will celebrate our 11 AM Mass this Sunday. Since arriving in our diocese a few years ago, Bishop Checchio has made several visits to our parish. I want to thank him for taking time to be with us – and especially for celebrating Holy Mass in our Church.
This weekend our parish is also welcoming a new seminarian, David Keyes. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, David felt called by God to serve in a more populated area. He was introduced to New Jersey by a priest who taught him
On his first evening in our parish, Fr. Leo and I had dinner with David. (Fr. Tom was on his spiritual retreat.) After that we took him for a ride around the parish – stopping, of course, for ice cream. He seems to be a wonderful candidate for the priesthood. Let’s all do our best to make him feel welcome here at St. Philip and St. James!
Please pray for some members of our parish Youth Group who are making a special retreat this weekend. Deacon Rob Fisher is with them, along with some of their other advisors. The retreat is sponsored by the Franciscan University of Steubenville and has been enjoyed by various members of our Youth Group over the past several years. I am always inspired to see our young people come home from this retreat with a deeper appreciation of and enthusiasm for their Faith.READ MORE
I am happy to announce that our Bishop will celebrate the 11:00am Mass in our Church next Sunday, July 22. Bishop Checchio likes to visit the parishes of our diocese for Sunday Mass, and I am happy he will be with us next Sunday. It is a good way for him to get to know our community and its wonderful people.
From the earliest times, Christians made a great effort to attend Masses celebrated by their Bishop. St. Ignatius of Antioch, a priest and bishop from Syria who was martyred for his faith in the early 100’s, encouraged people to gather with their bishop for the Eucharistic celebration. The priests and people, gathered around their bishop, was (and still is) a visible sign of the unity of the Church.
For us today, the Bishop is one of our clearest links to the universal Church. Bishop Checchio was sent to us by Pope Francis, whom he knows personally from the days when our bishop was rector of a seminary in Rome.
Our bishop also connects us back to Jesus and the apostles through the apostolic succession. Just as the Pope is the successor to St. Peter, so each bishop is a successor to the apostles. In other words – if you go back to the Bishop who consecrated Bishop Checchio, then to the Bishop who consecrated that Bishop, and so on and so on back through Church history, you will eventually arrive at one of the Apostles!
I hope you all enjoyed a great Fourth of July. I can’t tell you about mine, since I had to write this article a week before it happened! That happens when holidays fall in such a way that affects the Bulletin Company’s schedule!
For the past few weeks I’ve used the space in this column to discuss ways in which we share our Faith in Jesus. I began two weeks ago by writing about the need for families to have their children Baptized soon after birth. Last week I spoke about Vacation Bible School and the RCIA – a parish process for welcoming converts into our Catholic Faith.
Today I want to speak about the Religious Education of our parish children. Our parish offers several options for this. First and foremost is our parish school. In their daily Religion class, students in Saints Philip and James School not only learn about their faith, but also prepare for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Concerning Confirmation, I have the distinct pleasure of teaching our 8th graders once a week to prepare them for that Sacrament – something I enjoy a great deal.
More than studying their religion, our school students experience many aspects of our Faith. They participate in both school-wide and class Masses throughout the year and have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament monthly. Monthly Confession, weekly Stations of the Cross during Lent, and regular Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament all help the students not only learn about, but truly practice their faith.
Our parish also offers two different CCD programs for students who attend public school. Traditional CCD is offered every Tuesday from 4-5 PM at our school from late September until early May. In addition to their weekly class, these students go to Confession in Advent and Lent. I teach fifth grade in this program – and have a great time doing so.
I sit down to write these words having just come from our annual Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was wonderful to see about 65 children and young people there. For those who may not know, VBS is a week of fun and faith-filled activities for the young members of our parish. By means of puppet shows, skits, crafts, games, and a bunch of other things, the kids learn both Bible stories and things about our Faith.
I want to thank all the adults who made this Vacation Bible School such a success – especially Jo-Ann Scott. All three of our priests, as well as Deacon Rob – were present for much of the program. The teens and middle schoolers who helped out in so many ways did a great job and deserve a lot of thanks. They all did a great job at helping our parish pass our faith on to the next generation!
Being at Vacation Bible School this week reminded me of another important way our parish passes on the Good News: RCIA. RCIA is short for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – the process by which adult converts are welcomed into the Catholic Church and adult Catholics who never made their First Communion or Confirmation are prepared for those sacraments. Last year our parish was blessed to have one adult Baptized, and several others received into Full Communion with the Church!READ MORE