I want to start by thanking everyone who helped make Bishop Checchio's visit to our parish such a success. It was nice to see a good crowd at the 11 AM Mass with our Bishop – especially in the middle of July! Although our choir was already on their summer break, a lot of them showed up to sing at the Bishop's Mass. Thanks for going the extra mile!
Special thanks to the Knights of Columbus – who served as an honor guard and lent their presence to the celebration. I am aware that many of the Knights also went to the 9:30 Mass at St. Mary's (which the Bishop also celebrated) as well. This is just one more example of the dedication of these fine men.READ MORE
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
Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. We usually think of John the Baptist during Advent, because he was the last great prophet to prepare people for the coming of Christ. But – for many centuries – the Church has celebrated his birth on June 24th. It is one of those feast days that is so important that it supersedes the regular Sunday Mass!
As Catholics, we make a big deal out of John the Baptist for a very good reason – Jesus made a big deal out him, too! Jesus went to John for Baptism and gave His approval to John’s work. He also told the people that John was the greatest prophet of all. That’s pretty high praise.
I’m sure that most of us – indeed most Catholics around the world – associate John the Baptist with Baptism. This makes sense because John spent so many years Baptizing people in the Jordan River. His baptisms were a preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism which is so important to us today.READ MORE
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, and spiritual fathers in our parish! Although my own father has been deceased for many years, I have so many fond memories of him. Even today, I am very aware of all the positive ways that he influenced my life! For this reason, I am always inspired when I see fathers spending time with their children – in church, on sports fields, or just around the parish. You are all in my prayers today.
My father had an especially positive influence on my academic life. Prior to college and seminary, I was the kind of kid who really hated school. Left to my own devices, I would have rarely – or very poorly – completed homework or studied for tests. But my father kept on top of these things. Although he and my mother were married shortly after high school, he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees by going to college at night. I remember the two of us sitting at the kitchen table doing homework together (him more willingly than me!).
Speaking of school, I want to congratulate all the graduates of our parish. Whether you're graduating from college, high school, middle or elementary school, this is an important milestone in your life. My prayer is that you will use what you have learned to do good things for the people around you, and for God.READ MORE
Last Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a Holy Mass celebrating Msgr. Corona’s 50th anniversary as a priest. I was especially happy to see about 15 people from our parish at the Mass, which Msgr. Corona offered in St. Luke’s Church, where he is currently serving. A number of priests were there, including Fr. Tom from our parish, and many priests who served here with Monsignor over the years.
Please keep Msgr. Corona in your prayers, thanking God for his years of priestly service. As anyone who has been around long enough can tell you, fifty years of service is no small thing! It is only accomplished with the help of God’s grace, upon which Msgr. Corona has relied these many years.
I will always be grateful for Monsignor’s many kindnesses to me over the years – dating way back to when I was a newly ordained priest over at St. Mary’s. He was a good neighbor and a source of good advice. He also did a great deal to ensure a smooth transition when he left Phillipsburg nine years ago.READ MORE
Today we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. This celebration–one of the most solemn of the Church year–honors the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine. This indeed is the Mystery of Faith–that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is really the Risen Jesus.
Speaking of the Eucharist, Jesus once said, “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” In other words, receiving Holy Communion establishes an abiding relationship between us and Jesus. It gives us a special closeness to Him.
In these days of electronic communication, we have many ways to keep in touch. E-mails, text messages, and skyping allow us to speak to friends and family members around the world at almost any time. But actually sitting down with each other and enjoying each other’s company–simply being with each other–doesn’t happen as much as we’d like.READ MORE
Last Saturday our parish was blessed to have two of her sons – Matthew Marinelli and Joseph Illes – ordained deacons. This is the next to last step on the long road to priesthood that they have been walking for several years. God willing, they will be ordained priests around this time next year. Please pray for them!
Deacon Matthew preached his first homily at the 4:30pm Mass last Saturday, while Deacon Joseph preached his at the 11:00am last Sunday. They both did a great job! Deacon Matthew made special mention of how much it meant to him to preach his first homily in his home parish, with so many people he has known for years in attendance. Deacon Joseph spoke of how the Holy Spirit helped the first disciples spread the Gospel – and how we can rely on that same Holy Spirit to help us serve Christ today. Both thanked everyone for their prayers and support over the years!READ MORE
What have you done to spread the Gospel lately? That’s a good question to ask yourself on this Pentecost Sunday.
On Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help the disciples spread the Gospel to many peoples and places. In Baptism – and especially Confirmation – Jesus sent that same Holy Spirit to help us spread the Gospel in the world today. Many of you did this by teaching your children about the Faith and sending them to Catholic school or CCD classes. Many also do it by supporting the missions. Still others do it on a personal, one-to-one basis – sharing their faith with others in conversations and other ways.
St. John Paul II – and his successors Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis – said that our world has need of a "New Evangelization." By "new" they do not mean that we are to preach a "new" message about Jesus – for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8) Rather, the popes mean that – as Catholics – we need to make a new effort at spreading the Gospel in the world.READ MORE
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and great ladies of our parish!
I have so many good things to report this week – which is always good news! The First Communion Masses went beautifully in our parish. The children were excited and devout as they received Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time.READ MORE
Our Parish Carnival wraps up this weekend. If you can stop by – perhaps after Mass on Saturday evening or this afternoon (Sunday) – please do. It's a great place to have some fun, see other parishioners, and enjoy great Carnival Food! (From last year, my favorites were the meatballs and the Deep Fried Twinkies). Hope to see you there!
May is, of course, the Month of Mary. With that in mind, try to do some little things to honor Mary this month. If you don't already pray the Rosary daily, this would be a good time to start. If you can't pray a whole Rosary, why not pray at least a decade of it a day? It is a powerful prayer – one of my favorites – and is recommended by countless saints. For those who may not know, pamphlets on how to pray the Rosary will be placed around the Church.READ MORE