Whenever I have to write a column before I leave for vacation, I have to think about what to write. Last week I addressed Pope Francis' recent statements about the Death Penalty. This week I'm going to talk about some upcoming Parish Events – because by the time I get home, many of them will be just around the corner!
On Sunday, September 9, our Parish will have a special Communion Breakfast to honor our Blessed Mother's Birthday. For those who may not know, Communion Breakfasts are an old Catholic tradition. The idea is to go to Mass, receive Holy Communion, and then gather for a special breakfast together.READ MORE
As you read these words, I am on my annual vacation. Last week I told you that I would use this column to address the recent news that Pope Francis had "changed" Catholic teaching on the death penalty. It is best that I begin by reminding people that not even a pope is free to change the unchanging Doctrines of the Catholic Church. Doctrines are those central Truths of the Faith that have been given to us by Christ–either in person while He was on this earth or through constant, unbroken teaching of His Church.READ MORE
Last Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Mitchell Frasca. Mitchell is the Boy Scout who recently renovated our Confessionals and Crying Rooms. I was very happy that he agreed to take on the project – and even happier at the thorough job he did.
Not only do I want to congratulate Mitchell on becoming an Eagle Scout, but also thank him for a job well done. I also want to say what a nice time I had catching up with a number of young men who have graduated from our parish school or Boy Scout Troop over the years. It is good to see them doing so well.
Following Mitchell’s ceremony, I was happy to attend a picnic/party given by one of our basketball teams. The team – mostly boys headed into sixth grade – have played in a summer league the past two years. They had a good time and improved their skills – and I was happy to be invited to their party.
Both the Eagle Scout ceremony and the basketball team’s party are a testimony to the many good families that are such a blessing to our parish. I have recently been training some new Altar Servers – who also learned so much about our Faith from their families. As Catholics, we believe that families are the basic building blocks of the Church – the place where most of us first learn and practice our Faith in Jesus Christ. I am always inspired by the number of families in our parish who take that role to heart!READ MORE
We all know that, before ascending to Heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples to spread the Gospel to all people. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, those disciples made a great start at this mission. Within a generation after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, the Gospel had been preached in most of the Roman Empire, and many people had been converted to Christ.
Today, our Church continues the mission that the apostles began in many ways. One of them is the annual Mission Co-op Plan. As part of this plan, every parish in our country – and in many others, too – is visited by a missionary who preaches about the missions at Sunday Mass. A collection is then taken to support the work of that missionary and his or her community.
Next weekend our parish will welcome a priest from the Diocese of Kohima. Located in the state of Nagaland in Northeast India, Kohima is a beehive of missionary activity. Fifty years ago, there were but a few hundred Catholics there. Today, there is over 60,000 – and the number is growing rapidly. The family of Fr. Mhoncan Ezung – who served as a deacon in our parish a few years ago – came to the Catholic Faith thru the efforts of the
missionaries in Nagaland. He is living proof of the great work that is happening there.
As always, I encourage everyone who can to support the missionary work of the Church. Not all of us can go to the missions, but all of us can support them through our prayers and, in many cases, financial offerings. In doing so, we continue that great mission that Jesus gave to us through His first disciples.READ MORE
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