New Deacons and A New Day for the Ascension

05-22-2022From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

Last weekend was a blessed one for our parish. Seeing so many of our parishioners at the Cathedral for the ordination of Deacon Paul Flor and Deacon Francisco Jaurides really filled my heart. So did the ordination itself, in which a number of deacons were also ordained.

Remember that these new deacons will both assist Fr. Gilbert at the 1pm Mass today (Sunday). Following that Mass, everyone is invited to Mercy Hall for coffee, cake, and refreshments. It will be a great time to congratulate Deacon Paul and Deacon Francisco, and to celebrate their ordination.

I am happy to tell you that Bishop Checchio has assigned Deacon Francisco Jaurides to our parish. As I write these words on Monday morning, he has already assisted at a Mass with each of our priests! Deacon Francisco is very excited and looking forward to serving our whole parish.

Deacon Paul Flor has been assigned to work in a nearby parish. While it may seem odd to us that a deacon from our parish has been assigned to serve elsewhere, this is not as unusual as you may think. Like priests, deacons are ordained for service anywhere the bishop may send them. Many factors, such as the number of deacons already serving in a parish and needs of the deacon’s family, are considered in assigning deacons to parishes.

Regardless of where each deacon will serve, I have no doubt that these two faith filled men will be a blessing to many people. They are dedicated and loving men who are willing to serve the people of God wholeheartedly. Please assist them by praying for them each day.

In the past, I would usually use this column on the Sixth Sunday of Easter to remind you about Ascension Thursday. But, as you have already read in previous bulletin announcements, the Bishops of New Jersey have voted to permanently transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension to the Sunday prior to Pentecost. This means that we will be celebrating the Ascension at Mass next Sunday – not on this coming Thursday.

While this may seem odd, there are some important things to consider. Many years ago, the Holy See gave the bishops in each country permission to transfer certain Holy Days to the nearest Sunday, if that Holy Day cannot be celebrated as a public holiday in that country. This is done to ensure that people can get to Mass on important Holy Days.

In other words, since the Ascension is not a day when most people’s place of work closes (as they do on Christmas), it is presumed that more people can go to Mass for the Ascension if it is celebrated on a Sunday. Indeed, Catholics in most places have celebrated the Ascension on a Sunday for many years. The only place in the United States that still do so on a Thursday are New England, and the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Nebraska!

One may ask why this is not done with all the other Holy Days that are not public holidays (such as All Saints Day and the Assumption). The answer is that the Ascension is so closely connected to Easter and Pentecost that it has a higher (for lack of a better word) level of importance than those days. Jesus’ Ascension is intimately connected with His Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. This has led the bishops of New Jersey to join those in so many other places to celebrate the Ascension on a day when more people are likely to come to Holy Mass.

Again, while this may seem odd to some of us, we will do well to remember that permission for this was first granted by no less a person than Pope Saint John Paul II. His many years as bishop in a communist country no doubt gave him firsthand experience in dealing with cultures that made it difficult for people to get to Mass on Holy Days. Whether that difficulty comes from outright persecution, as it did in so many communist countries over the years, or from the increasingly secular and commercial society that pressures us to put religious obligations aside for work and other secular activity – it is something the Church must deal with intelligently and pastorally.

Please keep me in your prayers this week, at least one Hail Mary a day. Be assured of my daily prayers for you. Let’s also redouble our prayers for peace. I’m so happy that people are praying the Rosary for peace before most of our weekend Masses, and for the protection of all innocent life, which under so many threats these days.

Have a great week!

Fr. John