Consider This… You are the Light of the World

Consider This… You are the Light of the World

Consider This… You are the Light of the World

Often enough, amid the many challenges and forces we come up against, we talk about putting our trust and our faith in God.  In the readings of this weekend, it is instead Jesus who puts his faith and trust in all of us, as he declares, “You are the light of the world… you are the salt of the earth.”  A weighty proposition to have been placed on our shoulders, certainly, but an encouraging thought all the same that the all-knowing, all-powerful, God of the universe, who created us and knows each of us through and through is yet confident to entrust us with this His most important mission.  This light was given to us at our baptisms as we were symbolically  given a candle and asked at that point to let Christ’s light in us shine brightly throughout our lives.

One way that we bring out the light that is in each of us is through education (literal roots of the word from the Latin, educare: e[x] – out of; duc – lead; are – to, “to lead out of”).  This weekend, we finish our celebration of Catholic Schools Week, knowing how important Catholic Education is for leading our lives out of the  darkness into the light, whether we have our foundation here at St. Mary’s School or elsewhere, whether that was through Religious Education Classes, whether we have received continuing education in our Adult Faith Formation and Enrichment Programs, or whether that’s from simply listening to the prayers and the Scriptures and Homilies in our liturgical celebrations…  Catholic Education shows us how to become the best version of ourselves as we continue to grow in God’s ways, and that brings out the light that is in each of us.  Check out the testimonials on our new website from our school students, parents, alumni, and community leaders on the  importance of what Catholic Education has meant to them here at St. Mary’s: St. Mary School Testimonials

Consider for yourself that you are the light of the world and so take advantage of the many opportunities for growth that are made possible here at St. Mary’s School and through our Faith Formation Office to learn how to let your light shine more fully – come be a part of the great things happening at St. Mary’s.  This past year we have touched the lives of over 700 young students through Catholic Education in the School and through Faith Formation, and many more adults in our parish and beyond!  Catholic Education is a big part of our mission and the discipleship happening here.  Our light is shining brightly.  Indeed, we truly have much to celebrate and be thankful for.

And yet, in a world that is increasingly darkened by the absence of faith, it is more important than ever to foster the light that Catholic Education brings.  We want nothing more than Catholic Education to thrive, and we need your help to continue to make that possible.   Fr. Bryan has already alluded to this in an earlier article that we are thus establishing the St. Mary’s Catholic Education Endowment Fund.  This fund will ensure that all Catholic Education at St. Mary’s from the School to Faith Formation is well-funded and has the       resources it needs to be supported into the future.  At the time of this writing, we have already secured over $88,200(!) in contributions towards our initial goal of $250,000 to fund this important endeavor.  You should know that all the money collected to this end stays right here at St. Mary’s for the purposes of the Catholic Education of our parish and cannot be touched by the Diocese or Bankruptcy.  Starting this weekend, there will be pledge cards in the Church so that you can do your part and lend your support – we’re counting on you.  Let your light shine and so help the light of others to shine brightly in turn.  Thank you for your generosity and support of Catholic Education.

Peace

~Fr. Luke

Consider This… Blessed!

Consider This… Blessed!

Consider This… Blessed!

This will be my last column as your Pastor. I’ve struggled with what to write and I keep coming back to what it means to be a Pastor. On October 31, 2020, I was assigned as Administrator to St. Mary’s. It wasn’t until March of 2021 that I was officially made Pastor of St. Mary’s. When I was asked to come to St. Mary’s, it may come as a surprise to you that I initially said no. I was extremely happy with the parish I was pastoring at the time and felt I had more work to accomplish there. The Holy Spirit had other plans, and despite my initial ‘no’, I was brought to St. Mary’s.

When I arrived at St. Mary’s with Fr. Luke, we found a parish that was  limping along, hurt by the past, struggling to move forward, but ready for something to change. It didn’t take long to see what a great community of faith St. Mary’s is, and you were primed to embrace the future. Over the past two years and three months, we have made remarkable progress. I can only consider my time here at St. Mary’s a true blessing. Being your pastor was an honor and I am so proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved together. We began together with some tough conversations about trust, scandal, money concerns and doubting leadership. I don’t know if you remember, but the first six months were pretty tense. As your pastor, I hope you see how authentic, honest and upfront I have tried to be with you, and you have been the same with me. This created a foundation for St. Mary’s to make amazing progress. I can now only describe my time here as blessed. I would like you to consider a reworking of this week’s Gospel as part of my final column and as a reflection of what I have found at

St. Mary’s…

Blessed are…

  1. The parishioners of St. Mary’s parish, for they build the kingdom of God in the Swormville and surrounding communities.
  2. The students of St. Mary School – for they bring joy, life and energy to our parish.
  3. Our Faith Formation Families – for they grow together in their role as disciples and build a foundation fort he future of our parish.
  4. Our parish leaders who serve our parish so faithfully and help lead her into the future.
  5. Our many volunteers and ministers, who model the love of Christ by serving others.
  6. Our staff who work hard and dedicate themselves to making St. Mary’sthe best parish she can be and have been the stability needed to lead her through difficult times.
  7. Our Deacon who is a model of diaconal ministry through his service atthe altar, and to the community of St. Mary’s.
  8. All those who encounter Jesus here at St. Mary’s, for this community is a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lastly, and most importantly, I am the one who has been blessed the most. You have allowed me into your lives and shared your most intimate moments with me. Thank you. It has been an honor to be your Pastor, to love you, guide you, encourage you, challenge you and to bring Jesus to you.

I may be leaving as your Pastor, but please know of my continued prayers for all of you as we move forward on life’s journey and I humbly ask that you remember me in your prayers. Please pray for Fr. Luke also, and        whoever the new pastor of the family of parishes will be. These are challenging times, and yet we have to trust that God will provide.

I love you all, and I sincerely mean it when I say I am proud to have served as your Pastor.

Keep smiling, smiley face

Your Pastor, Fr. Bryan

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-2023 Year A

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-2023 Year A

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-2023 Year A

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.”  Words from our first reading today from the 8th chapter of the prophet Isaiah – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Baptism has been a theme for us for the past few weeks and it comes up in our readings today, so I thought this would be a good one for us: a 4-year-old named Ruth was conducting the baptismal service that Sunday morning.  She held her poor cat over a barrel of water.  Trying to be as reverent as the pastor as she dunked her cat into the water, she repeated the phrase she had heard many times: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and into the Holy You Go-est!” 

Often enough, people who think the same way join together and claim the namesake of a well-known person.  This occurs today with religious or political leaders, with sports figures, or entertainers, and we know how passionate such supporters can become – think of how great our support is for the Buffalo Bills as opposed to say Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.  This was the case as well in the Corinthian Community back then from our second reading today.  The early Christians there had deteriorated into rivalry and factions, and they began appealing to various authorities like Apollos, Cephas, and Paul who represented their own viewpoints.  In pledging their loyalty to various groups and certain leaders, however, the Corinthians neglected the larger picture of working together to build God’s Kingdom, and they forgot that they were all brothers and sisters in Christ.  Looking to bring them together, Paul had to ask rhetorically: “Is Christ divided?  No, Christ cannot be divided…  Was Paul crucified for you?  No, Jesus alone died for our salvation…  Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  No, we were not baptized in Paul’s name, nor were we baptized in the name of Apollos or Cephas, or Pope Francis, or Pope Benedict, Fr. Bryan or Fr. Luke, or St. Mary’s, or St. Teresa’s or Our Lady of Peace or Nativity, or Terry Pegula, Sean McDermott, Donald Trump, or Joe Biden – you get the idea… look, we were baptized in God’s name.  The innocent little girl pretty much had it right; we were baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and so our allegiance and our loyalty and our belonging, all of us, ultimately is to God. There are always bound to be differences between us, but if we forget the common denominator that binds us together, namely that we are all God’s holy people, then as St. Paul warns us, like the Corinthian community we will remain suspicious of each other, fractioned and in the dark, even today.

Our readings this weekend have a lot to do with coming back into the light.  Just as the Corinthians knew the darkness of division, the people of Israel from our first reading had just been conquered by the Assyrians.  The darkness that came over the people in the first reading would have included social disintegration, political collapse, and religious devastation.  The use of the word darkness could be a reference almost to extinction, as war ravaged the land, destroying their lives and livelihoods.  In the midst of their gloom, however, Isaiah knew, that God could shine through their present darkness and that if God’s people could place their hope and trust in the Lord, then one day they would be free, would have an abundant harvest, and their joy would return to them.

Indeed, we know that God’s light has shone in the world – that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Peace is possible; unity is possible; joy is possible in Jesus who is our light and our salvation.  That is what brings us to this Eucharist, to share in this communion, this unity with God together once again.  The only thing Jesus asks of us is to repent, to turn around, to open ourselves up to something new that we can move beyond our own limited world and worldview and so come into his Kingdom, and so come into the light.  It’s a scary thing to do.  If we want to live in the light we have to let go of the darkness; we have to make the conscious decision to let go of our factions, of our griefs, of our unfortunate histories, of our prejudices, our ideologies…  And yet we resist our own happiness all the time.  More often than not, people would rather hold onto a certain hardship rather than reach out to an uncertain good (2x).  Change is not easy.  We all have our own securities we fall back onto.  I know that there are parts of my lifestyle where I prefer the certainty of managing my own schedule and whom I get meet with, or having various possessions that keep my comfortable, or even deciding what I take to God in prayer and what I yet reserve in a corner of my heart giving into the illusion of control and security and immortality, instead of letting God truly take direction of my life, wherever that may lead.  In some ways, I still prefer the certainty of my own darkness to the uncertainty of light.  It’s not easy to be like Peter, Andrew, James and John of our Gospel today… fishing was the only life that they knew, and it was a hard life.  But who of us could simply and immediately leave behind our nets, our livelihoods, and our families?  Who of us has given up everything, not just something, but absolutely everything to follow Jesus into the light?  We have a long way to go. 

The good news is God’s light is accessible to us still, even in a broken, divided world and Church.  And the more we say yes, the more we open ourselves, the more we come into Christ’s light, the more the darkness will recede, the more joy we will find, the more familiar we will become with God’s peace.  We’ve experienced this for ourselves.  There has been a great renewal here at St. Mary’s these last couple of years amid the uncertainties that our parish was facing.  We’ve all felt it.  This is the same spirit that is meant to be fostered in this Road to Renewal that is upon us and that Fr. Bryan is working towards for our Diocese, not just structurally in the collaboration that needs to be fostered between various parishes and groups, but also towards openness, towards a renewal of trust, of deepening relationships with God, towards a more vibrant liturgical life, of finding new ways of passing on the faith and spreading the Good News to others outside our community, of becoming better stewards of God’s gifts to us – these are the pillars of Renewal.  And we’re working on it.  And we need your help – I need your help.  As Jesus left Nazareth and went into a new locale to continue his ministry, he gathered people together to help him, like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, to help him carry on his mission.  Jesus has a role for all of us still and he continues to call on each of us to build up his Kingdom today.  Maybe you will serve the Church one day as a priest or a deacon or in the religious life – it’s a great life.  I love the priesthood.  Maybe that is through your financial acumen or your talent for teaching or your marketing skills or your leadership.  Maybe that is through your heart for service or your generosity or your participation and presence.  We want to keep going forward.  Jesus needs your help.  Paul acknowledges to the Corinthians and to us that the pieces are in place; Jesus announces that the Kingdom is at hand; Isaiah reminds us we have the light.  Step into it. 

Consider This… Blessed!

Consider This… Renewal

Consider This… Renewal

By now I am sure you have heard the announcement that I will be leaving      St. Mary’s as your Pastor to become the full time Vicar for the Renewal. This was not a position that I asked for, but Bishop Mike recognizes that for the  Renewal to receive the attention it deserves, I need to focus upon that ministry full time. The past two years and three months St. Mary’s has experienced her own renewal. We have seen ministry come alive, people drawn to the enthusiasm, prayerfulness and energy of our parish. Many have returned from the pandemic and our parish leadership is working hard on celebrating our 175th along with crafting a vision for the future. The enthusiasm, energy and renewal that you have experienced here, is exactly what needs to happen in our Diocese. Please pray for this, and pray that I am able to help foster the same renewal you experienced here across the Diocese.

As I prepare in these last weeks to surrender to God’s will in my now full-time assignment of Renewal, and stepping down as your Pastor, there are several things we need to do before I go.

  1. State of the Parish– My final state of the parish address as your Pastor will take place on Monday, January 23 at 6:30 pm in the church. Please attend to see what is happening and where we are going. I will share some important trends for the future as we also look at this past year.
  2. St. Mary’s Education Endowment Fund– This fund has been established to ensure that all education at St. Mary’s well into the future is funded and supported. I invited our top donors several weeks ago to help me kick off this education endowment. I am now asking our parish to help invest in this legacy project ensuring that education is a priority at St. Mary’s well into the future. Much more on this will be shared at the State of the Parish and information will be available at the church entrances.
  3. Pillar committee work– The Renewal focuses upon six ‘pillar’ areas that work to develop a strategic plan for the Family of  Parishes. Representatives from all parishes within our family will come together to work in the areas of; Liturgy, Spiritual Life, Forming Disciples, Outreach/Inreach, Stewardship, Administration. Fr. Luke and I will be identifying people to work on these committee’s for the future of our Family of Parishes. More information on this will be forthcoming. If you are interested in serving on any of these pillars, please share your interest so  Fr. Luke and I can determine who to invite onto these important pillars.
  4. Mass schedule– Our Family of Parishes that includes St. Mary’s, Nativity, Our Lady of Peace and St. Teresa is slated to have 4 priests serving within our family of parishes. Looking at the future of our parishes, the Masses we offer and the number of priests serving within our family, we at St. Mary’s have to make an immediate adjustment to our Mass schedule. As you are aware, the 5:30 Saturday evening Mass was instituted to thin the 4 pm Mass crowd down when people returned from the pandemic. Fr. Luke and I have continued the Mass well beyond what we originally committed to for the convenience of our parishioners. With my departure, we cannot guarantee that we will have priestly coverage for this Mass. Therefore, January 28 will be the last 5:30 Mass. As of Feb 4, our only Saturday vigil Mass will be at 4 pm.
  5. Pray– St. Mary’s is strong, vibrant and has emerged as a leader within our Diocese of what real renewal is all about; faith in God and one another. The great work that has taken place here is through the effort of great priests, deacons, staff, lay leaders, people, and young people. All of us working together have responded to the Holy Spirit. Please pray to the Holy Spirit who has guided St. Mary’s these past few years. Pray for continued guidance, trust and insight during this transition into the future. I am confident that St. Mary’s will continue to flourish and be the leader I know she can be.

Keep Smiling smiley face

Fr. Bryan