Category Archives: Pastor’s Notes

Pastor’s Notes – December 17, 2017

Father Shea

By Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

Below is my Christmas greeting to family and friends. It is not a card. It is a letter. A letter which tells of two significant events that took place at St. Gerard this past year. At the end of my letter I turn to God to remind us all that God is watching over us, even in the midst of tragedy. God has a bigger plan. We are part of that plan. It might seem to be bump in the road now, but wait, something greater is going to happen. So, let us prepare ourselves for God’s surprise. In the meantime, we believe that God is revealing Himself through our human experiences.

In 2017, we welcomed seminarians and fire ravished St. Gerard Church.

Early in August, fourteen Redemptorist seminarians came to San Antonio to study at the Oblate School of Theology. They have taken up residence in the former nuns’ convent at St. Gerard. “Welcome Redemptorist Seminarians.”

About 2:00 am Thanksgiving morning vandals entered St. Gerard Church. With burning candles lighting their way, they ransacked the church, smashed open and emptied the chalice cabinet. They happened to drop a burning candle amid church decorations on the second floor of the sacristy. It ignited.

About the same time a pregnant woman across the street had a craving for a cinnamon roll. She and her husband were heading to Whataburger when they saw flames in the window. They called 911-“The Church is on fire!”

The sirens woke up a Redemptorist student. He saw the fire trucks and quickly opened the church for the fire fighters. They extinguished the fire but not before the second floor was totally destroyed. The flames never reached the body of the church. Only smoke and soot. Apparently, when the vandals heard the sirens,, they fled, leaving behind the baskets of chalices.

St. Gerard is the patron of our church and also the patron of pregnant women. The student is a Redemptorist Brother following in the footsteps of St. Gerard who was a Redemptorist Brother. Some people say it was a coincidence. I say it was St. Gerard interceding before God who then touched the right people at the right time. They responded quickly to save our church.

Praise God! No one was hurt. Our church stands. A blessed Christmas to all.

Last Saturday evening we celebrated our parish Christmas party. Our parish threw this party to express our appreciation for all that our parishioners do at St. Gerard. My thanks goes our to the Social Events Committee. The cafeteria was attractively decorated. The d’oerves were delightful. The drinks were refreshing. The dinner was delicious. The desserts were tasty. The entertainment was rejuvenating. What a great evening! And thanks to generous benefactors who provided the food which was delectable. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

A little girl decided to make her own Christmas cards. When her father inspected the drawings, he pointed to the image of Mary. He asked his daughter why she had drawn Mary standing on one leg, while the other leg was bent at the knee. The little girl answered: “That’s Mary stomping her foot. She wanted a girl!”

We will be celebrating Christmas on a week from Monday. During this week the postal employees will be hustling to deliver all the Christmas cards, gifts and goodies. During my 12 years at Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Kansas City, Bishop Boland was our bishop. He has since gone home to heaven. He wrote a prayer for this season. He used the language of the postal department.

“God, Our Father, may everything we do be first-class. Imprint your own loving Zip Code upon our hearts so that we may never go astray.

Provide in your gracious Providence, special handling for those of us who are fragile and keep us in one piece. We have been signed, sealed, stamped and delivered in your image and likeness. We beg you to keep us in your care as we go about our appointed rounds.

And when our days draw to a close and we are marked ‘Return to Sender,’ may you be there to greet us at Heaven’s door so that nobody may ever say, ‘Unknown at this Address.'” Amen.

Christmas is a time when memories return. We remember the loved ones of Christmases past. We remember those who were with us last Christmas but will not be with us this Christmas. We remember the good times. With the loss of loved ones, in death, in separation or in divorce, a weight hangs from our hearts. Sadness has replaced that joy. The holidays stir up the sorrow within us.

But Christmas was made for such times as these. For a Child is born to us. God has come to live with us. Christ has become a human like us. He has taken on the pain and suffering of humanity. He has also filled our hearts with hope and happiness. Through Christ the blind see, the deaf hear, the crippled walk, dead people rise and the Good News is preached to them. Christ has reached deep into our hearts to lift us from the depths of sorrow to the heights of eternal joy.

As faith filled people, burdened with sorrows and pains, we rejoice with the shepherds and sing with the angels – “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – December 10, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

“THE CHURCH IS ON FIRE”

Early Thanksgiving morning, Father Mick Fleming raced through the rectory pounding on doors and desperately shouting: “The church is on fire, the church is on fire.”

I leapt out of bed, quickly got dressed and rushed outside. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles surrounded the church. Their bright lights lit the surrounding area. I arrived just after the fire fighters had extinguished the fire. As I stood next to the church I could see dense smoke filling the back sacristy and the nave of the church. When the smoke cleared, I entered the sacristy. There before me was the locked chalice cabinet. Only now, the door was smashed and the chalices were gone. Then I went upstairs to the second floor of the sacristy. There laid the twisted and charred remains of church decorations.

Then the questions came. How did the fire start? Who started it? Who called 911? What happened to the chalices? Did someone set the church on fire? Was it an electrical fire? On and on came the questions…with no answers.

We know that the fire started and was contained in the west end of the second floor of the sacristy. i will tell the story as I think things happened.

About 1:00 to 2:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning one or two people, maybe more, entered the church. I will refer to them as ‘vandals.’ We have no idea how the vandals entered. No doors or windows showed any signs of forced entry. The doors of the church were all locked. I walked through the church around 6:00 p.m. the night before, locking the doors behind me. Perhaps the vandals had a key. It could be that I failed to secure a door. Perhaps the vandals were hiding in the church.

The vandals did not turn the lights on in the church. Instead they found the stubs of burn out candles. These stubs were in a box on the bottom shelf of the candle cabinet.We saved them for recycling. They took the candle stubs, lit them and placed them around the sacristy, upstairs and down. It seems that they also roamed around the church. We found spilt wax here and there. One of the seminarians as well as a neighbor reported the ringing of church bells at 2:00 a.m. The church bell switch is close to the light switch. Perhaps they hit the wrong switch.

In front of the main altar we had placed large baskets to collect Thanksiving food for the poor. The vandals took two baskets, went into the sacristy, smashed open the door of the chalice cabinet and raked all the sacred vessels into the baskets. They dumped the contents of all the drawers into the baskets. They carried the overloaded baskets and placed them on the main altar.

The tabernacle key was locked in the chalice cabinet. They took the key, opened the tabernacle, took the luna and ciborium filled with consecrated hosts and placed them in the basket on the altar. As they were loading the baskets, one of the candles upstairs probably melted down, fell over and started burning the decorations. Perhaps the vandals did not realize the fire was burning. And if they did, they probably fled leaving the two baskets behind.

A young couple, Lee and Charlene, live directly across the street. Charlene is five months pregnant. Around 2:15 a.m., she had a craving for a cinnamon roll. She and her husband stepped out of their house heading to Whataburger. Charlene looked up, saw flames in the sacristy window. She told her husband to call 911. Moments later the emergency sirens pierced the silence of the night. If the vandals did not flee when they saw the fire, they certainly fled when they heard the sirens. They left behind the baskets on the altar. The vandals might have taken a few items. An elaborate ciborium and a chalice is missing. The tabernacle key is also missing. There might be other items missing as well.

Brother Mark, our seminarian, woke up to the sound of the sirens, saw the emergency vehicles in front of the church, had the presence of mind to grab a church key and open the church for the fire fighters. The police took fingerprints – still under investigation. The arson officer could find no evidence of intentionally starting the fire. The origin of the fire was determined to be the careless use of lighten candles.

A thick plaster wall separates the upper room from the sanctuary of the church. The fire lapped against the heavy plaster but did not penetrate the wall. Therefore, the sanctuary and nave suffered no physical damage, only smoke damage. The second floor of the sacristy had to be gutted. The cleaning crew had to wash down the walls of the church and wipe every surface in the sanctuary and nave.

We are most grateful for Charlene and Lee calling 911, for the quick response of the fire fighters; and for Brother Mark who opened the church door. St. Gerard is the patron of women bearing a child. Perhaps St. Gerard was at work creating a taste for a cinnamon roll, waking people at the proper time, grabbing a church key and containing the fire in the upper room.

We give praise and thanks to God.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

 

Pastor’s Notes – December 3, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

While shopping in a food store, two nuns happened to pass the beer cooler. One nun said to the other, “Wouldn’t a nice cold beer or two taste wonderful on a hot summer’s evening?”

The second nun answered “Indeed it would Sister, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying beer. I am certain that it would cause a scene at the check-out counter.”

“I can handle that without a problem” she replied as she picked up a six-pack and headed for the check-out. The cashier had a surprised look on his face when the two nuns arrived with a six-pack of beer.

“We use beer for washing our hair” the nun said, “A shampoo, of sorts, if you will.” Without blinking an eye, the cashier reached under the counter, pulled out a package of pretzel sticks and placed them in the bag with the beer. He then looked the nun straight in the eye, smiled and said, “The curlers are on the house.”

Many of us remember the days when a nun taught in every classroom. Those were the good OLE days. But were they that good? if we look closer we would discover that those nuns were unjustly treated. They were not justly salaried.

Where are those nuns today? Well, many of them have gone on to their eternal reward. Others are in nursing homes where their religious orders are caring for them. In many instances, the religious orders are struggling to provide dignified care for the ailing sisters who dedicated their lives to teaching. Unfortunately, when these nuns were active, they received no money to put aside for their old age.

The Bishops and priests across the country have owned up to the injustices which the church rendered to all those teaching nuns. In 1988 the Bishops established a Retirement Fund for Religious. Each year a collection is taken for retired religious. The money is distributed to the religious orders to care for the sick and dying. An average of 25 million dollars has been collected annually from all the parishes across the country. Today, this money is used to care for many of those nuns who taught us. Yes, the nuns gave thousands of kids a wonderful education. Because of the nuns, those kids grew up, graduated from college and launched profitable careers. Now we are asking those same people to share some of their earnings to care for the aging nuns who gave them such a wonderful start in life.

The National Religious Retirement Organization is handling the collected funds. They distribute these funds to the needy communities of religious sisters, brothers or priests who are living the consecrated life. The NRRO also has a consulting branch which helps religious orders financially plan for the future. This consulting group has annualized our Redemptorist financial status. They offered drastic suggestions. As a result the provincial government has moved its offices to St. Michael’s parish in Chicago and sold the provincial residence in Denver. The Redemptorists also decided to discontinue our Health Care Facility and merge with another, more established health care institutions.

Next weekend, December 9 – 10, we will have a second collection for Retired Religious. You will find an envelope in your contribution packets. Thank you for your goodness and generosity.

Mother Superior was on her deathbed. The other nuns gathered around her bedside. Mother Superior asked for something to drink. As they were bringing a glass of milk, one of the younger nuns suggested they spike the milk with a splash of Irish whiskey to energize their superior. After drinking the milk, color came back to Mother Superior’s face. A sparkle flashed in her eyes. Seeing Sister so chipper, one of the nuns asked, “Mother Superior, before you pass on to your eternal happiness, do you have some final words for us?” Mother Superior paused a moment, smacked her lips, then said, “For God’s sake, don’t sell that cow!”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

 

 

Pastor’s Notes – November 26, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

Monsignor Clark was the pastor of Christ the King Parish. Being slayed by the Irish curse, Monsignor found his joy in the bottled spirits. One night the archbishop decided to phone Monsignor Clark. It so happened that Monsignor had taken a few too many nips of Jamison. When the phone rang, Monsignor picked up the handset and said, “Clark the King Parish, Christ speaking.”

This weekend we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. We also refer to this Sunday as the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, it the new year of our Church calendar. The message this Sunday is unchanging. We are reminded that Christ is the Lord of both heaven and earth.

Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King in 1925. The pope noticed that much of the world was becoming secular. He wanted to draw attention back to Christ, especially as we approach Christmas season. Originally this feast was assigned to the last Sunday of October to be as near as possible to Al Saints Day. The feast was later changed to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time to demonstrate how Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the union between heaven and earth.

Today, we begin our journey toward Bethlehem. We join a young husband and wife as they travel toward a stable. Wise men set out to follow a star. It is night time. We stumble though the darkness. We are filled with expectancy for we believe that the Light of the World awaits us. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Next Friday is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a Holy day of obligation. We are obligated to attend Mass. Mass will be celebrated at 6:30 and 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The Immaculate Conception honors the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ. Since 1846, the Immaculate Conception has been the Patroness of the United States. Mary is the Immaculate Conception. This day does not refer to Mary conceiving Jesus by the Holy Ghost. Rather, it is Mary conceived without sin in the womb of her Mother, St. Anne. From the very moment of her conception, God filled her with grace. God knew in His omniscience, that she would say “yes” to the Angel Gabriel and become the Mother of the Savior. Exactly nine months from now, on September 8, we will celebrate Mary’s birthday.

Next weekend we will have an anointing service after each of the Masses. The celebrant of the Mass will invite the people who wish to be anointed, to remain in the pews. The priests will lay their hands on each person. Then, the priest will anoint each person.

The Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament which brings healing graces to those who are suffering. Only Bishops and Priests are empowered to confer the Sacrament of the Anointing. We bring this sacrament to patients in hospitals, to the homebound, to those who are ailing or are aged.

Christ gave us this sacrament as He anointed those who were sick. Through the history of the Church, there has always been the Anointing of the Sick. It is a sacrament for those at the point of death as well as for those who are suffering from sickness or old age, or for those who are preparing for surgery.

On Monday, December 18th at 7:00 pm, we will have a Penance Service at St. Gerard. We will begin with a prayer service, followed by an opportunity to go to confession. Several priests will be available for confession.

The novelist Somerset Maugham said it well. “I have committed follies. I have a sensitive conscience and I have done certain things in my life that i am unable to entirely forget. If I had been fortunate enough to be a Catholic, I could have delivered myself of them at confession and after performing the penance imposed, received absolution and put them out of my mind forever.”

Imagine that, a non-Catholic has recognized the value of the Sacrament. Yet, many of us brush the Sacrament aside as if to say it is old fashion. Forgiveness is not only old fashion but it is also fashionable. It is most important in our lives. The grace of the sacrament awaits you. Let’s not neglect this Godly gift. So, we welcome you on December 18th.

An irate judge in London, disgusted with corporate crime, sentenced a convicted embezzler by saying, “Your parole officer has not been born.”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – November 19, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

A young man grew up in a large religious family. One day he and his sister announced to their parents that they were interested in joining the religious life. His father, a quiet, philosophical man, made this observation. “You know, if you become a nun or a priest you will never enjoy the privilege of having your own children. Like your mother, you will not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day. Nor, like me, you won’t be able to celebrate Father’s Day. However, both of you will have two days to celebrate: Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.

On Thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. We celebrate this day because of the perseverance of one woman, Sarah Josepha Hales. The official description of Thanksgiving Day is, “A national holiday in the United States commemorating the harvest of the Plymouth Colony in 1621, following a winter of great hardship.”

During the first harsh New England winter, over ninety people were sick. Only seven people were well enough to care for the others. Fifty one people out of 102 died that first year. Yet, on that first Thanksgiving Day, they found so much to be thankful for. ‘Thanksgiving Day,’ the day to give thanks, was born in Puritan New England in the 1630’s. It was shaped by four traditions – the Harvest, the Home, Christmas ans proclamations of civic and congregational days of thanksgiving and prayer.

Early in our history, this day was celebrated by only a few eastern states. But Sarah Josepha Hales was determined to have the entire nation celebrate this day of giving thanks to God from whom all blessing flow. She sent endless articles and letters to journals and newspapers expressing her desire to make this day a national holiday. She wrote to President Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan in the mid 1800’s. In 1852 she succeeded in uniting 29 states in marking the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

Then, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln took action. He proclaimed the last Thursday of November as the day set apart for the national giving of thanks to Almighty God. The day was not to celebrate military victory but to be grateful for “a year filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” Lincoln reminded the citizens that, “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the precious gifts of the Most High God.”

It has been reported that Thanksgiving Day is the most celebrated day in the United States. The airlines tell us that air traffic is the heaviest over Thanksgiving weekend. Families will travel across the nation to be home for Thanksgiving. Already we can smell the wonderful aromas from the kitchen. The Thanksgiving meal is mom’s best.

They say that people speak about 18,000 words a day. In the course of the day, how many times do we use the word: “Thanks.” We have so much to be thankful for. And no one deserves ‘thanks’ more than our God who has given us everything. In the midst of our festivities on Thursday, let us take some time out to say “Thanks.” Our God must be on the top of our list. We can start the day by attending a Thanksgiving Day Mass at St. Gerard. At 9:00 a.m. we will gather to say, “Thank you, God.”

I want to say “Thank you” to all parishioners of St. Gerard, for your goodness and generosity. Thank you for the wonderful spirit. For your friendship; for your sharing and caring. For the many gifts of volunteering your time and expertise to this faith community.

One week after Thanksgiving St. Gerard Men’s ACTS retreat will be held at the Moye Retreat House in Castroville. About 25 men are serving on team with Daniel Thatcher as the Director. James Cazares and Peter Caliendo are the co-directors. All these men have been meeting once a week for the past three months, to prepare themselves for the retreat weekend. Let us keep these men in prayer as we ask the Holy Spirit to come upon them. We are looking forward to a spiritually dynamic weekend with the team and first time retreatants.

King Frederick the Great visited the jail of Potsdam. He had a special audience with the inmates. Surprisingly, each inmate informed the King that he was totally innocent of the charges against them. Near the end of the King’s visit, one of the inmates said to the King “Your excellency, I am guilty and deserve the punishment I am receiving.”

The King immediately ordered that man to be released. Totally surprised, the inmate thanked the King as he was escorted out of the prison. With a smile, the king said, “After all young man, I don’t want you to corrupt all the innocent people in here.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – November 11, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

A religious order of nuns staffed a small hospital in a quaint country town. A young doctor on staff happened to be an avid golfer. Everyone teased him about his golf addiction, especially the nuns in charge. It so happened that his doctor’s wife was expecting a baby. One day she unexpectedly experienced labor pains. The doctor rushed his wife to the hospital. They didn’t quite make it in time. She gave birth to a baby boy on the grassy lawn in front of the emergency room. Thanks be to God, all went well!

When the doctor received a bill for the emergency room services, he objected. With tongue in cheek he argued with the bookkeeper. He claimed that there should be no emergency room fees since his wife gave birth to his son on the lawn. Mother Superior happened to overhear the doctor’s argument. She quickly approached the doctor, snatched the bill from his hand, scratched out ‘Emergency Room Services,’ and scrawled across the page in large letters ‘GREEN FEES.’

Let me begin with the original rectory – the second building east of Gevers. Six Redemptorists live in this rectory. The rectory is owned by the Redemptorist Fathers of San Antonio. Those living in the rectory are: Father Alton Carr, Father Rob Ruhnke, Brother Charlie Fucik, Father Francis Pham, Father Bob Lindsey, and Fr. Jim Shea.

The building east of the church was originally known as the Notre Dame Convent. Now it has two names – the front of the building is called ‘The Parish Center and Offices.’ The back of the building and the second floor is known as ‘The Theology Residence.’ Fourteen Redemtorists, studying theology at the Oblate School of Theology, and two directors live in this building. These men are vowed Redemptorists who come from across the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada and Ireland. The Redemptorist Provincials from seven different units, known as ‘The Conference,’ jointly subsidize this program.

The Archdiocese owns the church, the school and the Theology Residence. St. Gerard Parish manages these buildings. The Conference – is leasing The Theology Residence from the Archdiocese for $4,000 a month, plus 3/4 of the utility bills. Since the parish manages the building, the lease goes to the parish, not the Archdiocese.

There are three Corporations associated with St. Gerard. All the parishes of this Archdiocese, which includes St. Gerard Parish, are listed under the corporation ‘Archdiocese of San Antonio.’ We Redemptorist Priests and Brother have our corporation. “The Redemptorist Priests of San Antonio.” Finally, the Theology Residence has recently been incorporated, ‘North American Redemptorist Theology Residence.’ Our parishioner, John Rothermel, handled the legal work.

Over the summer months many people worked on the Theology Residence, preparing it for the arrival of the students. Since rooms had been vacant for nearly 20 years, they required painting, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, carpeting/tiling and plastering. Many folks cleaned the rooms. Each room was fitted with new sheets, pillow cases, blankets, comforters and rugs. The Redemptorist Conference paid for all the trade work. Many parishioners, along with the Conference, paid for the outfitting of the rooms. No money was taken from St. Gerard Parish coffers to update these rooms.

In the months to come we will be speaking about money. We will publish our financial report and budget. We also want to remind everyone about the Archdiocesan Capital Campaign. Every parish is the Archdiocese is involved in this campaign and is given a goal. Our goal over three years is $334,000.

Now, I want to state that we in the parish office along with the Finance Committee are trying our best to be good stewards. A steward is a person who manages the affairs of a household or an estate for the owner. At St. Gerard we are managing the affairs of God on earth. Everything we have is given to us by God. As God’s people we are also called to share these gifts with others. The bible refers to sacrificial giving. It means that God comes first, rather than giving God whatever is left over. The Jews were asked to thank God with a ‘tithe’ – the first 10% of the fruits of the harvest. They were promised a payoff of one hundred fold in return. How close do you come to what was expected of early Christians?

WEEKLY INCOME

                    3%          5%          8%          10%

$200           6.00        10.00      16.00      20.00
$300           9.00        15.00      24.00      30.00
$400           12.00      20.00      32.00      40.00
$500           15.00      25.00      40.00      50.00
$700           21.00      35.00      56.00      70.00
$1,000        30.00      50.00      80.00      100.00

In the ‘Pontius Puddle’ cartoon, Pontius asks God, “How should a materialistic Christian dress for eternity?” A voice comes from the clouds, “Start with flame retardant underwear.”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

 

Pastor’s Notes – November 5, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

Two young women were about to profess their vows as religious sisters. Just before the ceremony began, the presiding Bishop noticed two Rabbis entering the church, insisting on the right side of the center aisle. Of course, the Bishop was curious why two Jewish Rappis were attending a Catholic profession of vows for these women.

After communion, the Bishop publicly welcomed the two Rabbis. He then asked them why they were present at this occasion when the young women were to become the “Brides of Christ.” The elder Rabbi slowly rose to his feet and explained, “We’re representing the family of the groom.”

Thursday, November 9th, is a significant day for the Redemptorist Priests and Brothers as we celebrate another family. It is the birth date of our religious congregation. In 1732 St. Alphonsus founded the Redemptorists in a little Italian town called Scala. This town stands high above the Amalfi Bay, near Naples, Italy. Alphonsus discovered that the shepherds in this area had never heard of Jesus Christ. Alphonsus was determined to bring the Word of God to these abandoned shepherds. Alphonsus founded the Redemptorists to specifically minister to the poor. Today, we are carrying out the dream of Alphonsus.

On Thursday we will also celebrate another special ‘Church’ day. We will celebrate another special ‘Church’ day. We will celebrate The Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. Now, why would we single out one church throughout the world and dedicate a Sunday to this building? Well, it is reported to be one of the oldest churches in Rome. But more importantly, it is the Cathedral of Rome. Since Pope Francis is the Bishop of Rome, St. John Lateran is his Cathedral. Since the Pope is the Shepherd of the Catholic flock worldwide, St. John Lateran is the principal church for all Catholics. Therefore, we devote Sunday to our Church which is a part of all of us.

All of us belong to ‘The Church.’ Our home office is the Vatican. Our Cathedral is not St. Peter’s in the Vatican, but St. John Lateran. But the Church is much more than a building. It is the people, united together in Christ, loving and serving one another.

All of us are connected with one another and together we are connected with St. John Lateran. For most of us, it is a misty connection. We feel much more connected with our localchurch and fellow parishioners. And so it should be. For the Catholic Church is geographically divided into thousands of dioceses, all flowing out of the principal diocese of Rome. In each diocese there are parishes. Within the parish, there is a parish church. Although all Catholics are united with the diocese and the Church in Rome, we feel much more connected with our local diocese and local church.

Sometimes it is difficult to realize that we truly are bigger than our local church. However, in God’s plan, we do belong to a bigger church. We belong to the worldwide diocese and we belong to our local diocese. Because we belong, we are called to help support the works of the Lord in our local church. Each year we have a collection for the worldwide church. It is called ‘Peter’s Pence.’ and each year we have a Fund Drive for our diocesan church. It is called ‘Bishop’s Annual Appeal.’

Now, every 55 years – or so it seems – our diocese conducts an Archdiocesan Capital Campaign. Yes, it was 55 years ago since the last Capital Campaign in San Antonio. The Archdiocese invites all of us to make a three year pledge. The money helps all the ministries in the Archdiocese. The money helps all the ministries in the Archdiocese. The money also helps to restore the older buildings of our parishes. The Archdiocese set the goal for us – $334,000.

If a parish submits a ‘construction or restoration’ plan to the Archdiocese then that parish is entitled to a 40% rebate of the money contributed by that parish to the campaign. We are putting together a restoration plan. The pan includes repairing the roof of the school, replacing the windows in the school and encapsulating the asbestos in the school. The asbestos is in the floor tile. Since we will be under construction we anticipate a 40% rebate.

The parishes throughout the Archdiocese are divided into four groupings or ‘waves.’ Each wave is scheduled to begin the campaign at a different time. For instance, St. Gerard is listed in the second wave and will actively begin the campaign in March, 2018. During the next few months we will be talking about the campaign.

Silence is golden, unless you have kids, then silence is just plain suspicious.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – October 29, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

Once there was an old priest who lived out in the country. He was the shepherd of a poor parish. His people could hardly pay his salary. One year he decided to raise watermelons, and hopefully sell them to supplement his salary. His watermelon enterprise became quite successful. People came from great distances to buy watermelons. The priest was making a great profit. However, he was disturbed by some local kids who would sneak into his watermelon patch at night and eat his watermelons. He had to put a stop to this thievery. He finally came up with a novel idea.

He posted sign at the entrance of the field. The next day, when the kids showed up, they saw the sign which read, “Warning! One of the watermelons in this field has been injected with poisonous cyanide.” The kids didn’t dare pick a watermelon that night. The priest was delighted. He finally scared the rascals off. However, the next night the kids returned. They brought their own sign which they posted next to the priest’s sign. The next morning the priest checked the watermelon patch and noticed the new sign next to his. He stepped close to read what was written. To his dismay, the sign said: “Now there are two.”

Now we have two special days this week. Tuesday is All Saints Day and Wednesday is All Souls day.

In ancient times two men were arrested and convicted for stealing sheep. The magistrate sent both of them to prison for several years. To warn every one of the crimes they committed the magistrate decreed that the letter “S” be branded on their foreheads.

After the men served their prison terms one of them left the area, never to be heard of again. The other man was deeply sorrowful for the crime he committed. He remained in the community and dedicated his life to serve his God and the people. As the years passed, this man had touched everyone. He helped the poor. He visited the sick. He found work for the unemployed. The people grew to love this man. Soon, no one remembered his crime of stealing sheep.

Many years later two small boys were sitting on the front steps of their home when this man passed by. The boys never heard about the crime this man committed. But they noticed the ‘S’ on this forehead. One boy asked the other, “Why do you think he has an ‘S’ on his forehead?” The other boys replied, “I’m not sure but from what my mom says about him, I think it must mean ‘Saint’.”

In the early history of our Church many Christians were martyred for their faith. Rome was the site for Christians to be thrown to the lions. So, the Church set aside two special days to honor these people – All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

In the year 607 Emperor Phocas turned the beautiful Roman Pantheon temple over to the Pope. The Pope quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to all the saints who died from Roman persecutions during the first three centuries. The bones of the martyrs were exhumed from various graves and places in the Pantheon church.

In the 8th century Pope Gragory III decreed that November 1st would be ‘All Saints’ Day. In the 10th century Abbot Ordela of the Cluny monastery declared that November 2nd would be ‘All Souls Day’ to honor all Christians who have died.

The conversion of the soul is the miracle of the moment; the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime. – Alan Redpath

We are not saints because of what we do; we are ‘saints’ because we belong to God.

-Nathaniel Howe said, “The way the world is today, we praise dead saints and we persecute living ones.”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

 

Pastor’s Notes – October 22, 2017

Father Shea

By Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

He had been out of a job for months. Then he got an unexpected call from an employment agency in Florida. The agent said, “We think we have found a job for you. But there is one question. Can you pick lemons?”

“Can I pick lemons?” stated our man. “Boy oh boy, can I pick lemons. I’ve been married five times!”

Today we celebrate ‘World Mission Sunday.’ We bring the Good News to the poor and the most abandoned. Yes, we bring the truth, even the truth about marriage in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has written to us about World Mission Day:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, this year, World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, “the very first and greatest evangelizer” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Day invites us to reflect anew on the mission at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away. So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying our our mission?

We Redemptorists are missionaries. We have heard much about being missionary disciples. German Redemptorist priests and brothers came from Germany to be missionary disciples. They came to the United States to bring the Good News to the poor. In 1828 they heard about the need for priests and brothers in the United States from Mgr. Rese, Vicar-General of Cincinnati. He visited Europe in search of priests. While at Vienna he secured three priests and three lay brothers; they arrived in New York on 20 June 1832 and began working amongst the people of northern Michigan. In 1839 they were called to Pittsburgh to assume charge of the German congregation and from this time the care of German congregations became a prominent element of the Redemptorists in North America.

Last week I attended a three day meeting in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. We call the meeting a ‘Superiors’ Meeting.’ The superiors who attended the meeting were pastors of parishes as well as superior of a community. Since I am the pastor of St. Gerard and also the superior of our community of priests and brother, I wore two hats. The superiors came from across the United States. About 2 of us. Superiors are appointed by Father Provincial. As one Redemptorist told me, “You are superior by appointment only.” I was asked to give a presentation on ‘Superior as Animator.’ In our book of Constitutions and Statutes, and from our ‘Pastoral Guide for Superiors’ we hear about the type of person who is elected a superior. He must be a shepherd to the men living in the community as well as to the parishioners. He must develop healthy relationships with the members of the community. He must be a man of prayer, dedicated to Jesus Christ and serving his community. “I have come to serve and not be served.”

During our meetings we heard about ‘downsizing’ as the business world would call it. We call it ‘solidarity.’ Realizing that our numbers are dwindling, and many elderly Redemptorists are in need of health care,  we have been encouraged to share our resources with Redemptorists beyond our provinces and even with Redemptorists from other countries. We are encouraged to live in solidarity with one another. In the past the individual provinces, or geographical areas, were pretty much independent as far as our finances and personnel were concerned. Now, we are beginning to share. The word that we are using to embrace many provinces is ‘Conference.’ We remain provinces. Each province has its own government. But in our mission to the poor we turn to one another and figure out the best way to minister to them.

A wonderful example of how this Conference works is taking place here at St. Gerard. All seven provincials have been meeting at the Conference level for the past few years. The provincials decided to send all the Redemptorist students, studying theology, to San Antonio where they would attend the Oblate School of Theology. The students had been studying theology in Toronto, Boston and Chicago. We certainly welcome these young men. This program is a ‘Conference’ experiment and is working well. The Conference will continue exploring programs in which Redemptorists from many units will be working together to bring the Good News to the poor.

We also discussed ‘financial stability’ within our Denver Province. Some serious decisions have already been made. More will come. Since 1996 the headquarters has moved to Chicago. Each year our parish as well as parishes across the nation takes up a second collection for ‘Retired Religious.’ The central office is called ‘The National Religious Retirement Office.’ It is located in Washington D.C, One arm of the NRRO provides consultation for religious orders. Consultants approach religious orders to evaluate their personnel and financial resources. The consultants have a pretty good idea how long the religious order will survive with their limited resources.

This consultant firm studied our resources in the Denver Province. They concluded that the Redemptorists in the Denver province will go bankrupt nine years from now unless some drastic decisions are made immediately. Moving the provincial office to Chicago was the first drastic decision. The provincial residence in Denver was an apartment house. The offices are in a separate building. As soon as the provincial office moved to Chicago, the apartment house went on the market. It sold immediately. The office building is currently up for sale. In January we should close on the old seminary property in Oakland, CA.

Many decisions are being made, But the biggest one of all was to close our nursing facility in Ligouri, Missouri. Because of the cost of health care, we can no longer afford our own nursing home for our sick and elderly. So, the Redemptorists who do not need skilled nursing and who are ambulatory will be assigned to rectories in our parishes. We will hire a nurse to check in on them, daily or at least on a frequent basis. Those who need skilled nursing will be placed in a nursing home which is owned to and operated by another entity. Eventually, we hope to be able to rent a wing at this nursing institution. There are some other decisions hanging in the balance. With the decisions that have been made, we hope that we will establish financial stability in our province.

“We will go before God to be judged, and God will ask us: ‘Where are your wounds?’ And we will say, ‘We have no wounds.’ And God will ask, “Was nothing worth fighting for…?”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – October 15, 2017

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

A small business owner held a staff meeting. He felt that his employees were not showing him enough respect. The next morning he carried a sign from home and hung it on his office door. The sign read, “I AM THE BOSS.” When he came back from lunch his secretary informed him that his wife called. She wants the sign back.

Monday is National Boss’s Day. I wish all those in positions of authority a “Happy Boss Day!”

I happen to be the boss of St. Gerard but I am also the boss of my Redemptorist community. During this past week I attended our Redemptorist Superiors meeting. In that meeting I was asked to give a presentation of ‘Superior as Animator.’ I used the image of the Good Shepherd. Jesus used that image himself. It became a symbol to describe the work of leaders.

A shepherd leads the sheep to nourishment. A shepherd lives with his sheep. A shepherd protects the sheep from predators. A shepherd gathers his sheep into the sheepfold. A shepherd checks daily on the health of his sheep. A shepherd anoints the wounds of the injured sheep. A shepherd reaches out to the lost sheep and brings them back into the fold. A shepherd knows his sheep and keeps them united. A shepherd loves each of his sheep.

A Redemptorist superior is a shepherd who enjoys a healthy relationship with each confrere in his community. He lives with them, he protects them, he gathers them together for meetings and prayer, he checks on his fellow brothers’ health, he helps in bandaging the wounds, he brings lost brothers united especially in their sacred mission he knows each brother as he is in the here and now, and he loves each one.

A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. ” I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”

One man, named Peter, was there that day and he like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, for weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.

By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Peter told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be hones about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed; a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Peter just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”  When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Peter told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Peter. He looked at Peter, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Peter!”  Peter couldn’t believe it. Peter couldn’t even grow his seed. “How could he be the new CEO?” the others said.

Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; The were dead – it was not possible for them to grow.

All of you, except Peter, have brought me trees and plants, and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Peter was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.