Monthly Archives: December 2017

Pastor’s Notes – December 30, 2017

Father Shea

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

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

Bob Hope said, “I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance, as I waited to get into the bathroom.”

There’ll be a lot of dancing and well-wishing as we welcome the new year. As we begin 2018 we have much to be thankful for. We thank so many people who have helped us in many different ways to be a vibrant parish.

I am thankful for Charlene’s 911 phone call to report a church fire. I am thankful for Sunday night as we returned to our worship space, the church, to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass. And we can be thankful for one another.

Let us hear the story of a thankful mother. She writes about her GOLD, COMMON SENSE, AND FUR experience.

My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married for five years, but hadn’t been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my hear, and raise it with His word as my guide.

God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, he blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter.

My husband thought we’d been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, “If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella.”

I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children and I didn’t want to disappoint Him.

I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs.

When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess.

In spite of changing over 25 thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.

While I couldn’t keep my promise to be a perfect mother – I didn’t even come close – I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to “wash up” Jesus too.

Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his “last wife.”

My product moment came during the Children’s Christmas Pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds, and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine.

My five year old shepherd has practiced his line, “We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” But he was nervous and said, “The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes.”

My four year old “Mary” said “That’s not ‘wrinkled clothes,’ silly. That’s dirty rotten clothes.”

A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing.

I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying “Mamma-mamma.” Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.

My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced “We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur.”

The congregation dissolved into laughter and the pageant got a standing ovation. “I’ve never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one.” Father Brian laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. “For the rest of my life, I’ll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense, and fur.”

“My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing.” I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.

Have a happy and a blessed New Year.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – December 24, 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.