Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mary, The Mother of God - Holy Day of Obligation

Thursday, January 1, 2015 is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses will be offered on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. and on Thursday, January 1, 2015 at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon.

The Parish Office will be open on Wednesday, December 31 from 9:00 - 12:00 noon. The Office will be closed on New Year's Day.

The Adoration Chapel will be Closed on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Happy New Year!

Mass of Christian Burial

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Rose Pucci on Wednesday, December 31 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for Rose and for her family.

Holy Family

It was called the Extraordinary Synod on the Family – not to be confused with the Synod on the Family to be held next October. Reactions included:
-         Earthquake
-         Betrayal of church teachings
-         Silliest document ever issued
-         A sign of new openness

Reminds me of Council of Nicea – riots in streets and pulling of beards!

Do you like sausage or hot dogs? – suggest that you never watch it being made!    Process still at an early stage!!!
Year of discussions – we will have some here – another Synod – more discussion till the Pope issues a document.
All shows the importance of the Family!!!
-         The institution between individuals and society – hugely important
-         Foundation of society – a treasure – a unique good for children
-         Place where we learn to give and receive love
-         A school where we grow and flourish
-         A church where faith is first taught and encouraged.

Steve Covey RIP – 7 habits of Highly Effective People – more recently 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families:

Easy to get off track – like airplane – but pilot has 3 tools – parents must have same!
1)    Vision of destination
2)    Flight plan
3)    Compass

The Seven Habits:

 1)    Be Proactive!     Have a pause button – think before acting! 
Someone’s bad day is an opportunity to be kind
An offense is an opportunity to apologize or forgive
Gossip is an opportunity to be loyal to those who are not present.

 2)    Begin with the End in Mind
What does your family stand for? What do you hope to achieve? What principles will you live by?  A Shared Vision -  A Mission Statement

 3)    Put First Things First : Prioritize Family!!!  Weekly family nights & one on one bonding.

 4)    Win Win -    how will our family win    -  more from negative emotions, competition, blaming, criticism, anger toward  mutual respect, understanding, cooperation

5)    Seek First to Understand – then be Understood    Hard to see into another’s heart – be a good listener.

6)    Synergize – we are all different – make it a strength to come up with solutions.

7)    Sharpen the Saw – Renewal of life – care of self - Family Traditions: dinners, vacations, prayer & worship, serving together, working together

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Grandparent asked their 6 year old grandson - did you write a letter to Santa yet? No, Santa already sent me an e-mail - told me he knew all about me and that I better be good. Times have changed!

Some newspapers still publish some letters from Santa –
here are a few: 

- Meg from Sydney, Australia – “Dear Santa - Thanks for last year and please don’t forget my cousin. She can’t help but be bad.”
- Marion from Limerick, Ireland – “Santa, come to Ireland. The leprechauns want to meet your elves!”
- Sarah from Littleton, Colorado – “I’ve been really good all year but don’t ask daddy or mommy if it is true.”
- Alex from Richfield, Utah – “Thank you for the remote control car last year even though it broke the day after. I know you tried and that’s what counts.”
- Javier from Santiago, Chile – “My English is terrible but my hope is great.”

Recently a group of 10 children were asked to write letters to Santa. What do you want for Christmas?  Game – guitar – play station – piano – ipad

Then they were asked to write a letter to their parents – to tell them what they wanted for Christmas. Their requests were different:

-      Please spend more time with me
-      Could you have dinner with us more often?
-      Read me a story
-      I want to play with you.
-      Can we be together the whole day?

Then, the children were told – if you could send only 1 of the 2 letters, which would you send?
Every one of the 10 kids chose the letter to their parents!
Ah – children want much more than presents for Christmas!

Tonight marks the 100th Anniversary of the WW 1 Christmas Truce.
After 4 months of battle, British, Irish, Belgian & German troops found themselves facing each other in trenches, a football field apart.

But this very night, 100 years ago, something began to happen. One by one they came out of their trenches. Silent Night was sung. Food and handshakes were exchanged. They prayed together and buried their dead. They even played soccer. A miracle of Christmas.  WHY???

What is it about Christmas? What is it that caused them to do such a thing?

The doorway to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is low – you must bow down – you walk to the front of the church – go down the stairs and there you see it  - A silver star in the floor marks the spot. The inscription reads, "HIC DE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS EST    “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born.”
God takes flesh – God becomes one of us! An Amazing thought!!!

If it is true – if you believe it – it changes everything!
Why we get up in the morning
What we do with our lives
How we treat our families and even strangers
The words we speak - the friends we have
What we do on Sunday mornings
Even what we do with our money
The birth of Jesus changes everything!!!

I found one more letter to Santa - 
“Dear Santa – Do you know that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas? Not to be mean, but he is!”

Indeed he is!!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!!!

Join us for Christmas Masses:

Christmas Eve
4:00 p.m. Church
4:00 p.m. School
6:00 p.m. 

Christmas Day
9:00 a.m., 
10:30 a.m.
12:00 noon.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mary Said Yes

The big day is almost here – decorating – cards – gifts
Everyone has their own Christmas Traditions

Each year I like to take a trip to NYC to - see the Tree - look at Windows - visit Nativities

Practice of Nativities began 1223 - St. Francis - Grecio
He was afraid people did not understand what God has done – he had an idea, so unusual  - that he asked permission of Pope Innocent
Cave - ox & donkey - manger - invited townspeople
As Deacon of the Mass – he read the Christmas Gospel. He became so emotional could not say name of Jesus – he spoke of the “Babe of Bethlehem”
His idea began to spread - many different Nativities.
Even come now with GPS - in case people try to steal them!

Three particular nativities in NYC:
1) scene at Radio City - admirable – kept it with much criticism. Cannot have Christmas without Christ.  Cards – stamps – own Nativity

2) St. Pat’s Cathedral - Moved from usual spot - but dog is still there - name is Lexington - RIP - Msgr Ritchie’s dog – animals remind us of conditions of birth – Great witness to crowds shopping in NYC

3) Met Museum of Art - Neopolitan - scene of people from everyday life    Many do not realize - not cave or stable, but set up among ruined Roman Columns - death of the old world. Everything changed – HOW?

Nazareth - VERBUM CARO HIC FACTUM EST “Here Word became flesh”       Mary’s Yes   God takes flesh - an amazing thought.
The Word becomes flesh when we say Yes!

Favorite Nativity not in NYC – on my desk – made by hand by my dad
Faith – Hope - Love – Family – with Christ at the center

O Come let us adore him - Christ the Lord

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Funeral Mass - Robert Garcey

A Funeral Mass will be offered for the repose of the soul of Robert Garcey on Saturday, December 20 at 11:30 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reconciliation Monday - December 15

The 368 parishes of the Archdiocese of New York will open their doors for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Monday, December 15 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. As Pope Francis blessed the world's largest Christmas tree in Gubbio, he said: “If you have something dark on your soul, ask the Lord's forgiveness. This is a beautiful chance Christmas gives us – to clean up our souls, eh! Don't be afraid – the priest is merciful, he forgives everything in the name of God, because God forgives everything.”   Three priests will be available at St. Columba. Confession guides will be provided. Do not be afraid!


3rd Sunday of Advent – once again meet the unusual figure of John the Baptist
Sure can’t find him in Walmart! But on the way to Bethlehem, we must cross the Jordan River.
There he says -  “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Very involved in preparing – buy presents – send cards – decorating house
Putting up the Christmas Tree.

Think about it – strange thing – cutting down a tree – bring it inside – hang stuff on it.
Jesus – was very connected with trees:  carpenter – manger – boat - cross

The tradition of Christmas Trees comes from our German friends
There is something about evergreens – they stay green in winter – sign of eternal life.
One day, Martin Luther walking through woods – sees star light through trees – idea of candles – I’m sure it did not go over big with fire departments!
Tradition to put an angel or a star on top
Angel – Glory to God                       Star – star of Bethlehem

For a long while this was a Protestant thing  -  Took a while for Catholics to embrace it -  It was St. John Paul II who brought the 1st Christmas tree to the Vatican.

Last week – Pope Francis lit the Largest Christmas tree in the world – Gubbio
Pope Francis  had a wish:  “If you have something dark on your soul, ask the Lord's forgiveness. This is a beautiful chance Christmas gives us – to clean up our souls, eh! Don't be afraid – the priest is merciful, he forgives everything in the name of God, because God forgives everything.”    Sounds like the Baptist! 
Reconciliation Monday – Guide in bulletin

A few years back, Pope Benedict blessed the tree – he also had some wishes:

When you look at the tree – do not just look at the bottom - not look just to material things  -  but look up – toward heaven – toward God.  “God never forgets us but He asks us not to forget Him!” Remember the Baptist  -   he must increase – I must decreased  - I am not worthy to untie his sandals.

2) Tree is made up of many lights -  Looks strange to see just one light   His wish is that we step out of selfishness that  makes us think only of ourselves  to  become lights for others  - bring light to family, work, neighborhood –“ every act of kindness is like light of the tree.”  John – a light shining in the darkness.

Let us pray - God of all creation,
we praise you for our Christmas trees
which brings beauty and memories and the
promise of life to our homes.
May your blessing be upon all who gather around our trees,
all who keep the Christmas festival by its lights.
We wait for the coming of the Christ,
the days of everlasting justice and peace.

You are our God, living and reigning, for ever and ever. Amen

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Funeral Mass - Gerolomo Vitucci

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the respose of the soul of Gerolomo Vitucci on Saturday, December 13 at 11:00 a.m. Please prey for our beloved departed and for the family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

We are on our way to Bethlehem – so much to do before we get there – cards – presents – food – but at some point we must cross the Jordan River.
This is where we meet that unusual figure – John the Baptist
Dressed like the prophets of old – some consider him the last of the OT prophets.
Jesus took him very seriously – among those born of women none greater than JB
Church celebrates 3 birthdays
-          Jesus – Dec 25
-          Mary – Sept 8      9 months after Immaculate Conception
-          JB – June 24

John spent a great deal of time in desert – no distractions – listening to God.
Here is fruit of his desert time;

1)      Humility
I am not worthy to untie his sandals   & he must increase and I must decrease.
Humility – this is not putting oneself down.
Realize – in certain areas of life – I am helpless – - things happen that I cannot control  -  I need divine assistance – I need prayer – I need Eucharist - I Need a Savior!

2)      Repent
His great message – turn back to God!
Did your family adopt an Elf on the shelf? – a scout sent by Santa from the North Pole – helps Santa manage his naughty and nice list – goes to North Pole each night to make his report about what you were doing.
The Baptist takes it a step farther – he knows we sin, but sin can also be forgiven!
Nothing like a good confession!!!  Reconciliation Monday.

3) Integrity    he pointed the way
a person of principle & conviction
not afraid to challenge leaders, soldiers, tax collectors     
Looking forward to movie – Unbroken – story of Louis Zamperini -  passed away this July at age 97
Served in the Pacific WW II   plane shot down – survived 47 days only to be rescued by Japanese navy – two ½ years in prison – terrible experience
Movie leaves out – conversion –  Louie was able, because of his conversion and newfound Christian faith, to go back to Japan to the very guards who mistreated him and forgive them, as well as tell them about Jesus Christ.”

On our way to Bethlehem – need to stop at the Jordan River.
John will be waiting for us
To teach us about humility - repentance -  integrity.

To help us prepare the way for the Lord.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rest In Peace Angelo Colacicco

We sadly announce the death of Angelo Colacicco, the father of Msgr. Gerardo Colacicco, former Pastor of St. Columba Church. Mr. Colacicco will be waked at McHoul's Funeral Home on Monday, December 8 from 2-4 & 7-9. The Funeral Mass will be offered at St. Martin de Porres Church in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday, December 9 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for Angelo and for his family.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - Holy Day of Obligation

Monday, December 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is always a Holy Day of Obligation. She is the Patroness of the Americas. Masses will be offered at 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and at 7:30 p.m. Please make every effort to join us in prayer.

Funeral Mass - Robert Fesko

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Robert Fesko on Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


I see the English have discovered Black Friday. Police were called out all over the country. Assaults, broken bones, arrests. You think they would know better!
Different ways to prepare for Christmas – Church invites us to consider another way!              Adventus – “coming”   who is Coming? - Christ

Three Comings
in Bethlehem – history
each day – mystery
end of time – majesty

1)     Came in History
Emperor Hadrian very famous for building 126 AD the Pantheon in Rome– also in 135 built a Temple in Bethlehem – for this we are grateful = marked the spot of the birth of Christ! – Constantine 327 built Church of Nativity- present church 6th century   oldest surviving church in Holy Land
Used to have huge door – made small because would ride horses in  -  have to bow. Then you go down steps – see the making on floor – and there you are
Believe that Messiah was born here  -  changed the history of the human race – why we celebrate Christmas -  Mass of Christ

2)     Comes in Mystery
Tragedy of first Christmas – so few recognized what happened.  
Even today – so few recognize that Jesus is STILL with us.
1)     Word  -  2) Sacrament: Eucharist, words of forgiveness, pouring with water, anointing with oil, exchange of vows    -  3) distressing disguise of the poor.        Pay attention  to the Presence of Christ

3)     Will Come In Majesty
“As we await the Blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”
When will He come? – we don’t know, stopped trying to figure that out a long time ago.
 But – he will come   -   be ready

“Sub specie aeternitatis”
“View everything under the aspect of eternity”
-         is this action going to help me get to heaven, or is it going to hurt my chances?
-         How will this appear on the day of judgment?
-         Good time for Sacrament of Penance!

History – Mystery – Majesty  -          The three comings of Christ.

There are many ways to prepare for Christmas. The Church offers us a special way!     Let us use this Advent well -  to prepare for the Coming of the Lord!

(Thanks to Cardinal Dolan - who first wrote on History - Mystery - Majesty)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Holy Season of Advent

The word "advent," from the Latin adventus (Greek parousia), means "coming" or "arrival." The Advent Season is focused on the "coming" of Jesus as Messiah (Christ or King). Christian worship, Bible readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (his first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. This is why the Bible readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus' second coming as judge of all. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah, are read. All of these themes are present in Catholic worship during Advent, which The Catechism succinctly describes:
“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (524).”
Since Advent looks forward to Christ's birth and Incarnation, it is an appropriate way to begin the Church Year. However, Advent is not part of the Christmas season itself, but a preparation for it. Thus, Catholics do not sing Christmas hymns, or use Christmas readings, in Mass until December 25th, the first day of the Christmas season.

 (With thanks to ChurchYear.Net)

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Happy Thanksgiving! Join us for Mass on Thanksgiving Day at 8:00 a.m. Please remember that on Thanksgiving and on Friday, all Parish Offices are closed and the Adoration Chapel is closed.

Christ Our King

So much to be thankful for. I am thankful for religious freedom = that we can pray today with no problems.
In our world - 60% of countries: religious freedom is compromised.  That is 116 out of 196 countries.
Mosul, Iraq – had 60,000 Christians, none left – first time in 1,600 years, no Mass in Mosul.
In 2 weeks – Princess Kate & Prince William are coming to America. Future King and Queen of England. Buckingham Palace has issued guidelines to the press:
The palace website, for example, cautions photographers that they “should not photograph” royals  “while they have food or a glass in their hand or during a meal,” although, the website allows, “it is quite in order for a photograph to be taken during a Royal Toast, or immediately before food is served.”
Journalists are only allowed to take photos during speeches , “for the first minute after they start talking”.
You are also not allowed to film or photograph a royal ‘at prayer’.
We have a picture of our King at prayer – sign over his head – INRI – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews  – yes – our king – the One who gave His life for us
Soon we will sing at Christmas – this, this is Christ the King - whom shepherds guard and angels sing. -  the King who became one of us!
Our King speaks to us today. Very famous teaching  MT 25.  Those who heard it for the first time were both surprised and frightened:
1)      The King is Jesus   2) Criterion of judgment is not following 613 laws but how they helped the needy                3) The King takes their treatment personally!
Church calls them the corporal works of mercy – Feed the hungry     Give drink to the thirsty  Clothe the naked        Shelter the homeless     Visit the sick       Visit the imprisoned  Bury the dead
In the end, it comes down to this: The dignity and value of each human person.  When we see others, can we see the face of Christ?

Religious Ed teacher – very creative. Students came into class and there were darts sitting on the table and a big target on the bulletin board.  Teacher said to draw a picture of someone you didn’t like and you could throw darts at their picture. Pictures were tacked over the target and off they went. Some threw the darts so hard that they were ripping the target.   Finally, the teacher said stop – then removed the pictures, then the target from the bulletin board. Underneith was a picture of Jesus. It was mangled, filled with holes, rips all over his face.  All the teacher said – “whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The End of the Church Year - Christ The King

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the increasingly denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was needed most.

Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:
1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

Today, the same distrust of authority exists, although the problem has gotten worse. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self. The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. Also, many balk at the idea of kings and queens, believing them to be antiquated and possibly oppressive. Some even reject the titles of "lord" and "king" for Christ because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive systems of government. However true these statements might be (some kings have been oppressive), these individuals miss the point: Christ's kingship is one of humility and service.

(With thanks to ChurchYear.Net)

Funeral Mass - Jennifer Nolan

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Jennifer Nolan on Saturday, November 22 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Funeral Mass - Rose Watt

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Rose Watt on Friday, November 21 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Funeral Mass - John Edward Arthur, Jr.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of John E. Arthur on Saturday, November 15 at 10:30 a.m. Please pray for him and for his family.

Funeral Mass - Jacqueline McCourt

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Jacqueline McCourt on Friday, November 14 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

St. John Lateran - The Importance of Churches

 St. John Lateran – the Pope’s Cathedral – Cathedra – Chair -  Pope lived there for 1,000 years – Rome so unstable – Pope moved to Avignon, France 1300’s. Returned 100 years later to find St. John Lateran in ruins – went to live on Vatican Hill.   Eventually rebuilt and retained the Chair.

A famous story about St. John Lateran: Pope Innocent III had a dream one night that the Lateran Basilica was about to collapse, but a little poor man appeared to hold up the walls. Soon after, St. Francis made his appeal to the Pope to found a movement based on poverty, chastity and obedience.  Innocent approved the rule of the Franciscans. Today, if you walk across the street you will see a statue of Francis – if you look at just the right angle, he is holding up the church.

Got a great history – but why a church – even one so important?  Isn’t the Church the People, not a building? Absolutely!    Does God need buildings?  No!   But, we need buildings. We need places to worship God and to become “church.”  So, our churches, our buildings DO matter.  They are places of holiness where we can become holy.

Father Robert Barron reminds us that a Church Building carries 4 powerful Images:

1)    The Temple – in Israel, Temple was everything. Even today, to stand at the foundation Wall is to be close to God. It is where the Ark was kept – where Jesus went to pray.   This church, of course, is the New Temple:   Holy of Holies (Tabernacle)   Altar (Holy Sacrifice of the Mass)   Let by a priest, not a teacher or doctor. Church is a Place of Prayer.

2)    Noah’s Ark  -  when the flood waters came, God sent a ship to save them. In a world filled with darkness, here there is hope.   What is this area of the church is called – NAVE – Navus (ship).  See the great Notre Dame in Paris – like giant oars. Church is a Place of Hope.

3)    Mystical Body of Christ - In Sacraments we become part of Christ’s Body. Here the Body is Fed by God’s Word, receives his strength in the Eucharist, and are encouraged by one another. Faith is Strengthened here.

4)    New Jerusalem -   Book of Revelation speaks of a heavenly Jerusalem, the perfect city.  The church points to the World to Come.  Stained Glass the jeweled walls – Light & color     It is filled with signs and symbols of angels and saints – citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.   Where they have gone, we hope to follow.

Many beautiful churches throughout the world – great to visit them, but, this church is every bit as beautiful!  – our Temple –– our Ark – our Mystical Body of Christ - our New Jerusalem   For 25 years, and, we pray, for many, many more – people will come here to Encounter God and Become Church! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Veteran's Day

Please take the time to thank a Veteran today!!! For this national holiday, our church office will be closed, St. Denis - St. Columba School will be closed and St. Columba Religious Ed will be closed.

Funeral Mass - Maria Maciag

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for the repose of the soul of Maria Maciag on Wednesday, November 12 at 10:00 a.m. Please pray for her and for her family.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Making All Things New Decisions Announced


            “This time of transition in the history of the archdiocese will undoubtedly be difficult for people who live in parishes that will merge.  There will be many who are hurt and upset as they experience what will be a change in their spiritual lives, and I will be one of them. There is nobody who has been involved in Making All Things New who doesn’t understand the impact that this will have on the Catholic faithful. It will be our responsibility to work with everyone in these parishes so as to help make the change as smooth as we possibly can.”

            With these words, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, today announced the results of a multi-year pastoral planning process, Making All Things New, undertaken to strengthen and enhance parish life in the Archdiocese of New York and to assist the archdiocese in serving its Catholic faithful most effectively.  This pastoral planning process, which had its beginnings in 2010, sought the input and suggestions of parishioners, the leadership of religious orders of women and men, and the clergy, resulting in today’s announcement.  

            The first phase of pastoral planning, directed by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then the vicar general of the archdiocese, picked up on the good work begun by Cardinal Edward Egan prior to his retirement as archbishop in 2009.  This initial work consisted in surveying the parishioners of every parish of the archdiocese; meeting with priests, deacons, and religious throughout the archdiocese; consulting with the archdiocesan pastoral council; and reviewing the observations offered by Cardinal Dolan from his own extensive parish visits since his 2009 appointment as archbishop. These elements were used to determine how pastoral planning should proceed, as well as to identify areas in which the archdiocese should concentrate its resources. Among the issues raised most frequently during these meetings were:
  1. The need for a strategic plan for Catholic schools
  2. Improved religious education and faith formation programs for children, youth, and adults
  3. Greater outreach to various ethnic groups, in particular Hispanic Catholics and recent immigrants
  4. Enhanced ministry to teens, college students, and young adults
  5. Better use of technology for more effective communication with parishioners
  6. Expansion of healthcare throughout the archdiocese
  7. An emphasis on the works of charity, particularly in affordable housing
  8. Enhanced transparency, especially on financial matters
  9. Promotion of greater involvement of the faithful in the life of the Church, especially in attracting new people to the faith, and winning back people who have left

            Even while the pastoral planning process of the archdiocese was being developed and instituted, these areas of concern identified by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the archdiocese were being addressed:  
  1.  Pathways to Excellence, a strategic plan whose principal purpose is to improve the education and formation provided by Catholic schools, was developed and implemented.  A key component of the plan is the establishment of regional school boards for non-parish based schools, with the governance of these schools on the local level. While this plan led to a number of schools closing, a record 60% of the students enrolled in neighboring parish schools, with all schools strengthened as a result.  This past year was the first in many years in which no archdiocesan schools closed.
  2. An all new, cluster-based religious education program for school age children is being developed, with a qualified director or coordinator of religious education for each cluster and the introduction of new technology to enhance learning.  In addition, a director for adult faith formation has been hired to develop new opportunities for on-going religious education in the archdiocese.
  3. The Office of Hispanic Ministry has been expanded, with a new, full-time lay director hired to work with all departments and parishes in the archdiocese to better minister to and with our Hispanic parishioners.  A particular emphasis has been placed on the upper counties of the archdiocese, which has seen an influx of Hispanic Catholics over the last several years.  Replicating the excellent outreach to Hispanics being done by a community of religious sisters in the Bronx, several women religious of another community will serve in the upper counties to visit, evangelize, and catechize as part of this new emphasis.  Regarding new immigrants, a long-term parish home is being identified for the Ghanaian Catholic community in an existing parish that might otherwise have been merged.
  4. A new office for teen ministry has been established, with the goal of remaining connected to young people, especially after they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  While all Catholic colleges and universities have campus ministry programs, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) has recently expanded its campus ministry presence at two large secular universities in the archdiocese. A new director for young adult ministry is expanding programs for post-college age young adults, including monthly Masses and opportunities for fellowship, service, and faith sharing.
  5. A comprehensive plan utilizing technology to enhance communication within parishes and between the archdiocese and its parishioners has been developed and is being implemented. This includes the ability to hold archdiocesan wide “town hall” videoconferences, new websites for the archdiocese and its parishes, and the use of an email and text messaging system for better communication within individual parishes.
  6. ArchCare, the archdiocesan healthcare ministry, has been expanding into all ten counties of the archdiocese, with new programs including home healthcare, visiting nurse services, and PACE programs to supplement our existing nursing home system.
  7. Responding to the need in New York City for affordable housing for the poor and low income, Catholic Charities, through its affiliated housing entities has leveraged over $300 million for rehabilitation of more than 2000 family and senior units of housing and extended their commitment to affordability for years to come.  One project in particular is in the Morrisania section of the Bronx on a site previously occupied by St. Augustine’s Church that is currently being developed to offer 112 units of new housing for low income families and individuals with special needs.
  8. Annual condensed financial statements of all centrally managed programs, together with a report of total revenues and expenses of parishes and schools, are published in Catholic New York and posted online.
  9. Members of the faithful are now serving on the boards overseeing the regional schools.  The archdiocese is also jointly sponsoring a Master of Science degree in church management to train members of the faithful to assist our parishes as parish managers.

            The pastoral planning process also brought to light numerous new pastoral needs and opportunities which are now either underway or undergoing serious consideration.  Responding to the growing number of Catholics in the upper counties, a second auxiliary bishop has been assigned to live and serve there. There are also needs in existing parishes, for example the need for a larger and more complete Saint Frances Cabrini Parish on Roosevelt Island, the need for an expanded church at Saint Mary’s Parish in Washingtonville, a potential move of Saint Michael’s Parish in Manhattan to accommodate the pastoral needs of those who will move to the new Hudson Yards development, and a more intense presence in the works of charity and healthcare in the upper counties.  

            Making All Things New has also identified changes that need to be made to the existing parish structure of the archdiocese, one that was largely established between the mid-19 th to mid-20 th centuries.  Changes in individual parishes have, of course, always taken place.  For instance, in the last 50 years alone, 42 parishes have been consolidated, which includes 2007’s reconfiguration plan, which resulted in 21 consolidated parishes.  However, Making All Things New is the first planning initiative to incorporate the “ground up” involvement of every parish in the archdiocese. 

            Based on the input the cardinal received from the 368 parishes and 75 parish clusters (groups of about 4-7 neighboring parishes); a 40 person advisory committee comprised of clergy, religious men and women, and the faithful from across the archdiocese; the priest council; other close advisors and key staff, he has decided that: 
  1. All parishes will work together more collaboratively within their clusters in providing services and ministries
  2.  48 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 24 new parishes, with Masses and sacraments celebrated at both churches. There will be an evaluation every two years of these newly merged parishes, and every parish throughout the archdiocese.  To accomplish this, the archdiocese has established a parish planning office, to be directed by Eileen Mulcahy.
  3. 64 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 31 new parishes, and while this new parish will have two churches, Masses and sacraments will only be celebrated on a regular basis at one church as of August 1, 2015.
            There are a small number of new proposals for parish mergers that have arisen as a result of the cardinal’s own reflection on those proposals presented to him, as well as from his discussions with key advisors.  In keeping with the spirit of the Making All Things New process, Cardinal Dolan has asked that these new proposals be shared with the appropriate clusters and the archdiocesan advisory group so as to solicit their input.  These will eventually also be reviewed by the priest council of the archdiocese before a final decision is reached.  It is hoped that these new proposals will be acted upon soon so that final decisions are reached over the next several months. 

            Cardinal Dolan praised the efforts of the men and women who worked to develop the recommendations and suggestions that formed the basis of his decisions.  “I am grateful to the parish core team members, who gave so much of their time and wisdom in helping us plan for the future, and to the members of the advisory group who took the work of the parish clusters and developed the recommendations that were presented to me at the beginning of the summer.  It would have been impossible to reach this point without the thoughtful contributions of our parish core teams, the advisory board, and the priest council, all of whom approached their work patiently, prayerfully, and prudently,” he said.

            Bishop John O’Hara, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, who has directed the Making All Thing New process, acknowledged that, while change and transition often call for sacrifice, it was necessary for the archdiocese to exercise good stewardship in using its resources, including its priests, to carry out its mission.  He said, “We have heard from our people the anxiety they feel that they not be ‘abandoned’ after this process has concluded.  The parish is where they come in life’s happiest moments, like a wedding, first communion, or baptism, and where they turn when facing difficulties and hard times.  So, there is an understandable sense of loss, particularly for those merged parishes where we have announced that Masses and sacraments will no longer be regularly celebrated at one of those churches as a result of the merger.  It is now up to us, in the next phase of this process, to work with those parishes that will merge with neighboring parishes.  I also want to assure those Catholics in some of the more economically challenged areas of the archdiocese that this is definitely not in any way going to take away from the needed and necessary programs and initiatives in service to the less fortunate.”

            Cardinal Dolan emphasized that, while the next pastoral and canonical steps must still be determined for the utilization and possible disposition of certain churches and unused buildings, the work of the Church in serving its people must and will go on.  He said, “It is imperative that we continue to find new ways of meeting the spiritual, education, charitable, and human needs of the people of God of this archdiocese. The archdiocese has long been a leader in providing affordable housing, and as part of our on-going discussions with the City of New York, we will now be able to explore several new sites as possible locations for housing. Caring for people with special needs is an ever-increasing ministry, and the archdiocese will look into new and creative ways to accomplish this as well.”

            Because of the large amount of data reviewed for each parish, the thoroughness of the input from the local parishes and clusters, and the comprehensive study that led to the recommendations of the advisory group, only previously non-considered information and material that could have a significant impact on a parish will be accepted and evaluated, so as to determine whether a change in the initial recommendation is needed.

            Making All Things New does not conclude with today’s announcement.  A plan for implementation has been developed which will include pastoral teams to work with any parish that is affected by mergers.  Although the timing of transitions will be made on a parish-by- parish basis, it is anticipated that most changes will be implemented prior to August 1, 2015. 

            In closing, the cardinal expressed his hope for the future.  He said, “One thing that has impressed me about Catholics in this archdiocese is their ability to come together in trying times.  That was brought home to me most vividly during the period when schools needed to close underPathways to Excellence.  Despite the sadness many felt in losing their school, everyone came together and worked to do what was best for our children, the schools, and the Church.  Or, look at how we came together at Hurricane Sandy.  I am confident that this same spirit will carry us through the next phase of Making All Things New, as the Archdiocese of New York begins a new chapter of serving Jesus and his followers in faithfulness and in love. Jesus is in charge, and He will never let us down.”

All Souls Day

Friday is generally my day off. This Friday I had breakfast with my sister. She went off to walk her dogs. I went to Gate of Heaven Cemetery. I usually go on Fridays. It is a habit. I used to bring dad every Friday to visit Mom. Now, I visit both of them and pray for them.
It is not always easy – it sometimes brings to mind their last weeks – when I gave them the Last Rites - their Wakes – their Funeral Masses, and their Burials.
But I also remember all the prayerful support we received, and it is also a comfort to know that we did everything the right way.

Today we pray for the Dead – this is not a practice in Protestant Churches. They say Prayer for the Dead is not found in the Bible. Of course the words “Holy Trinity” are not found in the Bible, but they believe that. No, we believe that at death, many of us still need to undergo a cleansing - a purgation – Purgatory – in order to stand in the presence of pure love.
You know, gold does not look like much when it comes out of the ground.  It is hard to recognize it. It must be purified. The gold nuggets are put through intense heat. Because it has a low melting point, it melts before the impurities. The process is repeated a few times, but eventually the beauty is revealed. And so is our beauty revealed!

So, why do we pray for the dead?
1)      To praise God for the life of someone who has had an impact on us.  Eg  Funeral for Msgr. Flynn.
2)      To ask for God’s mercy. While we cannot earn at deceased person’s salvation – this if a gift achieved by the death and resurrection of Jesus – we can ask for God’s mercy, knowing life does not end at death. This is why we often get Mass cards, light candles or fill out All Souls envelopes.
3)      To show that we are part of the Communion of Saints. Our deceased friends are not dead but alive and always part of the Church. Where they are gone, we hope one day to be, and a big part of our joy will be our reunion with them.
4)      To pray for those mourning the departed. In our neighborhood, my mother always made a cake for those who lost loved ones. This is why we go to wakes and funerals, to unite ourselves with those who grieve. We want to support them. Often the best way to support them is to pray with and for them.
5)      To Remind ourselves us that life is short. Keep things in order – prepare for our final goal – heaven.

So, this is another All Souls Day. Who do you want to prayer for? – as we get older, the list gets longer doesn’t it?             Eternal rest grant unto them – O Lord.