The two coins of today’s Gospel were equal to a social security check today. The widow gave everything she had for God and didn’t look back. She is a wonderful example for us. Our normal tendency is to give our extra; not from what we need. It is easy to fall into the habit of giving only the spare change out of our pockets. The spare change can be our time and talent as well as our money. I am a firm believer that God gives each parish community all it needs to do ministry and be active disciples. The widow reminds us that there is no gift or talent that is too small. Each person in the parish has something to offer for the good of the community. We are all vitally needed to spread the message of Jesus and to be His Body in the world. May we follow the example of the widow and give all we have to God and for His people
From Dave Hans
Thank you for allowing Lora and me to talk to you for a few minutes this morning. As we have in the past, I want to share some of my views on the treasure aspect of our stewardship.
You will see in this weekend’s bulletin, a Parish “health check”. Sharing this summary along with today’s trustee message will help you better understand our current environment. We welcome your comments, questions and input on any of these messages.
So, let’s get right to it. For the fiscal year that ended on June 30th, our regular weekly offertory collection was down almost 4% from the previous year. This is, unfortunately, on top of the 2016/17 decrease of just under 3% from a high point of $385K in collections during the 2015/16 fiscal year.
During this same time, we have done a good job of maintaining our base day to day operating expenses. With that said, in the bulletin summary you will see our expenses during the past fiscal year increased significantly due to the unexpected cost of our roof repairs.
Some of this expense was offset slightly by eliminating operating expenses associated with our annual Auction and Gala. However, we now also lose the Gala income, which over the past six years continued to grow and add to our yearly income stream.
What does this mean? We need to focus on the offertory collection, which makes up more than 80% of our Parish Revenue.
Year to date, a full third of a way through our current fiscal year, regular offertory collection is down almost $10K against our budgeted offertory plan. Unfortunately, the deficit fluctuates each week, making forecasting for the future more difficult.
Once again, I repeat my plea for you to thoughtfully consider a regular and consistent donation in the weekly offertory collection. Today, just under a third of our families who receive envelopes use them on a weekly basis. In addition, another 16% of families use e-giving. These numbers are even smaller when you consider the total number of families actually registered at the Church of St Mary.
Using envelopes or the e-giving process is the easiest way for you to provide this regular contribution. E-giving, especially, allows you to tailor your personal giving –weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever schedule is best for you and your family budget. If you have questions about this process, please reach out to me.
A regular and consistent weekly offertory income will help the parish finance committee create a more comfortable budget planning process for the church.
Over the past several months we have been blessed to welcome many new parishioners and families to our community. These new families contribute to the diversity of stewardship at St Marys.
Attendance in our faith formation program is growing in leaps and bounds. This is a testament to the outstanding contribution from Maureen and all the volunteer catechists and supporters. Unfortunately, we do not see as many of these new families joining us at mass.
Father Tom, as you know by now, is passionate about deepening our call to discipleship which starts with sharing the celebration of the mass as a community each week.
If you know a family member or friend who has grown apart from our community, please invite them to join us for a Sunday mass. Ask them to listen to Father Tom’s homily and experience the love and compassion in our parish community.
In closing, thank you for listening to and reflecting on these messages. Your stewardship of time, talent and treasure is so critical to our parish life. If I may quote from our Reigniting our Faith through Discipleship video, we are all “the Community of God at St Mary’s”
From Lora Santilli
Thanks Dave, switching gears a little I’d like to turn our attention to a different kind of treasure – the human kind!
Let me start by saying – wow – what a wonderful event last night! More than a hundred of us joined together in fellowship to share an International inspired pot luck supper! These types of events are exactly what we heard you were looking for and the turnout was fantastic – with a manageable level of coordination by the planning committee. Another objective we were looking to meet!
This past year we were blessed to share in the celebration of our various Sacraments with 22 baptisms, 38 First Communicants, 30 Confirmandi, and 3 weddings. And with the help of the Bereavement committee we ushered 25 souls into the Kingdom of God and continued to provide support and guidance for those families.
As Dave said, our Faith Formation program continues to flourish with explosive growth in grades 2, 6 and 9 – critical faith formation years. We also have one catechumen in the RCIA program who will receive the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil this spring. Thank you to our Catechists and all who support them.
Our outreach to the poor has remained steady. Many of our parishioners volunteer at Concerns U and Circles of Mercy and in other charitable organizations. We have been collecting bottles and cans to help purchase books for the Concerns U Christmas store. Our Reverence of Life Committee continues to help with collections to assist in protecting human life and dignity. And we continue to grow our ministry to the homebound and those in nursing homes. There are so many who need our help – please continue to do so!
Our Liturgical ministries continue to grow as well but we can always use more servers, lectors, ministers of Holy Communion and greeters and ushers. And Carl continues to grow the music ministry, especially with the children.
Our parish center actively supports the community. For example we host AA, NA and FA on a weekly basis. Let me share a little story about that. We have been meeting regularly for the Reigniting Our Faith Through Discipleship Initiative – which by the way has raised almost $150,000 already – about one quarter the way to our goal. Anyway… as I was coming in for one the ROF meetings, I noticed the parish hall was set up for a large group – lots of chairs. And during our meeting I heard intermittent celebratory applause. They were still gathered when our meeting was over and I asked Father Tom who the group was. He said it was the Narcotics Anonymous group. I was surprised as I knew they normally met in the classroom at the end of the hall. He said they’ve outgrown the classroom! What an amazing resource we can provide to those who are successfully pulling themselves out of a dark and dangerous time in their lives.
So, in addition to the goal that Dave mentioned earlier to increase attendance at Sunday Mass, Father Tom has 2 other hopes and dreams:
1) To provide more opportunities for growth in discipleship: things like small faith sharing groups, young adult outreach, adult faith formation, and other activities to stimulate spiritual growth. and
2) Grow our social justice ministries and awareness.
Both of these can be accomplished with the help of a few folks willing to plan and carry out just one activity in support of either of these goals. Sound like something you are interested in? Please see Father Tom, Dave or I and let’s get started!
Thank you all for listening and thank you for everything you do to make St. Mary’s a beautifully vibrant community!
From Father Tom
Over the years, probably because of my degree in social work, I tend to take a more global or wider view of things. I am always fascinated about how interconnected all things are. One of my favorite images of organizations and the world is a giant spider web. What I do affects you; what you do affects me.
This is the core of the great commandment. Jesus tells us to love God, to love others and to love self. We are not isolated beings.
Our love of God needs to be foundational. It is not a one-way street. God doesn’t passively sit there absorbing all our love. In fact, we don’t even initiate it. God does. God created us out of love. Our love for God is a response to what we have first received.
If we can accept this, then we need to turn to the reality that we must love ourselves. How can we hate or not like what God created and God loves? God never stops loving us, even when we try to stop him. Being created in the image of Love, we need to see that Love in the mirror every morning.
Once we get to this point, then love of neighbor becomes easier. Charity cannot be limited to cleaning out our closets and giving our second-hand stuff away. To truly live the Great Commandment demands that we walk out of these four walls and get our hands dirty, together, as Christ’s Body. It challenges us to look beyond the color of person’s skin, their accent, who they love, the sex and religion, their external appearance and see what God sees: The reflection of His Divine Image. We must see the God who we see in the mirror every morning.
The life of discipleship is summed up in the Great Commandment. It is the mission statement of this parish. Dave and Lora, our parish trustees, will now give you an account of how well we are living as disciples and where we need to focus for the next months in to continue the mission.
I was watching a movie this past week about the life of St Francis of Assisi. He was just like the young man of today’s gospel. Francis had everything. Good family, money, nice clothes, promising future. But, as he portrayed in the movie, Francis seems empty; searching for something. Thinking he would find it in the fame of being a knight, he goes to war. He gets hurt; in his recovery, his powerlessness, his weakness, he finds Jesus. Jesus says to the Francis what he said to the rich young man, give it all away and come follow me. Francis literally find that. He walked away from all the stuff and found a joy we all envy. We too can have it it; if we give it all away, become unattached to what we have, don’t worry about tomorrow and put Jesus first, then we can find what Francis found.
In Rome, tomorrow, the Holy Father will canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero. Oscar was the a bishop in El Salvador in the 1970’s. Oscar, like the young man and Francis, had it all going for him. He was a career churchman. He obeyed all the rules, didn’t create any waves, was low key which is why he was made the Archbishop of El Salvador. The thought was he wouldn’t cause any problems with the government who was oppressing the poor and those who wanted El Salvador to be a free place not controlled by the very rich who oppressed the poor. However, like the rich young man and St Francis, Oscar met Jesus: in the life of his priest friend who worked in a poor parish and advocated for the poor who was shot by the government. Oscar met Jesus when he gave up all the power and wealth he had and walked among the poor and became their voice. He found Jesus in a prison cell surrounded by the cries of those who the government was trying to silence. Oscar was shot celebrating Mass at the hospital he served as chaplain.
Like the rich young man, Francis and Oscar, Jesus looks like on us with love….a love that sees what is ensnaring us from following him. For the rich young man, it was money; for Francis, it was prestige and fame; for Oscar, it was fear and the desire to keep the status quo; what is Jesus showing you and me to give up to follow him? I remember saying to someone one day when I knew I needed to let go of something in my life that I didn’t want to: What more does He want? My friend answered: Everything
This is the risk of knowing Jesus. The place to start is to ask yourself what cant I live without and see what pops us. What has society told me I need or I wont be complete? What does advertisements tell me that I absolutely need to be happy?
He wants everything and he doesn’t stop pursuing us. If we give away everything we become free. He want all of us and nothing more.
Prayer of St Ignatius Loyola
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
To get to the heart of today’s gospel, we must go back to the first century church of Mark. Marriage was not about two people in love, romance , the wedding day, or even about the couple. A marriage was arraigned by the parents as a way to unite two families. One commentator put it this way: no one chooses their parents but God, God chooses the spouse through the parents. The union of the families was for a variety of reasons, never love. A divorce was seen as shame to both families, in particular, the bride’s family. For her to be rejected by her husband was an affront to her father, brothers, etc. In a society that often devalued a woman, we see one way in which she was honored. To be rejected by her husband, her family would avenge the shame, often though blood feuds.
So how does this apply to our lives today? The answer is found in Genesis in the creation of man and woman. God created woman from the side of man….as his equal. In the nuptial blessing of the wedding Mass, this is part of the prayer we could miss…”May her husband entrust his heart to her, so that acknowledging her as his equal and joint heir to the life of grace”. The relationship of two people living in marriage is not about one having more power; the type of power that abuses…emotionally, physically, psychologically, in fact, this is so against what marriage is to be, that the abused woman or man should leave that marriage because it is so against what God intends. Sometimes the two people are not able to make it work and the love dies. The relationship of two people in marriage is a reflection of God’s love for us, His people. This best definition of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient and kind, etc. If a marital relationship is not reflecting this, then the marriage is in trouble, in the Christian sense.
A Christian couple is called by God, the Father of all, to witness to all people the love that the Father has for each us. At this Eucharist today, let us pray for all those who live in marriage that God will bless their union with his grace and peace. Let us pray for all those are contemplating Christian marriage that they will be blessed in their life together. Let us also prayer for those marriages in difficulty that they will experience healing. Finally, may we remember all woman and men who have been or are in domestic violence situations. For their healing and peace of mind and for the strength to find a way out of the abuse.