This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - February 8, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – February 8, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s peace.

Two very good things about crossing February’s threshold? First, we can savor the wedding pictures posted in the Gathering Space in anticipation of the February 16 celebration of marriage. What astounds me is how amazingly good looking everyone was – and how well preserved so many are! Second, we can now say “Spring starts next month.” I like the sound of that. I also like that we can now expect some of the early spring flowers to start peeking out very soon. I will provide a reward, albeit a very meager one, to the first little kids (baptism to First Communion) and kids (First Communion to Confirmation) who can point out the first bud of spring on the parish grounds. BTW, the poor daffodil that popped up in December by the church’s front door doesn’t count.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER: 

  • Sacramental Preparation – With the approach of spring comes the home stretch of preparations for First Communions and Confirmations.

    • First Reconciliations – February 19 at 7:00 pm. Unlike some of the other penance celebrations, this one does not include an invitation to the entire parish – just to the second graders and their families. We do however invite everyone to pray for the children who are taking this big next step. This year we have 36 children making their First Reconciliations and First Communions. Thanks to Michele Tuck, our second grade CCD teachers, and all who have trained our First Communicants. Special thanks to Ginny Houle and Kathy Kafka who have worked closely with our young people with special needs.

    • Confirmation Conferences – Our 66 confirmation candidates will start their Confirmation Conferences this week. Each of our candidates has a conversation with a Knight of Columbus who invites the Confirmation candidate to reflect on her or his spiritual preparation up to this point. Great thanks to our confirmandi, to their teachers, families, and sponsors.

Sunday’s Homily – February 3 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Inspired Challenging, Part 1: “You Have What It Takes”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Feeding Hands – We are off to a terrific start with our collections of toiletries and cleaning products for the people who rely on the Feeding Hands Center in Somerville. The collection portion of the project officially starts this Sunday but we have already collected 700 items. It seems very likely that we will meet our goal of 1750 items. If you haven’t already taken a labeled bag, think about doing so. This is one of those projects that produces immediate results for people who need them.

  • Random Acts of Kindness – On Saturday, members of our Youth Group will be doing kind things all around Hillsborough. We don’t want to give away all the secrets about what they are doing this year, but last year they delivered flowers to residents of nursing homes, prayer shawls to people who could use them, food to SHIP (Samaritan Homeless Intervention Program). They also purchased cups of coffee for unsuspecting folks all around town. Thanks to our Youth Group and thanks to all the parishioners who supported the adventure by putting money in the poor boxes for the last two weeks.

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Calling volunteers in every ministry! Try to join your fellow volunteers/ministers on Saturday, March 16 for the Parish Ministries Morning of Recollection. The program starts with 8:35 Mass and concludes with lunch. Please RSVP to Suzanne Kral and be sure to tell her the ministry with which you want to spend your morning. You can email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com It will be good to share the morning.

  • The Caregivers’ Morning of Recollection – If you are helping a friend or relative who needs a bit of extra TLC these days, or if you are professional caregiver, please join your mission-mates for the Caregivers Morning of Recollection on Saturday, March 9. You can sign up in the gathering space.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Basketball Stars – Hats off to the young people who won their age divisions in last Sunday’s Free Throw Contest: Patrick Kirwan, Julia Elmalis, Dillon Ludwig, Emily Albert, Cameron Diogene, Addison Harkin, Ethan Diogene, Kylie Freeman, Owen Albert and Scott Lentz. It is wonderful to know you are using your talents so very well. And greatest thanks to Dominick Ferrigno for organizing the competition on behalf of the Knights. 

  • Where you sit – If you had to indicate where you usually sit at Sunday Mass, how would you describe your location? This question will take on some amusing and helpful dimensions in the next few weeks. 

  • Broken Pipes – Great thanks to Bryan Delisi and Bob Ferretti, the staff members who led the recovery effort two weeks ago. What are the chances that, at the very same moment, a water pipe above the kitchen would break and a sewer pipe in the front yard would back up? The probability of that coincidence actually occurring is very small, but it happened and it was a mess. Thanks to Bryan and Bob for getting it under control and for overseeing both clean up efforts. BTW – the firm that came in to sanitize the kitchen has transformed it. Every square inch of the place was sanitized. Thanks too to our terrific vendors for riding to the rescue.

  • Pasta Dinner – Once again, great gratitude to the Knights for swapping dates for the Pasta Dinner (because of the broken pipes). That was a big effort that they completed with their usual style and grace. The food was excellent and the 200 parishioners who turned out had a fine time. It was a great grace to share the evening with so many of you. Thanks too to the folks from Petrocks for the wine tasting. 

  • Father messed up – Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – February 16 – I crossed my wires on Sunday at the 11:30 and . . . . long story short, there was no one there to take reservations for the marriage celebration after the 11:30. So there will be another chance for the 11:30 folk to sign up this Sunday. Remember – next weekend’s celebration of marriage begins with the 4:45 Mass and continues with the party in the Parish Hall – buffet and DJ. (I think it is BYOB but double check).

With great and ever-increasing gratitude for the grace of being your pastor,

Fr Hank

 Sunday, February 3 – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Inspired Challenging, Part 1:

“You Have What It Takes”


“To challenge others” is one of our Christian duties. It comes under the “prophet” heading of our Priest-Prophet-King job description. As priest, each of us is a person of prayer who listens to God and speaks to God. As prophet we are servants who console others and challenge others. As king/queen/monarch we build up the community. The prophet/challenge part can be one of our trickiest duties. The Sunday readings from now until Ash Wednesday shed valuable light on that duty. Last Sunday’s readings remind us that inspired challenges begin with votes of confidence in the other, with overt or subtle claims that “You have what it takes.”

Sunday’s first reading (Jeremiah 1) recounts the story of God calling and sending Jeremiah to serve as a prophet. “Before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Jeremiah fires back that he is not up to the task – “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” To Jeremiah’s objection that he (Jeremiah) does not have what it takes, God replies “Of course you do.” Sunday’s passage omits much of God’s rejoinder to Jeremiah, but it does describe the gifts God has given Jeremiah, “for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” God is telling Jeremiah, “You have what it takes to do what I ask.”

Many argue that, in Sunday’s gospel (Luke 4), Jesus is delivering just the opposite message to his hometown people. But there is another view, that Jesus’s challenge to the people of Nazareth reveals his belief that they have what it takes. He reminds his listeners that their ancestors rejected the great prophets Elijah and Elisha. But would Jesus bother to deliver that message only to browbeat them for their ancestors’ choices? Would he gripe just for the sake of griping? Might it be more accurate to notice that Jesus only delivers challenges to those he believes can get on board? Time and time again, His challenges reveal his conviction that each person he challenges has what it takes to say “yes.” Might he be telling the people of Nazareth, “your ancestors made poor choices, but I believe you can say ‘yes’ to me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to challenge you?” Might the implied affirmation of their graces be for them a Jeremiah moment? A moment when God says “You have what it takes to make the inspired choice.”

What about you? What about your Jeremiah moments? When have others had more confidence in you than you had in yourself? When have others believed in you more than you believed in yourself? When has another delivered the message to you, probably on God’s behalf, “You have what it takes; quit doubting yourself?” Perhaps it happened when you had a setback that shook your self-confidence. Maybe it was in your professional life or in your life as an athlete or a student? Maybe it was during a challenging time in your marriage or in your faith-life. Maybe it had to do with your ability to get back on the proverbial horse after life had thrown you. When has someone said, “I believe you can rise to this challenge because you have what it takes?”

And where might you be invited to do that for another? To speak the challenging word of belief in the other? And what story does it make sense for you to share? When was that moment when, for good reason, you thought you couldn’t and someone thought you could? When have your mistakes convinced you that you have lost the program but someone else talked you out of that mistaken belief? Or when have you been the victim of someone else’s malice or stupidity and you were ready to quit and God used another to remind you “You still have what it takes?” Because you do.

God’s call only takes you where God’s grace can hold you. If God is calling, God is supplying. When have you, like Jeremiah and the people of Nazareth, been reminded of that? Who might need to hear your story? Who has been that prophet of challenging affirmation for you and to whom might God be sending you as a prophet of challenging affirmation?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - February 1, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – February 1, 2019

Dear All: 
    
EAT MORE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS!!!!! GOD TOLD ME ON RETREAT TO TELL YOU THAT.

OK. Just kidding about the divine revelation concerning the noodles. That didn’t really happen. But our annual Pasta Night really is happening, tonight. I hope to see you there. And I hope to see many of you in two weeks at “All You Need Is Love,” our parish celebration of marriage on February 16.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Retreat – OK. OK. So maybe God didn’t say anything about pasta, but retreat was excellent anyhow. The weather stunk; there were a few patches of sunshine and one fully sunny day, but it rained 6 out of 8 days. Then again, the lousy weather didn’t diminish the retreat. God was amazingly kind, even for God. It was one of those retreats that will take a very long time to sort out. But I am glad I get to sort it all out here rather than there. One of the very best parts of the retreat was returning to Saint Joe’s. I truly am one of the luckiest and most blessed guys I know. Time away did nothing but deepen that conviction. 

  • Stations of the Cross – We are still five weeks away from Lent, but now might be a good time to mark a few of your chances to pray the stations. They will be prayed twice each Friday in Lent. 

  • Sacrament of the Sick – This is the last reminder in this series. Don’t hesitate to arrange the Sacrament of the Sick. Grab me after Mass and we can get right to it. Or email me to arrange an anointing for your loved one. God wants us to be at peace, especially in times of illness and injury.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Help for Feeding Hands – The Feeding Hands food bank in Somerville supports 250 low-income families. Our parish, for the second year, supports Feeding Hands by providing items that are not eligible for public subsidies – e.g. laundry soap, toiletries, dish detergent, sponges and cleaning products. If you have not done so already, and you are feeling the itch to help, please pick up a shopping bag in the gathering space. The bag identifies a particular good for you to buy. That way we don’t end up with 700 razors and no sponges. The collection bins are in the Memorial Hallway. (P.S. – Over the last two years The Paul Gubitosi Charitable Fund has given Feeding Hands 100 shopping carts so the people who come to Feeding Hands can get their food home.)

  • Ministry Recruiting – Thanks to all the Ministry Leaders who have arranged to recruit in the Gathering Space this Lent. As of yesterday, all the slots are reserved. Here’s to God blessing this recruiting season and to God blessing each parishioner’s discernment about personal ministries.

  • Calling All Ministers – Please plan to participate in the annual Morning of Recollection for all parish ministries on Saturday, March 16. Volunteers in EVERY parish ministry are invited. The morning provides time to reflect on your ministry and to connect with others in your ministry. Please reply to Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com if you plan to attend. Please identify your primary ministry in the email.  

  • Are you a Caregiver? – Has God been asking you to make life better for a loved one who, long term or short term, needs some extra TLC? Or maybe you work as a caregiver of some sort? Either way, join us for the morning of recollection on Saturday, March 9 – the Saturday immediately before the Ministries Morning of Recollection. If you have participated before, you know how good it is to learn, laugh and pray with people who do what you do. You are not alone. If you are a caregiver who has yet to participate in one of these mornings of recollection, we are eager to welcome you. RSVP instructions will be available next week.

  • Congratulations Chris Cusack and Christina Androulakis – Christina and Chris, two very active members of our parish Youth Group, received the Diocese of Metuchen’s St. Timothy Award last week. Thanks and blessings for Christina and Chris and their families for representing our parish so well. Thanks to Bishop Checchio for granting the awards.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • The Rescheduled Pasta Dinner – I hope to see many of you tonight. As I am writing this, our stalwart Knights are knocking out the meatballs. Granted, I am a complete and utter dope when it comes to cooking things that don’t go in the microwave, but what these guys are doing sure looks like rocket science to me. I just got a detailed explanation of why they use only San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce (or is it “gravy”), and why it is best to soak the bread in milk before it goes into the meatballs. Who knew? Anyhow, hope to see you tonight.

  • All You Need is LOVE – Our parish celebration of the married vocation starts at the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, February 16 and continues with great food and fellowship, and some fine music, in the Parish Hall. Remember to submit a COPY of your wedding picture in the paper frame (don’t give us an original) AND remember to buy your ticket this weekend. Not only does this night promise to be great fun, but it is also the bargain of the year. (PS – Seriously, if you are in a tight financial spot, please let me provide you and your spouse with a ticket. Please.)

  • Summer CCD July 21-Aug 1― We are happy to announce that this year we will be using our Finding God Curriculum for the summer. There are so many great lessons, projects, and activities in this program, that it will be perfect for the relaxed, fun atmosphere we strive for in our summer offering. Our plan is to have the registration process begin in late March again this year, so stay tuned for more specific details when registration materials are available!

  • Trivia Night ― Friday, April 5th. Do you think you know it all? Get your team together and prove it at our first adult Parish Pub Trivia Night fundraiser for Catholic Heart Workcamp and our young adult service trip. Tables of 8 will compete for some great prizes! Tickets (and more information) are available at on our website.

It was good to be away and even better to be back. As always, great thanks and all best blessings. 

Fr Hank

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 25, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – January 25, 2019

Dear All:

The Pasta Dinner has been rescheduled for next Friday – February 1.

Greatest thanks to the Knights and to the Parish Staff for managing the situation so adroitly and amicably. They are a dream team.

And I am innocent! As hard as I prayed for the grace to figure out how NOT to miss the dinner, I did not ask the Good Lord to sabotage the building – to burst one pipe or clog another. But things being as they are, I very much look forward to joining you at the dinner next Friday. I am scheduled to return from retreat on Thursday.


THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Retreat – I hope you don’t mind if the prayer part of this week’s THIS WEEK includes a bit about my prayer/retreat. Although I am only 40 hours into it, I am loving it. Other than getting this “THIS WEEK” to you, I am pretty much completely unplugged. As always, I started retreat with confession and I stumbled into a great confessor here. (N.B. – No, I do not plan to get my haircut down here. Retreat is the one exception to the haircut/confession deal.) This retreat house offers great places for each day’s meditations. Many of the places offer views of salt water and sailing vessels. Already, I am a bit surprised by the direction the Lord seems to be pointing me. It is a bit difficult to explain but it has something to do with a never-before-seen connection between a favorite Psalm, a favorite passage in Mark, the words of the consecration, and the amazing grace of being at St. Joe’s. Last thing, my retreat reading, for the times in between meditations, is Gerhard Lohfink’s “Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was.” Glad I saved it up for retreat. Please send up a good prayer for me.

  • Sacrament of the Sick – Just another friendly reminder, please do not wait to request the Anointing of the Sick for yourself or a loved one. Catch me after Mass and we can get right to it or arrange for me to visit your loved one. God wants you to be at peace and this sacrament helps that happen in times of illness and injury.

Sunday’s Homily – January 20 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, “Getting Back on the Horse”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Ministry Recruiting – Our ministry recruiting season will occur in Lent this year. Suzanne Kral, parish liaison to all ministries, has invited all ministry leaders to sign up for a recruiting station. We have 2 or 3 slots remaining for the recruiting season. If you would like to claim one of the available tables, email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Mark your calendars. People involved in every parish ministry are invited to the annual morning of recollection on Saturday, March 16. The morning provides time for reflection on your ministry and it also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with the many parishioners who share your ministry. 

  • The Caregivers’ Morning of Recollection – The date for the Spring morning of recollection has been set for Saturday, March 9. If you are helping provide that extra TLC for a loved one in a tough patch, be sure to join us. It is good for people performing these labors to laugh, learn and pray together. Eating together is also good. 

  • St. Timothy Award - Congratulations to two of our high school teens who received the Diocese of Metuchen’s St. Timothy Award. Chris Cusack and Christina Androulakis have been key members of our youth group and are involved in myriad ministries and service work in our parish. We are blessed to have them in our parish and happy that Bishop Checchio is honoring them on Saturday at a special mass celebrating World Youth Day.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. While it won’t pay a bill, the youth group would also like to offer you a homemade turkey pot pie. 

  • Blessings for Our Newest Parishioners – The Good Lord continues to bless us with new parishioners. May all of the new parishioners find here a true spiritual home and even deeper awareness of Jesus’ love and Jesus’ call. Welcome to all of our newest community members:

    • Dan Calabrese    

    • James and Mary Castro

    • John and Nadya Furnari and their children Isabella and Alexander

    • Daniel and Jill Gleeson and their children Daniel and Cameron

    • Rashad and Stephanie Hix and their children Qua’sheed and Jackson

    • Arthur and Nancy Leo

    • John and Sharon Liszczak

    • Lauren Yackowski and her children Matthew and Caitlin

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – ONCE AGAIN – IT IS NOW ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1.

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterwards, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there. And make sure you do the paper frame thing for your wedding pictures.

    • Trivia Night ― Friday, April 5th. Do you think you know it all? Come and prove it at our first adult Trivia Night fundraiser for Catholic Heart Workcamp and our young adult service trip. Tables of 8 will compete for some great prizes! More details to follow.

I almost forgot to mention at the top of the page, the Passionists no longer eat standing up. A bunch of them chuckled when I asked about that tradition and if it really happened or maybe I was going delusional. They assured me they used to eat that way. They still have the “dining shelves” in parts of the refectory!

With gratitude for the time away, gladness at the prospect of returning, and all best blessings.

Fr Hank 

 January 20 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Getting Back on the Horse”


Who among us has not felt a little confused, bewildered or befuddled in our relationship with Jesus? Is it too far a stretch to regard the unsettling spiritual moments as “inevitable?” And if such sad spiritual experiences are unavoidable, then isn’t it also true that each of us faces moments when we must decide whether to “get back on the horse that threw us?”

Sunday’s Gospel (John 2) about the wedding at Cana suggests that even the Blessed Mother had to make that choice. The depletion of the wedding wine would have been a mortifying embarrassment to the host. In order to prevent that embarrassment – at least that is what a good chunk of our tradition says motivated our lady – she asked Jesus to help. The request seems innocent enough and understandable.

But how did Jesus reply? “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Both parts of that reply, the “Woman” part and the “your concern” (i.e., not mine) part, come across as more than a little abrasive. Scripture scholars over the centuries have tried to explain Jesus’ words as a friendly rejoinder but their efforts have faltered. Perhaps it is best to treat it as distancing and probably unsettling for Mary.

Given all that, Mary’s reply seems to be another Cana miracle. Rather than correct Jesus or distance herself, she expresses pure faith in him, telling the waiters “Do whatever he tells you.” That faith-filled reply offers a great example of someone getting right back on the spiritual horse that threw her. Jesus seems a little distant and she makes the choice she would have made anyhow.

What about you? You have had rough spiritual moments that have made you wonder about God’s love, and you got back on your spiritual horse. Despite the disappointment or confusion, you continued to make inspired choices. You didn’t deny the disappointment, but neither did you let it stop you. Everyone who has lived through the death of a child and still goes to church has done that. Everyone who has labored and prayed fervently for a particular outcome and then not received it – and still prays – has done that. When you have felt rejected by God or the church and have continued to bless God and the church, you have gotten back on your spiritual horse. You have, like Mary at Cana, participated in one of Cana’s less-known miracles – the miracle of perseverance. When have you done just that and who might need to hear your story, not just the victory part, but the part about feeling dismissed by God and ready to ditch the horse?

And the other miracle? The horses just keep on coming. It seems that whenever we feel spiritually pummeled, God provides an opportunity for us to re-profess our faith. God provides horse after heavenly horse for us to get back on. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 18, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – January 18, 2019

Dear All: 

Monday morning was another one of “those moments,” a moment that exposed the great generosity of spirit that lives in the hearts of so many St. Joe’s parishioners. The volunteers – both the 8:35 Club regulars and the folks who came especially to help – had all the Christmas decorations put away by 9:30. The dozens of poinsettias, the creche, the flying angels, everything was all relocated in a half hour. It then took a bit more time to schlepp everything over to the rectory basement, to sweep up the hay and to put away the outside lights, but it was all done speedily with great good humor. Major thanks to all who pitched in and thanks to those who would have pitched in if they could have. And, of course, great thanks to all who labored mightily to make the church as beautiful as it was for Christmas. Your outstanding efforts helped many people to pray and to feel and trust God’s infinite love.

 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Sacrament of the Sick – Don’t hesitate to ask for it! If you are about to have an operation or have received a challenging diagnosis, please let me know ASAP. On your way in or out of church is the best time to tell me. My usual response is to anoint as soon as I have greeted the last departing parishioner. The anointing only takes a moment and the grace is, according to the many who experience it, palpable. God wants to help you get better. Also, please let me know if you have a loved one who is homebound or living in a healthcare facility. The goal is to provide spiritual sustenance to every parishioner, whether or not they can get to Mass. I anointed about 160 parishioners last year. It is a beautiful part of who we are.

  • Travelling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon and Prayers – Remember, if you would like to host the icon and pray the prayers for a week in your home, please get in touch with Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

Sunday’s Homily – “January 13, 2018, The Baptism of the Lord; I Have Called You for the Victory of Justice”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Calling all Technical Writers – Have you had experience writing manuals or other technical guides? If so, can you help us out? Our recent tech upgrades – the Church sound system, the new wifi throughout the building, excellent AV equipment in the CCD classrooms – in addition to the tech upgrades that we hope to make this year, require people who know how to run the equipment. Many would like to help but need better instructions. Might you be able to help us produce the manuals or user-guides that will enable more people to join the tech ministries? If yes, email me at fhilton@Loyola.edu

  • Ministry Recruiting – Our ministry recruiting season will occur in Lent this year. Suzanne Kral, parish liaison to all ministries, has invited all ministry leaders to sign up for a recruiting station. We have 2 or 3 slots remaining for the recruiting season. If you would like to claim one of the available tables, email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Mark your calendars. People involved in every parish ministry are invited to the annual morning of recollection on Saturday, March 16. The morning provides time for reflection on your ministry and it also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with the many parishioners who share your ministry. 

  • Turkey Pot Pies ― Did you ever wonder what happens to all the turkeys we collect around the holidays? Any turkeys not consumed by needy families get turned into turkey pot pies that will be used by our emergency meals ministry throughout the winter. This past Saturday our youth group baked - from scratch - 22 pies and enough trays of food for two meals at Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen. Let no turkey go to waste! Way to go!

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. 

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the entire family. My personal regret is that I will not be there as I will be away making my annual retreat from January 23 to January 31. Yes, I confess I am feeling a bit envious of you who will be there. 

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterward, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day ― This Monday is a holiday and our parish offices will be closed. There will still be 8:35 am mass, if you are home, please feel free to join us.

I leave for retreat on Wednesday. I still strive for the Jesuit norm of an 8-day retreat each year and at least one 3-day follow up at another part of the year. I spent last year’s 8-day retreat with the Franciscans. I am once again being ecumenical and spending this year’s retreat with the Passionists. They eat standing up. That works for me. Say one for me and know that I look forward to rejoining you at Mass.

Fr Hank

January 13, 2018, The Baptism of the Lord
I Have Called You for the Victory of Justice


The word “justice” has a way of activating our political antennae. We hear the word and we quietly drift to our Democratic or Republican or Libertarian or Bolshevik corners. We hear the word and we start thinking as conservatives or liberals or anarchists or monarchists.
 
The tendency to turn “justice” into a political notion is both understandable and problematic. Scriptural references to “justice” typically invite us to take the bigger view. Perhaps it is fair to hear biblical invitations to promote “justice” as invitations to promote right relationships (a) among all humans and (b) between humans and God. Those “right relationships” are the relationships that delight and glorify God, that lead people to peace, and that are guided by love.

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 42), the first of Isaiah’s four magnificent “Servant Songs,” claims “I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand.” That line is addressed primarily to Jesus. It is also addressed to the mysterious suffering servant and to us. God the Father wants to use us to promote right relationships in our own lives and around the world. Not only does God want to use us in that effort, God grasps us by the hand – i.e., God helps us.

Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 3) depicts Jesus’ baptism and a moment when Jesus experienced the profound, interior awareness that he and the Father were linked in a completely unique relationship. The moment affirms Jesus’ singular role in promoting true justice. To whom else has the Father ever said, “You are my beloved son"? No one.

But to whom else has God said “in you I am well pleased”? He has said that to millions of people, including you. It didn’t happen with an opening in the sky and the descent of a dove. It happened in the quiet of your heart when you knew that your relationships lined up with God’s hopes. It happened when you had that quiet awareness that what you were doing and the way you were living your relationships was consistent with “justice” – even though the awareness most certainly did not rely on that word. 

What about it? In what moments have you experienced that profound, God-given conviction that your relationships were right? That they reflected what Isaiah terms “justice”? When have you felt particularly right, because you felt particularly close to Jesus in your life as a parent, as a child, as a sibling, as a spouse, as a friend, as a caregiver, as a kid who includes the lonely, as a worker who helps colleagues, as an athlete who plays for the team’s best, as a benefactor who, in large ways and small, helps the less fortunate? Surely, there have been many moments when you felt a deep-down confidence that your relationships and God’s hopes were very much in synch. When were they and what do those moments say about God’s desire to keep “calling you for the victory of justice?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 11, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – January 11, 2019

Dear All:

Wednesday night was one of those nights – a night that provided a delightful reminder of God’s impressive action in our parish life. While the group in church was singing and praying for migrants and refugees, the Knights were holding their monthly business meeting in the hospitality room, the leaders of our Becca’s Friends Ministry were meeting in the south end of the Parish Hall, and the folks who knit and crochet were pursuing their crafts at the Parish Hall’s other end. We have so many of those nights. God is good and so are you.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Traveling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) Icon and Prayers – 8:35 – Thanks to the members of the 8:35 Club for signing up to host the traveling OLG icon for the next four months. The signup sheet is now posted in the 8:35 section of the Gathering Space bulletin board. CCD families will be the next to be invited to host the icon and pray the associated prayers.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Thanks to all who came to pray on Wednesday night. The prayers and the music were very engaging and the translated testimonies moved many hearts. While we hold many different views about how best to serve migrants and refugees, we know that each of us is called to pray for these beloved of Jesus who, as a child, experienced firsthand the refugee life.

  • Praying for Loved Ones with Illness and Injuries – If you would like one of your loved ones to be named in our Sunday Prayers of the Faithful for people with illness or injury, just call the church office and make your request. We are currently trying to improve our methods for getting people on and off the list. Meanwhile, keep the requests coming. The prayers help.

Sunday’s Homily – “January 6, 2019, Feast of the Epiphany; Hope Part VIII: Hoping for Warm Welcomes”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Your Christmas Generosity – The results are now all in and they are impressive. 

    • The Advent Giving Tree (AGT) – The AGT Committee put up 750 gift-request tags and received more than 1000 gifts. That is correct: they requested 750 gifts and received 1,000. Many of the requests were for gift A OR gift B and the donor gave gift A AND gift B – e.g., the request for boys’ size 7 shoes or boots produced shoes AND boots.

    • Becca’s Friends – With the help of many St. Joe’s parishioners, our Becca’s Friends Ministry hosted a Christmas dance that was attended by more than 100 guests. Many of the people who came for the great food and dancing belong to St. Joe’s but the majority were not parishioners and many of our guests came from area group homes. Members of our Youth Group and CCD Programs provided invaluable company.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. 

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the entire family. My personal regret is that I will not be there as I will be away making my annual retreat from January 23 to January 31. Yes, I confess I am feeling a bit envious of you who will be there. 

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterwards, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

  • Collection Counters – Thanks to Bill Houle and his remarkable team of high-productivity, low-maintenance collection counters, we had the Christmas collection counted and in the bank before noon on December 26. The Christmas counting is a gigantic undertaking and Bill and his team made incredibly short work of it all. Great thanks to Bill and all.

  • Committees and Councils – Great thanks to members of the many committees and councils who are working extra hard in the post-Christmas season.

    • Parish Council -- Thanks to the Parish Council for tweaking the meeting time and for the great conversation about a number of very important issues, especially the issue of how best to minister to parishioners who, for a variety of reasons, cannot join us at Mass 

    • Buildings and Grounds – Thanks to B&G for tweaking its meeting time and for doing the hard work of establishing priorities for the remainder of this fiscal year. If our parish gets major subsidies on the AC units that need to be replaced, we will be able to pursue one set of priorities. If not, we will pursue another. Your deliberations have produced great wisdom.

    • Finance Council – The Finance Council meets this Tuesday to discuss, among other important topics, our finances for the first half of the current fiscal year, how close we are to the agreed upon budget, and what course adjustments we can or should make.

      Members of all these groups make great contributions to our ability to grow as disciples of Christ, to take meaningful next steps in our lives as priests, prophets, and kings.

With blessings for every St. Joe’s parishioner and whatever is going on in your life these days. May God divide whatever sadness you are feeling and multiply the joy.

Fr Hank

January 6, 2019, Feast of the Epiphany
Hope Part VIII: Hoping for Warm Welcomes


Who doesn’t hope for a warm welcome? We hope we will receive warm welcomes when we are feeling vulnerable. We doubly hope that for our children and our loved ones. We know the ultimate warm welcome awaits us in heaven but, meanwhile, we hope for sincere receptions and we hope that those who welcome us into new situations will value our gifts. It is a very human experience.

Two groups of people in Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 60) hoped for warm welcomes and a place in the community – the exiles who would be returning to Jerusalem from Babylon and the visitors from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba who would someday visit Jerusalem. They would come to Mount Zion from places and cultures with which the people of Jerusalem were not familiar. They would be bringing gifts that the locals might not recognize. Of course, those returnees and visitors would be feeling vulnerable and hoping for a warm welcome and an appreciation of their gifts.

Many questions surround the Magi’s origins and motives (Matthew 2). Notwithstanding those unknowns, we do know that they came to Bethlehem from far away bringing gifts that were rare or unknown in Bethlehem. Herod feared them, gave them a very insincere greeting and cared little about their hopes and their potential contributions. The Holy Family, from what we can infer, received the Magi and their gifts and their unfamiliar ways.
What about you (in three questions)? First, when have you been the vulnerable one hoping for a warm welcome, a sincere interest in your story, and an appreciation of your gifts and potential contributions? Perhaps you had the experience when you moved from one place to another, when you tried out for a team (athletic or professional), when you wanted to join a ministry, when you needed to share important but scary news about yourself, when you needed to go to confession, or when you had achieved something beautiful and important? Who welcomed you and valued your gifts?

Second, where have you offered precisely that sort of warm welcome and sincere appreciation to someone you knew well or someone you were just getting to know? Perhaps it was a friend or a relative who had undergone a personal transformation and needed to feel safe with that new insight? Maybe it was someone who joined you at work or on your team or in your neighborhood – and you did just the right thing? This is not to say “Anything goes” or “Every idea is equally valid.” But God does invite us to welcome many people and their varied ideas and gifts.

Finally, where might God be prompting you now to offer that warm welcome – the sort that Herod withheld from the Magi but the Holy Family offered? To whom does God want you to say, indeed more than in word, “You matter?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 4, 2019

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – January 4, 2019

Dear All: 

Thanks for the inspired and inspiring Christmas. I hope and trust that yours was also full of great blessings and that your new year is off to a rollicking good start. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Next Sunday it is the Baptism of the Lord. Then on January 20, we return to Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday, March 6. Enjoy the 60 days of green vestments.

 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Travelling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Guide – Our Metuchen Diocese is promoting a year of spiritual renewal. It includes renewal of our relationship with the Blessed Mother, in her role as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Saint Joe’s and every other parish in the diocese have received an icon and a collection of prayers that is meant to stay at a different parishioner’s home every week. I thank the members of the 8:35 Club (the folks who regularly attend daily Mass) for signing up for the first 15 weeks. Thirty-seven more households can host the icon and pray the prayers once the 8:35 gang finishes the preliminary round. Great thanks to Fernando Diaz, our parish liaison to the project. Please contact Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com if you would like to be put on the list of host households.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Think about joining the prayer for refugees and migrants this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The diocese invited our parish to host this event as part of next week’s nation-wide effort to pray for our dislocated brothers and sisters. Join us if you can. 

Sunday’s Homily – “December 30, 2018 – Feast of the Holy Family: Hope Part VII: Family Hopes, Me and Us”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page


THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • The Inhalers: At the end of each Mass on December 30, I asked you to consider putting an offering in the poor box, an offering that would help pay for a local man’s inhaler. Because he is not a U.S. citizen, our friend is not eligible for government assistance. Your response was truly outstanding. Your generosity has enabled us to set up an account, within our Social Ministries accounts, that will pay for his next six inhalers. Imagine our friend’s relief when, as we stood at the cash register and the very kind pharmacist said “That will be $620. How would you like to pay,” and I was able to reply “St. Joe’s Parish will cover it.” Thanks too to all who offered other forms of assistance. You are a blessing.

  • Virtus Training available for any parishioners interested in volunteering to work with youth, special needs adults or the elderly is available tomorrow from 9:30 - noon. There are only 5 of the 40 spots still available. Click here to register.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Welcome to Our New Parishioners – Once again, we are delighted to welcome several new members to our parish. May your years at St. Joe’s be many and may they be years of great grace for you, and because of you, years of great grace for all parishioners:

    • Maureen Amter and her son Michael

    • Patrick and Diane Baldoni

    • Ryan and Sarah Forrester and their children Charlotte and Adam

    • Ellen Schwalm

    • Logan Stahl

    • Christopher and Carol Wishbow

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the whole family

    • “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterward, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

With blessings for every St. Joe’s parishioner and whatever is going on in your life these days. May God divide whatever sadness you are feeling and multiply the joy.

Fr Hank

December 30, 2018, Feast of the Holy Family
Hope Part VII: Family Hopes, Me and Us


We celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family every year on the Sunday after Christmas. For most families, the feast occurs on the heels of a wonderful family celebration of Christmas. For others, the feast follows some difficult days. Regardless of the state of our family, the feast offers consolation and challenge. By inviting us to look at our hopes – our “me-hopes” and our “us-hopes” – the feast consoles and challenges all of us. The feast’s scriptures do the same.

Sunday’s first reading (First Samuel 1) touches the stories of two families. The main family in the story, Samuel’s family, includes several people who care primarily about “us.” Elkanah and Hannah reveal a strong, underlying concern for each member of the family. Neither of them pursues “me-hopes.” Peninnah, a very influential and severely self-centered woman who lurks in the story’s background, could not care less about others’ wellbeing. She is all “me-hopes.” Eli’s family is the story’s other family. Eli cares deeply about the community and about his family. His two deadbeat sons, Hophni and Phineas, are great examples of pathologically self-absorbed youths. They hope only for their own gratification. That misguided hope proves to be their undoing.

The gospel (Luke 2) recounts the time when Jesus became separated and then reconnected to his family. He has one idea about what is best for “us.” His parents have a very different idea. Their story is not like that of Hannah and Peninnah or like that of Eli and his sons. Those stories were about “me-people” confronting the “us-people.” The gospel, by comparison, is a story of “us-people” having different notions of what is best.
Both readings challenge. The first reading challenges us to wonder about our “me-hopes,” – i.e., hopes that focus only on my wants and needs rather than on the family’s. They invite us to put down our Peninnah and take up our Hannah. The gospel challenges us to consider the possibility that we might need to put down an “us-hope” even though that hope gives every indication of being inspired. 

But the readings also console. They invite us to recall moments when, with God’s help, we have recognized our “me-hopes” for what they are and put them aside. They also invite us to recall those graced moments when we surrendered a beautiful “us-hope” in favor of another’s.

When have you put aside a powerful “me-hope?” When have you recognized that a goal you are pursuing benefits only you, not the family? Maybe it was about your professional life, or your training schedule, or your sports schedules, or your recreational life? And when have you put your “us-hope” aside in favor of another’s? Maybe it was about family finances or relationships or recreation?

Regardless of the current state of our families, whatever we regard as “family,” there is probably a chance to go from a me-hope to an us-hope, and another chance to go from one us-hope to a better one. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 21, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – December 21, 2018

Dear All:

Happy winter solstice, the day with the smallest amount of daylight. Also, the day when the rising sun angles through our church’s roof windows to shine on the heart of our crucified Christ. Sort of our own little Stonehenge, but better. Too bad today’s gloom deprived us of that. But it is also the feast of the great Dutch Jesuit, Peter Canisius, a doctor of the church and a superb teacher. Students facing those final finals, ask him to help.

Today’s “THIS WEEK” is short. Who has time to read this close to Christmas? It is also the last one for a few weeks. You will receive regular greetings but not a full weekly update.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Weekend Mass Schedule – The regular Mass schedule applies this weekend (4:45, 7:15, 9:30, 11:30 and 6:00). 

  • Christmas Mass Schedule – There are three Masses on Christmas Eve, each with a different music offering.

    • 4:00 pm – The children’s choir provides the music, with some help from our cantors.

    • 6:00 pm – Laurie and the Sunday 6:00 pm Praise Group will sing at the 6:00 pm Christmas Eve. 

    • 10:00 pm – The carols start at 9:30 pm, led by the Sunday 9:30 a.m. choir.

  • There are also three Masses on Christmas morning:

    • 7:15 am – Andrea and Tim, the regular 7:15 ensemble, will provide the music.

    • 9:30 and 11:30 – These are the BIG music Masses. Andrea and Tim will support a mix of regular musicians and visiting musicians. The lineup includes Trombone (by the guy who plays the trombone in the White House Marine Band!), bass guitar (Pete from the 9:30), french horn, viola, violin, flute (Thomas from the 9:30), Andrea playing the organ and guitar and singing also (7:15 regular), her husband Tim singing bass and a visiting Soprano (the singing kind, not the gangster kind)

It will be excellent to pray with you whenever you are here. When thinking through Mass times, remember that the 4:00 pm is very convenient for many and starts to fill in at 3:00 pm. By 3:45 we pretty much reach the fire code limits, that is with people standing in the gathering space and the hallways. Last year we had to draw the line at 1300 people. (For reference, we usually have 1300 people for the entire weekend.) Also keep in mind that the music will be delightful at all the Masses and that the full sound at the 9:30 and 11:30 merits consideration. Either way, pray well!

  • Confessions – I will be in the confessional for an extra half hour tomorrow (Saturday) – starting at 3:30. Once again, think of enjoying the grace of reconciliation – a good Christmas present to yourself.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 9. Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, Director of the diocese’s Secretariat for Family and Pastoral Life, has invited St. Joe’s to host the diocese’s prayer service for refugees and migrants around the world. This prayer service is part of the nationwide observance of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have labeled “National Migration Week,” January 6-12, 2019. Come and pray if you can.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 16, 2018 – Third Sunday of Advent: Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page


THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Your Great Efforts to Console: You perform remarkable works of mercy all year long. Your year-round generosity is both inspired and inspiring. Most recently, you have truly outdone yourselves – both in helping people to have a good Thanksgiving and in helping them to have a good Christmas. May God bless you mightily. It will be good to take a fresh look at our ministerial options. We can do all that after January 1. Meanwhile, continue to be good to those you meet – and take good care of yourself.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Welcoming the Hopeful – Many people who come to pray with us only on Christmas. Thanks for joining me in welcoming them into our community. We will have some goodies for them as they leave church. I will need a few of you to help hand out said goodies – all of which are designed to get them thinking about coming more often. 

  • Welcoming the Little Children – I will also need a few folks to help hand out coloring books and crayons to the little ones, especially at the 4:00 pm. The crayons etc increase the chances that the kids will have a good time in church and the chances that their parents might be able to relax and pray.

I assure you of great blessings for you and your loved ones and your celebrations of Christ’s appearance on earth. Being your pastor makes me the luckiest guy I know – enormously blessed. Thanks for that privilege.

Fr Hank

Summary of December 16 Homily:
Third Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty


Certainty can be a good thing or a not-so-good thing. Uninspired certainty can leave us committed to choices and adventures that have little to do with Jesus’ desires for all of us. Inspired certainty, by comparison, is that justifiable confidence that my choices and adventures align with Jesus’s Sacred Heart. Uninspired certainty makes us vulnerable to that age-old malaise “Often in error, never in doubt.”

Zephaniah upbraids the people of ancient Israel for leaning to heavily on uninspired certainty. They somehow convinced themselves that it was OK to worship Baal and some of the area’s other false gods. But Zephaniah also assures the people that the day will come, after they repent, when they will enjoy the peace that comes from knowing they are making inspired choices and are entitled to that peace that only invades our hearts when our choices reflect God’s. In Sunday’s first reading Zephaniah assures the people that God will eventually rejoice over them and sing about them. Why all of that divine gladness? Because they will be making the inspired choices that create inspired certainty.

Sunday’s gospel portrays people sincerely seeking advice from John the Baptist. Three groups – the crowds, the tax collectors and the Roman soldiers – ask John “What should we do?” Clearly, they want to get to a place of inspired certainty, where they can relax and pray in the knowledge that they are fundamentally getting it right with God. They can put self-doubt aside and absorb God’s love.

What about you? When have you had particularly strong desires for inspired certainty? Sometimes we get the craving – to know deeply that we are knowing, wanting, and doing what God wants. When have you had that experience? Sometimes difficult circumstances intensify our hunger for inspired certainty. New adventures also have a way of strengthening our desire to get it right. That appetite for inspired certainty, whatever the stimulus, is a gift. It truly opens us up to God’s hopes. It is frequently a difficult gift but a gift nonetheless. When have you been, at least in your heart, as hungry for inspired certainty as the three groups of people who, in Sunday’s gospel, asked with complete sincerity, “what should we do?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 14, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – December 14, 2018

Dear All:

Happy Feast of Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. Any guesses about why we might consider today a feast for people who prefer bare feet?

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Beautiful Music – Calling all kids! If you are old enough to read but young enough to consider yourself “a kid,” come and sing in the Children’s Choir at the 4:00 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. You need only to attend one of the rehearsals. You can either come to the practice on Monday the 17th or Wednesday the 19th. Both rehearsals start at 6:45 and end at 7:30. Give it a try!

  • Beautiful Silence – Hats off (silently of course) to all who participated in Tuesday night’s penance service. It was the quietest and most prayerful penance service I have experienced here. Frank Viola’s inspiring music, which was particularly easy to hear because of the delightful quiet, was a perfect match for the moment. Thanks to the ushers for keeping us moving and for organizing the express lanes, (based on age, not on volume of sins), to Mrs. Meyer for reading, to all our visiting priests, to Mrs. Valone for arranging the confessors, to the eighth graders for being so well prepared, to the CCD teachers and the parents and all who prepared and transported the eighth graders, and to all who participated in the prayer. It was a great grace to share the prayer with you.

  • Answer to Last Week’s Quiz – 

    • What feast do we celebrate exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception? 

      • Mary’s Birthday, September 8

    • What do we call the feast that occurs exactly nine months before Christmas? 

      • The Annunciation, March 25 

    • Who were Mary’s parents?

      • Anne and Joachim (when is their feast and what do we pray for that day?) 

    • What scripture passage provides the basis for today’s feast?

      • None. Several passages allude to the underlying truth but none states it.

  • Advent Confessions – Remember – this Saturday and next, December 15 and 22 – confessions start early. I will be in the Reconciliation Room from 3:30 to 4:25.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 9. Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, Director of the diocese’s Secretariat for Family and Pastoral Life, has invited us to host the diocese’s prayer service for refugees and migrants around the world. This prayer service is part of the nationwide observance of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have labeled “National Migration Week,” January 6-12, 2019. Come and pray if you can.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 9, 2018 – Second Sunday of Advent, Hope, Part III: Hoping to Matter”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – All the gifts are on their way. Shortly after Christmas, we will be able to supply a few measurements of your remarkable generosity. HUGE thanks to all who organized the tags and the 1001 details the project requires. Extra special thanks to Carol Jorgensen and Michelle Laffoon.

  • A Time for Every Purpose under Heaven – Of course we want to remain attentive always to the needs of those around us – i.e., around our county and around our world. But we are not built to drive at full speed in every season. Your giving has been going at full speed since October. May the days and weeks after Christmas be a time of grace-filled restoration. 

  • Ministry Leaders and Ministry Members – Ministries recruiting week will be here before you know it! How are you feeling about your current ministerial commitments? Which would you like to maintain and what changes might you think God is inviting you to make?

  • Food Bank Folks – In addition to the seasonal giving, we have dozens of parishioners who each week donate food for local food banks and a committed bunch of people who deliver that food. Your year-round efforts are appreciated every week of the year.

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network – Blessings for all the St. Joe’s people who chipped in to help the shelter that was hosted by our dear neighbors, the Hillsborough Reformed Church. This week’s guests included four moms and seven kids. Special thanks to all who go the great distance with this work, especially Sue Calamoneri, Alyson Scillitani, Gregory Scillatani, Sid Lentz and Kristen Mazuera.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • You Are Fine Evangelists – Each November the diocese asks us to count the number of people who come to Sunday Mass. The statistics help them plan. The great news is that the number of people who go to church here continues to grow. In November 2013, an average of 993 people participated in Sunday Mass here. This year that number rose to 1,213 – an increase of 22 percent in five years. As many of the more recently registered parishioners will tell you, it is because you are committed to your parish, you find peace here, you talk about it, and you welcome new folks. You are one fine bunch of evangelists!

  • Buildings and Grounds – The excited preparations for Christmas do not slow our ongoing efforts to maintain and improve our facilities. Since Labor Day, our crew has completed many significant tasks: Installation of WiFi throughout the church, installation of new AV equipment in the CCD classrooms, replacement of the (worn out) office carpet, demolition of a rectory patio that was funneling rainwater into the basement, stabilization of a giant crack in the rectory foundation, creation of a new classroom out of two storage rooms, and, at last, repair of all the parking lot lights – even though one pole still needs to be replaced, but now it has electricity. Great thanks to all who make it happen.

With blessings for every parishioner and a special welcome home to our college students – with a double welcome to those who were not able to be home for Thanksgiving.

Fr Hank

Summary of December 9 Homily:
Second Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part III: Hoping to Matter


Of course, we all hope that we matter. We hope that we matter to others and we hope that we matter to God. We hope for reassurances that God and others care about us and the quality of our lives. The hope can devolve into a slightly neurotic, excessively needy thing, but there is a very healthy version of our hope to matter. That hope comes with being human. 

Sunday’s first reading comes from the book of Baruch, a spokesman for God whose writings appear in the Catholic bibles but not in the Protestant or Jewish bibles. Baruch addressed people whose lives were ravaged by The Babylonian exile. His heart ached for the people who were dragged away, the people who were left behind, and the people who fled when the trouble started. All of them had plenty of reasons to believe that they did not matter to any nation and they did not matter to God. Baruch needed to redirect them. He wanted them to keep hoping that they mattered to God. Sunday’s passage contains the good news that God cared about them very much. Baruch assured the people that, in the not too distant future, “God will bring (the captives) back to (Jerusalem), borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones . . . that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.” Baruch wanted to restore their hope that they still mattered very much to God.

Sunday’s gospel (Luke 3) situates the appearance of John the Baptist in the history of Israel. Luke tells us that John appeared when the area was ruled by Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Tetrarch, and the High Priest(s) Annas and Caiaphas. We have plenty of reason to believe that these people cared far more about their own wellbeing than about the nation’s. With the possible exception of Annas and Caiaphas, the children of Israel mattered little to the named rulers. They contrast starkly with John the Baptist who cared intensely and who was sent by a God to who cared greatly. Moreover, John was clearing the way for Jesus, the human who cared more than any other human about all humans. The people who mattered little if at all to the people Luke names in this passage, mattered greatly to John, to Jesus, and to Jesus’ father. John’s appearance signals the start of a new era?

So what about you? God clearly wants people to know that they matter to him and that he cares about them. The readings make that very clear, albeit in a subtle way. Chances are excellent that you are doing a great job of feeding people’s hopes that they matter to others and they matter to God. Chances are also quite good that you play a significant role in justifying the hopes of some people. Without you and your care, they might easily wonder if they matter to anyone, and once that thought settles in, it is easy to suspect that we do not matter to God. Where are you doing a great job, a somewhat Christ-like job of letting others know that they do matter and that people do care? Is it with friends or relatives who are currently feeling pretty lousy about themselves? Is it with kids at school who never get picked for teams and who frequently eat lunch alone? 

God wants us to hope that we matter to others and to God. God also wants us to have moments when we realize the hopes are fulfilled, moments when we know that we do matter and that others care. Circumstances sometimes get in the way of those hopes and convictions. God is using you to feed those hopes and convictions. Name three or four ways in which you are doing a great job and one relationship in which you might up your game – so that one person regains the belief, “I matter.”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 8, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – December 8, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace and Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mass for the holyday is this morning (Saturday) at 8:35. And in response to the day’s most frequently asked question, especially among the rascals, “No. Today’s 4:45 Mass does not ‘count’ for the holyday and for Sunday.” So there! And if it were mine to grant a dispensation from the obligation, I would do so only for the people who pass the Immaculate Conception quiz (see below)

 
 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • The Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Test your knowledge of the faith. And remember, if you get all the answers right, I might grant you a dispensation to double dip – if I had the juice!

    1. What feast do we celebrate exactly nine months from today?

    2. What do we call the feast that occurs exactly nine months before Christmas?

    3. Who were Mary’s parents?

    4. What scripture passage provides the basis for today’s feast?

  • Advent Penance Service – How long ago was your last confession? Regardless of your answer, Tuesday night is a great moment for your next confession. We have nine priests. Eight have passed the “kind confessor” screening. And the ninth isn’t all that bad. Give yourself a Christmas gift: feel the grace of absolution and true reconciliation. The service starts at 7:30. The eighth graders will be there for their pre-Confirmation confessions. We will have express lines for non-eighth-graders. Extra pitch – if you are a parent of an eighth grader who is going to confession, Tuesday is a great night for you to go to confession as well.

  • Advent Confessions – Remember – on Saturdays December 15 and 22 – there will be an extra half hour of confessions. Saturday afternoon confessions will run from 3:30 to 4:30, rather than from the usual 4:00 to 4:30 

  • Chins up! – Chins up Spiritual Exercisers (aka Exercitants). The transition from the First Week to the Second Week doesn’t happen instantaneously. And yes, the Rules for Discernment are a product of the 16th century. Remember to read them generously and update them in your own mind.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 2, 2018 – First Sunday of Advent, Hope, Part II: Hoping for Safety”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree: The gifts destined for Appalachia headed out on Sunday afternoon. It was quite an impressive collection, a great tribute to your generosity of spirit. The remainder of the gifts are due by Sunday afternoon. If you want to get a sense of just how good are the people in our pews, take a look at the Memorial Hallway before Sunday afternoon. 

  • Ministry Leaders and Ministry Members – This is a good time of year for all of us to wonder about our ministries here at Saint Joe’s. Soon after Christmas, it will be time for our ministry recruiting Sundays. Now is a good time for ministry members and leaders to wonder about what next steps might be good for your ministry to take. It is a good season for all of us to wonder how God might be nudging us to take up a new ministry or perhaps put down an old one. It sometimes helps to wonder about our ministerial commitments in terms of Priest, Prophet and King – i.e., those ministries that help people to pray, those that provide consolation and challenge, and those that build up the community. Discern well.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • New Parishioners – A hearty and sincere welcome to our newest parishioners. May your years at Saint Joe’s be many and may they be years of blessings for you and, with your help, for all parishioners:

    • Nicholas and Jean Ciampa

    • Vincent and Lorraine Colarusso

    • Jen Hermann

    • Ray and Cara Holzer and their children Stefen and Stasha

    • Christine Leiter (and an additional welcome to Christine’s husband Alan)

    • Nina Napolitano and Rosanna Napolitano

    • James and Mary Ann Polito

    • Irene Tobia and Joanne Tobia

  • Great Pancakes – Dear Knights, You did a completely terrific job on Sunday morning. Everything about the pancake breakfast worked beautifully. Special thanks to Dominick Ferrigno for coordinating the effort and thanks to all the Knights who arrived before dawn and labored mightily.

  • Great Concert – Big thanks to PJ Anderson for yet another wonderful concert. Special thanks to parishioners Mike DeLucia and Pete Macor who were so much more than “doo-wop boys.” And of course, great thanks to our Youth Minister, Bob Ferretti, to all the young people who did the grunt work and to all the parishioners who turned out to enhance the marvelous mood.

  • Great Ornaments – Thanks to all who designed and produced the parish ornament. Remember to purchase one for your tree. They cost only $5.

With blessings for every parishioner and, as we observe Pearl Harbor Day, a special prayer for all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and an extra prayer for permanent peace. 

Fr Hank

Summary of December 2 Homily:
First Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part II: Hoping for Safety




Who doesn’t hope for safety? We all want it. For ourselves and for those who are dear to us. We all hope for it. Sunday’s readings remind us that God loves and honors our hopes for safety.

Sunday’s first reading (Jeremiah 33) has deep roots in the horrifying story of The Exile. The nation’s leading citizens had been abducted and removed from Jerusalem, Solomon’s temple had been destroyed, and the people who remained fretted about their very survival. The people of The Exile could, at any moment, be abused, sold into slavery or even executed. It was a horrifying time. It is to these terrified people that God tells Jeremiah to declare that, in the future, “Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” God recognizes their fear and their hopes for safety and God plans to respond.
Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21) also speaks to some very frightened people, people to whom Jesus was describing the terrible events that would accompany the world’s end. 

Expressing words of hope and possibility, Jesus tells his audience “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand . . . Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” To his original audience and to those who would later hear Jesus’ words, the messages about “standing erect,” “having strength” and “escaping tribulation” effectively say “I care about your fears and your hopes for safety and I want you to be prepared for the scariest parts.” The passage would later be particularly helpful to Christians who were trying to make sense of the desecration of the temple, the destruction of the temple and the persecution of Christians.

So, what about you? Are you seeing the connections between your choices and habits and God’s desire to satisfy peoples’ hopes for safety? The truth is that you constantly help people to feel safe and when we feel safe, we make more inspired choices. Are you seeing the link between (a) your participation in the parish’s seasonal giving projects (food and gifts) and (b) the sense of safety your gifts engender in the recipients, especially the children. Are you seeing the connection between (a) your regular routine as parent or spouse or child or caregiver or care-receiver and (b) the sense of safety that your choices cultivate in others? Students, are you seeing the relationship between (a) your choices to use your gifts – academic, athletic, spiritual, you name it – and (b) the sense of relief that raises in your parents. And students, are you seeing the way that (a) your choices to include people in your groups at school (b) make the included feel safe in ways God wants them to feel safe.

God has built many hopes into all human hearts. One of them is the hope for safety for our loved ones and for ourselves. We hope that we and our loved ones will abide beyond the threats of harm. Ultimately, it is the “big-H-hope” for heaven where we all dwell beyond death’s shadows and dwell secure in God’s presence. Meanwhile, how are you doing in noticing the ways you help God help people to feel safe, to is this that their realities are aligning with their hopes for safety, to feel that the perfect safety of heaven will someday be theirs?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 1, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – December 1, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

This weekend’s parish fellowship events promise to feed the soul and the body in fine fashion. Last night’s PJ Anderson Concert – with a special performance by our very own Mike DeLucia on guitar and vocals and Pete Macor on bass – was both fun and prayerful and great for the spirit. Sunday’s pancake breakfast will, thanks once again to the great work by our Knights, be fun and delicious. Great thanks to everyone who has put these events together.

And on a less fun topic . . . the dirty rotten scoundrel who was impersonating my email has returned. Please be cautious with emails that purport to be from me. Before opening them, make sure that they are from my real email fhilton@loyola.edu I have no Gmail account. And be assured that I am not in jail in Turkey, do not need gift cards for typhoon victims, and do not need your help in liberating my confiscated lottery winnings. Evidently, many priests have stories similar to mine.
 
THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • The Feast of the Immaculate Conception – The Feast is NEXT WEEK – Saturday, December 8. We will have the vigil Mass for the feast on Friday, December 7 at 7:30. The 8:35 Mass on Saturday morning will also be for the feast. It being Saturday, however, the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, December 7 will be for the Second Sunday of Advent.

  • Taking Care of Business – Keelin Glennon has outdone herself yet again. Keelin has single-handedly replaced all the hymnals with the new hymnals and put a cover on each one. She has also purchased covers for the missalettes that are kept by the front door and put the new missalettes in their covers. Thanks to Keelin for the great effort that helps each of us to pray.

  • Thanksgiving Masses – Blessings for all who helped us to pray at the Thanksgiving Masses – both the 5:00 pm on Wednesday and the 8:35 am on Thanksgiving Day. The turnout for both Masses was great.

Sunday’s Homily – “Sunday’s Homily – HOPE, Part I: The virtue of Hope and the feelings of hope”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • THANKS – for the Thanksgiving Food Baskets – You have done an incredible job – again. Your donations filled 100 baskets. One hundred tables that might have been empty were covered with Thanksgiving dinner. Try to imagine the people on the receiving end of your generosity.

  • THANKS – to Our YOUTH GROUP – The scene here two Fridays ago was more than a little amazing. How many dozens of our teenagers came to church to organize the food and get it into the baskets? It was one of those moments of great rejoicing over the size of our parishioners’ hearts, including the young hearts.

  • THANKS – for Our Advent Giving Tree – You have already taken 700 gift cards. Another 75 were placed on the Advent giving tree yesterday. So you still have a chance to help. Again, try to imagine the gladness you are bringing to 700 of God’s beloved. Three cheers for you. (Friendly reminder – if you have an Appalachia tag, the gift needs to land at the church by Sunday afternoon)

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) –  How blessed are we to share the mission with our friends at Hillsborough Reformed Church (HRC)? We will once again be helping to staff the IHN’s shelter for homeless families when it moves to HRC for the week of December 9-15. Thanks to Sid Lentz for rounding up our share of the volunteers and thanks to Sue Calamoneri for all of her great efforts. If you can help, email Sue at matlison@yahoo.com

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Thanksgiving Gatherings – The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was a wonderful night to be in church. What a treat it was to spend time with the tailgate crowd in the Hospitality Room. Just right. And what a blessing it was to see so many of our young people at the Youth Group Reunion in the parish hall. That was almost a little challenging to take in – all these kids home from college and their first stop was . . . church. Wow. And WOW about our Youth Minister, Bob Ferretti, who does such great work with our young people. Again. Think about that one. They come home from college and head right for church.

  • Put your church on your tree! – Starting this weekend, you can purchase a very special ornament for your tree – a delicate metal cut-out of the parish itself. The ornaments are being sold for $5 – which is just about exactly the cost of production.

  • Becca’s Friend’s Cards – Our Becca’s Friends Ministry – the parish recreational group for young adults with special needs – will be selling cards in the gathering space and at the pancake breakfast. All proceeds help pay for people with special needs to spend time at the ARC of Somerset’s Camp Jotoni.

  • New Banners – Thanks to Kevin Lee for designing the banners on the parish’s light posts. The banners will be green for ordinary time, purple for Advent and Lent and white for Christmas and Easter. Notice the three designs. One depicts the bread and the wine. Another depicts the bible. The third portrays the Holy Spirit on the waters of baptism. Thanks to Kevin for designing them and to Carl Panzera and George Putvinski for helping to install them. 

  • CCD Parents – Remember parents – if your child will making first reconciliation this Spring, please come to one of the parent meetings -- either December 3 or December 4. Both meetings are at 7:30 in the church.  

  • Financial Report – Enclosed in this week’s bulletin you will find the summary of our 2017/18 fiscal year. You have done another wonderful job of supporting our parish. We paid all our bills, including some large capital improvement bills, gave staff raises, expanded some programs, and we still had $3,000 left over to put in the bank. Good for you.

  • Grace Signaigo’s Bequest – The financial summary also reminds us of Mrs. Grace Signaigo’s extraordinary gift to our parish. Her gift increases our confidence that future generations of parishioners will belong to a financially sound parish. Good for Grace.

With all best blessings for you and hoping to see you in the pancake line –

Fr Hank

Summary of November 25 Homily:
HOPE, Part I: 

The virtue of Hope and the feelings of hope


Oxford defines “hope” as “the feeling or the wish that a desired good can be achieved.”
The virtue of hope gives us the conviction that the ultimate good, eternal life, can be achieved. The virtue of hope enables us to trust that Jesus keeps all his promises, including the promises he made about the possibilities of eternal life. Sunday’s readings for the Feast of Christ the King sharpen our focus on eternal life and on our conviction that we can reach it.

Sunday’s first reading comes from the book of Daniel, a book written in the second century BC about events that might have happened during the sixth century BC. The author of Daniel wrote the book to remind his second century BC audience that they too could withstand the persecutions they were enduring. One of his most encouraging messages was that God will send an agent to end their misery and to establish a never-ending kingdom. As Christians, we know that Jesus is the one who will establish that never-ending kingdom, who is “the one like a Son of man” who will receive “dominion, glory, and kingship.” We know that Jesus will have “an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away” and that “his kingship shall not be destroyed.” We are convinced of that precisely because God has blessed us with the virtue of hope. Hope gives us the conviction that God keeps his promises, including His promise about the never-ending kingdom of light, happiness, and peace.

Sunday’s second reading, from the first chapter of Revelation, addresses the same belief. When John, the author of Revelation speaks of Jesus as “the alpha and the omega,” he is speaking of Jesus as the one who always was and who, when he returns, will reign forever.

The gospel passage from John’s 18th chapter describes Jesus’ conversation with Pilate. Jesus makes it very clear that his kingdom “does not belong to this world,” that it is unlike every other kingdom. As Christians, we know that one of his kingdom’s distinguishing features is that it will never end. Once he returns, he will reign over the earth “without end” in that kingdom of light happiness and peace. We know that, we trust that, we look forward to that – precisely because God has endowed us with the virtue of hope.

The virtue of hope (which enables us to believe that heaven will happen) is both like and unlike our feelings of hope. We know from experience that feelings of hope sometimes lead to disappointment, that we sometimes have the feeling or wish that some good thing can be achieved and then it is not achieved. The beloved dies. The job offer goes to another. The relationship withers. Our physical or financial health deteriorate. These experiences of dashed feelings of hope have a way of eroding our virtue of hope. If we cannot trust the Lord in little matters how can we trust him in great matters? The disappointments arising from unrealized hopes can make us wonder if Christ really will be the King forever if we truly will spend eternity with God and our beloved.

Might frank conversation with Jesus help when the disintegration of feelings of hope make it hard to trust that heaven will really happen? Might it help to recall the candid conversations Martha and Mary had with Jesus when their fervent hope for their brother’s survival came to naught? What about spilling it all out to Jesus and naming the ways in which disappointment erodes hope.

And what about others? Are there people in your life who have been through the wringer and find it hard to trust that the virtue of hope – with its conviction about eternal life – makes sense? Is there someone in your life who just needs you to listen to their story, just listen, in a way that enables them to regain hope, to regain the conviction that Jesus loves them and will be their king forever?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - November 16, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – November 16, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

A greatly blessed Thanksgiving to every Saint Joe’s parishioner. I hope the blessings include an inspired mix of invigorating activity and restorative stillness as well as an inspired awareness of your blessings.

It will be good to pray together. We will be having low-key Thanksgiving Masses on Wednesday at 5 pm and Thursday at 8:35 am. Join the prayer if you can.

It will also be good to hang out for a bit. The Wednesday evening Mass will be followed by a BYOB in the hospitality room. Think of it as tailgating but indoors, and very informal. It is also BYO everything else, munchies etc. I hope someone remembers to bring a corkscrew this year. There is a microwave in the vicinity if your hors d'oeuvre requires nuking.

Meanwhile, as the adults gather in the Hospitality Room, the Youth Ministry Reunion will be taking place in the Parish Hall. It will be wonderful to have our college students back with us.

Thursday morning after the Thanksgiving Mass will be time for deluxe donuts and coffee, once again in the Hospitality Room.

I hope many will be able to join the prayer and getting-together at church. And whether extra prayer and fellowship is or is not part of your Thanksgiving, may your holiday be excellent.
 
THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Prayers for Our Deceased Loved Ones – Our Trees of Remembrance keep us mindful of the call to pray extra for our deceased loved ones in the month of November. Continued thanks to MaryAnn Comiskey and all who created the trees. Continued hopes that all of us, especially our young people, will make ample use of our fundamental prayer for our deceased loved ones:

Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Sunday’s Homily – “Perfection? Part 2: God Loves Our Personal Best”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – Our Advent Giving Tree is up and full of tags that are ready to take. Thanks in advance for doing what you can to help people who might otherwise not have much of a Christmas. Giant thanks to the 25 volunteers who have been working for weeks to organize the tree’s 500 tags. N.B. –  The tags labeled “Appalachia” are due back by December 2nd so we can get them to the good recipients in Appalachia. Also, the Appalachia tags that specify items from Walmart really do need to come from Walmart as that is the only store in the area. If exchanges for size are needed, they can be easily done through Walmart.  Last thing, all other tags are due back on December 9th.

  • Our Thanksgiving Food Baskets – You have done a marvelous job of helping our needy neighbors to have a happy Thanksgiving. The Memorial Hallway is FULL of the food you have so kindly contributed. Members of our youth group sorted the baskets tonight and delivering them tomorrow.

  • Becca’s Friends – Last weekend was one for the record book. On Friday night the BF volunteers and participants hosted the 165 people who turned out for “The Arc’s Got Talent.” A terrific night. Then on Saturday night, the same group hosted a dinner for 50. Blessings for all of you.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Celebrating our Veterans – Sunday’s 11:30 Mass and the party that followed were exceptional. Thanks and more thanks to all parishioners who have served in our armed forces – and special thanks to all the vets who gave the parish the honor of honoring them on Sunday. Great thanks to the Knights for providing yet another remarkable lunch. And boundless thanks to the incredible crew that produced the event. They thought of everything and then took care of everything – the portraits and the decorations in the gathering space, the flags all around, the boutonnieres, the roll call, the centerpieces in the parish hall, the decorations, the greeters, organizing the gift bags and those who contributed the gifts (the cards from Becca’s Friends, the haircuts from Hillsborough Great Cuts and the prayer cards from the Columbiettes). This group could have gotten Hannibal over the alps in no time flat. It was one superb celebration. 

  • Financial Review – Thanks to the members of the Finance Council and to Bill Strawderman and all who have made our financial reports easy to understand. The audited report for the 2017/18 fiscal year is now posted on our website. The one-page summary will be inserted in the bulletin in a few weeks. The bottom line? Thanks to your generosity, in 2017/18 we were able to pay all our bills (including some major capital expenses) and put a few thousand dollars in the bank.

  • Family Wreath-making for Advent – Eat pizza and make your Advent wreath! Who could want more? Join the fun on Sunday, November 18 from 12:30 – 3:00 PM in the Parish Hall.  

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

I will once again be having Thanksgiving dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Lancaster PA. The dinner satisfies my extravagant tastes in food but, far more importantly, it means I get to spend time with Ralph, a fellow I used to coach in Special Olympics Sailing, and Debbie, his amazing mom. Lancaster is sort of halfway between Millstone and their home. The drives to and from Lancaster, with the window open and the radio off, provide a great chance to count many of life’s greatest blessings. You top the list. I am immensely grateful for the privilege of sharing this adventure with you. 

Some of the drivetime will surely be spent dwelling on you as priests/people-of-prayer with whom I share the gladness of celebrating Mass and the sacraments. I could spend 100 miles recalling great graces in daily Mass with the 8:35 Club, or the lights generated in Meeting Christ in Prayer and the Spiritual Exercises, or the delight of the dozens of women in Working with Purpose. Then again, there is all the goodness of the people who take communion to the homebound and the nursing homes and those who provide the beautiful funerals week after week. And that is just the start.

Some of the drive time will be spent smiling about the ways you are prophets who console and challenge others. Even as I prepare to hit “send” on this week’s THIS WEEK, I am aware of folks in the parish kitchen cooking eight turkeys for Elijah’s Promise on Sunday, of the group heading into the gathering space to trim the Giving Tree, of the Youth Group arriving to take care of the food baskets, and again, that is just tonight’s list.

Your lives as kings/community-builders will also take many miles to contemplate. I get to recall all the greetings you share before and after every Mass. I get to recall our first-rate fellowship events, including the Parish Picnic and the many other events when the Knights feed us so well. I get to recall the many ways in which we strengthen the connections that make us a stronger community of Jesus’ friends.

Wow. Now that I start to get specific about all the gifts to count, I am thinking maybe I should drive a little further. (I just checked; Cracker Barrel does not operate in Juneau. Hmmm.)

Either way, all best blessings and thanks to each of you for giving me so many blessings to count and, more importantly, for giving each other so many blessings to count, and for making God smile.

Father Hank

Summary of November 11 Homily:
Perfection? Part 2: God Loves Our Personal Best


What are we to do when we hear God calling us to be perfect? What about those passages in scripture that set the bar at great and oh-so-discouraging heights? Do we give up? Do we pretend? Give it a try? Go to plan B?

November’s readings give us some great recommendations. They invite us to wonder about our approaches to perfection. Two weeks ago, the readings suggested that progress toward perfection, even though we will never get there in this life, delights God. This week’s readings remind us that God asks us only for our personal best. God knows how easily the perfect becomes the enemy of the very good. Personal best matters.

The widow of Zarephath gave her personal best and it delighted God (1 Kings 17). Elijah landed in Zarephath hungry and tired and looking for help. The drought and the famine that ravaged the land made helpers hard to find. But the widow rose to the occasion. She gave Elijah something to drink and a piece of bread. Her kindness thrilled Elijah and God. God rewarded her personal best with survival: “She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty,nor the jug of oil run dry.” Notice, the Zarephath widow did not host a lavish dinner. It was beyond her means. She provided a cup of water and a piece of bread. Her personal best gladdened God.

The widow in Sunday’s gospel (Mark 12) participated in a similar dynamic. She gave what she could and her effort consoled Jesus greatly. While people with high incomes made a big production out of their contributions, the widow gave as much as she could and sought no attention. Jesus told his disciples that she – a widow who, in ancient Israel would have had no meaningful income stream – outperformed all the others. Her personal best also gladdened God.

What about you? When have you experienced the happiness of knowing you had offered your personal best? You have surely done that in many ways – in sports, in academics, at work, as a mom, as a dad, as a devoted child, as an unswerving caregiver. Just about every one of those ways is the work of a priest (a person of prayer), as prophet (a person who challenges and consoles others) and/or as king (a person who builds up the community)? When have you felt God nudging you to up your game? To offer something closer to your personal best? To take a chance on growth in prayer? On growth in service? On growth in community-building? Maybe you were aware that what you had to offer was not going to change the world, was by some measure “imperfect,” but you did it anyhow. And in doing so, you delighted God in the same way the widow of Zarephath and the widow in the temple did. You offered your personal best, and your offering gladdened God greatly. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - November 9, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – November 9, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

Thank you to all our veterans and boundless thanks to the loved ones of all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We look forward to praying for you and with you and to thanking you this weekend, at the 11:30 Mass and at the party that follows in the parish hall. Thanks in advance to Debra Grimmer and her many generous helpers who make the event happen. And of course thanks to the Knights for the lunch.

Sorry about the phishing emails some of you received from a fake “Father Hank” account asking you to donate gift cards or to call me. My email is fhilton@loyola.edu. If you see an email from fr.hhilton coming from a gmail account – delete it immediately. Also, I do not solicit contributions of any sort via email. Only in the last few days have I been made aware that there is a whole cottage industry of people out there who pretend, via email, to be priests. Rough stuff. Onward!
 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Trees of Remembrance – Blessings for those of you have a chance to pray at the Trees of Remembrance. Great thanks to MaryAnn Comiskey and all who put the trees together. It is a giant undertaking. The Trees present an opportune moment for parents and CCD teachers to help younger parishioners learn our fundamental prayer for our deceased loved ones:

Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

  • Temple Beth-El – Thanks and blessings for the many parishioners who all who joined the very moving ecumenical prayer service at Temple Beth-El last Monday. The show of solidarity was impressive. Many of the brief reflections by area religious leaders were clearly inspired. Thanks too to the parishioners who were such cheerful givers when it came to sharing our bus with many others. May God hear our prayers, prevent recurrences of the Pittsburgh tragedy, put an end to anti-Semitism and an end to all violence.

  • Confirmandi – Congratulations and thanks to the 60+ young people who formally began their preparation for confirmation at Sunday’s 6:00 pm Mass. Thanks to the confirmandi for their participation. It is a great gift for all of us. Thanks to the parents, the sponsors-to-be and the CCD staff for putting it all together. Together, all of you make our parish and our larger church better.

  • CCD Resumes this Week – Calling all CCD students and teachers. Classes resume Tuesday. I hope your days off for the Teachers’ Convention were enjoyable.

Sunday’s Homily – “Perfection? Part I: God Loves Progress”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive – Help us feed those in need this Thanksgiving by providing a food basket for a family. Our goal is to fill 100 baskets for families and we need your help! Download the shopping list here. If you can't do a whole basket we are also collecting other non-perishable items. All food can be brought to the Memorial Hallway starting Nov. 10 and must be there by Friday afternoon Nov. 16.

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – Since most of us have not yet gotten around to putting away the porch furniture, it is a little bit hard to believe that it is almost time for the Advent Giving Tree. But it is. Thanks in advance to all who are already working hard at making this year’s project a great success.

  • Our Knitting and Crocheting Stars – Blessings for those who join forces to produce the beautiful afghans and blankets that continue to delight the residents of area nursing homes. Your labor of love brings great happiness to many – and gives the faith and its communities such great credibility.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Gathering Space Flowers – The sister/brother team from the Flower Barn, Angelo Yaccone and Rosie Tamburini – take great care of us with church flowers each week. Extra special thanks to Ang and Rosie for last week’s flowers. In honor of the anniversary of their mom, they provided their mom’s favorite flowers, all from the tropics. Loads of people commented on the arrangement’s beauty.

  • Becca’s Friends – Three cheers for all involved in the Becca’s Friends Ministry. Tonight the ministry is hosting “Arc’s Got Talent!” – a talent show for many of our area friends with special needs who are served by the Arc. Tomorrow night is the big (pre-) Thanksgiving dinner cooked by guess who?

  • Thanksgiving Tailgate – Sort of. Given the great time had by all at last year’s gathering, we will once again have a BYOB get-together on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The 5:00 pm Mass will be followed by a 6:00 BYOB and much Thanksgiving merriment.

  • Youth Group Reunion – While the adults gather in the Hospitality Room, the college kids will be getting together in the Parish Hall. Remind your college student (in case they don’t read “This Week”) to join us for the 5:00 pm Mass and the post-Mass wingding.

  • Parking Lot Lights – The lights are just about finished. All the bad wires have been replaced and we have electricity to each pole. All we need to do now is replace two special-order lightbulbs and replace the pole we lost in one of last year’s blizzards. Thanks to all for your cooperation during the project.

  • Family Wreath-making for Advent – Eat pizza and make your Advent wreath! Who could ask for more? Join the fun on Sunday, November 18 from 12:30 – 3:00 PM in the Parish Hall.  Register at the parish’s Religious Education website or call Mr. Jungels in the parish office to RSVP. It is a mighty fine time

  • Artifacts Roadshow Will Be Back – Not sure what to do with those inherited statues, rosaries, crucifixes or other “holy items”? Keep them safe at home until Lent. We will then collect them in the gathering space and deliver them to the organization in PA that then finds them new homes in mission territories of every sort.

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

With blessings for every parishioner,

Fr Hank

Summary of November 4 Homily:
Perfection? Part 1: God Loves Progress 


Moses lays down a most intimidating challenge in Sunday’s first reading. Jesus repeats the challenge in Sunday’s gospel. Both challenges sound like an unachievable call to perfection.

What should be our response when scripture or other voices call us to unachievable perfection? Politely ignore the call? Pretend to be perfect? Engage it? And if we engage it, which way do we go?

Both Moses (Deuteronomy 6: 2-6) and Jesus (Mark 12: 28-34) challenge us to love God completely. Moses says: “you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Jesus adds a fourth aspect: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” How are we to interpret the “all” aspect of both commands? And what are we to do if we come up short? If we feel as if we do not love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our might?

Maybe just maybe, after studying the complex backgrounds of the worlds “heart,” “soul,” and “strength” – and after reflecting on the way Jesus interacts with people through the gospels – perhaps we should hear Moses and Jesus as calling us to make progress rather than to covet perfection. Perhaps we should put less emphasis on being perfect, which we will never be in this lifetime and more emphasis on making progress.
Might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our heart” he is asking us to look at our relationships and wonder about the ways they glorify God and lead people to peace? And maybe He wants us to wonder about relationships that we don’t yet have and should have, especially with people at the edge? Maybe Jesus is saying that he wants us to try to make progress in all of them, enrich them in ways that delight God, both the important relationships and the less important ones.

Might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our soul” he is asking us to look at our aspirations and wonder about the ways they glorify God and lead people to peace. Might he want us to seek progress in all the aspirations that our souls hold? To hold them up to the light of his life and wonder how we might tweak each of our ambitions? To seek progress rather than perfection in all of our ambitions and aspirations?

Finally, might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our might” he is asking us to look at our actions and wonder about the ways our actions, especially our habitual actions, glorify God and lead people to peace? Maybe Jesus is not demanding perfection.

Maybe he is asking us to be mindful of our actions and the ways we can improve them.
What about you? Can you notice ways in which you have made progress in your relationships, your ambitions, and your actions? Do you see indicators of progress ineach area? And in terms of “all” your heart, soul, and mind, can you notice ways inwhich you used to “hide” some of them from God (i.e., not open your entire heart, soul or might to God) but now bring more of them to your conversations with God?

Both Moses and Jesus lay down pretty tall orders, orders that seem to demand perfection. But maybe the deeper truth is that they are asking us to let God’s light shine on all our relationships (heart), all our aspirations (soul) and all our actions (strength or might)? And maybe they are asking us to delight in our progress rather than regret our lack of perfection?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - November 2, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – November 2, 2018
Feast of All Souls

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace! And may God bless you and console you abundantly as you do the very important November work of praying extra for your deceased loved ones. A prayer-visit to our Trees of Remembrance might be a very good thing for you. May that visit be for you a time of candor and consolation. And if you get a chance to pray at your loved ones’ graves, may that also be a time of renewed confidence in the resurrection and in God’s infinite love for you and those you love who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith.”

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER:

  • Trees of Remembrance – Let us Pray – This year’s leaves have been arranged in alphabetical order. You can find your loved ones’ leaves even more easily than in the past. The leaves have also been placed within easy reach. Don’t hesitate to touch and turn them so you can see clearly the names of your loved ones.     

Remember to pray for them as you behold their names. We don’t know exactly how it works but we know that our prayers for them matter. While their physical remains stay here on earth until the Second Coming, their souls are migrating into the fullness of Christ’s peace – and our prayers assist that migration. Remember to pray, by name, for those you know and remember to say two more prayers – one for all the people named in the trees and another for all the deceased. The prayer for the month of November is:

Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(NB – Parents, this is a superb prayer for your kids to know, especially for the first times they lose a loved one.) 

  • Trees of Remembrance – Thank you – The Trees of Remembrance require a gigantic amount of work. It takes many hard-working people to create the leaves, sort them, arrange them, arrange the trees, and keep the records of the names. Giant thanks to MaryAnn Comiskey who spearheaded this year’s efforts. Great thanks too to all who helped her – Arlene Battaglia, Bo Goldstone, Carmella Maresca, Carol Tiber, Carol Valone, Crissy Cace, Debra Grimmer, Dianne Mantilla, Edith, Elisa Goldstone, Elizabeth Rivera, Kim Caridi, Lorraine Murphy, Lynne Biegel, Margaret VanAllen, Mario Lugo, Mary Ann Meiser, Maryann Baranowski, Paulette Matis, Rita Berz, Sharon Sweeney, and Sue Irwin. Additional thanks to Bill Janone and Bryan Delisi who were always at the ready. (if you worked on the project and I missed your name, please let me know!) Thanks to all of you for making November that much more prayerful and meaningful.

  • Holyday Masses – Many of our liturgical ministers have rearranged their schedules so they could help with the five Masses for All Saints Day and the two Masses for All Souls Day. You are remarkably kind.

  • This Fall’s Adult Formation Participants – Best blessings for the nearly 100 parishioners who are currently participating in Walking With Purpose, The Spiritual Exercises or Meeting Christ in Prayer. Your affection for Jesus is a great gift for the entire parish. May God bless and reward your efforts.

Sunday’s Homily – “Inspired Aspirations Part Four: Inspired Rest”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive – Help us feed those in need this Thanksgiving by providing a food basket for a family. Our goal is to fill 100 baskets for families and we need your help! Grab a shopping list from the Moses' Table on your way out of church (or download it here). If you can't do a whole basket we are also collecting other non-perishable items. All food can be brought to the Memorial Hallway starting November 10.

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – Since most of us have not yet gotten around to putting away the porch furniture, it is a little bit hard to believe that it is almost time for the Advent Giving Tree. But it is. Thanks in advance to all who are already working hard at making this year’s project a great success.

  • Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen – Continued blessings for Terry Lee and the many volunteers who provide lunch at Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen on the 3rd Sunday of each month. If you might be interested in joining this effort, please contact Terry at terrytulee@comcast.net

  • Healing Prayer Ministry – Sometimes Healing Prayer is more appropriate than the Sacrament of the Sick. Thanks to the many people in the Healing Prayer Ministry who regularly offer that prayer. e

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Can Anyone Lend us a Drum Set? – Our Becca’s Friends Ministry is hosting the November 9 “Arc’s Got Talent” talent show. One of the special performers is a drummer who wants to impress the crowd, but he cannot arrange the drums. We’ve tried several prospects but no dice. Do you or a friend have a drum set in your basement that we could use at church for one night? Call the office if you do.

  • Thanksgiving Tailgate – Sort of. Given the great time had by all at last year’s gathering, we will once again have a BYOB get-together on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The 5:00 pm Mass will be followed by a 6:00 BYOB and much Thanksgiving merriment.

  • Youth Group Alumni Reunion – While the adults gather in the Hospitality Room, the college kids will be getting together in the Parish Hall. Remind your college student (in case they don’t read “This Week”) to join us for the 5:00 pm Mass and the post-Mass wingding.

  • Parking Lot Lights – Those who came here for Mass this week noticed the building equipment in the parking lot. Regrettably, 4 or our twelve light posts have lost power. The lack of light generates inappropriate and avoidable risks. The workers are connecting the four fizzled lights to the electricity from one of the good lights. And while they are there, they will also put a light at the flagpole. The solar-powered one has not really put out enough light to leave the flag up at night. The project should only take a few more days. Meanwhile, drive carefully around the project.

  • The Mortgage – Last but not least, we hand-delivered the last mortgage check to TD Bank on Thursday. The check was actually handed over by Colleen and Carl Mueller of our Patriots’ Ministry, a group that has worked very hard for many years to help pay down the mortgage. Bless you all!

  • The Artifacts Roadshow Will Be Back – Not sure what to do with those inherited statues, rosaries, crucifixes or other “holy items”? Keep them safe at home until Lent. We will then be collecting them in the gathering space and deliver them to the organization in PA that then finds them new homes in mission territories of every sort.

  • Seventh Graders - Rite of Enrollment ― The Rite of Enrollment marks the beginning of the 7th Graders 2-year preparation for Confirmation. We will celebrate this at the 6PM mass this Sunday.

  • No CCD Classes next week ― There are no CCD classes on Nov 6, 8 or 11 since schools are closed for Election Day and Teacher Convention. Get out and vote on Tuesday and spend some quality family time as you enjoy your long weekend.

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

With blessings for every parishioner,

Fr Hank

Summary of October 28 Homily:
Inspired Aspirations Part Four: Inspired Rest


We all need time out from our to-do lists. Constant exposure has a way of grinding us down. Rest, recreation and renewal begin when we disengage the lists.
Inspired rest begins when we then engage the “God’s-done-it” list – when, having disengaged the to-do lists, we contemplate the remarkable things God has already done for us.

Sunday’s first reading (Jeremiah 31) details God’s amazing work in the so-called “Second Exodus.” The first Exodus occurred when God led the Israelites across the Red Sea, from Egypt toward the Promised Land. The “Second Exodus” occurred when God liberated the people from their captivity in Babylon. God’s amazing work included the liberation, not just of the able-bodied who easily made the trip back to Israel, but also “the blind and the lame . . . the mothers and those with child.” The people who experienced that somewhat miraculous expedition would surely repeat Mary’s claim that “The Almighty had done great things for us.” Contemplation of God’s great deeds leads to unparalleled peace.

Sunday’s gospel (Mark 10) recounts the story Jesus healing Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who implored Jesus’ help. In reply to Jesus’ inquiry “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, predictably and simply “I want to see.” We can only imagine Bartimaeus’ thrill and gratitude when Jesus granted his request. Rather than head off on his own, Bartimaeus “followed Jesus on the way” to Jerusalem and the Passion. 

As it was for the people of the Second Exodus and as it was for Bartimaeus, so it is for us. Contemplation of God’s mighty works leads us to a sense of gratitude and an experience of peaceful, inspired rest that few other efforts can yield.

So what about you? First, where do you go to disengage your to-do lists? What place or people or experience helps you gain an inspired distance from the concerns that priests, prophets and kings regularly carry? What is the physical reality that helps you find rest, recreation and renewal. 

Second, what is on your “God’s-done-it” list? What works of God remind you that God loves you and is at work in our world and in your life even now? Does your list include experiences of spiritual gifts? Moments of true love that you knew came from God? Experiences of nature that you knew God had engineered? Moments of being forgiven? Enlightened” Loved? Sent?”

God has built each of us with an aspiration for inspired rest, a desire to imitate God’s seventh day of creation when God looked at all that was and said “it is good.” Where do you go and what do you contemplate to get to that inspired rest that renews your walk with Jesus?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - October 26, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – October 26, 2018

Dear All: 

Christ’s Peace!

Three headline notices – one about Mass times, one for our vets, and one about our Becca’s Friends Ministry.
Mass Times -- Next Thursday (11/1) is the Feast of All Saints, a holyday of obligation, and Friday (11/2) is the Feast of All Souls. Mass times for Thursday are 7:30 Wednesday evening, 8:35 am and 7:30 pm Thursday. All are also welcome to attend the Masses for the CCD kids at 4:15 and 6:00 pm Thursday. Masses for the Feast of All Souls will be at 8:35 am and 7:30 pm on Friday 11/2.
Hello Veterans – Several of you have asked if last year’s registration works for this year’s celebration. The truth is that this year, we need you to fill out another card and put it in the box in the gathering space. That way, the Knights will have just the right amount of ridiculously great food. We look forward to celebrating with you on 11/11! At the 11:30 Mass and at the lunch afterwards. The celebration is for all veterans, their spouses, their widows and widowers, and all parents and spouses of active duty military.

Congratulations to all who serve in our Becca’s Friends Ministry (for young adults with special needs) – Get this – The Somerset County Board of Freeholders has conferred its 2018 Disability Advocates Award on our parish’s Becca’s Friends Ministry. The award is given to those who "demonstrate exemplary inclusion, service or advocacy for persons with disabilities." What a gift to know that others recognize their superb work! We congratulate our co-winner, Pluckemin Medical Services. Three cheers for our Becca’s Friends Ministry and those it serves!

 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Blessings of the Brains and Aspirations – Greatest blessings for all our students and special great blessings for those who brought symbols of their aspirations to Sunday’s 9:30 and the 6:00 Masses. What a great happiness it was for us to see the abacus, the ballet slippers, the basketballs, the rare coins, the many varieties of athletic shoes, the lax sticks and field hockey sticks, the weightlifting cards and the many books from so many disciplines. Great thanks to each one of you for multiplying the congregations’ gladness and for helping us to understand the beautiful aspirations that God has placed in your marvelous hearts. Thanks to the many who are already suggesting symbols for next year.

  • Meeting Christ in Prayer – The program starts this Monday at 7:00 pm in the Hospitality Room. There is nothing for the 16 of you to do between now and then – just relax and trust it is a good investment.

  • The Trees of Remembrance – as November approaches, many dedicated parishioners are preparing our Trees of Remembrance, the birch-like trees on which hang the names of the deceased loved ones for whom we pray this month. Because we, fortunately, have so many names, we are re-arranging things a bit this year. The area near the baptism font will contain the trees with the names of parishioners’ children and grandchildren, and the tree with the names of those who have died in the last year. The other trees will be along the walls near the Saint Joseph statue. In response to popular and inspired requests, we are arranging the trees alphabetically and at heights that will allow people to find and touch the names of their loved ones.

Sunday’s Homily – “Inspired Aspirations Part Three: Inspired Successes”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Buy Your Pie – Our pie people are back in the Gathering Space this weekend to sell Thanksgiving pies. Proceeds go to Guatemala and the victims of Hurricane Florence. Bring cash or checks. 

  • Our Music Ministries – Thanks and blessings to all who enhance the Masses with their musical talent. What a great gift you are to all of us. Keep up the great work!

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive: Help us feed those in need this Thanksgiving by providing a food basket for a family. This year our High School Youth Ministry has set a goal to fill 100 baskets for families and we need your help! Grab a shopping list from the Moses' Table on your way out of church (or download it here). If you can't do a whole basket we are also collecting other non-perishable items. All food can be brought to the Memorial Hallway starting November 10.

  • Prayer Shawl Ministry - Ten members of our thriving Prayer Shawl Ministry delivered 52 beautifully knitted or crocheted prayer shawls and prayer squares to Avalon and Bridgeway this week. 

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Welcome New Parishioners! – All best blessings for the newest members of our parish. May our years together be many and may they be years of great blessings for you and your loved ones. And may you be a source of great blessings for all of your new fellow parishioners.

    • John and Kathi Burkhart and their daughter Jenn

    • Joseph and Madeline DeLuca

    • Marie Fortin and Charles Banville and their children Juliette, Elaine, and Laurent

    • Saulus and Colette Galette and their children Valerie, Nicolas, and Jessica

    • Christian and Michelle Hauser

    • Danielle Levatino and her son Brady MacKenzie

    • Joseph and Marietta Maiorana

    • Phyllis Marganoff

    • Amanda Miller

    • Catherine Shore

    • Barbara Suhaka

    • Anthony and Donna Zamarin

  • The Artifacts Roadshow Will Be Back – Not sure what to do with those inherited statues, rosaries, crucifixes or other “holy items”? Keep them safe at home until Lent. We will then be collecting them in the gathering space and deliver them to the organization in PA that then finds them new homes in mission territories of every sort.

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

With blessings for every parishioner, 

Fr Hank

Summary of October 21 Homily:
Inspired Aspirations Part Three: Inspired Successes 


You can succeed at many things. You cannot succeed at everything. So succeed at the inspired thing.

Like the fundamental human desires for inspired relationships, and like the fundamental desire to make inspired choices, each of us comes pre-equipped with an aspiration for inspired successes. When was the last time you or anyone you know woke up and thought “Gee, I hope I fail today, I hope I make costly blunders, I hope my life, in general, is one big flop?” Right. None of us does that. God has oriented us toward success.
Each of us defines “success” in different ways. Some of our notions of success align closely with God’s hopes. Others, not so much. Given the many talents God has given us, each of us can succeed at many things and achieve many of our definitions of “success.” The challenge is to pursue inspired successes.

How do we know which notions of success are inspired? We look to Christ and at Christ. His bold declaration in Sunday’s gospel (Mark 10: 35-45) eliminates the guesswork. We know how he wants us to define “success.” He instructs us “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” Jesus does not tell us to disavow greatness, reject preeminence or eschew success. He simply tells us that true success entails service. The inspired success is the success that makes life better for others, according to Jesus’ definition of “better.”

Jesus’ life shows us what that means. He could have achieved any imaginable success. He could have defeated the Romans or had himself crowned king. But he chose humble service. He traveled about healing and teaching and pointing the way to true peace. He continued to do so even when his opponents threatened to kill him. He served his way to Calvary where he provided the ultimate service. He opened heaven’s gates. Jesus success, which is all about service, is unmatched. He is exactly the person referred to in the first reading (Isaiah 53: 10-11), “the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him” and “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many.”

James and John seem not to have gotten the message. The gospel opens with them asking for the seats of honor in Jesus’ heavenly kingdom. That level of recognition might surely be gratifying and provide them with great influence. But where is the service in that? How does them getting great seats make others better off? Easy. It doesn’t. And Jesus lets them know that. The task is to succeed at the inspired thing, the thing that makes life better for others, according to Jesus’ notion of “better.”

Where do we go with that? One might infer that we should stop what we are doing and start pursuing inspired notions of success. But, for just about every St. Joe’s parishioner, that would be a big mistake. Just about every St. Joe’s parishioner is currently pursuing inspired definitions of success. The challenge is not to abandon those pursuits, but to see them for what they are.

Moms and Dads – you are pursuing your notion of successful parenting as you do the loving work of raising your children. Jesus observes your notion of success and your pursuit of it and is happy. The same is true of parishioners caring for relatives and friends in need. And it is true of students using their brains well, and athletes training their bodies, and professionals of all varieties – in the private and the public sectors. Of course, we can all do better. But that does not mean we are doing nothing. A big piece of the challenge is to recognize the ways in which our current definitions of success and pursuits of success serve others and to keep pursuing. The challenge is to connect the dots between your daily choices and God’s bliss. Maybe the better phrase is:

You can succeed at many things. You cannot succeed at everything. You are succeeding at inspired things. Connect the dots between your successes and God’s hopes.

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - October 19, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – October 19, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

Today is the feast of Saint Isaac Jogues, my patron saint and my best saint. Blessings of the day for all of you!
 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Blessings of the Brains and Aspirations – We will have the “Blessings of the Brains and Aspirations” for all students K-12 at both the 9:30 and the 6:00 Masses on Sunday. Please put some fun thought into what you will bring as a symbol of your aspiration this year. In the future, the blessing and the symbols will be “a thing” at St. Joe’s. This year, we rely on the humorous and the adventurous to get the tradition launched. Special donuts for all and special special donuts for those who bring fun symbols of their aspirations for this school year.

  • Meeting Christ in Prayer – I have sent emails to everyone who expressed an interest in “Meeting Christ in Prayer.” If you expressed an interest and have not heard from me, please email me soon at fhilton@loyola.edu Our first session is at 7:00 pm on Monday, October 29.


Sunday’s Homily – “Inspired Aspirations Part Two: Wisdom and Inspired Choices”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.
    (Note: the homily from Oct. 14 will be posted early next week. Sorry for the inconvenience).

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.


THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • The Pie Sales Are Back – Our pie people will be in the Gathering Space this weekend and next weekend to sell you your Thanksgiving pies. Proceeds go to Guatemala and the victims of Hurricane Florence. Please pay with cash or checks only.

  • We Helped the Unborn – Big thanks to all who responded to the postcard drive. We mailed a total of 831 postcards to our state legislators.  The campaign was a great success and we hope it will go a long way in educating the legislators about these viable unborn lives. Special thanks to our Respect Life Ministry, to the volunteers who assisted at the Masses and to those from the 8:35 morning Mass who helped sort, label and stamp.

  • Our CCD Teachers – Thanks and blessings to all who have committed to teach CCD this year. Your generosity is an example for all of us. May your efforts be greatly blessed and fun. 

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Celebrating Our Veterans – Attention all veterans, their spouses, and their widows and widowers – Please mark your calendar for Sunday, November 11. All are invited to come to the 11:30 Mass and to be the guests of the parish for lunch after Mass in the Parish Hall. You women and men have done so much for our nation and us – let us honor you. BE SURE TO RSVP IN THE GATHERING SPACE ASAP

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson featuring our own Mike DeLucia opening the night. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

With blessings for every parishioner, 

Fr Hank

Summary of October 14 Homily:
Inspired Aspirations Part Two: Wisdom and Inspired Choices


 
Aspirations – those deep-down desires that dwell in every human heart. Our aspirations are, according to Webster, those deep-down desires “to achieve something or to become something.”

Our inspired aspirations, our inspired desires to achieve and to become, are those aspirations that align with God’s hopes. Two Sundays ago, the readings reminded us that God has placed in each of us an inspired aspiration for inspired human relationships. This week, the readings remind us that God has programmed us with a desire to make wise, inspired choices – and that God looks at us with love when we are truly striving to make wise, inspired choices.

Sunday’s first reading comes from the Book of Wisdom’s seventh chapter, the portion of the book that quotes King Solomon. Solomon’s inspired quest for wisdom reaches its zenith in 1 Kings 3:5, when God invites Solomon to request any gift imaginable and Solomon requests wisdom, so he can make wise choices and rule wisely. Solomon’s request thrills God. God is so taken with Solomon’s request that God gives Solomon the wisdom he seeks plus everything else he might have requested. Clearly, Solomon’s aspiration to make wise choices, and his struggle to do so, makes God look at Solomon with unusually great affection.

The same thing happens in the gospel (Mark 10: 17-39). The man who approaches Jesus demonstrates an unmistakable craving to make inspired choices, wise choices, choices that align with Christ’s hopes. The encounter gets off to a rocky start but Jesus softens when he becomes convinced of the man’s sincerity. Once that happened, the bible says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

What about you? Of course, you aspire to wisdom. You have a deep-down desire to make the inspired choice, the choice that aligns with Christ’s hopes. But the answer is not always apparent and sometimes requires serious deliberation. We want to make the right choice but we sometimes grapple with many competing options, all of which have much to recommend them. It happens when we are sorting through our professional options or our choice of major. It happens when we are figuring which choice is best for the children. It happens when we are trying to figure out how best to serve relatives who are going through a rough patch, how to serve the needy, how to serve the Lord.

Can you name a choice that seems hard to make these days? Are you aware that you really are trying to make the wise, inspired choice? And as you look at that choice, can you imagine Jesus looking at you with love? Can you trust that your desire to make the inspired choice calls down Jesus’ extra affection? That awareness might not provide the answer, but it does provide a better context in which to make the choice. It bathes the choice with graced air and light. In what choice do you need to recall that your desire to make the inspired choice, and your willingness to struggle with it, activates God’s special affection for you?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - October 12, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – October 12, 2018

Dear All:     

Christ’s Peace.

This week’s This Week in Prayer, Service & Community begins with a special section “This Week in Our Mortgage History.”

THIS WEEK IN OUR MORTGAGE HISTORY

As of about 2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Thursday, October 11, we have ironed out the final details with our bankers.  The way it now stands, we will hand-deliver our final mortgage payment to TD Bank on Thursday, November 1.  Our lender will then hand us the “formal payoff letter” – and that is it.  No more mortgage.  Done – because of your generosity – four years ahead of schedule.

All the credit goes to each of you.  A robust “Thank you” to everyone who contributed to the debt-reduction.  Your generosity is quite an inspiration.  Special thanks go to the members of the Patriot Ministry who, for so many years, have been working very hard to raise debt-reduction funds at the Patriot’s snack bar stands.  Were it not for their effort, we would not be where we are tonight, three weeks from the finish line.  And hearty thanks to Monica McDevitt and to our Parish Finance Council.  Monica, our parish business manager has graciously and efficiently managed the sometimes very complex process of making sure that every debt-reduction donation has been applied precisely how and when the donor intended.  The Parish Finance Council has given me excellent advice about how best to pace the payoff.   This is a very big day for our parish and you all deserve great praise.

Please check the bulletin insert this week to obtain instructions on how to stop your debt-reduction contributions.  Our final payment to TD Bank will be only for about $1,500, not the usual $8,000.  A few donations will surely continue to drift in and we can accept donations of up to about $1,500.  After that, we will need to return the donations to you.

And above and beyond all else, we “thank God from whom all blessings flow.”

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Blessings of the Brains and Aspirations – Attention all students in grades K-12.  Come to the 9:30 Mass on Sunday, October 21.  We will have a special blessing for your brains as you enter the new school year.  We will also bless your aspirations – e.g., to be great at Chemistry, to excel in basketball, to reach new heights in creating robots, to explain Shakespeare, to master the oboe, to swim the fastest mile in town history.  And here is the challenge . . .  PLEASE bring a symbol of your aspiration – your football helmet, your color guard shoes, your calculator, your tuba, your skates, your abacus or your collected works of Lord Byron.  You get the drift.  Make it fun (and church-worthy!)  Special donuts afterwards!

  • Our Bishop’s Visit – Great thanks to Bishop Checchio for celebrating the 9:30 Mass last weekend.  It was, as always, a blessing to have him with us.  Special thanks for his reference to our parish as “A city on a hill.”  Bishop Checchio’s very fine homily is available online through the parish website.

  • Walking with Purpose –  Blessings for the 60+ Women who have started this year’s WWP.  What a consolation it was to hear Fr. Bill Burns of Potomac Maryland , the speaker at this week’s gathering of the Metuchen priests, refer to WWP as a remarkably grace-filled experience for his parish.  And what a slightly guilty and interior pleasure it was to realize that we are the only parish in the diocese to have WWP.  Were it not for the hard work of Mary MacPhee, and now Suzanne Kral, WWP would not be what it is.

  • Spiritual Exercises – Great blessings for the 15 parishioners who, this week, started the 35-week retreat.  May God bless you and inspire you through all the adventures the Spiritual Exercises yield.

  • Sunday’s Taize Prayer – It was an amazing grace to share Sunday night’s Taize prayer with so many of you.  The music was superb and the words of Anthony Roberts were of historical significance.  Can we ever thank Anthony for enlightening us as he did?  Special thanks to Tony Varas and Thom DeLessio from the diocese and to Mary Beth Delisi and Bill Strawderman for reading so beautifully.  As always, thanks to Bob Ferretti for the tech set up.  If you missed the marvelous music and inspired words, you can listen to them through the parish website.  I encourage you to do so.

  • Animal Blessings – Congratulations to all who brought your pets to church on Saturday morning.  What a remarkably well-behaved bunch of animals.  And what joy you clearly derive from their company.

Sunday’s Homily – “Inspired Aspirations Part One: Inspired Relationships”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.  

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • The Pie Sales Are Back –   Stop by the table in the Gathering Space to arrange your purchase of pies for Thanksgiving.  As always, the proceeds will support needy people in Guatemala.  In addition, a portion of this year’s proceeds will also help the victims of Hurricane Florence.

  • Help the Unborn – Thanks to our parish Respect Life Ministry for organizing the postcard drive that has made it so easy for us to contact our state legislators – to remind them that pregnancies of only five months can now produce babies that can survive in the world.  This technological advance surely requires a reconsideration of our laws.

  • Becca’s Friends – Great thanks to Mr. James Lew for leading the participants in the Becca’s Friends Ministry in their latest painting adventure – whimsical snowmen.  The images will be reprinted on cards that will be sold at the annual Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, December 2.  If the printing gets ahead of schedule, you might actually see them on sale on Veterans Day or Thanksgiving Weekend.

  • Our Liturgical Laundry Ministry – Thanks and blessings for all launderers of all the cloths we use at every Mass – the purificators for the chalices, the corporals for the altar, and the large altar cloths themselves.  It is one of those ministries that we don’t always notice but without which we would be up a tall, liturgical tree.  Great thanks to all of you.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Celebrating Our Veterans – Attention all veterans, their spouses, and their widows and widowers – Please mark your calendar for Sunday, November 11.  All are invited to come to the 11:30 Mass and to be the guests of the parish for lunch after Mass in the Parish Hall.  You women and men have done so much for our nation and us – let us honor you.

  • PJ Anderson is Returning –  Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson.  P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30.  See you there. 

  • Youth Ministry – A most robust welcome to all the young people who have gotten our new Youth Ministry Year off to a rollicking great start.  What a great privilege and blessing it is to see all the new young people join the journey. If you are in high school consider coming this Sunday night at 7pm.

  • Last Friday’s Bingo – Predictably, it was large fun and a great experience to be with parishioners of all ages in such a fun moment. Great job to all the high school youth. To all who were there, thanks for multiplying the good time.

  • Blue Storm – All best blessings for all our basketball players and all the adults who make the program happen.  May this registration season and this season of play be greatly blessed.

With blessings for each parishioner – and great thanks for the good you do and the inspiration you provide.  

Fr Hank

Summary of October 7 Homily:
Inspired Aspirations Part One: Inspired Relationships


 Aspirations – those deep-down desires that dwell in every human heart, desires to achieve something or to become something. Inspired aspirations, inspired desires to achieve and to become, are those aspirations that align with God’s hopes. In every human person dwells an inspired aspiration for inspired human relationships, relationships that align with God’s hopes. We all want them.

Adam clearly held this sort of aspiration. Sunday’s excerpt from Genesis 2, the second version of the creation story, depicts God’s awareness that Adam was lonely and craving inspired, human relationships. God provided animals to keep Adam company, but the animals could not satisfy Adam’s need for inspired human company. When God created Eve to be Adam’s partner, Adam shouted “At last!”, leaving no doubt that his relationship with Eve was the one he craved.

Sunday’s Gospel from Mark 10 addresses the perennially thorny question of divorce. The passage provides much to consider, including Jesus’ remark that “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” This phrase, in turn raises the questions, “Has God joined together every couple that has ever been married?” and “Has God created all human relationships?” The answers are clearly “No.” That “no” then prompts us to wonder “How can we tell the difference between relationships that are truly inspired – i.e., are truly formed by God – and those that are not?”

In the realm of marriage and divorce, the annulment process can help us understand which marriages are truly of God and which are not. In the realm of relationships in general, we also wonder about the extent to which our human relationships help us to become the priests, the prophets and the kings that God calls us to be. Relationships that do all that are certainly inspired.

What about you? When you take a long, loving look at your most treasured relationships, the ones you trust “God has joined,” you can surely see evidence that those relationships support your prayer life. Even if the other does not pray as you pray, that other probably support your attempts to pray, to speak and to listen to God. Similarly, do you see the prophetic dimension in your inspired relationships – i.e., a practice of consoling and challenging each other in meaningful ways? Chances are good that if you can truly challenge each other according to God’s hopes, and can console each other in Christ-like ways, that the relationship is truly inspired. Finally, do you notice your most inspired relationships also generate experiences of community for other people? Because you and the other are connected, other people in your world and beyond it also feel connected.

Every human heart aspires to inspired human relationship. Every heart craves meaningful connection. Sunday’s readings underscore the truth that God affirms those aspirations. Are you seeing the priestly, prophetic, and kingly dimensions in your most inspired relationships? Are you thanking God for them? Are you taking good care of them? And maybe, just maybe, might God be asking you to take a next step in those most inspired relationships – the relationships that fulfill our most basic human aspirations?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - September 21, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – September 21, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace.

Happy Feast of Saint Matthew. His story reminds us that God can help every one of us to overcome whatever it is that keeps us from listening generously to God. Ephphatha!

Unexpected conversations this week reminded me how blessed we are to have the neighbors we have. Some congregations and pastors face tough neighborhood situations. Not us. The homeowners on Yorktown, VanDoren, and Colonial look out for us and react with great kindness when our big events generate extra noise or traffic.

They only ask one favor and they ask it sincerely – SLOW DOWN. Almost all of us are courteous that way. We only have a few dangerous drivers, and most are repeat offenders! Remember, Jesus will still be in the Blessed Sacrament even if you are a few minutes late. Our neighbors have young children and they are right to be concerned about reckless drivers. Given how good they are to us, we want to take every opportunity to be good in return. Thanks for your consideration.


 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Confirmation Date Set! Bishop Checchio just let us know that he will come to celebrate Confirmations on Thursday, April 4. Thanks to the bishop and his staff for finalizing the date seven months in advance. The great lead time surely helps families to plan accordingly.

  • Blessing of the Animals – In honor of Saint Francis’ feast day, I will bless your animals on Saturday, October 6, just after the 8:35 Mass – call it 9:15. Please be sure to bring your four-legged animals on fixed length leashes. Animals of every (non-man-eating) species are welcome. 

  • Our Bishop’s Next Visit – Bishop Checchio will be here to celebrate the 9:30 Mass on Sunday, October 7. As always, it will be a great blessing to pray with our bishop 

  • Taize Prayer (Pr: “TAY-zay”) – Mark your calendar – for 7:30 pm on Sunday, October 7. The Diocesan Festival Choir is coming back to St. Joe’s to lead us in an evening of Taize prayer – a beautiful form of simple, consoling, sung prayer. Given this moment in our church history, the songs will be prayers of lament, healing, and hope. It’s probably best if we encourage youngsters to pray in other ways that night. Stadium food will be available between the 6 pm Mass and the concert.

  • Attention All Christian Ladies! – Walking with Purpose – our very highly praised bible study for women – is gearing up for its 4th year and will be offering two studies (Keeping in Balance AND Opening Your Heart) and twomeeting times (Monday evenings AND Tuesday mornings).  Learn more and sign up at the pink and green tables in the gathering space this weekend.

  • Sunday’s Homily – “Ephphatha, Part 3: “ . . . and I have not turned back.”

    • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.  (Good news, last week's homily recording was recovered! Listen to Ephphatha Parts 2 & 3!)

    • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE

  • Becca’s Friends – “Becca's Friends” – our parish ministry that serves parishioners with special needs who are 18 or older – is five years old and going very strong. It now provides monthly gatherings, recreation and service projects for parishioners, their friends, and people living in nearby group homes. The ministry has attracted a most remarkable collection of volunteers, including members of the James Lew family who provided a "painting party" on Friday, Sept. 7th. Upcoming events include the annual campfire and sing along (Friday, 9/21), the Halloween Dance Party with DJ Count Graham (Friday, 10/26), a Thanksgiving Dinner for family members (Saturday, 11/10), and the Christmas/ Holiday Dance Party, also with DJ Count Graham (Friday, December 14). Please spread the word to your friends with special needs. Learn more from Dahlia Wong (dahliawong@yahoo.com), Janet Pescinski (jpescinski@gmail.com) or Kathy Abuschinow (hellopuffy@aol.com). 

  • VIRTUS Training – Thanks to all who have completed the training and associated processes. The more parishioners who complete the process, the better off we all are. Members of every ministry that involves minors and vulnerable adults must be Virtus trained. We sometimes need Virtus trained people who can occasionally sub in various programs. Even if you are not currently sure how Virtus training might enable you to serve, please consider the training. It only takes a few hours. The next sessions will be offered next week – on Monday, 9/24 at 6:30pm and Tuesday, 9/25 at 12:30pm. Click here to register.

  • Help the Unborn – Technological advances have enabled babies to live outside the womb at 5 months gestation. The world will be better off if legislators are reminded of these advances and of the need to protect unborn children who can survive outside the womb. Please consider joining the postcard campaign to remind our legislators. Learn more in the Gathering Space the weekend of October 6/7.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Family Bingo Night – Could Family Bingo Night be as enjoyable as the Parish Picnic? Come and find out! Bring your family members of all ages. And if you don’t have family in the area, bring friends of any age to Family Bingo Night on Friday, October 5. The bingo, along with the food and the prizes, will make Bingo Night, once again, a great night for all.

  • Finance Council – As we are greatly blessed to have a very dedicated Parish Council, we are also greatly blessed to have a first-rate finance council. Like the Parish Council, the Finance Council consists of at-large members and committee chairs. The at-large members (and their probable year of term-completion) are Chair Beth Martello (2019), Jim Paterno (2019), Brenda DelMasetro (2020) and Mike Seelig (2020). The Council currently needs two people to fill three-year terms that end on June 1, 2021. The Committee Chairs are Phil Zuccarello, (Audit), Dan Galati (Budget), Dave Mendez (Buildings and Grounds), John Jorgensen (Human Relations) and Eric Kainer (Revenue).

  • Mortgage Payoff – Greatest thanks to all who have enabled the parish to pay off its mortgage well ahead of schedule. The last batch of pink envelopes, the debt-reduction envelopes, has gone out. Those who have contributed electronically will soon receive instructions for terminating their electronic debt reduction payments. Stay tuned for more specifics. We are within about eight weeks of finishing our mortgage payments. God is good and so are you!

With blessings for each parishioner – and special greetings to our college students who are reading this on campus!

Fr Hank

Summary of September 16 Homily:
Ephphatha, Part Three: “ . . . and I have not turned back.”


Some days we get it right – very, very right. Some days we are truly available to God’s voice as it comes to us through the scripture, through our Catholic tradition, through our experiences of prayer and sacrament, and through our experiences of the world around us. Sunday’s scriptures remind us that God wants us to notice when we get it right, learn from the successes, and repeat them.

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 50) is one of the four “Suffering Servant Songs” in Isaiah. It begins with the servant’s claim that “The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” The passage lets us know that attention to God’s voice sometimes leads to great difficulties and sometimes to great consolation – and that what matters most is the listening itself. The passage also encourages us to, like the servant, acknowledge those moments when we have listened, when the Lord has said “Ephphatha” and we have effectively said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And we have then been, as Saint James says “Doers of the word.” Go ahead. Notice your successes and let those successes breed confidence in your life as an apostle.

Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 8) describes a moment when Saint Peter gets it very right, when he truly listens to Jesus and the Father. When Jesus asks him “who do YOU say that I am?” Peter replies “You are the Christ.” That is a world-changing statement. In Matthew’s version of the story, Jesus tells Peter that it is a statement he can make only because he (Peter) has listened to God. “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Jesus seems quite pleased with Peter’s response and with the attentive listening that produced it. However, the verses immediately following this passage remind us that Peter’s successes do not immunize him from failure. Immediately after providing evidence that he listens well, he shows that he sometimes refuses to listen to God. But when Peter gets it right, Jesus wants him to know it, to relish the moment, to contemplate the success and let it breed more of the confidence he will urgently need.

What about you? You have many moments when you strive sincerely to know what God wants, to want what God wants and to do what God wants. On not-so-great days, each of us falters in our efforts to listen to God. But we have loads of good days, when we truly listen to God, when we truly let our scripture and our tradition determine our choices. Sometimes the listening leads us to lovely results and sometimes to difficulties, but the listening is what matters most. Jesus has effectively put his fingers in your ears and said “Ephphatha” and you have said “Yes.” Name three times when that has been your story – when you have been a doer of the word you have heard in the scripture, in our tradition, or in your prayer (private or shared prayer). Perhaps the listening added extra duties to your life. Perhaps it added extra peace. What matters most is that you listened sincerely.

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - September 14, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – September 14, 2018

Dear All:     

Christ’s Peace.

Happy Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  The feast invites us to recall that, because Jesus did what he did, death no longer gets the last word.  From the cross arises the triumph.  From death arises the eternal life.  He triumphed at Calvary. He continued to triumph. The final triumph will be his.  The feast is a reassuring day for all of us.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Our Bishop’s Next Visit –  Bishop Checchio will be here to celebrate the 9:30 Mass on Sunday, October 7.   As always, it will be a great blessing to pray with our bishop  

  • Taize Prayer (Pronounced “TAY-zay”) – Mark your calendar – for 7:30 pm on Sunday, October 7.  The Diocesan Festival Choir is coming back to St. Joe’s to lead us in an evening of Taize prayer – a beautiful form of simple, consoling, sung prayer.  The evening will consist of music and prayer for our church and its healing.  For those who will be coming to the prayer/concert after the 6 pm Mass, The Youth Group will be selling hot dogs and pizza before the prayer/concert.  And if you are going to the bishop’s Mass or another Mass on October 7, you are still invited to enjoy some stadium food before the prayer/concert. 

  • Men’s Prayer Group  —  Blessings for all who returned to the Men’s Prayer Group on Monday night at 7:30 – and blessings for those who will be joining them this week.  Got questions?  Email Bill Grimmer at bill.grimmer@comcast.net  

  • Meeting Christ in Prayer – There are still three open slots for people who want to make the 8-week program “Meeting Christ in Prayer.”  It starts Monday 10/29 and concludes on Monday, 12/17.  

  • Spiritual Exercises –  Check last week’s bulletin or the parish web page for the meeting dates for this year’s Spiritual Exercises.   The meetings begin on October 10 and conclude on May 22.  One spot is still open.  If you have questions or want to join, email me at fhilton@loyola.edu.

  • Walking With Purpose – Walking with Purpose – our very highly praised bible study for women – is gearing up for its 4th year and will be offering two studies (Keeping in Balance AND Opening Your Heart) and two meeting times (Monday evenings AND Tuesday mornings).  Information and registration forms will be available in the gathering space on the weekends of 9/15-9/16 and 9/22-9/23.

  • Michael Tabernero’s First Mass – The date is set – Saturday, June 22 at 4:45.  All are invited to Mass. Following the Mass, Michael’s family will be providing a reception for their many invited friends and relatives.  God’s great blessings for Michael.

  • Children’s Liturgy of the Word will be back beginning on 9/30/2018 at the 9:30 mass.  If you are interested in volunteering for this wonderful ministry, contact Natalie at nzuccarello@comcast.net.  We could use at least one more adult and a few high schoolers!

  • Sunday’s Homily – “Ephphatha, Part 2: “Listening to God in our seasons of loss”

    • To listen to past homilies, click here.  (Note: due to a technical glitch, the homily was not recorded this week. Sorry for the inconvenience).

    • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE

  • CCD Classes – 42 of this year’s 44 classes have teachers. We need only two more teachers AND a few aids – but we really need them! Might you share the faith with our young people?

  • Food Pantries – It is a great grace for me each weekend – to encounter people bringing groceries to church – groceries that are given to area food pantries. Until recently, we helped three local pantries. As of this month, we are helping a fourth – the food pantry at Christ the Redeemer Church in Manville. There is huge demand for food from their pantry and we are happy to help.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY

  • A Fantastic Picnic – Three cheers and then some to all who made Sunday’s Parish Picnic such fun. Despite the crummy weather and the indoor setting, the vibe was superb and the fellowship excellent. Once again, we owe much to our Knights of Columbus for making it happen. We have a K of C chapter like no other. Special thanks to Tom Kelly and to the grill guys and all who cooked, set up, and cleaned up. Big thanks too to Gail Bellas for taking care of the name tags and to Mike DeLucia and Got 35 for keeping us entertained. According to the best available count, we had nearly 350 people at the picnic. Most of all, thanks to all who made time to spend time with old church pals and to meet new church pals. Your generosity benefits all of us.

  • Parish Council ― We are greatly blessed to have such a dedicated Parish Council. The twelve members consist of six at-large members and six committee chairs. The at-large members (and their probable year of term-completion) are Chair Nina DeLucia (2019), Amy Dahl (2021), Bill Strawderman (2021), Bernie Demsky (2020), Secretary Suzanne Kral (2020), and Dotty Lucazik (2019). The Committee Chairs are Pam Cunning (Adult Ministries), Cindy Norfleet (Communications), AnnaMaria Realbuto (Planning), Kristen Ross (Religious Education), Paul Toste (Social Ministries), and Natalie Zuccarello (Fellowship). Great thanks to every Council member.

  • Family Bingo Night ― Mark your calendars for Friday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 pm for our family-friendly Bingo Night sponsored by our youth ministry. Food, Bingo and Games and Prizes! $5 per person or $15 for your family. All money raised supports our youth service trips.

  • Tech Upgrades – Thanks and more thanks to Kevin Buist, John Demetrio, Billy Gibson, Bob Ferretti and Bryan DeLisi for getting our Wifi project over the finish line this week. Your effort enriches our parish!

  • High School Youth Ministry kicks off this Sunday after the 6:00 pm mass. It’s going to be a great year. Encourage your kids to come ― and to bring a friend!

With blessings for each parishioner – especially those who return to school (on both sides of the desk!)

Fr Hank

Summary of September 2 Homily:
Ephphatha, Part Two: Listening to God in our seasons of loss


Experiences of loss can be divided, according to our Catholic tradition, into two categories. “Privative Loss” occurs when we have a wonderful thing and it goes away. That wonderful “thing” could be a relationship, a person, an ideal job, robust health, you name it. “Negative loss” occurs when we realize that some good I’ve always hoped for is not going to materialize. Perhaps I was aching to get into a certain law school, or I always wanted to be a singer, or I hoped my children would be a certain way – and then we realize “It is not going to happen.”

Both types of loss tend to generate a tough call, either to (a) give up on God for not helping us out or (b) be sad and eventually welcome God back into the picture. Giving up on God means we lose interest in listening to God. Being sad and available to God means we keep listening.

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 35) speaks to people who endured the catastrophic, privative loss of the Babylonian Exile. Those children of Israel had enjoyed life in the Promised Land and then they lost it all. The Isaiah passage alludes to their return from exile, to their decision to stay close to God despite the agonizing, privative loss.

Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 7) speaks of negative loss. The deaf man in the Gentile territory never had hearing, never had the ability to speak, and never had faith. Oddly enough, the experience of negative loss prompted the man’s friends to bring him to Christ and the deaf man cooperated. The negative loss brought them to Jesus, not away from him.

What about you? You have been like the children of Israel – you have suffered privative losses and, even though you could have held God responsible and soured on God, you continued to listen to God. When have you done that? When have you let privative loss draw you closer to God rather than push you away? You have also been like the deaf man. Aware of your own imperfections and flaws, you have let that sadness bring you closer to Jesus rather than drive you apart. When have you done exactly that? You have weathered significant losses and, at a moment when you might have considered distancing yourself from Jesus and his voice, you in some way heard him say “Ephphatha,” (“be open”) and you kept your heart and mind and soul and ears open to him and his voice and it made all the difference. When have you kept listening to him when privative loss broke your heart? When have you kept listening to him when negative loss made you incredibly sad? And what does your past success say about your ability to keep listening when the going gets treacherous?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - September 7, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – September 7, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace.

The Knights ignite the grills in fewer than 48 hours! Yahoo!
Rain or shine, the PARISH PICNIC welcomes all and will be at least as much fun as ever.

All the customary jackpots will be here for the enjoying – outstanding fellowship, terrific food from the grill and desserts from the parishioners, excellent music, the volleyball mob/game that kicks off the Youth Group’s new year, and the Big Kahuna waterslide.

In addition to all the usual highlights, this year’s picnic will feature – through the efforts of the Heifer Project and the kindness of the Kafka Group – a petting zoo for the little kids and the kids. Big kids and taxpayers are also encouraged to visit the animals. The current list of visiting animals includes an alpaca, a miniature cow, some sheep, and some goats. Only by attending the picnic can you learn if the sheep really stay to the right and the goats to the left. There are also unverified rumors of a pony and a pig. So bring the entire family – including your grandchildren even if they are not St. Joe’s folk – and let the happy afternoon unfold.

Please join me in extending an extra special welcome to our newest parishioners. Their name tags have little gold seals. And a word of encouragement to long-time parishioners, to wear a name sticker to make it easier for people, especially our newest parishioners, to remember your name.

Thanks and hope to see you there!

(P.S. – Something tells me this is MY year in the croquet tournament – challengers welcome!)

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Men’s Prayer Group — The Monday night men’s prayer group – a joining of last year’s Cornerstone group and the men’s Meeting Christ in Prayer group – reconvenes this Monday, 9/10 at 7:30 pm in the Hospitality Room. The fall sessions run from 9/10 through 10/22. The tentative plan is to focus on the readings for Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you have any questions, please contact Bill Grimmer at bill.grimmer@comcast.net 
  • Meeting Christ in Prayer – The fall section of “Meeting Christ in Prayer” starts Monday 10/29 – the Monday after the men’s group ends. The last of the eight Monday-night sessions will meet on Monday, 12/17. The program, which focuses on a small number of prayer practices and involves small group conversation, is based on The Spiritual Exercises. The only pre-req for this series is a desire for a deeper connection with Jesus in prayer. There are still four open spots for the fall section. Email me at fhilton@loyola.edu if you want to sign up.
  • Spiritual Exercises – The dates for the 2018/19 offering of The Spiritual Exercises are now set. The sessions will meet on the following Wednesdays: October 10 and 24; November 7 and 21; December 5 and 19; January 2, 16 and 30; February 13 and 27; March 13 and 27; April 10 and 24, and; May 8 and 22. The basic requirements for the program are the ability to commit to (a) ten minutes of prayer every evening, (b) 40 minutes of prayer five times a week and (c) missing no more than two of the Wednesday meetings. Everyone who can do these three things and who has completed “Meeting Christ in Prayer” is encouraged to consider The Exercises. If you would like to make The Exercises but have not completed “Meeting Christ in Prayer,” let me know if you have had other prayer or retreat experiences that have prepared you for meditative prayer. There are still four openings for The Exercises. Email me at fhilton@loyola.edu if you want to sign up.
  • Walking With Purpose – Walking with Purpose – our very highly praised bible study for women – is gearing up for its 4th year and will be offering two studies (Keeping in Balance AND Opening Your Heart) and two meeting times (Monday evenings AND Tuesday mornings).  Information and registration forms will be available in the gathering space on the weekends of 9/15-9/16 and 9/22-9/23.
     
  • Sunday’s Homily – “Ephphatha, Part 1: “Rising above the listening hurdles”
    • To listen to the homily, click here
    • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

 

 

 

 

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE

  • CCD Classes – 40 of our 44 classes are already covered! Four still need a teacher and/or an aid. This amount of coverage at this part of September is actually a terrific success rate. The success is a great credit to the parish in general and to the volunteers in particular. Good for you! If you can see your way to filling one of the open slots, to helping share the faith as a CCD teacher, please contact Mr. Jim Jungels, our Religious Ed director, at jjungels@stjosephsparish.com Thanks and more thanks.
  • Adult Ministries – After some very impressive efforts by the Parish Council’s Planning Group, we are about to start advertising a part-time position for a coordinator for all our programs and services for adults – ages 35 and over. The job description is undergoing final edits and will be posted by month’s end. 
  • Youth Ministries - It’s going to be another great year for our high school aged youth. The season kicks off at the Parish Picnic. The first “regular” meeting will be on Sept. 16th including a few pies in the face. See the September - December calendar on our website

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • New Parishioners – God continues to bless us with new parishioners. Please join me in welcoming 
    • Lisa Cimpko
    • Marianne Fleischman
    • Ismael and Tara Garcia and their children Abigail and Jacob
    • John and Diane Rosig
  • Tech Upgrades – Thanks to the generosity of some very generous parishioners, we are about to complete two long-awaited upgrades – (a) New Wifi in the Hospitality Room and environs and better Wifi in the parish hall neighborhood and (b) new AV equipment in half the CCD classrooms. Thanks to the many who have supported the effort. It opens up many inspired opportunities.

The news in and around the parish is very good. God continues to bless us in countless ways. God’s goodness continues to enable us to grow as priests (people of prayer who speak to God and listen to God), as prophets (people of service who console and challenge others) and as kings (people who do what we can to build up our communities according to God’s hopes). Thanks to God’s goodness and yours, we are “a church that does what a church should do . . . “ We are blessed with firm foundations and we have plenty of opportunities to grow and improve.

And in addition to the good news on Yorktown Road, we remain aware of the dreadful news from so many places. We do what we can to grasp the horrible realities and we pray that we and all church leaders will formulate wise and effective replies to the victims of every sort. We strive for clear thinking about our clergy’s sins and crimes and we remember that God has always sent wise and loving people to rescue our church from its darkest choices. We stay mindful of our current darkness and God’s eternal light.

With blessings for each parishioner – especially those who return to school (on both sides of the desk!)

Fr Hank

Summary of September 2 Homily:
Ephphatha, Part One: Rising above the listening hurdles


God’s voice always calls us in the same direction, toward greater peace. God sometimes calls us along paths that wind through rough terrain that scares or disorient us, but the destination is always the same, greater peace.

Throughout our salvation history, we have fallen for the fallacy that we might be better off not listening to God, at least not right now. Time and again we convince ourselves that God might be calling us away from peace rather than smack dab into it. Sunday’s readings describe three of the very appealing deceits that cause us to resist God’s voice.

The first reading, from Deuteronomy’s fourth chapter, conveys part of Moses’ lengthy message to the people who are about to enter the Promised Land: Keep listening to God. Moses knows well that the people frequently convince themselves that God opposes their happiness. Moses also knows that when they do that, they stop listening to God and start making hair-brained, self-destructive choices. Shortly before Sunday’s passage, in Deuteronomy 1:27 Moses reminds the people that during the Exodus the people refused to listen to or obey God because “You set to murmuring in your tents, ‘Out of hatred for us the LORD has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the power of the Amorites and destroy us.’” When the people doubt God’s benevolence when they doubt that God is calling them to peace, when they convince themselves that God is hostile, they get in trouble.

Sunday’s Gospel passage from Mark 7 describes two other delusions that reduce our desire to listen to God. The first is routine. Mark uses the word “tradition” five times in Sunday’s passage. Jesus makes it clear that traditions are good if they do not become sacred routines that we value above all else. If we value our routine more than we value God’s invitations, we tend not to listen to God. We can get ourselves frantic wondering if God’s call will separate us from our sacred routines. That frenzy dials down our desire to listen to God.

Finally, in listing the sins that come out of a person, Jesus cautions us about our gut reactions. Jesus mentions those twelve sins knowing how appealing they can become in the heat of the battle, and how urgently we sometimes want to indulge them when we would be better off – i.e., more likely to experience true and lasting peace – if we paused and tried to listen to Jesus’ invitation. God reactions can sometimes be powerful forces that lead us away from peace.

So what about you? When have you risen above these impediments? When have you overcome these inclinations to tune God out? When have you received and used well the grace to know what God wants, want what God wants, and do what God wants, even when something was telling you to tune God out? Was there a time when you thought maybe God opposed your true happiness? Was there a time when you so enjoyed your routine that you did what you could do to protect it from God’s love? Has there been a time when you had a very strong gut reaction but put it on hold as you contemplated God’s desire? You surely have overcome the hurdles that made you not want to listen to God? Jesus has said “Ephphatha,” be opened, and you have complied. When have you done that and what does that success say about your future?

 

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - August 24, 2018

ThisWeekStonePastor.png

This Week – August 24, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace.

It was a great blessing to be with you all at last weekend’s Masses. I thank you for your faith and your perseverance. Your devotion – to the Eucharist, to the Word and to the Community – inspires me. Thanks for all of it. I trust that, in the face of the horrible news, you too draw consolation from each other’s commitments and experiences of grace.

Wednesday night’s visits in the parish hall also nudged my hope in the right direction. It was a blessing to share a few minutes with the folks who were knitting and crocheting at the hall’s far end. Similarly, it was good fun to spend a bit of time with the high school students who were here for Wednesday night drop-in, and for all the pizza and Cinnabon’s that go along with that. And the night would not have been complete without testing the food that the Knights of Columbus were enjoying in a state of advanced bonhomie.

Between the Masses and the gatherings, it was a great grace to experience you as priests (people of prayer) as prophets (who console and challenge others) and as kings (who build up the community). Would that everyone could experience the grace of being with you.

I hope too that you might draw consolation from Pope Francis’ recent letter, from Bishop Checchio’s message to the diocese, and from my homily last weekend.
 

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Praying with Bishop Checchio – Please consider joining Bishop Checchio for a Eucharistic Holy Hour as he gathers with clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen at 7 pm on August 29, the Feast of the Passion and of St. John the Baptist. The prayer for the victims of clergy sexual abuse will also be a prayer for strength, courage, and perseverance for the Church of Metuchen as we strive to be faithful disciples of our Lord in these challenging times. The prayer will take place at the Cathedral of St. Francis in Metuchen.
     
  • Sunday’s Homily – Pennsylvania and Wisdom

 

 

 

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE

  • The Upcoming CCD Classes – Great thanks to all who have already volunteered to teach in our CCD program. Compared to recent years we are in pretty great shape. That said, we still need to fill a few slots. Please consider the following:
    • Sunday Mornings: 
      • Grade 3 class with 5 students needs one teacher
      • Grade 6 class with 12 students needs a teacher has no teacher
    • Tuesday 7:15pm:
      • We have teachers but need assistants for grades 7 and 8.
    • Thursday 4:00pm:
      • Grade 1 class with 8 students needs a teacher
      • Grade 3 class with 8 students has an aide but needs a teacher
      • Grade 4 class with 10 students needs a teacher    
    • Thursday 6:00pm:
      • Grade 5 class with 11 students needs a teacher

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • The Parish Picnic – The parish picnic is scheduled for Sunday, September 9 and it promises to be at least as much fun as the picnics of recent years. In answer to the most frequently asked questions:
    • YES! The Knights of Columbus will be running the grills so the food will be excellent
    • YES! There will be a water slide for kids of all ages
    • YES! The live music will be back!
    • YES! New parishioners are extra-encouraged to come
    • YES! Father Hank will win the croquet match. 
  • Lazarus Ministry – Once again, a great big thank you to all members of the Lazarus ministry who seem always to be available for serving the funerals and, more recently, for setting up the luncheons. You guys are solid gold.
  • Birthday blessings— I messed up on Saturday, August 4 at the 4:45 Mass. I knew something was amiss at the dismissal and did not realize until AFTER Mass that I had forgotten to bless the August babies. We will try again this week at the 4:45. Please forgive me. MEA CULPA!
  • “This Week” -- I hope to get away for summer vacation next Tuesday through Friday. As such, there will be no THIS WEEK next week. The email will get back on a regular basis after Labor Day. 


Best blessings for every single parishioner. Extra special blessings for those of you who are, for the first time, reading this at college. Extra special blessings for you – and for all the teachers and all the students and all the parents who are getting students ready for the start of school. May God treat you extra-specially beautifully in August’s final days.
 
Fr Hank