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MLK and the role of the church

Our final community activity in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a reading of the “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” by Rev. Sarah Hubbell, Rev. Tony Lorenzen, and me. The letter is dated April 16, 1963. I was aware as we were reading how many of the issues of over 50 years ago are still pertinent today.

What particularly caught my attention was the role of the church at that time in the face of injustice and hate. Often times we as church remain silent and hold up the status quo. Dr. King writes:

“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed… Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

When I was a student I was always actively involved in non-violent demonstration for unjust situations that existed in the sixties and seventies. If and when arrested I was “just a student” with no major responsibilities, except for my studies. I now wonder how church leaders and church members can be a voice for those who may experience injustice and hate.

Shaheena and Mohamed are two wonderful Muslim friends that I have known for years. I hear their fear and concern and have encouraged them not to “stay under the radar” but to bond with their rest of their community and walk together with people of all religions in solidarity. My circle of friends is far and wide. I am praying for the courage to never be silent in the face of injustice and hate. I would never want to be reprimanded by the Lord for turning my back on women, Muslims, LGBTQ, immigrants, simply because it doesn’t affect my status. Hopefully I can be in solidarity with all my brothers and sisters. I am so happy we celebrate MLK Day each year. His words have lots to encourage and remind us about “the dream.”

Fr. Bill

The Spirit of Dr. King

This week we celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Spirit of Dr. King. Our celebration in Hopedale will begin with the assembly at Hopedale High on Thursday January 12th at 1:00 (for students and faculty) with a presentation by Guy Peartree as Frederick Douglass and Alyssa Pool receiving the “Power of One” student award. Thursday evening following another presentation by Mr. Peartree, Ernie Chaplin will be presented the “Power of One” community award at Union Evangelical Church.

I am inviting you all to join Rev. Sarah Hubbell, Rev. Tony Lorenzen and I for a formal reading of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” This will take place at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday January 15th at the Unitarian Parish on the Town Common. Following the reading there will be an opportunity for discussion.
I know it is a long weekend for many, yet in trying to be true to the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. we want to offer an opportunity for us all to reflect on the ways his spirit can empower us to live and act today as we move into a new year. Please come and join us.

Renovations continue in the church. Hopefully when you read this the new oak side door of the baptistery side of the church and the dutch door for the information booth in the vestibule will have not only arrived, but will also be installed. We are waiting for more information on the fabrication of the new front doors and once they are installed we will begin updating the two bathrooms in the church so they are handicap accessible. We were surprised when we removed the carpeting in the old reconciliation space to find that it was covering a terrazzo floor as in the vestibule, so we are restoring that floor. This room will become a parlor for various uses. Again, all the work we are doing is thanks to all of you who have contributed to the Capital Campaign “Making God’s House a Home.”

Welcome to Ordinary Time!
Fr. Bill

The Power of One

Each January we celebrate the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. by not only honoring MLK, but also recognizing and honoring a member of the Hopedale community who has an impact on our local community. The Power of One award is presented to an individual who looks to make our Hopedale community the place God says it ought to be; working to bring people together for the common good; sharing of our common wealth.

The 2017 Power of One award will be presented to Ernie Chaplin on Thursday 12 January 2017 at Union Evangelical Church on Dutcher Street during the MLK presentation held at 7:00 P.M. Ernie has touched the lives of many in our Sacred Heart Community and beyond. I am inviting all of you come and honor Ernie and personally thank him for the ways he has encouraged you along the journey of faith to be a faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ and live the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy.

On another note; it was wonderful to hear your positive response to the Sacrament of Healing shared at each of the New Year’s Eve/Day Masses. Each one of us has our own “Story” and need for healing in body, mind and spirit. I was so pleased that many of you on your way out stopped by to share your story with me. My prayer is that we all recognize the healing power of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Sick. I wish to remind you that if you are going into the hospital for any procedure to please approach me the weekend before and request to be anointed. Many often think the Sacrament of the sick is only “The Last Rites.” It is the official prayer of the church for healing.

As we close the Christmas Season on this Feast of the Epiphany, may we all realize that Christ is with us and wise enough to always seek his presence.

Merry Christmas,
Fr. Bill

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sometimes when we see something happening gradually, as in the church renovations we don’t realize how much things have changed and take it for granted. It’s just like seeing each other age over the years. It’s often good to have a perspective from others who don’t see us too often. Well that’s just what happened this Christmas when our visitors came to worship with us.

As people were leaving church, many were commenting on how beautiful and warm our church looks. Others felt so much closer to the altar and the rest of the community. Of course moving the altar 20 feet forward and angling the pews is what caused that closer feeling. A great deal has been accomplished over the year and our church does look beautiful. The welcome that everyone received as they arrived at church was also incredible. The greeters and ushers went out of their way to make sure everyone found a seat and were welcomed to worship with us. One family that returned this year said they bring their family here for Christmas Eve because they feel more welcome here than in their home parish. Wow, that says a great deal about how much we have grown as a community of faith.

The year is coming to a close and we are now moving into 2017. We continue renovations of the physical plant; yet at the same time we have new leaders coming on board on our Pastoral Planning Team. We are saying goodbye to Donna Rajcula and Joe Sperino as they pass on the baton for our Weekend Experience Ministry to Jeff Cote and Jana Loughlin. Sue Conciatori passes leadership of our Mission and Outreach Ministry to Bill York. Chris Hodgens will replace Joe Sperino as our new meeting facilitator. How very lucky we are to have people who are eager and willing to serve in leadership positions in our parish.

The Partners in Charity Office this year asked that each parish have a chair couple for our annual campaign. How pleased I am that Matthew and Meredith Daelhousen have attended to information meeting and will serve our parish in this capacity.

Yes, it is a New Year and as we look back at what our leadership has accomplished, we can look forward with pride for the new energy and enthusiasm our new leaders bring to the table. It truly is a time to rejoice and shout; Happy New Year to all of us here at Sacred Heart!

One last note. Because New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday, we will have Mass at 4:00pm followed by our traditional gathering in the Parish house for a champagne toast to the New Year and I invite all of you to bring your leftover Christmas cookies to share with those who attend, so we don’t take them into the New Year! Tours of the renovated Parish House will also be offered. Coffee And on Sunday New Year’s Day will be offered in the Parish House so all can get the tour.

Happy New Year!
Fr. Bill

The O Antiphons of Advent

Dear Parish Family,

It is wonderful to have a full 4th week of Advent. Often it is abbreviated and we miss out on the reflection of the entire Advent Season. This year also affords all of us the opportunity to enter fully into the Christmas Novena which begins on December 17th. The sacred tradition of reflecting on the “O Antiphons” is an ancient tradition that helps many focus on the sacredness of the Birth of Christ and His incarnation into our personal lives. I encourage you to take time each evening to read the Antiphon as you light your Advent Wreath and to share a reflection on each one around your dinner table.

December 17 O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
December 18 O Sacred Lord of Ancient Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
December 19 O Flower of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
December 20 O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
December 21 O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22 O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
December 23 O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
December 24 O Virgin of Virgins, how can this be? For nothing like this has ever been seen, nor will it ever be witnessed again.
December 25 O heavens rejoice, for a Child is born for us, A Son is given us; his name will be called Emmanuel, a name which means “God is with us!”

You may recognize the all these antiphons from the Advent hymns we sing. They all come from the Hebrew Scriptures, showing that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophets. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on how each has meaning in your own life.

Enjoy this last full week of Advent!

Fr. Bill

Little Lent

Dear Parish Family,

Did you know that Advent was also known as “Little Lent?” It was given that name to remind us of the penitential aspect of our preparation for the Feast of Christmas, just as the six weeks of Lent are our preparation for the Feast of Easter. The Church uses the color purple as a visual reminder at these special times of the Liturgical Year to examine our conscience and receive the grace of mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Some of you may remember the pre-Vatican II names for this sacrament as Confession where we concentrate on a list of ways we have offended God; or the Sacrament of Penance where we concentrate on the ways we can get back on God’s good side. Just as we grow and mature in our faith so too does the Church grow in its understanding of the Sacraments. The change in name to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to remind us that we need to “be made friends again” with God, others, ourselves and all of God’s creation.

When was the last time you went to “confession?” For many it has been a long time. Sometimes we are embarrassed to return to God’s forgiveness and mercy for many reasons. Some are afraid they don’t remember what to do. Others are ashamed of who they are and don’t want to face their inner journey and move forward in God’s grace. Why I have even heard some people say, I don’t have anything to confess (yikes); believing that they were conceived without sin, as was Mary!

I am inviting you back to the grace of God’s mercy and forgiveness as we gather for our annual Communal Penance service Monday December 12th at 7:00 P.M Together we have an opportunity to examine our conscience, prayerfully support each other, pray our prayer for forgiveness (Act of Contrition) together and then privately confess the one area we need God’s gift of mercy and forgiveness. No need to remember “How” to go, or remember the Act of Contrition, no need to be afraid of judgment or condemnation, just an opportunity to individually hear that you are “untied and set free” ready to allow Christ to be born anew in the center of your being.

Prior to our celebration, I am opening up the parish house at 6:00 P.M. for all who would like to join us for an Advent Supper. Bring a dish to share and come and see the transformation of the parish house! Then we can move to the Church to be transformed in soul and spirit to welcome Christ anew!

Advent is also known as “Little Lent.” Let this time make a “Big” difference in your spiritual journey.

Fr. Bill