Author Archive: edlavalette

Age: It’s just a number

Dear Parish Family:

Age is a funny thing; it’s only a number and it all depends on how you feel, and look. It’s nice to hear people say, “You don’t look your age!” or “You are pretty active for your age!” And I especially like to hear, “Wow, I would never have guessed you were that old!”

This week, July 22nd, I turn 65 and for some reason the US government, AARP, my health insurance company, and at least 10 other health and insurance providers, assisted living centers, hearing aid providers and more have brought this fact to my attention for at least the last 5 months. Age is relative and I am proud to have reached 65; especially being the youngest of 7. My 5 brothers throughout our childhood would always say, “How old are you?” “Seven” I would reply; response, “You’re not going to live to see eight!” This happened for many of our growing up years! So, I am happy (and lucky) I made it this far.

I do notice that I have trouble recalling things as quickly as I used to. Eventually the word, or thought comes to mind, but it causes me to wonder if I am starting to lose my mind. I am not as sharp as I used to be. Pam tells me this is good news. “If you know you are losing your mind that means you’re getting dementia and not Alzheimer’s!” as she laughs. I believe this is a case of elder abuse. I wonder if this is payback for all the times I have kidded the “elders” in my life. Now I am becoming one of them. I better hold my tongue.

Next year I will also celebrate a significant priesthood anniversary, 40 years! I remember when I was younger and thought, “Boy are those guys old!” Now I have a whole different take and perspective on anniversaries and the aging process.

I have my Medicare Card (Part A) in my wallet and will officially join the ranks of the elders of the community even though many “youngsters” thought I did that a long time ago. The good news: It’s just a number and all depends on how you feel and look! I feel great!

Fr. Bill

Sanctuary Memorial Candles

Dear Parish Family:

Our sanctuary (altar area) renovations are now complete with the arrival of the memorial candles beneath the statues of our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph. Lighting a candle in memory of a loved one or for a special intention has long been part of our Catholic prayer tradition. Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world, you must not hide your light under a bushel basket but set it on a lamp stand for all the world to see!” (Matthew 5:14-16)

The candle stands are placed in the sanctuary to encourage everyone to come into the sanctuary to pray before or after Mass; and throughout the day to make a visit. The kneelers at the tabernacle are there to encourage us to spend time with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. We intentionally made the sanctuary handicap accessible so that everyone would be able to come forward for prayer.

Due to insurance policies, all unattended wax candles were eliminated from our churches as fire hazards. Our new memorial candles are electronic, therefore safe for use in our church. There is a red button in front of each candle that can be pushed to light a candle in memory of a loved one, or for a special intention for which you are seeking wisdom and light. These candles “burn” for 12 hours; the suggested donation is $1.00 that can be placed in the slot in the center of each stand.

I am sharing this information with you because several people have asked, “Is it alright for us to go over to light a candle, or do we ask someone to do it for us?” “Is it safe to have these candles in the church with no one around?” “How long do these candles stay lit?” My feeling is, if one or two have these questions others have them too.

My hope is that whether or not you light a candle, I would love to see more people come into the sanctuary to pray around the tabernacle. Take the time to be present to the Lord in prayer!

Fr. Bill

Retreat Forward!

Dear Fellow Parishioners,
As priests, we are expected to attend an annual retreat; taking time to stop and check in with the Lord. It is a time of focused spiritual growth and reflection. It is not simply beneficial for priests to do so, but for all of us to take the time to listen attentively to the Lord.

The Office for Continuing Education of the Clergy offers an Annual Priests’ Retreat; or we can arrange to make our annual retreat at a center of our own choosing, any time throughout the year. When I was the Director of the Office for Youth Ministry, I attended the annual Priests’ Retreat. Little did I know it would be like working in the office. Priests had questions about programs we were doing, bringing in forms and applications for events, wanting to set up appointments for me to speak to their parish council and more. That week, I knew the annual retreat was not for me, at least while I was working in a diocesan office.
Since being out of the office I have ventured back to the Annual Priests’ Retreat, and this year I realized more than ever how very important it is. Most of us are assigned to parishes where we are the only priest. The expectations on all of us is high, and few of us know how to say no to the many requests that come our way. This takes its toll on time to gather with brother priests to discuss “business,” “challenges,” “personal difficulties,” and more.

This past week, I realized; “How good it is to be here!” How great it is to laugh together, pray together, celebrate Mass together, confess our sins, support each other, tell our stories, and be encouraged to minister to the People of God in our various assignments. The theme of our retreat; “Retreat Forward!” was a call to support each other in the work we do and invite others to follow Christ in the world we live in today. Many of the older men who are retired were so happy to be with us “younger guys.” How happy I was to see them and be encouraged by them. What a grace-filled time it was indeed.

I am not sure when it happened, but sometime during the week, I realized that this is the retreat I need to make annually, never mind scheduling a time more convenient for me. It’s a commitment that we each need to consider. How important we are one to another, even in our journey of faith here at Sacred Heart Parish!

God’s Peace to you all,
Fr. Bill

Faith Formation Teams

Dear Parish Family:

Last week, I was very sad to hear about the closing of Milford Catholic Elementary School. That school holds a very dear place in my heart as it was my elementary school and the school where my mom taught reading and math for 17 years. It makes one wonder, why did Catholic schools and parishes once thrive when people were actually poorer than they are today; when people didn’t have smart TVS or cell phones we carried everywhere, and our lives were much simpler?

A Pew study found that over 30% of Americans who were raised Catholic no longer consider themselves Catholic and less than 10% of baptized Catholics attend Mass on Sundays. The inference is clear: Most people do not see any compelling reason to live as Catholics.

So, what is the way forward for local Catholic schools and parishes like us? Communities like Sacred Heart must take ownership our parishes and have honest discussions of who we are as Catholics and what can each of us can do to make a more compelling case for Catholicism locally. Faith spreads, person to person, so each of us has a duty to spread it to his or her own circle of influence and friends. We cannot wait until our schools or parishes are in trouble.

The Pastoral Planning and the Faith Formation Teams are paying attention to the trends affecting faith communities in and around Hopedale. We know that families are stretched and stressed because of work demands, busy schedules, and individual activities. We are sadly aware of the decline in family religious practice at home and participation in the life of the parish. Busy schedules often push religious activities off the calendar. We are working to create faith formation formats that are fun, and flexible and most importantly equips our young people to live as disciples of Jesus.

To provide these different types of faith formation experiences, we will be asking for your help. Everyone has a gift to share! Please be open to sharing your gifts so that you can help spread our faith locally and beyond.

Pam

Summer Solstice

Dear Parish Family:

Summer Solstice began last Tuesday and sometimes we all want to simply get into a summer kind of mood and put our feet up and relax. However, here in the parish office we are working hard to implement all the decisions we make through our Pastoral Planning Team meetings. The leadership and decision-making team meets monthly to make sure that the ministry needs of the parish are on target for our community. I want to touch on a couple of those areas that we are working on.

These past few months we have been restructuring our major parish ministries. Something wasn’t quite right and we talked it out patiently with each other during and between meetings. I must say, it is wonderful to know that the leadership team is invested and concerned about how we function as a parish even as we talk with one another at coffee and, and communicate through e-mail and in the parking lot! What a dedicated group we have!

We will have five focus areas of ministry: Faith Formation, Worship, Operations, Stewardship and Community Engagement. More information regarding the mandates for these areas of ministry will be coming in a chart form as soon as we have articulated them well.

Youth engagement is a top priority! Our Faith Formation Team has been looking closely at ways to engage our Junior High youth members, those in grades 7 and 8 in ways that assist them in deepening their involvement in understanding and practicing their faith through a variety of fun, flexible formats. We constantly need to be reminded that faith is “caught” not taught and so sitting in a classroom setting, teaching our faith only plants seeds. We must put our faith into practice and make it a lived experience so that it takes hold.

I hear comments from many visitors after funerals, sacramental celebrations and weekend Mass on the vibrancy of our faith community. This doesn’t happen by chance. It is the dedication of our Pastoral Planning Team and our entire community and our desire to make all things new. It takes the commitment even in the summer months to put things into place so that we do not grow stale, but continue to listen attentively to the Word of God, and the needs of our faith community. The members of our PPT are listed in the bulletin each week. Take the opportunity to share your wisdom so that Sacred Heart can continue to grow as a dynamic faith community.

Fr. Bill