Fr. Bill’s Weekly Letter

You are invited, you are called

Dear Parish Family:

Well, I guess turning 65 wasn’t so bad after all. There were several surprise celebrations throughout the week. The staff celebrated my birthday on Wednesday with an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, plus bought my lunch! Yum! On Thursday, another surprise from the daily Mass folks and the thrift shop workers with a delicious carrot cake, double yum! Finally, a BIG surprise; a blessing from the parish community at the 4:00 Mass and a wonderful reception in the hall catered by the Pastoral Planning Team and the Hospitality Team! The food was great and what a surprise it was, including my brother John and his wife Mary!

Thank you to all for your cards and wishes for a Happy Birthday! With my Medicare, Part A card in my wallet I am ready to face a new stage in life! So, anyone who is dreading moving into this stage, fear not, there is life after 65!

Last week I asked you to pray for the work of our Pastoral Planning Team (PPT). They have been working hard to restructure our parish ministries to fit our current needs as a parish. Their work has generated a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. What a dedicated team they are, listening to each other and willing to understand how important it is to open the doors to all parishioners to sit at the table were decisions are made. We are looking for eight people to share their wisdom and work on each of the five ministries: Formation, Worship, Operations, Stewardship and Community Engagement. That means 40 people will be involved in setting the objectives for our parish. You are invited, you are called: how will you be involved?

We are especially interested in making sure that people who are not involved in parish work feel welcome to the table and that young people 16-35 know that their wisdom is welcome and needed to move us forward in our work as a people of God. I ask all of you to prayerfully consider how you can be involved in making Sacred Heart Parish the dynamic parish God calls us to be.

In the bulletin, you will find the contact information for the members of the PPT; never hesitate to contact any member with your wisdom, questions, and desires to participate in a deeper level in the ministries we share. Much more to come!

Thank you again for celebrating my birthday! And let us move forward in ministry here at Sacred Heart!

Fr. Bill

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.


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

Feast of Corpus Christi

Dear Parish Family:

On this Feast of Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I wish to thank you for truly being the Body of Christ as a community of faith! I thank you for your continued generosity to the parish as we not only take care of our own parish needs. I am even more thankful for your continued generosity in looking beyond our own parish boundaries to meet the needs of our Diocesan family in not only carrying our share of Partners in Charity, but exceeding our goal. (See Thank you letter from Bishop McManus also in this bulletin).

This feast reminds us that when we receive the Body of Christ, and in our sharing of this one bread and one cup; we become the body of Christ. We are a community of faith that pools its gifts, skills and talents; time, talent and treasure as did the Christian community of the early church. How proud we should all be of our willingness to walk the talk and together be faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ.

On top of our generosity to our own parish and our diocesan family we also assisted the Xavierian Missioners in the wonderful work that Fr. Tony and Fr. Carl shared with us last weekend. If you were not able to contribute to the work of the Xavierian Missioners last week, feel free to put a donation in the collection basket in an envelope marked Xavierian Missioners.

This Sunday also begins Father’s Day Week! We will have a special blessing for all fathers at each of the weekend Masses. We ask God’s blessings too on all fathers who have died; that they may be welcomed to the banquet in heaven.
Happy Feast Day, Happy Father’s Day Week!

Fr. Bill

The Trinitarian formula

Dear Parish Family:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen! As Catholics, we begin and end all our prayers with the sign of the cross; it is also our official way of bestowing blessings upon us all. We are so accustomed to addressing God in the Trinitarian formula that this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity may seem like overkill.

This celebration is always held the Sunday following Pentecost in order that we as a community of faith may rejoice in the fullness of God’s presence through the power of the Holy Spirit. Coming to a recognition that there are three persons in one God helps us to understand the plural used in the Hebrew Scriptures when we read, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” Jesus continued to point out to his disciples especially in the Gospel of John, “The Father and I are one.”

The greeting used by the celebrant at Mass is also a threefold blessing, “The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” This greeting is taken directly from St. Paul to the Corinthians and confirms the understanding of Trinity by the early church, passed down through the ages.

Just as Father, Son and Spirit work together through the ages we are called to work together as a community of faith, pooling our God given gifts toward ministry in the church and in the world. To continue our work here in our Hopedale community, we are in need of a few more ministers to be videographers, hospital ministers, and ministers to Draper Place. These ministers are a sign of the community’s presence, bringing the Eucharist, comfort, presence, and prayer to members who are unable to participate because of illness or aging.

Ministers of Care and videographers are living witnesses that our community of faith has not forgotten the absent sick, the invisible elderly, and the unseen sufferers. These ministries bring everyone into common-union with the whole community so that no one is alone. If you have a few hours to spare, please consider serving in one of these areas.

Happy Easter!
Fr. Bill


Dear Parish Family:

We are completing our 50 days of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Disciples must have been sad to see Jesus taken up into heaven, and told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Wait they did, and I love how Luke expresses this period of waiting; “When the day of Pentecost came, they were gathered in one room, with one mind and heart eager to receive the Spirit.” (Acts 2:2)

How wonderful to be so focused as a community in one mind and one heart all on the same mission; and because they were empowered by the Holy Spirit we are here today as a faith community and thousands of faith communities throughout the world assemble in belief of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We wear red on Pentecost Sunday to remind ourselves of the unity we share as followers of Jesus Christ and the flames of the Holy Spirit that send us forth into the world to invite all to follow Jesus Christ. At the end of the weekend Masses I will carry the Pascal Candle out of the church to remind us all that we are to bring the light of Christ into the world.

Those who gathered for the Easter Vigil April 15th surely remember how wonderful it was to bask in the candle-lit church as we sang together our praise of the light of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. May we carry that same light and Spirit into our conversations, our gatherings, our encounters and never hide the joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ and Him risen from the dead.

Many try to snuff out the light of Christ by criticism, complaint, and negativity; these choke the Lord’s Word in us. Let’s make sure we are not among them, and let’s together go out to all the world and tell the Good News!

Happy Easter!
Fr. Bill

Memorial Day

Dear Parish Family:

For many people, Memorial Day is a three-day holiday weekend that marks the beginning of the end of the school year and graduation. For those who like to garden, it is the weekend when all crops should be in the ground awaiting the summer sun. And to others, it is the weekend when we decorate the graves of loved ones.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, with both Southerners and Northerners honoring those who died in the Civil War. After World War II it became a day to honor all those in the military who died fighting to protect our nation.

For me personally, Memorial Day is full of memories and emotion. I remember attending Memorial Day parades with my Uncle, Col. Angelo Pilla who during his highly decorated military career experienced things that many of us will never experience. I remember my uncle even in his older years standing at attention as younger soldiers marched by and quietly saluting them showing them his gratitude and respect for their service. Every year, I try to attend a Memorial Day parade to show my gratitude and respect for those who serve our country.

So, this weekend, enjoy your barbecues and celebrate the beginning of summer. But also take a moment to honor those who died fighting for our country.

Visit a cemetery.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Attend a parade.
Tell a story.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend,