Weekly Message

Half Way To Easter

As we gather this weekend for the Fourth Sunday in Lent we are more than halfway through our journey. It is wonderful to hear such positive feedback from the many folks that joined in the small Lenten groups. I like the format very much. It is creative and the resources for the groups are tremendous using signs and symbols that connect with each of the gospel stories. I find that each of the prayer services help us to ritualize our journey of faith. On the cover of “Up from the Waters” it is clear that this reflecting and sharing the living gospel is definitely for Lent Year A. I am hoping that there may be a Year B and Year C to follow; since the materials are so good.

I hope you have taken the time to visit the www.partners-charity.net as Matt and Meredith Daelhousen encouraged us to do before we gather this weekend for in-pew solicitation for our goal of $43,200.00. If everyone of us does our part, we should have no problem in assisting the many needs of the ministries of our diocese. Let’s all pitch in and do our part.

In this final stretch of Lent, I hope you have taken the time to reflect on the question “Where do you thirst?” Allow yourself the time to sit with Jesus where you thirst and be pleasantly surprise that he overlooks the baggage that we and others pile on us. Instead, drink freely of the “living water” that only Jesus can provide. This Fourth Sunday of Lent we are invited to examine “Where are you blind?” Allow yourself the time to go deeper in your relationship with the Lord to uncover those blindspots.

Fr. Bill

Lent’s Acts of Charity

Dear Fellow Companions on the Journey!

I am sure you have seen the posters outside the church with St. Teresa of Kolkata, the patron saint of this year’s Annual Partner in Charity Appeal. How important it is for us to work together as parishes in the Diocese of Worcester to meet the Ministry, Education, and pastoral needs of the many people of Worcester County. As you can imagine the many needs increase each year with requests for immigration assistance, housing, food, and much more.

We have been able to make our goal each year and expand our donor base so that more share the responsibility of meeting our parish goal. The Diocesan goal is $5 million and our portion of that goal is the same as last year; $43,200.00. Last year through your wonderful generosity we could exceed our goal by $8,459.00. Isn’t it wonderful when we can pool our resources and be more generous that we are asked to be.
This weekend as we gather for the Third Sunday of Lent we will hear a direct plea from Bishop McManus to join as Partners in Charity. We will also hear from our parish chair couple Matt and Meredith Daelhousen encouraging us all to join in meeting our obligation to assist in the appeal.

Besides prayer and fasting, the third pillar of Lent is Acts of Charity. It is appropriate that we use this Annual Appeal to share in meeting the many needs of those who are part of our wider faith community. Next weekend we will invite all to participate in the in-pew solicitation for “Partners”. I know that many of you have already generously contributed and thank you ahead of time for your generosity.

I ask us all to join in prayer to St. Teresa of Kolkata for the success of our appeal here at Sacred Heart parish, and join me in supporting Partners in Charity.
Fr. Bill

Go Far, Go Together

Dear Fellow Companions on the Journey!

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together!”

Life is hard and very challenging. Because it is, we have the wonderful gift of Lent where we can go deeper into our spiritual lives and cling to our relationship to Jesus Christ. Often we move fast through life and miss the many ways we can lighten the load. Lent has just begun; it is one week old. How are you doing with the journey? Are you traveling alone? Or do you have companions on the journey? It is never too late to take the risk and join a small sharing group within the parish. It’s not too late to start your own group in your household or among your friends. We have the resources available.

When’s the last time you took advantage of the sacrament of confession? What is keeping you away from the wonderful gift of forgiveness and God’s mercy? I am available every Monday night during Lent from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. in the Reconciliation Room. Why not take the risk and be untied and set free from the things that are weighing you down? Why not hear someone with skin on offer the gift of forgiveness? If not now, when? If Monday night is not convenient, come Saturday from 3:00-3:45 P.M. or call for an appointment. Want to talk to another priest, find out the times in neighboring parishes, but don’t stay away any longer.

When’s the last time you prayed the Stations of the Cross? Have you reflected on your own “Agony in the Garden” and asked Jesus to help you get up each time you fall due to the weight of your own life crosses? The church is open for the journey, or if you are available; join us Wednesday morning at 11:30 A.M. for communal stations. Sacred Heart, Milford has communal stations each Friday during Lent at 7:00 P. M. There are station books to use at the front door if you come on your own.

When’s the last time you went to daily Mass? We gather at 9:00 A.M. but daily Mass times are offered at nearby parishes. Check it out. When’s the last time you sat quietly by yourself in the church or kneeling at the tabernacle and just let God love you? Give yourself the great gift of God’s loving presence; come on take care of yourself spiritually and your will be amazed at how that spiritual care will spread to physical and mental health at the same time!

When’s the last time you shared a meal with others, and had a chance to share the Lenten journey. Take advantage of the weekly Lenten Suppers as listed in the bulletin. Don’t go it alone. It’s up to you to take a step forward.

Life is very challenging and sometimes we rush through it. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together!” Take advantage of the opportunity Lent offers for support on the journey of life.

Fr. Bill

Increased Security

Many events unfolded in Haiti as we visited Father Tilus and the faithful of St. Gerard’s Parish and also here in Hopedale while we were away. There is so much to share with you, I don’t know where to begin.

I will share more on our journey to Haiti in the future. For me, to see conditions in Haiti much worse than when I left in March of 2001 was extremely sad. I always want to see things improve in people’s lives, and to see that things have gotten worse is so disheartening. The good news is even with the loss of homes, roofs on the churches and chapels, loss of lives, people were resilient and picking up the pieces of their lives and moving forward. Haitians have such incredible faith and trust in God even in the most difficult of times.

Here at home, we had a visit from the Hopedale Police who advised us to increase security on the property. Acting on their advice our Pastoral Planning Team decided the following:

THE CHURCH

  • The Church will be unlocked for morning Mass Monday-Friday at 9AM.
  • Following Mass all doors will be locked with the exception of the two front middle doors.
  • You are welcome to come to pray in Church throughout the week, Monday-Thursday until 4:30 P.M. by entering the church through the two middle-doors at the front of the church. This way while we are working in the Parish House we can be aware of when people enter and exit the church.
  • On Saturday the church will be open at 2:00PM and locked as usual afterwards.
  • Sunday access will remain as it has been in the past. Open from 7:30 A.M. till the morning schedule is completed.
  • I encourage everyone to make time, especially during Lent to come to daily Mass and to come pray the Stations of the Cross, and Eucharist Adoration throughout the week.

THE PARISH CENTER

  • The parish center will remain locked at all times during the week.
  • Entry to the parish center will be allowed only when groups are scheduled to use the center.
  • Any groups needing access to the facilities MUST schedule their events through the office so that they can obtain access.
  • The connector door will remain unlocked so that items for the Thrift Shop and Food Pantry may be dropped off.

I wish to thank Msgr. Doran for sharing the faith journey with you all in my absence.

Have a wonderful Lent!
Fr. Bill

Growing our parish

How wonderful it is to be your pastor here at Sacred Heart of Jesus. For fifteen consecutive years we have worked together and changed leadership on our Pastoral Planning Team (PPT) and passed the baton onto younger members of the community. They take a seat at the table where decisions are made and move us forward into many areas that have brought us into the twenty-first century. Technology is something I have never understood, but we have many creative parishioners that do understand it and assist us in moving our communications forward and assists us in reaching more people that I could ever imagine.

It doesn’t stop at technology. At our past few monthly meetings we have been looking at how we can make efforts to reach out to those members of our community who are registered yet inactive. At Coffee And…for several weeks in a row members of the PPT have approached me and shared their desire to grow our parish and reach out to the inactive. There is a desire to make a concentrated effort to invite, welcome, visit and encourage others to walk together in support of each other as a community of faith.

Sometimes we lose our focus and turn inward; when we know clearly God is calling us to look outward. I am asking all members of our community to join in prayer for our parish as we prepare all of us to be welcoming and inviting to those who are absent from our community.

Here is the prayer we can share together as we prepare for this new endeavor:

Heavenly Father, we come to You in the name of Jesus to ask for Your guidance and clear direction in the choices that we have to make concerning Sacred Heart Parish. It is our desire that Your will be done at Sacred Heart and that we will not miss Your best purpose for us. You ask us to “Become and Make disciples; Welcoming all to follow Jesus Christ.” Help us to focus outwardly on your mission for us as found in the gospels.

Send the wisdom of your Holy Spirit into all the members of our Pastoral Planning Team and Parish Life Teams, that we may work together to invite and welcome those who are inactive, those who have turned away, those who feel unwelcome, those who feel no need to journey together as a community of faith; those whom we are quick to judge.

Send your wisdom to our parish ministries that we may all share the same vision, energy and enthusiasm for our parish mission. That Mission and Out Reach, Message Shapers, Operations and Weekend Experience may realize that we are all on this journey together as a people of faith, seeking to be faithful disciples of your Son and inviting others to join us in making our community the place you say it ought to be.

May we live godly in Christ Jesus, walk in a manner that is worthy of Him and live in spirit and truth – with our eyes focused on Christ and guided by Your Holy Spirit – we ask in Jesus name, Amen!

Fr. Bill

Lent’s Communal Journey

Lent is a communal journey of faith that is a time for more intense spiritual preparation, and an opportunity for interior reflection on our relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another. Our relationship with Christ starts in the waters of baptism. This Lenten season we are offering small groups and individuals to be enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit in understanding more deeply the grace of Baptism. To achieve this purpose, the Messages Shapers Ministry has found a wonderful resource to assist us this Lent.

Today many people speak of “drowning” in the many demands of their lives…schedules, priorities, demands, commitments, the current political situation in our country and world. We are inviting all to surface; “Up From The Waters” to find safe harbor and land on hallowed ground by making this journey of faith.

“Up From The Waters” is created by fellow Catholics in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia and shared with all English speaking parishes and dioceses throughout the world. I am asking all our small groups to use this resource and inviting you to join the small group what fits conveniently into your schedule. The meetings will take 60 – 90 minutes of your time each week, a gift well worth devoting to your personal spiritual growth and development. Due to shipping from Australia the books are $8.00 each. These books will be available after all the weekend Masses beginning this weekend. They will be available in the new Information booth located in the vestibule (front entrance way) of the church.

You can sign up for a Lenten small group either after Mass or on our website under “Count Me In”. The groups start meeting the week of March 5th.

Tuesday at 7PM  (3 Jackson Way, Hopedale) – leaders Jana Loughlin & Jeff Cote
Wednesday at 7PM (Parish House) – leader Dee Russell
Wednesday at Noon (Parish House) – Lenten Lunch and Group with Fr. Bill
Thursday at 11AM (Church Parlor) – leader Pam Chaplin
Thursday at 7PM (Church Parlor) – leader Karen Barrett
Thursday at 7PM (2 Butler Rd, Mendon) – leader Karen Daige
Saturday at 9AM (Loft Library) – leader Matt Smith

Let the journey begin!
Fr. Bill

Mission Team Preps for Haiti

What a game, our prayers at each of the Masses were answered! I’ll leave it at that since it is the Monday after the game the excitement is still in the air as we prepare the Duck Boats for the parade tomorrow. I don’t think the weather will dampen any spirits!

A word of thanks and appreciation to your very generous support of the Youth Ministry bake sale for the 2 chapel and main church roofs at St. Gerard’s. Thanks to the bakers and your donations, we collected $668.00 to assist in this need. From the giving tree we received $270.00 toward the roofs for a total of $938.00 almost $1,000.00. Some people mentioned that they didn’t have any cash to assist in this effort and wanted to; so I am thinking, since this weekend is the last weekend before our Mission Team visits Haiti, I’ll put a basket in the middle aisle and as you come up for communion you can make a donation toward relief effort.

At the 10:30 Mass this weekend we will offer a special blessing for the parishioners going to Haiti February 17-25. Again accompanying me will be: Taylor Andolina, Belinda Lee, Elli and Carrie Maurais, Cathy Stickney, and Kendall Zonghi. Following Mass if anyone wants to assist us in packing the supplies we are taking please join us in the parish center.

I am pleased that Msgr. John Doran is available to replace me the two weekends we are gone. I know you are happy to have him here, and he is equally happy about seeing you all again. While away I will even try to keep you posted on our journey by Facebook!

Fr. Bill

February Visit to Haiti

I ask your prayers for those of us who are traveling from our parish to visit our twin parish St. Gerard’s in Haiti. Accompanying me will be: Taylor Andolina, Belinda Lee, Elli and Carrie Maurais, Cathy Stickney, and Kendall Zonghi. We will be traveling February 17th and returning from our visit February 25th.

In preparation for our trip we have been in communication with Fr. Tilus who has informed us that the roofs of the main church and two of the chapels we helped build were blown off by Hurricane Matthew and need to be replaced. We will be holding a bake sale this weekend to begin raising money for this purpose. If you would like to make a donation for this purpose, please do so at the bake sale table following each of the Masses.

Fr. Tilus has also mentioned the need for soccer equipment for the children. Many have lost their homes and belongings and the adults are encouraging the children to focus their energies on activities such as soccer rather than dwell on their losses. There is a box for soccer donations in the parish center.

Our journey to Haiti is to be in solidarity with our sister parish and to show our support for them as we have over the past 15 years. We want to listen to their hopes and dreams in rebuilding their lives and parish community and voice our support for all from our faith community here at Sacred Heart. Upon our return we will share what we have heard and invite us all to walk together with our brothers and sisters at St. Gerard’s through our prayers and financial assistance. All the skills needed to rebuild throughout Haiti are in the capable hands of its citizens; what is necessary is the materials needed to rebuild.

Please join us in prayer:

Out of the depths we cry to You, O God. We cry to You for our Haitian sisters and brothers. We thank You for upholding them in their suffering. Give them continuing strength and comfort. Give us love and courage to stand with them and work with them as they struggle for justice and freedom. Keep us committed to the truth and empower us with Your Spirit of love;

  • a love that always sees possibilities for peace founded on justice;
  • a love that seeks justice without vengeance and retaliation;
  • a love that reaches out to enemies, as Jesus taught us.

O Holy Spirit descend on us; we have a mission for Haiti. Amen.
Fr. Bill

Paying attention to our mission

Sometimes I can get lost and caught up in the day to day operations of parish life; the physical plant, the various ministries, hospital and nursing home visits, weekend/weekday Masses, funerals, baptisms, weddings (the few that we have), phone calls, e-mails etc. Getting caught up in the day to day happenings can prevent me from paying attention to our mission as a parish “Becoming and Making Disciples, Welcoming All to Follow Jesus Christ.”

I challenge each of our ministries to make sure that anything they are planning is filtered through our mission as a parish by asking, “How does this event, activity, program help us to become and make Disciples of Jesus Christ?” If it doesn’t, why are we wasting our time? We need to stay focused.

At the same time, I am conscious that we have many registered parishioners who are inactive. Throughout our lives, we may encounter friends, relatives, neighbors, and work associates who have drifted away from their faith community; people who no longer attend worship or participate in church activities. Reaching out to those who are no longer active weighs heavy on my heart. I know this is of concern for many who talk to me about family members whom you have raised in the faith who no longer are active in our faith community.

Central to our faith as Catholics is “communion” common-union with each other from which we get the word “Community.” Community support is central to who we are as a community of faith. We are called to support each other in and on the journey we make through life.

Our Mission and Outreach Ministry, overseen by Bill York and Ernie Chaplin has been grappling with the “How” of reaching out to the inactive. We realize that it is not the task of just a ministry team, but the task of our whole community to be welcoming and interested in the stories of those who feel alienated. We are currently looking at resources that will assist our community in reaching out and are open to suggestions from you. I am realizing that getting lost and caught up in the day to day is ministering to the “ninety-nine” and Jesus makes it clear that we are to seek out the lost. Hopefully in the near future we will have wisdom to share with the whole community and work together on seeking the lost.

Fr. Bill

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