Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have arrived. Our final weekend together…at least for now.

We might be in the lazy days of summer, but important events don’t seem to be taking any time off. Here at Holy Family we have a new principal––Theresa Purcell, our former Assistant Principal––a new pastor, three new teachers, many summer improvement projects on our facilities (I’ll leave it to Mark Stockoski, our business manager to give us the details), new small groups forming from our powerful Spring series on the Holy Spirit and a very new Young Adult group called Evangelion, to name but a few. God is very good and He is at work in our midst.

There are also other changes as staff members take the next step in their lives. Virginia Peña and Chelsea Estes––both teachers––Janine Schichtel, our Religious Ed secretary, and Joanie Donovan, our Liturgy Coordinator, are either retiring or moving on to other opportunities. I am grateful for their presence and service to our parish. We thank God for them and the gift of their time and talent that they made to our community.

We are in the midst of our Fortnight for Freedom. This is an important time for extra prayer and action in connection to defending our right to religious freedom. It seems strange (and wrong) that here in our country we need to devote extra time, effort and resources to defending a right that our country seemingly upholds in our very constitution. Part of this life, however, is that there is always change, even of those things that in the past we took for granted.

I would strongly encourage each of us to invest ourselves in this important issue. It is more than a possibility that if we remain silent and complacent in this area, we as a Catholic church will find ourselves in a very challenging position: choosing between either compromising our faith or losing our religious privileges (like tax-exempt status) and being treated no longer as a blessing to our country, but as an intolerant and bigoted group that must be tolerated because of other rights, like free speech. You as the laity will be the deciding factor in this struggle. Don’t be afraid! You are not alone and God is with us. But we must pray and act now.

We have a new encyclical from Pope Francis. It is entitled “Laudato Si,” which means “Praise be to You.” It is about caring for our common home, earth and all of creation. The environment is a timely issue in our world; there are real concerns here. Our pope has not shied away from speaking about how our faith illumines our understanding not so much of the facts (we don’t need our faith to use our reason), but of what our proper role as stewards of creation should be. I am still working my way through it, and I would encourage all of us high school age or older to make the effort to read this encyclical. I think we will all find something to think and pray about.

Our country, and much of the world, is dealing with marriage, the family and even what it means to be a woman or a man. It reaches from the laws of our land, as the Supreme Court is near to making another decision on marriage, to the way we think about our faith and act toward one another. Like religious freedom, this is an issue of foundational importance, for the family is the foundation of society. As the family goes, so goes all of humanity. Meaning, if we don’t get this right nothing else will go right either, like laying a poor foundation to a building. And yet, God is with us and He who is the light of the world, shows us the way forward. Don’t be discouraged in your efforts to live our faith and to use reason to understand these issues. Know that the teachings of our faith, which are never opposed to reason, truth, justice or love, are a great blessing to us all in helping us live our daily lives in our families. Support one another as families.

While I have spent the last few weeks pausing to give thanks, on this final day I am also aware of another need––the need to ask for and give forgiveness. One of my most consistent prayers, from before I arrived up until this day, is a prayer that comes from Psalm 69 and from a teaching from St. John Paul the Great. In Psalm 69 the psalmist prays: “Let those who hope in you not be put to shame through me, Lord of hosts: let not those who seek you be dismayed through me, God of Israel.” (Ps 69:7) Speaking of the priesthood, St. John Paul said that a priest must be a bridge and not an obstacle to God the Father.

I know that I am a priest not for myself but for you, and in my ministry of reconciliation, Jesus has sent me to bring God’s mercy to you, to make possible a crossing over into the very life of God. So I have prayed that I would be this bridge, that I would bring you Jesus and not just my selfish brokenness. For all the ways that you have experienced Jesus, seen His loving presence in me, and been able to grow in your faith in Him and the Father, I give thanks to God. I am still a sinner, however, and I know that my every sin is not only a wound to me, but a failure in my vocation as a priest, a barrier to you knowing the love of God and receiving the fullness of our beautiful faith.

For all the ways that I have failed in being a bridge to God in your life, and for any ways that I have hurt you in what I have done or what I have failed to do, I apologize and ask your forgiveness. I wish I could have been perfect in love, but failing in this, I can still strive to be perfect in contrition. Do not let my sinfulness keep you from trusting Jesus with your life and following him. He is the reason why we are here. Jesus never fails you. He never grows weary or withholds his love. It is never a mistake to trust completely in Him. And He is always to be found in His Church.

One of the greatest blessings I have experienced as a priest is a growing awareness of and confidence in God’s mercy. I know in new ways that when we repent and confess our sins, God not only washes them all away in Jesus’ Blood, but he brings greater good out of our brokenness. He also asks us to extend this mercy to all others. This is what we see in Jesus. While you have all treated me far better than I deserve, if in any way you feel the need to ask for my forgiveness, please know that I joyfully give it to you. May God’s peace reign in our hearts and homes.

Well, it looks like I have more than used up my time and space. (No surprise there, right?) As we say TTFN––Ta Ta For Now––I will carry each of you with me, especially in my daily prayers. Please continue to pray for me, and stop by for a visit sometime. I’m only 15 miles down the road, for heaven’s sake. Some of you run that far! I look forward to many years of being a priest for our diocese and to journeying together to our true home: heaven. I don’t think that I can do better than leaving us with the words of St. John himself: Brothers and sisters, love one another.

May God bless you and your family abundantly.

Fr. Jonathan

Monday – 6:30 a.m.

Tuesday – 8:15 a.m. and 7 p.m

Wednesday – 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Thursday – 6:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.

Friday – 6:30 a.m.

Saturday – 8:00 a.m. and vigil at 5 p.m.

Sunday – 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and seasonal evening Mass:

7 p.m. Memorial Day weekend in May to Labor Day weekend in September

5 p.m. after Labor Day to the weekend before Memorial Day weekend