Welcome to the blog! It seems very fitting that I write my first post after experiencing the great Ministry Day that we had here at Immaculate Conception on Saturday. If you were there, you know what I mean and if you weren’t it is never too late to get started.
We gathered in the Church and opened with song and prayer. Our opening hymn was Dan Schutte’s “Here I Am, Lord.” Our reading was from 1 Samuel 3:1-9 when we hear about Samuel answering the Lord’s call. God calls to each one of us with a persistent love, asking us to serve Him. We do this best by serving one another – that is our call to action through ministry.
We then heard an inspiring talk from Father Gary Gelfenbien, pastor of St. James in Chatham. Fr. Gary spoke to us about the call to service with humor and with great passion. It seems to me that both are required to live the Eucharistic life, a life of service and ministry for God’s people. I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I could use a boost for both of those things! Saturday’s event was one of those great boost moments however!
Why are we here? Do we come to church to find God? How and where do we find God? Many of us have been taught about what I think of as the “Great Up There.” I think that makes for an interesting acronym… G U T. I often want to look for God “up there,” but God is really everywhere and often right here. When I feel my stomach fluttering about this thing or that, be it fear, elation, anxiety, I know that I need to remind myself that God is right here in me. This certainly gives us something to consider each time we approach the Lord’s Table. I know that it gives me something to consider anyway!
We long to be a holy people and for many of us, holiness meant time spent on our knees in prayer and supplication, fasting on some days, meatless on others, the Rosary recited and more. In my family, hardly the most pious Catholic household of the 1960’s, we had no shortage of novenas to pray. I remember that my mom always stuck holy cards in photo frames; I loved looking at them. They often had a prayer on the back and I knew that if I said that prayer enough times, I would get a plenary indulgence. Now at the age of 8, I can’t say I really grasped what this meant, but boy did I say those prayers. I understood enough about life, death, hell, purgatory and holiness to know what was what… In an 8 year old sort of way.
Now I don’t mean to make light – prayer and supplication is important. However, holiness is often a much more messy affair, at least in my experience. Holiness for me used to mean anonymous church attendance in the back pews, grateful that the unfriendly parish I was in left me alone. Phew! Dodged a bullet, no one asked me to do anything!
What I have learned and continue to learn is this however – service is at the heart of holiness. Now prayer for others is service, make no mistake! So those rosaries and the time spent at Adoration matter. But, what else can we do?
On our ministry day, we were sent to breakout sessions on particular topics based on the Seven Elements of Parish Life. These seven elements are:
After our breakouts, we returned to the parish hall for lunch and a report from each group. It was clear – the Holy Spirit was alive and active among us in a powerful way. Each group had so many responses that we each could only present quick talking points.
There is so much more to say, but I will close here today. In closing special and warm thanks are extended here to Fr. Jerry, our pastor, to Fr. Gary, our speaker and to our Pastoral Council. Thanks are also extended to our community who were present. It was so edifying to see parishioners who have been there for decades along with someone who joined the parish a few weeks ago.
It is a privilege to be among you all and I thank God for the privilege of service here at Immaculate Conception!
If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or anything else about this blog, please stop by or call me at the Rectory, or just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I will be writing more about what we hope to accomplish here very soon.
(Here is a video from the recent World Youth Day closing mass, with Pope Benedict XVI, you’ll recognize the song.)
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