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Pastor's Perspective by Fr. Buersmeyer

Posted on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Pastor’s Perspective is Fr. Buersmeyer’s weekly column. It appears in the parish bulletin and in this space.

April 29, 2018
* 2018 Catholic Services Appeal
Our annual Catholic Services Appeal begins this week. You have (or will soon) receive a mailing from St. Regis Parish with more detailed information including: an appeal letter from me, a brochure on the ministries that are supported by CSA dollars, a question and answer sheet which tries to explain why donating to the CSA is the most effective way to help the parish especially with significant gifts, and a pledge form/return envelope with which to make a CSA donation. Alternatively, you can go the parish website and follow the links for online giving, click on the CSA link and make a pledge or donation that way. The parish mandatory target is lower this year–$152,000—which gives us the ability as a parish to help ourselves by going past that goal and having the monies returned to the parish for its own use, with no diocesan tax taken out. We can go as far above the goal as we want without it affecting in any way future CSA targets. Take a look at the Q&A sheet for how that works. As always, at least for me, the most important statistic is the percentage of parish households participating. No matter one’s connection to the parish—new or long-time, school parent or no children, very involved or less involved—we need you to support this year’s Catholic Services Appeal. Along with regular Sunday giving, a successful CSA is the key to the parish’s financial health.
Last year we exceeded a much higher mandatory target. With that target lower this year, we have the ability to help the parish directly even more. Any money over and above the target will be put to good and necessary use. I would like to see us pay down the extra debt incurred as a result of finishing the church renovation and chapel construction projects, as well as use some of the CSA overage to pay for security cameras and lights throughout the campus. I ask that all of us prayerfully consider a donation of at least $500 to the 2018 CSA. I realize that some will not be able to afford that. On the other hand, a number of us are in a position to give significantly more. If so, the CSA is the most effective way to donate such significant gifts to the parish. If everyone helps toward that goal by giving what is for them a significant contribution, myself included, we will exceed the target and greatly help the parish in the process. Thank you.
* “Rejoice and Be Glad!” Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis
There are various ways of communication for a Pope as he exercises his pastoral leadership for the good of the universal Church. Papal audiences allow him to develop a series of talks focused on important themes. Homilies at Masses give him the opportunity to connect the Scripture of the day to current events and current challenges in living as Christian disciples. Encyclicals provide a vehicle for developing or explaining or re-iterating Catholic teaching and doctrine on some issues. Apostolic Exhortations fall below Encyclicals on the scale of authority, but are meant to be taken seriously by Catholics in their ongoing faith journey. As implied by the term “Exhortation” these are insights of the Pope in light of contemporary concerns, meant to encourage us to live our faith with zeal and with joy. Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, was released on March 19th of this year, and as with all such documents, it takes its title from the first words of the document. In English that would be “Rejoice and Be Glad,” the words Jesus uses at the end of the beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel to sum up the attitude we are to have as Christians, even when facing hardship and persecution (Matthew 5:12).
Here is how Pope Francis describes what he is doing in this encyclical: “My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities” (#2). In the first chapter he reminds us that one of the greatest insights from the Second Vatican Council was its emphasis on the call to holiness of each and every baptized member of the Church. Holiness is not to be seen as only for or especially for the consecrated religious and priests. Nor is their way of holiness the model for everyone. By focusing on the “practical way” of holiness, Pope Francis brings out how each of us can truly be holy. He brings up the extraordinary witness of some saints in the exhortation but also reminds us that every walk of life has its own way of living out holiness (#14): “Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.” Pope Francis sets out the Jesuit model of discipleship—contemplatives in action—that allows us to claim holiness only if we are both constantly trying to center ourselves in Christ and at the same time engaged in building up the kingdom of God in this world through mercy and service.
Toward the end of Chapter One, Pope Francis issues this exhortation: “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you; and you will be faithful to your deepest self.” If that is so, then what keeps many of us from living lives of holiness? In what ways do we as Catholics at times distort the call to holiness? In Chapter Two Pope Francis explores those questions, calling on us to avoid contemporary ways of Gnosticism and Pelagianism. More on these next time.
* A Vocation Story
Last week we celebrated the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Over the next few weeks, as space permits, I want to share my journey toward priesthood and within priesthood. I believe some of the young men of St. Regis Parish could embrace diocesan priesthood and serve the Church of Detroit in an excellent way. But we are in a world where such young men are also strongly encouraged to choose other types of vocations. I share my story in the hope that it might encourage in some at least an openness to think about becoming a priest.
I grew up in a very Catholic family—no question about Sunday Mass, being involved in many different ways in the parish including altar serving, interacting with some of the parish priests in more informal ways, attending Catholic grade school and at the high school (U. of D.) being surrounded by lots of priests. But, I do not ever remember thinking seriously about being a priest while growing up. I was focused on the present and what was most immediately in front of me—school, school activities, sports (football, basketball, baseball, summer softball), friends, family, family vacations and the like. Also, I was (still am) a voracious reader and so a good book was enough to turn any day into a good day.
I found that I enjoyed most of what was happening in life, including school, and life went by slowly enough in those years that I never really worried about “what I would be/do” when I grew up. I just took it a year or season at a time. It helped, of course, that there was a lot of stability in family life and that we always had more than enough of whatever we needed. It was a very good, very comfortable, even easy life. A great way for a child to grow up. However, not a life that forced me to think too seriously about the bigger questions of life, at least up through high school. These were all just a “given”.
It was the decision for college and the college years that became key to my sense of vocation. My older brother was at Notre Dame, my older sister had enrolled the previous year at St. Mary’s college for women next to Notre Dame and my parents assumed I would go to Notre Dame as well. But I chose to go to the University of Michigan. I just knew I did not want to go to another setting where all the “givens” in life—God, faith, how to live, etc.—were taken for granted. Looking back, I would say that I had a vague sense that I needed to truly “grow up” and begin to figure what life was all about from my own perspective. But at the time it was just a sense that I wanted to do something different from my brother and sister, while at the same time being able to connect back to family whenever I wanted. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor proved to be that setting for me.
School studies were never a huge challenge for me, which was both good and bad. It meant that I did well in whatever classes I took but it also meant, for me, that I had no real solid sense of a specific direction I should take in my studies. I ended up with a major in mathematics almost by default. It was the easiest one for me to complete a major and I kind of liked the image of one day being a mathematics professor. But other than that superficial sense, I really had no burning desire to commit to a mathematics future. In effect, the intellectual part of going to college, while enjoyable and interesting (in addition to math I took several astronomy and physics courses, a number of history and literature courses, as well as various philosophy courses), ended up secondary to the greater question of just what was life all about?
For the first time, being on my own, the questions and answers were up to me. When and where to “go to church”? What do you even believe, anyway? Who to hang out with? How much to drink and how hard to party? Just as today, there were many behavioral decisions for a college age student to make. In other words, a shift from a sheltered to a very unsheltered, uncensored environment. It could easily have proved overwhelming and even destructive of what I would have claimed were core values. But, truly through the grace of God, that environment was the one that led me to priesthood. More next time.
* Freedom House Ministry to Refugees
We have a speaker with us today (Sunday) from Freedom House. Their ministry is to house people seeking asylum in the United States due to fear of imprisonment or even death if they were to return to their home countries. This is another smaller, but important, side to the immigration issue. Come and hear about this ministry on Sunday at 1:15 pm in the gathering area after Mass.
Fr. Buersmeyer