A Leap of Faith

During his short time as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, Bishop Cirilo Flores established a Diocesan Commission on Stewardship. You may or may not be aware that I was asked to serve on the Commission, along with a dozen other clergy and laity from various parishes. We were tasked recently with creating a document for clergy about “Why Stewardship?” in their parishes. I was asked to tell St. Mary’s story. I share it with you forthwith.

Picture a parish living in quiet desperation. Morale is at an all-time low. Collections are suffering. Attendance is waning. The Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities have no need for each other. Pleas for a heightened level of involvement and an increased offertory collection fall on deaf ears. The ship is sinking and everyone is exhausted.

Fast forward a few months to January 2013. The Business Manager and Finance Council Chairman are invited to meet the in-coming bishop, Bishop Cirilo Flores and the new Director of Development, Damian Esparza. They speak of many things that day, but the underlying theme is Stewardship. The Spirit is present and brings inspiration and hopeful anticipation to those gathered in His Name.

They return to the parish and enthusiastically present the ideas to the pastor. The pastor agrees to create a Stewardship Team (Business Manager [now with a concurrent title of Stewardship Director], Finance Council Chairman, and Music/Liturgy Director) and allow them to pursue whatever means are necessary to drive this forward.

The pastor and team do not fully understand what lies ahead. They take a blind Leap of Faith and trust in the Spirit to direct their endeavors.

The teams begins attending the gatherings of the Diocesan Network of Stewardship Parishes, learning from their peers. Resources and advice are shared freely. The pastor knows instinctively that he must send the team to the annual ICSC (International Catholic Stewardship Council) conference. It was to be held in Dallas and would cost several thousand dollars to pay for the conference, lodging, and airfare. The parish absolutely did not have the funds to cover the expense. Another Leap of Faith. Within days of making the payments, a parishioner drops off an undesignated check in the amount of $2,500. She’s asked if it can be used to pay for the Dallas conference. She’s thrilled to be part of this undertaking.

Just four short months after the initial Diocesan presentation, the parish launches Stewardship as a Way of Life to the parishioners. In retrospect, it could have been more polished. It could have been a lot of things it wasn’t. But it was Spirit-driven, sincere, and heartfelt. It touched hearts. It opened minds. And just two years later, the parish is living a transformation.

The Stewardship Team has grown from three to fifteen members, all engaged and dedicated to the mission. New ministries and groups have been formed. Membership in existing groups has doubled or tripled. Parishioners are attending Adult Faith Formation events. A Greeter ministry was formed and welcomes parishioners into the church at every weekend Mass.

The registration process was improved and is now a one-on-one Orientation with a member of the Stewardship Team. New parishioners feel welcomed and important and are ready to be an active part of parish life. Our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities are now making strong efforts to collaborate. Events are being planned differently to be inclusive of all.

In September 2014, the Stewardship Team introduced a Covenant with God, a tool designed to help parishioners move further along on their faith journey. Almost 800 parishioners completed the Covenant, sealed it in a self-addressed envelope, and placed it in the Covenant chest. These were stamped and mailed back last month and they will be asked to complete a new Covenant this month. There were responses from so many parishioners immediately after signing the Covenant and in the months that followed. They shared how the process of Stewardship and the Covenant was changing their lives. They indicated that they had been starving for direction and support.

My closing words to the clergy were:

Trust in the Spirit.
Take a Leap of Faith.
God never disappoints.

I think this is advice we can all live by every single day. Never be afraid to take a leap of faith. You will be carried on the wings of the Spirit. You will not be abandoned or disappointed.

Thank you for making our parish story such an inspiring one to tell. I pray that it brings hope and encouragement to another priest and parish.

GETTING TO KNOW… Each Other—Ourselves—The Lord

Last year, through the Covenant and other efforts of the Stewardship Team, we tried to help you grow in your relationship with God.

I fervently pray that taking the time to assess your relationship with God, your parish community, and those around you has helped you grow as a Christian.

This year (beginning next weekend), we will focus a little more deeply on this process. We will provide specific events, exercises, and programs to help you get to know more people in your parish community. You probably are already familiar with those who attend the same Mass with you each Sunday, particularly those who sit in your vicinity.

Beginning next Sunday, we are inviting everyone to come to the Parish Center after Mass for a complimentary donut and cup of coffee. (We will, of course, accept donations if you feel moved to make one.) This will continue every Sunday morning. It will be hosted by different groups who will probably have a concurrent fund raiser (breakfast burritos, Bake Sale, Pancake Breakfast, etc.). Please continue to support our ministries who raise their own funds in order to not burden the parish budget.

Over the last two years, I have watched our parish change and grow in its morale and spirit. The membership in ministries and groups has grown—in some cases even doubled or tripled! New ministries have been formed. We now have a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and a pantry ministry, Feed My People.

Even our Stewardship Team has grown from three to fifteen impassioned parishioners. Seven members of the team will be flying to Chicago in October for the annual conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. (If you wish to make a donation to help defray the cost, it would be most appreciated.) This is very exciting, because they will each be moved by the Spirit in a special way and will bring back something that touched them. They will then have more to share with the parishioners to make their spiritual journey more fulfilling.

Our Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities are collaborating on a frequent basis. Before each major decision, we address concerns on how we can work together on the project.

In the past year, we have welcomed many new parishioners who have found us to be very warm and welcoming, beginning at the front doors and continuing into the pews.

We recognize that, along with getting to know others better, we grow significantly by getting to know ourselves on a more personal basis: Getting to Know Ourselves.

During Lent, we will be offering a two-week seminar on Living Your Strengths. This is an assessment that identifies your gifts and talents. If identified and used well, they turn into strengths. I have personally become involved with this and can attest to its power in my life. It has made me much more effective in what I do and how I relate to others.

Some parishioners have come forward this past year and shared stories with me of their personal transformation as a result of Stewardship as a Way of Life and more specifically, the act of making a Covenant with God. At the Masses next weekend, you will hear a Witness Talk after a brief homily.

The following weekend (September 12 & 13), we will renew our Covenant with God. Please pray about this and make it a meaningful experience. It has the power to change your life! The Covenant, along with some other offerings, will help you in Getting to Know the Lord. God Bless you!

Another Form of Progress and Development

This article, written by Mary Ann Otto, Stewardship Director, Diocese of Green Bay, WI, was originally published in the August newsletter of the International Catholic Stewardship Council.

It is not unusual that I have an immediate emotional or spiritual response to something I read. Recently, I had one such reaction when Pope Francis tweeted in June: “A decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development.” Upon reading those words, my body relaxed and I felt at peace.

Though Pope Francis’ comment was an insight directed at environmental and human ecology, the potential outcome of such a decrease overwhelmed me. The thought of living in a world that was not production or consumption driven immediately created an image in my mind of what taking a step closer to the Kingdom might look like and it made me happy.

I imagined what we consistently talk about in stewardship becoming more of a reality. It was about taking time to receive God’s gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, share them generously and return them to God in abundance. It was about assessing our lives as followers of Jesus and as members of humankind. The statement was a call to set priorities that reflect a God centered way of life and a change in understanding the definition of power and success.

As a baby boomer, I remember Sundays when the stores were closed and my family would take turns entertaining or visiting our cousins. On beautiful summer days we might spontaneously gather with our backyard neighbors (many of them widowed or retired) for a picnic. We scavenged our kitchens for ingredients to make a dish to pass around, put our lawn chairs in a circle and spent the day together. It was simple, but yet some of the most wonderful memories of my childhood.

When I look at my children and grandchildren I would like for progress and development to reflect a faithful simplicity and generosity. It would be a way of life that honors the earth and humankind. We would be able to redistribute the world’s resources so no one would go without. In the end, I want my children and grandchildren not to experience instant gratification and great wealth, but to experience lifelong joy. That would be progress!

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Weekend of August 22-23, 2015

In today’s Gospel, we hear that a number of Jesus’ followers left him because his message was too difficult for them to accept. In essence, they did not believe in him. He then asked the Twelve if they wished to leave as well. Peter responds by making a profound profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Twelve made a choice and stood by their choice, remaining loyal to their commitment to Jesus.

A good question for our reflection might be this: Are we satisfied with the stewardship we exercise over our baptismal commitment? Are we just “along for the ride?” Are we keeping Christ in front of us as we make decisions about our daily activities, our relationships, our parish, issues in the workplace, issues such as peace and justice? What is the quality of our stewardship?

Hopefully you have received last year’s Covenant in the mail (764 were mailed out last week) and have had time to reflect on the commitments you made at that time. You will have the opportunity to forge a new promise with God three weeks from today.

7 Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus, Part II

Refer to last week’s bulletin for the first half of this article.

4.) You keep God on a leash.
“You stay right there, God. And don’t do anything crazy.” This is the implicit mantra of comfortable Christians. God is confined to a box. Answers rarely fall in the gray area. God rarely operates beyond human understanding. Miracles. Healing. Demons. None of these filter through the box well.
So, they are out.

Comfortable Christians often use phrases like “God doesn’t work that way” and “God can’t do that” because God isn’t all-powerful…he is “most of the time” powerful.
A God without a leash is a God who will act in ways man can’t understand. That’s uncomfortable. But if God is not all-powerful, he is not a God worth serving. So, we must make a decision. Let go of the leash or follow a false god.

5.) You begin to compromise your morals.
Yesterday I ran across the first few chapters of Judges. It was around Judges 2:12 God started doing work on my heart. This is what the Spirit awakened in me: when comfort sets in, morals are compromised. The Israelites entered the Promised Land, conquered the nations in their path, settled into their new home, and…started serving other gods? Anyone else find this baffling?
How could they desert God so easily? The answer…comfort. The Israelites needed God to conquer the nations. They couldn’t do it without him. Once the conquering was over, the need for God dissipated. And when the need for God subsides, morals follow closely behind.

Here is where God split open my heart…I am no different from the Israelites. Every day, I allow the god of comfort to shackle me. I take my eyes off him and justify actions God clearly condemns.
Think about your life. Are you lowering the moral bar? Do you value holiness? This is not about legalism. This is about your heart. A heart desperate for God is a heart dedicated to thinking and acting in ways that reveal your love for him.

6.) You view Christian living as a list of “don’ts.”
Comfort-driven Christians have a laundry list of “don’ts.” They believe in righteousness by subtraction. So, you won’t catch them drinking or cursing…at least not in public.  But righteousness by subtraction is one-sided righteousness. It’s half truth.  The whole truth is your heart should grieve as much when you fail to live out the “dos” as it does when you fail to refrain from the “don’ts.” But comfortable Christians don’t like the “dos.” It involves them getting out of their comfort zone. It involves them taking the message of the gospel to their neighbor. It involves them feeding the poor and correcting injustices.
Are you minimizing righteousness to a list of “don’ts”? Does your heart break for those who don’t know Jesus? Do you grieve when you pass over an opportunity to plead the cause of the poor and oppressed? Is your heart desensitized to the orphans and widows?   If not, maybe it’s time to ask whether you follow comfort or Jesus.

7.) Every person in your circle looks and acts like you.
A few weeks ago, God introduced me to a young man. It was obvious this guy had a tough life. But I was drawn to him immediately. I invited him to our college ministry events and introduced him to a few of our leaders. Then, we had a phone conversation. And in this conversation he informed me he was a homosexual who recently spent time in prison for arson and attempted murder. What I thought next is the same thing some of you are probably thinking. What if he hurts someone? What if he steals something? What was I doing?  See the problem?

The old demon comfort reared its ugly head. When he explained all the “bad” sins he committed, I immediately felt my comfort violated. I threw up walls. I labeled him.  And this is what comfort says. The gospel is not good news for everyone. It’s good news for those in your circle. Instead of a message for the world, the gospel is a message for “your people.”  When comfort is more important than Jesus, small groups become country clubs and churches become barricaded forts. The very ones we should be reaching for Jesus are the ones not allowed to enter.
I am excited about the future. God is working. I believe in the church because I believe in the king who reigns over her. This is not a call to self-pity. This is a call to revival. A call to action. We must tear down the wall of comfort so God can flood our heart and allow his transforming power to spill onto the darkness in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Powell. Well said!

Seven Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus

Every morning on my way to work, I listen to the Patrick Madrid Show on Immaculate Heart Radio (AM 1000). This morning, he was sharing an article written by Frank Powell in Christian Living. He begins…

This past weekend, while traveling home with my family, I narrowly avoided tragedy. I was changing lanes on a busy interstate. Nothing new there. I frequent busy interstates. But this time was different. As I eased over, I failed to see the car in my blind spot. Then came a loud horn followed by screeching brakes. Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw the inches that separated a safe return home from being a statistic. Talk about sobering.
And this terrifying moment reminded me of an important reality…failure to check a blind spot can be catastrophic.
Blind spots aren’t relegated to cars. Relationships. Jobs. Organizations. Blind spots are everywhere. Think about slavery. An enormous blind spot in American history. How could so many great leaders support such a despicable act? But it happened. And the fallout from the era of slavery is still felt today.

The church is not immune to blind spots either. And the greatest hole, the greatest blind spot, in American Christianity today is the widespread pursuit of comfort.  And if American Christians do not identify the blind spot, the results could be catastrophic. Comfort pulls us away from God. It clouds the truth of the gospel. It creates tension between the life God calls us to and the life we desire for ourselves. And ultimately, comfort prevents us from seeing the fullness of God in this life…and maybe the next.
Much of what follows is a personal confession from a comfortable Christian. I fight a battle everyday with comfort. So, I ask you to pray for me before you read any further…And as you move forward, I ask you to consider how my personal confession parallels your journey. Maybe there is an area you haven’t given to God. Maybe comfort is driving the train of your life.  How would you know? Here are 7 signs of a Christian that loves comfort more than Jesus.
1.) You are a referee not a player.    When comfort trumps Jesus, cynicism and judgmentalism are soon to follow. Comfortable Christians move from a player on the field to a referee on the sidelines. Think about it. Players are too busy to investigate holding or lining up illegally. But referees? This is their only purpose. Referees watch every player on every play. And when someone commits a penalty, a flag is thrown. “Foul! She did something in children’s ministry I don’t agree with.” “Foul! I didn’t like what the preacher said today.”  Active Christians don’t have time for this nonsense. They are serving and building the kingdom. The church should ignore referees. They don’t understand the game…they aren’t on the team.

2.) Your desire and passion for God are stagnant.  Christians should live with a healthy discomfort. Always. You should welcome preachers who push you and challenge you to explore deeper levels of God’s nature and character, grace, and immeasurable power.
You should constantly push to know and understand more of God. Every part of your life should awaken you to God’s unfailing love, infinite grace, and immeasurable power.
The process of God molding you into his image is a lifelong pursuit. You don’t “arrive.” God is infinite. And stretching towards an infinite God requires growing pains. Comfortable Christians don’t like pain.
But if the goal is to know God more intimately, you must live with a healthy discomfort.

3.) You talk like an atheist.  When God is over-shadowed by comfort, he rarely comes out of your mouth during conversation. How often does God cross your mind in a 24-hour period? At work, do you look for opportunities to inject God’s name into conversations? At school, does God shape your encounters with friends and teachers?

Whatever you are passionate about you will talk about. Write that down. When I met my wife, I called all my friends. I even called people I didn’t know. I wanted the world to know this beautiful, amazing woman actually liked me.  What about God? Are you passionate about him? Would any of your co-workers or classmates know you are a Christian? When comfort drives the train, God takes a back seat.

Next week, I will conclude with reasons 4-7 of Seven Signs You Love Comfort More than Jesus.

Stewardship Demands a Personal Relationship with God

The following article was taken from the July 2015 issue of our Diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross and was written by Denis Grasska.

If you’re trying to promote stewardship [in your life] but don’t have a personal relationship with God, good luck!

That was the message that retired Bishop Robert H. Brom delivered June 10 at Sacred Heart Parish in Ocean Beach during the monthly meeting of parishes of San Diego Stewardship Network.

Composed of clergy, parish staff members and other lay Catholics, the Stewardship Network represents parishes throughout the diocese and exists to share best practices regarding stewardship.

“Stewardship is all about discipleship, it’s about encountering Jesus, it’s about conversion of mind and heart, and it’s about communion with Jesus in a loving relationship that might be called—and best called—friendship,” Bishop Brom said. “Stewardship will never work…without an intimate, personal knowledge of God, with an ever deeper discipleship.”

Because of Original Sin, the bishop explained, humanity was estranged from God and desperately needed the assistance of a higher power.

“What’s the good news?” Bishop Brom asked. “That, in the condition of sin, there is help available. And help has a name; His name is Jesus. He comes with the mission of drawing us into communion with God as intended from the beginning.”

“In the mystery of the Incarnation,” the bishop continued, “God…entered into the context of all flesh, in every living situation until the end of time. And that’s our gift.”

Stewardship is about how we respond to that gift: by giving in gratitude for what we first received, he explained. It is a loving response to God’s merciful love.

The first step is simply to recognize “the magnitude of the gift,” Bishop Brom said. Otherwise, “we’ll probably be very stingy” in our own giving.

“We should be fostering a deep awareness of our giftedness,” he said. “Every good gift comes to us from God, and the greatest of these gifts is God’s gift of Himself to us in Jesus?”

“Can you think of a greater gift?” he asked.

Bishop Brom stressed that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Stewards must know the real “Christ in the flesh”, not a “plastic Jesus” or the inanimate version found on a church crucifix or rosary, Bishop Brom said.

“Don’t sterilize the context of the gift and the price of the gift,” he said. “When people say, ‘How much should I give in return,” the answer is…everything you can in response to the God who gave everything of Himself to us.”

He concluded by reiterating that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Last September, we each made a personal Covenant with God, detailing the steps we would take on our Faith Journey to develop a deeper relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the next week or so, you will receive the covenant that you filled out last year. Please review it and access your progress. No one needs to see it but you. If you made a promise that you didn’t keep, don’t beat yourself up over it. The time wasn’t right. Maybe you put your energy into something that wasn’t even marked originally, but the Holy Spirit put it in your heart!

Feeding Our People

With today’s two accounts of feeding miracles and the psalm response about the Lord’s hand feeding us, it is easy to gloss over the marvelous hymn in Ephesians. It is built around the most potent biblical numbers: one, three, and seven. The core of it is the word “one” expressed seven times. Three of these describe the church: one body, one Spirit, one hope; the next three are the foundations of the church: one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism. All of these are bound up together in the one Father of all.

While we might feel daunted by the prospect of duplicating the wonders worked by Elisha and Jesus in the feeding of multitudes, Ephesians gives us a more realistic way to live and “feed” others as the church: by living in humility and gentleness, by acting with patience, bearing with each other in love, and always seeking and striving to preserve unity through peace.

Who among us cannot increase the way we “feed” the church and the world by living this way? We are always called upon to “feed” the world in the literal sense; but our mission as church tells us that others are also fed by the way we live and act each moment of each day.

So, are you doing what it takes to “feed” others around you? Are you taking time with someone when it’s easier to be impatient? Is there someone in your life (or with whom you have casual contact) that causes you to step back and take a moment before reacting? Do you know someone who is elderly, hard of hearing, slow on their feet who—literally—needs you to slow down and be patient with them?

Every year when my birthday nears (still a few months off), I start looking at myself. Am I a better person than I was a year ago? What can I do to improve who I am? I used to look at what I had accomplished and what I wanted to do/accomplish for the coming year. I finally had an epiphany and realized that if I was could become who I wanted myself to be, I would be able to accomplish great things. It’s been quite a work in progress, and there’s a lot of road ahead of me.

The point I am trying to make is that we can always improve ourselves and thinking about how we can “feed the church” will always lead to us to being a better version of ourselves.

But besides the figurative feeding of our church, I want to remind you that the church is in need of being fed literally as well. Through the efforts of some very good and faithful stewards, our parish has a new ministry that cares for those in need in our parish. It is called “FEED MY PEOPLE Pantry Ministry”. With so many generous parishioners participating in this ministry, we are able to provide daily sack lunches for over 20 of our neighbors who might not have a nice meal any other time of the day. We also provide a periodic (about every 3 weeks) grocery distribution to about two dozen families. And we work alongside our St. Vincent de Paul Society who makes home visits to families in need.

We find ourselves most in need of $25 gift cards to any grocery store, loaves of bread, tortillas, bags of apples or cuties, and reusable grocery bags.

You can find grocery bags in the vestibule with a printed list attached. Please be sure to refer to the list, as it changes periodically. There is a drop-off container in the vestibule, or you can bring donations to the office Monday through Friday from 10-5.

Volunteers are also needed. Depending on the task you are given, you may be asked to complete a Food Handlers Certification.

Without your participation, this ministry would not be able to continue its good works with God’s hungry people. Thank you for your generosity.

Christian Stewardship and the Need for Recreation

Is there such a thing as a stewardship of recreation? Some people might dismiss the thought. But they’d be wrong.

In his book, The Gift of the Jews, author Thomas Cahill observes that, in receiving the Ten Commandments, the ancient Hebrews did something no other ancient society had ever done: they established a day of rest. “The God who made the universe and rested bids us to do the same, calling us to a weekly restoration of prayer, study, and recreation (or re-creation).”

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least, probably no other month bids us to relax as the month of July does. Backyard barbecues, days at the pool or the beach, a recreational outing or simply the lazy idleness of a mid-year Sunday afternoon invite us to slow down. And this invitation should be heeded. Sometimes, our society induces in us a sense of guilt if we’re not “doing.”

But turning off the computer and the phone and spending quality time with those around us, or finding time for our own interior lives, is stewardship of our time which leads to the place where God dwells.

It’s a good example for our kids as well: the summer presents a wonderful time to “rest” from all the electronic screens and busyness that dominate their young lives.

July is the month when U.S. citizens celebrate the proclamation of their freedom. When the Hebrew people first received the Ten Commandments, they too had just received their freedom from the Egyptians after a sojourn in the wilderness. Cahill thinks it’s no coincidence that a people recently liberated were in need of a directive to rest and reflect. “Leisure,” he writes, “is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God.”

So, the next time you feel guilty about a quiet, reflective time of doing “nothing” remember that recreation also means “re-creation” and that to be a truly creative person, a steward of our interior resources, we must honor our need to rest, relax, be with others, read and play.

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER
FOR SUMMER

Lord and Creator,
You are the source of wisdom and grace,
the author of human freedom and creativity.

We thank you for these gifts, and ask that you teach us
to be good stewards of our creative spirits.

Show us how to quiet ourselves, and to learn the art of re-creation,
reflection and relaxation so that we might recharge
and refill ourselves for the work you have planned for us.

Help us never to be too busy to pause and
realize your gracious presence all around us:
in nature, in other people, in ourselves.
Slow us down, Lord,
and teach us to be stewards of our time of recreation.
Amen.

Being Good Stewards of Our Common Home

Seldom has a papal encyclical been anticipated with so much noise and discussion and even premature criticism and fear as our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si (“Praise Be to You”); with a beautiful subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home.” This is the pope’s encyclical on the environment—easily found on Google—but most of us will admit encyclicals aren’t as engrossing as our favorite summer reading. Nevertheless, it deserves our prayerful attention; not just the commentary that journalists, pundits, radio hosts and television analysts provide.

Each of us, as Christian stewards, will find something that inspires and challenges us from Pope Francis’ prescription for a healthy planet. For many readers, the challenge might come particularly in the pope’s warnings about “extreme and selective consumerism.” In our culture, we’re taught that more is better – more production, more growth, more profits, more spending. But can the earth sustain this kind of economic dogma? Pope Francis echoes the Catholic teaching tradition that we should “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.”

The letter urges us to examine our lifestyles and invites us to prayerfully consider a significant shift in our own practices and habits. For example, one question we should ask ourselves: Can we live with less?

A visit to our closets is a good place to start, and while commit¬ting to buy less, we might ruminate on the mistaken values of our consumer economy and culture. Our pontiff points out that one-third of food that is produced is discarded. Again, our own kitchens present evidence of our complicity in this wastefulness.

The poor suffer the most from changes in the earth’s complex ecosystem, and that is readily evidenced by their struggle simply to find clean water. The pope also reminds us as Christians called to exercise good stewardship of the planet to consider what in our own life comprises “need” and what is “greed.”

Pope Francis urgently calls us to a renewed commitment to the Eucharist as well – something many commentators fail to mention – and asks us to re¬discover our common bond within this “act of cosmic love.”

For the Christian steward, improving the environment must be a topic of prayer, a chance to call our politicians to action, and a time to renew our commitment to that wonderful Catholic principle of the common good.

If you would like to download a copy of the encyclical, you can go to our website “stmarystars.org”, “News”, and then “Vatican”. We are offering study groups on the encyclical on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. and Thursday afternoons at 1 p.m.

A PRAYER FOR OUR EARTH
By Pope Francis

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
Amen

Nostalgia Brings Clarity

The Fourth of July always makes me feel nostalgic. My daddy was a career Marine and we moved to Oceanside in 1959 when he was transferred to Camp Pendleton. I remember sitting on the curb on Hill Street (now Coast Highway) waiting for the 4th of July Parade to start. There were horses, clowns throwing candy, floats, important people waving from fancy cars. And then the Color Guard! I would jump to my feet, put a hand over my heart, get tears in my eyes, and watch the passing of Old Glory. Somehow, even at a young age, I understood all that it represented.

Those were the days that we would walk from South Oceanside (before it became South O) to Geil Motors (corner of Hill & Wisconsin—now the U-Haul) to look at cars. The car daddy wanted but knew he could never afford was very expensive—$3,000!

Just behind Geil Motors was St. Mary’s School, where I was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters with up to 50 children in a classroom. No one dared act up! That is where I learned about my faith (in addition to my parents, of course). MANY years later I was able to send my own two children through the school (K-8) to receive a firm foundation.

Junior High and High School were spent at San Luis Rey Academy (now home to Mission Montessori School). My faith life was deepened under the tutelage of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. I remember that my parents spent $30/month for myself and my sister to attend to an all-girls Catholic high school. (THANK YOU, Mom and Dad!)

Shortly after graduation in 1971, Msgr. Clavin asked me to answer the phones in the church office in the afternoons. Later I was asked to sub for the secretary when she took ill. That was in the summer of 1972. I was asked to take on a full time position in June 1973, just a few months before I got married (at St. Mary’s, of course).

I never had aspirations to be “The Church Lady”. But now, as I enter my 44th year, I guess that’s what I am and I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure.

I have worked with seven different men who dedicated their lives to the service of God and were chosen to shepherd the flock at St. Mary Star of the Sea. Each brought his own personality and vision to the parish and I treasure the opportunity to work side by side with each of them.

It seems that, as we age, we enjoy looking back at our childhood memories, especially those that truly shaped us into the adults we became.

Most of my “faith” memories were created right here at St. Mary’s. I remember receiving my First Holy Communion at our altar rail (oops, it’s missing!) And sitting in the pews that you occupy this moment making my mom Shh! at me. (I wasn’t always perfect.) I remember exchanging my marriage vows at our altar and baptizing my babies at our baptismal font.

So this weekend, when you are having BBQs, watching fireworks, just hanging out with family and friends, think about that little girl sitting on the curb watching the Color Guard pass by.

I ask you to BELIEVE that we are lucky to live in a military town so the idea is never far from our minds; to BELIEVE that we are lucky to hear the “sounds of freedom” booming in the late hours as the military practices for combat readiness. I ask you to PRAY for each member of the armed forces (who are someone’s spouse, child, sibling) that put themselves in harms way to keep us safe.

God Bless America!