In a few months, our parish will welcome a dynamic and inspiring singer/songwriter to share her faith-filled personal journey with us. Her name is Renee Bondi and I encourage you to visit her website at ReneeBondi.com to become familiar with her story. We can all learn something from her (and everyone else we encounter). I have chosen to share a story that Renee wrote in a blog several years ago.
Here we are in the season of Advent which encompasses the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin “ad venire” or “to come to.” As a child in church I always heard, “Come Lord Jesus, come Lord Jesus” to which I’d think, “Well, hasn’t he already come? He’s already been born and walked the earth otherwise we wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday, right?” I confess it was always a bit confusing to me.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that Advent is a season of preparation directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time, in addition to preparing for the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on the day we celebrate as Christmas.
Directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time…hmm…now that’s a bigger directive than just decorating your local church in purple and making sure we have enough ushers for Christmas masses or services. We’re talking eternity here. Admittedly, as a wife, mom, in-law, sister, aunt, godmother and friend, it’s easy for me to forget to direct my heart and mind to Christ’s second coming. After all, there’s a lot to do to prepare for the parties and presents!
But here are some great, practical ideas from American author, teacher and pastor William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) on how we can prepare for Christ’s second coming as well as for the anniversary of his birth
Fast from emphasis on differences – Feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness – Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness – Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute – Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent – Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger – Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism – Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry – Feast on divine order.
Fast from judging others – Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from complaining – Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives – Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures – Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility – Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness – Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern – Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety – Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements – Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress – Feast on verities that uplift
Fast from lethargy – Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken – Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow – Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip – Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm – Feast on prayer that strengthens.
SIX-MINUTE DAILY DEVOTIONAL “Little Blue Book for Advent”
Last week, the Stewardship Team handed out Advent Daily Devotionals (free of charge) for any parishioner who wants to have a mentor on their journey this Advent. There are still some available in the vestibule. Please take one for yourself; you’re welcome to take another to share with a friend.
“BEST ADVENT EVER”
During Lent this year, you were invited to Join Matthew Kelly, America’s bestselling Catholic author, and other leading Catholic voices of our time on a life-changing journey with “The Best Lent Ever”.
Dynamic Catholic is offering “Best Advent Ever” Rediscover Mercy. All you need to do is visit the website at DynamicCatholic.com and sign up. It’s free. You will receive daily inspirational emails with short videos, encouragement, and coaching for Advent.
ADVENT WREATHS AND CANDLES
This holy time of preparation is upon us! One of our beautiful Catholic traditions is the daily lighting of the Advent wreath. All families are encouraged to have a wreath in their home and spend a few minutes every day during Advent to light a candle and say a short prayer. It can be as short or as involved as you want it to be.
Advent candles ($5) and Advent wreaths ($10) are on sale this weekend before all Masses. This is not a fundraiser but a convenience that we offer to you in hopes of making the season all that it is meant to be. We also have copies of Advent prayers to accompany the wreaths and candles
About a month ago, seven members of our parish Stewardship Team traveled to Chicago to absorb all they could about Stewardship as a Way of Life at the 53rd annual International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) Conference. The theme was “In the Footsteps of Pope Francis” and it followed on the heels of the Pontiff’s historic visit to the United States.
Like many, I was impacted by actions and comments of the Holy Father. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was holding him up as he invested so much of his time and energy in us. Many of us want to walk in his footsteps because he walks with Jesus.
To me one of the most memorable statements was one given to Congress. Pope Francis said: When you dream dreams for your own children, dream them for other children as well. What an incredible request so lovingly and authentically spoken. Through the secular ear, we heard “do what is right for all the people in your care.” From the faith perspective, we heard love at a level that transcends something that is self-centered and finite.
When you consider it through the lens of stewardship, you can hear Jesus saying “stay close to me, be grateful for your abundance, nurture your gifts and dream big, but remember they are not just for you.
Share your abundance and help me to build the joy that is my kingdom.”
I believe this is one of the foundational blessings of living a stewardship way of life. As ministerial leaders—even if you don’t have a formal role in a parish ministry, we are all ministerial leaders—have the opportunity to understand, live and share the Gospel in such a way that goes beyond setting goals and checking things off our bucket list. When people of faith dream dreams, we dream with God and the fruit of the dreaming becomes so much more than we could have ever imagined.
As ministerial leaders, we are all called to evangelize. We all lead by example every day by acting on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Don’t be afraid to live your faith out loud. Live it proudly. Don’t make people wonder if you are a Catholic. Make them want to be part of something so wonderful.
Live gratefully for the many blessings God has bestowed on you and your family. Take a few minutes on Thursday before you pick up your forks to say a heartfelt Prayer of Thanksgiving.
(You can never say Thank You too often.) May God bless you as you continue on your faith journey.
There are still copies of “The Words of Pope Francis” that was compiled by Patty Mann. They are available for $3 in the parish office.
November brings raking leaves, mid-term exams, plenty of football, and the beginning of our Christmas plans. But for those of us in the U.S., November’s highlight is that great national holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to have a day to call attention to the need for gratitude, but this holiday also reminds the Christian steward that every day should include thanksgiving because gratitude is essential to discipleship.
One year when I was the family’s host for Thanksgiving, I found short scripture passages on gratitude. I made place cards for each family member and on the inside of the “tent”, wrote one of the passages. Instead of formal grace, each person read their passage and then said one thing for which they were grateful. I was worried about doing this, because, although everyone in the family was born and raised Catholic, not everyone in my family was still practicing their faith.
I also knew that it would take a lot longer than saying grace, but in the end, everyone was openly moved by the experience. Don’t be afraid to evangelize when you have an opportunity. You never know who is ready to hear the Good News.
Feeling a deep appreciation for the giftedness of our lives can’t be con¬fined to one holiday when we spend a few minutes around a laden table remembering our many blessings. Neither can gratitude become a rote response.
Gratitude is good for our spiritual lives in so many ways. It reminds us of our neediness before the Lord, without whom we have nothing. The mere daily act of focusing on our blessings makes us more mindful, more present to God’s mystery and gifts, and more aware of the needs of others around us. Gratitude is best achieved by daily, focused attention. So perhaps a good exercise for November would be to write down, each day, some things for which we are truly grateful. Your list will no doubt include people – a teacher who inspired you, a coach who believed in you, an aunt who made you feel special, an employer who mentored you. Your notes might include simple things – the aroma of freshly ground coffee, a lunch invitation that brightened your day, a phone call that brought a smile. Focus on things you sometimes take for granted – the warm home in which you live, the sunshine that peeked through a cloudy day, the bright redness of a leaf on the lawn, the faithful presence of your spouse.
And during this month of thanks, remember to give thanks to the risen Lord:
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one an¬other, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).
Last week, I published a copy of our annual report. It included an End-of-Fiscal-Year (7/1/14-6/30/15) Profit & Loss report of actual income and expenses and the Budget for this current Fiscal Year (7/1/15-6/30/16). Additional copies are available on the pamphlet rack in the vestibule if you forgot to pick up a bulletin last week.
As you could see, it is a very close budget. The Finance Council was very conservative when working on it, both in the anticipated income and the expenses.
In a perfect world, our weekly offering (Plate, Envelope & On-Line Giving) would cover our Ordinary Expenses. We fall short by about $1,800 per week. This is currently made up in part by the monthly Parish Advancement collection. Even with that added in, we are $750 short/week.
I understand (intellectually and personally) that it is difficult to give more than you are currently budgeted to give. But if you came to God and said you had a special request, would you expect Him to say that he had only budgeted to help you twice this year and this would now make three times you’d asked for help?
The God in whom we place our hope and trust is loving, merciful, and above all, generous. Giving to your parish helps support the mission of the church and ultimately better prepare you for your eternal life
So, back to the budget. Of course, our biggest expense is the cost of employees. We have six full time and six part time staff. We also pay professional musicians at most of our liturgies. All benefits are dictated by the Diocese.
The next largest expense category is the Diocesan tax. This is 13-1/2% of our prior year’s income that is paid to the Diocese on a monthly basis to help with their operating expenses. We do not get to choose whether or not to pay or how much. To clarify, the monthly Diocesan tax that is collected from all parishes helps cover the cost of the Diocesan operating budget. The Annual Catholic Appeal is used for program costs.
Our Religious Education programs are reflected on the last two lines of the budget because they are “Extraordinary Income”. The budget for Religious Education personnel is reflected in Salaries, but the program costs (books, materials, retreat days) is paid through donations and tuition
But it’s not all about money. The Religious Ed program would gladly accept help with sewing Angel costumes for the Christmas play. Also needed is a team willing to help set up for CCD on Sunday mornings and special occasions. We’re also looking for a techie to help with Power Points, sound, and videos a few times a year.
As in years past, I would like to invite you to sponsor (in all or in part) the cost of Ministry and Program supplies for Mass (missalettes, wine, hosts). Last year we spent $2,120 for altar wine, $2,200 for hosts, and $2,865 to have missalettes and music hymnals in the pews. We don’t anticipate an increase.
Additionally, we would welcome any donations to the Music Ministry. Besides the cost of musicians, we also periodically need to purchase new equipment, music licenses, or music for special occasions.
Stewardship operates solely on Restricted Donations rather than as a budget item. We most recently are funding seven parishioners to attend the International Catholic Stewardship Conference to better serve the parish. We also provide parish-wide distribution of books and other materials that will help on your Faith Journey.
This is your parish and it is your responsibility to help it thrive. Please take this to prayer.
I just spent 15 days on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. We put 3,000 miles on the motorhome and saw things that we never expected to see.
While I was getting ready for my trip, people asked me where I was going. My answer was always that we hoped to see the Columbia River (the border between Oregon and Washington). What routes we would take, what stops we would make, where we would spend the nights was all to be serendipitous.
Along the way, we saw humpback whales in the bay at Avila Beach (just north of Pismo Beach on the 101), bungee jumpers on the Crooked River Bridge (just south of Bend, Oregon), wind surfers on the Columbia River in Cascade Locks, a herd of elk in the California Redwoods. We also saw the harvesting of eels to be airlifted to Korea in Newport, Oregon and a bed & breakfast inn consisting of old railroad cabooses in Clear Lake, CA, .
We didn’t intend or expect to be in any of those places.
Those who know me know that I am a planner. To a fault. I like to be in control of myself and situations around me. I actually have a plaque on my desk that says “Trust me, Barbie, I have everything under control. —Jesus”
So when I have the opportunity to get away from my normal routine, I get as far away from it as I can.
It actually makes me feel closer to God when I let Him direct my path instead of insisting that I know what is best for me.
I know what you’re thinking…
A two week vacation in not analogous to life. But I beg to differ with you. I think we need to get in that kind of mind-set on a more regular basis, even if we’re still entrenched in our normal daily routines.
What if every night when you went to bed and every morning when you got up, you asked God to help direct your path?
My Mom always said that “God helps those that help themselves.” So obviously, you have to have a plan. You have to keep your life in order. But I really believe that God will help you see outside the box if you’re open to it.
Think about living your Christian Faith. Did you complete a Covenant a few weeks ago? Did you commit to becoming involved in some way? Keep yourself open to direction. You may have to try several ministries before you find the one that is the best fit for you. Don’t get discouraged. The right path is there; you’ll find it.
I want to publicly thank those who shared their personal stories last week with their fellow parishioners. The testimony was moving and inspiring. They have each been touched by the Holy Spirit and Stewardship as a Way of Life. The same is there for each and every one of you. If you have not already heard the Call, make your prayers more intentional and be open to the fluttering of the Spirit. It may come as no more than a whisper. Be alert.
Today, as you enter into a renewed Covenant with God, please take home the reminder card. On one side is the Covenant Prayer. Try to make it a daily prayer. It only takes a few minutes and will remind you of your personal commitment to create a deeper relationship with Lord.
You have formed me to be all that I am
and given me all the I have.
I thank you for your gift of creation
and ask for your guidance
in honoring this gift.
My Lord Jesus Christ,
Help me remember the promises
I made in my Covenant with you
and not be afraid to live my faith proudly, being an example to those I encounter.
guide me through my days and
inspire me to always try a little harder
and reach a little further,
ever moving forward on my Faith Journey,
one step at a time.
I have mentioned before that we have a vibrant Stewardship Team who is continually thinking and planning how best to serve you on your faith journey.
I would like to name and thank the members of the Team: Dick Bartlett, Marlyn & Matt Delo, Berlinda Gonzales, Silvia Jedynak, Yolanda Jessup, Marycarmen Jimenez, Macaria Lagunas, Barbie Matthiesen, Bob & Kim Mikulka, Amy Nelson, Elena Ortiz, Margarita Perez, and Julie Taylor.
Seven members of the Team will be attending the 2015 Conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) in Chicago in October.
Like anyone who wants to get better at what they do, continuing education is a must. This conference is beyond compare. I have personally attended it three times and come away with so many resources and tools to be used for the benefit of the parish. Although it is a conference full of speakers, vendors and workshops, it is a time of personal renewal that is unbelievably inspiring. How can you not be inspired when spending three days with thousands of people who are filled with the Spirit to the point of bursting?
This is a small sampling of the topics from which we can choose:
• Developing Leadership in Our Youth
• Stewardship and Evangelization: Two Sides of the Same Coin
• Best Practices for Successful Grant Writing
• Stewardship of Our Elders
• The Ministry of Parish Management
• Stewardship Success on a Budget
• Parish Strategic Planning
• Theology and Spirituality of Stewardship
• Engaging Parishioners With a Parish Covenant
• Best Practices for Working with Consultants
• Calling Forth Gifts of Time and Talent
• Stewardship and the Family
• Separate Parishes Moving Forward as One
• Numerous how-to workshops in Spanish
• How does stewardship equip us to go forth in the world to proclaim and live the joy of the Gospel?
• And many, many more!
I believe it is critical to the growth of our parish to have a Team of parishioners who are best equipped to live the role of Stewardship Disciples and Leaders. This conference is a valuable opportunity that only comes around once a year. Please consider sponsoring a member of the team (in any amount) to attend the conference. (Be sure to mark the envelope or check with the memo “Stewardship”.)
God bless you!