December 12, 2021

In 1988, the Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests in religious orders. For most of their lives, elder religious worked for little to no pay. There were no 401(k) plans or pensions for them or their religious communities. Religious communities are financially responsible for the support and care of all members. Income, earnings, and expenses are managed separately from the parish and diocesan structures of the Catholic Church. According to the National Religious Retirement Office, only 5 percent of the religious communities providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office are adequately funded for retirement; 40 percent have 25 or fewer members. Many small communities struggle to care for elder members due to a lack of financial resources and personnel.

With rising health-care costs and a lack of retirement savings, hundreds of US religious communities struggle to provide for aging members. The additional challenges brought about by Covid-19 have compounded an already difficult situation. Proceeds from the Retirement Fund for Religious collection offer these communities critical funding to help meet their ongoing eldercare expenses.

In a letter about this collection to parishes in the USA, Sr. Stephanie Still, PBVM (National Religious Retirement Office) wrote,"Recognizing that your own parish and parishioners may also be confronting financial difficulties, I ask simply that you do what you can to help address the needs of senior religious and their communities. In good times and bad, senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests have dedicated themselves to service and acts of mercy. Today, they pray for an aching world. Yet years of serving for little or no pay have left their religious communities without enough retirement savings. Your gift to the Retirement Fund for Religious helps provide medications, nursing care, and other necessities."

There will be a second collection after communion at Masses today for the Religious Retirement Fund.  On behalf of the many retired women religious sisters and retired religious priests and brothers, I thank you for your generous assistance.

The Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called “Gaudete” Sunday. “Gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice”. We are halfway through the Advent season. As we light the third candle on our Advent wreath, we are reminded that the Christmas season draws closer each day. For those planning on celebrating the Sacrament of Penance before Christmas, I remind you to be sure to note the times when confessions will be offered here at St. Peter's before Christmas. This week and next week, we will have two priests on duty during the hours when we are offering confessions. Please remember the last day we have confessions scheduled before Christmas is on December 23.

As Advent quickly moves along, I encourage you to be sure and take some time for quiet in your life to reflect upon the great mysteries we celebrate at this time of the year. In the midst of Christmas parties, baking, Christmas sales and bargains, writing Christmas cards and the thousand and one other things before us at this time of the year, be sure and take time to listen in the quiet of your heart to the voice of God.

If you are placing a nativity scene in your home I have enclosed below a Blessing Prayer (from the US Bishops’ Conference) that might be said with your family members gathered around your home Nativity Scene.

God of every nation and people,

from the very beginning of creation

you have made manifest your love:

when our need for a Savior was great

you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary,

To our lives he brings joy and peace,

justice, mercy, and love.

Lord, bless all who look upon this manger;

may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus,

and raise up our thoughts to him,

who is God-with-us and Savior of all,

who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

© USCCB, 1989

Today, December 12, we also celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was in 1531 that Mary appeared to Juan Diego (The feast of St. Juan Diego was celebrated on December 9) on Tepeyac hill outside Mexico City. Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is patroness of the Americas and recently was designated as patroness of Respect Life.

On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe I share with you a few words from Pope Francis speaking about Our Lady of Guadalupe….. With Mary’s appearance to the Indian Juan Diego.... “…….No longer is anyone a servant, but we are all children of the same Father, brothers and sisters together. The Holy Mother of God not only visited these people, but she chose to remain with them. She left her sacred image mysteriously imprinted on the ‘tilma’/cloak of her messenger in order that we might keep in mind the symbol of Mary’s covenant with these people, conferring her spirit and tenderness.” [Pope Francis 12-12-14]

In our troubled and violent world, perhaps we need to go to our mother, Mary for guidance. In the midst of our present day danger of COVID, cultural struggles and unrest, perhaps we need to gaze upon the image of Guadalupe and place our concerns and needs before the Mother of God.

The image is not some magic thing that will change the world….. but it is the symbol of peace and serenity that can come into our lives….. if we but place our trust in the promises of God.

The Season of Christmas is just two weeks away. I encourage you to use the Advent-Christmas reflection insert that is found in today's church bulletin. On the reverse side of the insert you will find the Advent-Christmas Schedule of services for St. Peter's Church.  And if in the Loop, stop in St. Peter's for a few moments of quiet and peace with the Lord. The church is now open Monday-Friday from 7:00 am until 4:30 pm for prayer.

May you have a prayerful week reflecting upon the mysteries we celebrate in this Advent Season. And may each of us continue to pray and work for peace in our city and world.

Fr. Michael