A FEW OBSERVATIONS FROM THE PASTOR
I would like to share with you some observations I have after being your pastor for a couple of years. Having lived in Chicago for various ministries a number of times before coming here as pastor, I was in shock when I arrived at St. Peter's in early July 2020. There were few people walking the streets, little traffic on Madison, having to sign up to attend Mass, the church being open only for Mass or confessions and people not able to enter the church and pray was unbelievable to me. Violence and looting in the Loop and Michigan Avenue was a sober reminder to all of us that we had entered a different time in our history.
However, since my arrival in 2020, thanks to your help and God's grace, we have emerged with St. Peter's still providing a sacred space for people to encounter God and to experience God's peace. Below I offer you some brief updates about the ministry of St. Peter's. I will continue to try and keep you informed about St. Peter's. I invite you to also share with me some of your thoughts, suggestions and observations. While we may not always agree on everything, let us all trust that the Spirit God promised to send us will continue to guide as we conclude our 175th anniversary celebration with a special Mass on Sunday, August 14 presided over by Cardinal Blase Cupich. Like our early ancestors who began St. Peter's in 1846 we also have lots of work to do as we begin our 176th year and look forward to the future.
SOME CHANGES IN ST. PETER'S STAFF
I want to alert you to a couple of staff changes here at St. Peter's Church. As of July 1, due to the decreasing need for two organists here at St. Peter's and the need to reorganize some of the positions at the church, we now have only one organist, Mr. Greg Ceurvorst. As we move ahead with only one organist, we thank Mr. James Kapellas, for faithfully serving at St. Peter's Church for eleven years as Associate Director of Liturgy, weekday organist and Music Coordinator of Liturgical Ministers. James will continue to be the Music Director and Organist at the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Effective the end of May, our Provincial asked Fr. Derran Combs, OFM to relinquish his position as Programs Director at St. Peters and accept a position helping the Archdiocese in a new initiative on the southside. He begins his new position as Mission Director of St. Thomas More Mission on the Southside this summer. I am presently talking with a couple of friars to see if they might be able to assume the responsibilities of being Program Director at St. Peter's.
Effective July 1 our Sacristan, Mr. Phil Bujnowski, reduced his hours of work here at the church and will be working part-time as Sacristan.
While updating you on our Church staff (lay and friars), I want to remind everyone that while there are a number of friars listed in this bulletin each week, some of them work full-time for St. Peter's Church, some work part-time and also have weekend commitments in other parishes in the Archdiocese and other friars have other full-time jobs or are in studies. The majority of the friars living at St. Peter's are in their 70's, 80's or even 90's. I am truly amazed at the commitment our senior friars have to continue to help in whatever way they can to provide the sacraments and wise counsel for all who come to St. Peter's Church.
Very often, I am asked why there are so few young friars here at St. Peter's. The unfortunate reply I have to give is that there are very few younger men entering the Franciscan Order throughout North America. In fact, vocations are also very low in many other consecrated religious communities (Jesuits, Dominicans, Paulists, etc.). Men entering the seminary to prepare for priesthood is also very low. It is a serious issue that everyone in the Catholic Church should be concerned to pray to God and to ask our young people to at least consider becoming a priest, or entering religious life as a sister, brother or priest.
UPDATE ON OUR FACILITIES
We are truly blessed to have this sacred space here in the midst of the Loop that is called St. Peter's Church. As we have celebrated in the past year our presence in the Loop for 175 years of ministry, we now must begin to look at how we can continue to be strong presence of our Catholic faith in today's environment. One of the concerns we have is the reality that our present church (built in 1953) while still a solid building is also showing its age. We are slowly trying to get caught up on deferred maintenance and replacement of items that are coming to the end of their usefulness. More on this in future bulletins.
The COVID pandemic revealed to us that we need to update the rooms that we use for one of our principal ministries.....that of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confessions). We need to provide places where the penitent is able to go behind a screen or face-to-face. The confessional space needs to be welcoming, spacious and a sacred space where those who come for confession can be at peace to receive God's forgiveness. We have approached a church architect, consulted with Fr. Gil Ostdiek, OFM (Liturgy Professor at CTU) and listened to some of the observations that you who come here for confessions have shared with us confessors.
Fr. Kurt and other friars who have lived and worked here at St. Peter's over the years have shared with me that we have always struggled with finances. I know all too well that experience from other parishes I have been assigned to as pastor. Having arrived in the early days of COVID in 2020, it has been a struggle and challenge unlike any I have ever experienced and I am sure most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. However, while Br. Clarence keeps me very updated on our income and expenses, I must admit that I have not lost any night's sleep since arriving here. One of the reasons is I have been deeply moved by the generosity of so many of you who have continued to keep St. Peter's alive and still ministering. Whether you have given large or small donations please note your donations make you a part of the ministry of St. Peter's. You may not be preaching from the pulpit (though maybe you would like to sometime?!), presiding at Mass, helping with communion, reading at Mass, giving a presentation at one of our noontime sessions, etc. but no matter through your donations and your prayers your ministry is also crucial to helping St. Peter's continue to be a source of prayer, reflection and reconciliation in the midst of the noise and busyness of the Loop.
To help oversee our finances, we are in the process of establishing a Finance Council composed of 3-5 laity who have financial backgrounds and are deeply committed to mission and ministry of St. Peter's Church. Once it is in place, we'll share more about our Finance Council.
In the coming months, I will continue to share with you and seek your input as we look at how best to serve others here in the Loop in light of the new realities and challenges that we face in our world today. Please continue to pray for God's guidance upon all of us as we and all the members of the Archdiocese "Renew My Church." (More details on "Renew My Church" will be found on the Archdiocese website.)
ST. PETER'S 8th ANNUAL GALA
After two years of having to virtually have our annual fund-raising Gala on YouTube, this year we return to the Union League Club this Thursday, July 14 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm to celebrate this annual event. This is our largest fund-raising effort of the year and it helps keep our ministry at St. Peter's operating. You can still purchase tickets for this event at the church or by visiting our website. If you are unable to attend you also may make a donation to help us maintain our ministries here at St. Peter's Church.
Please continue to pray and work for peace in our cities and in our world. As scripture reminds us some difficulties can only be solved by prayer. (cf. Mark 9:29) Let us work hard to be people of peace in our home, neighborhood, city, country and the world.