We friars have all returned from the Provincial Chapter and are fully back to serve our people in ministry. I hope you were not too inconvenienced with us being gone all week and that you prayed for us as we did for you. I also want to thank the friars and lay employees who staffed St. Peter’s during the week; it was through their good will that we were able to remain open, albeit with a reduced ministerial schedule.
Believe me: those at chapter worked hard, discussed a great deal, and ultimately made some difficult but important decisions that will carry us through the next three to six years. I’ll write more about some of those aspects in the weeks to come, but today I want to let you know about a conversation we had with the current missionaries who were at the chapter. Our Province of the Sacred Heart has been very conscious of our missionary orientation from the very beginnings of our founding. After all, we began because there were friars from Germany who were willing to leave their homeland and come all the way to America to give witness to our Franciscan vocation and to spread the Good News of Jesus here in the Midwest. It was only right that, when we could, we would do the same in new places.
As the province grew, the friars founded new friaries in areas that needed assistance, e.g., Quincy, St. Louis, Memphis, work among the Native Americans in northern Wisconsin and Michigan, etc. But in the early 1900s China was calling, and a large contingent of friars went there to learn this new language and culture, eating new foods and hearing new sounds. They opened new missions, built schools, and together with the Franciscan Sisters from Springfield began health clinics and religious education centers. The ministry flourished until the takeover by the Communists which forced some into prison, others to go back home until the doors would be opened again, which never really happened.
Next we were asked to take on an area in northern Brazil along the Tapajos River. Friars from Germany had originally gone there as missionaries, but they were not able to meet all the needs of the people, so they divided the territory in two: one they staffed, the other we began: first for people working in the rubber plantations, but later spreading out in a much larger area. With the help of the people we built a high school seminary for Brazilian boys to begin their journey to become Franciscans and perhaps priests. From these beginnings, the area (known as a custody) now has primarily Brazilian friars with only a few Americans still present. We worked to build up a local Church so that they could minister to their own people, and it happened.
Our next missionary endeavor was to Zaire, Africa, now known as the Congo. We went there in order to assist the Belgian friars who, like before with the German friars in Brazil, were no longer able to continue everything on their own. The friars from our province learned French and took over some mission stations from the Belgians and several other provinces. It was a marvelous experience that ended once again because of warfare. Fr. Jim Hoffman here at St. Peter’s was a missionary there as was our present General Minister of the entire Order, Fr. Michael Perry, O.F.M. One of my classmates, Fr. Damian Isabell, O.F.M., eventually joined the new entity that was formed and has served for many years as a teacher and formator. Thankfully many candidates have now become friars and are part of one of the largest provinces in the world.
Our next missionary exposure was in the diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, working with and among the Athabascan Indians. Originally four friars from our province went there as a team in order to staff a number of mission stations mainly along the Yukon River. However, due to the long winter nights, the abundance of mosquitos, the relative isolation, the high incidence of alcohol abuse and subsequent related deaths and funerals, over the years some have had to return to the Lower 48. We still have three friars living and working there, all dedicated to being friends of and ministers to these wonderful people in central Alaska.
Our latest missionary association is with the Franciscan Province in Vietnam. Several of our friars have travelled to teach English to the friar students there, one of whom is Fr. Ken Capalbo, O.F.M., who lives at and ministers at St. Peter’s when he is home in the States. We have also offered hospitality to friars of the Vietnamese Province so that they can learn English and in some cases pursue a degree in the United States.
We have had individual friars working in Morocco, and now in South Sudan and in Thailand. I couldn’t help but be proud of our missionary past and now of our missionary present as I sat at the chapter and listened to these friars tell of their ministry. The missionary vocation of each disciple of Jesus is to live and preach the Gospel no matter where he or she might find themselves. For many of us that is in our homes, in the marketplace, in our parishes and beyond. For some it is in faraway lands and cultures. Hopefully we take our responsibility seriously. May God be praised!
SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
We move from celebrating God as mystery on Trinity Sunday to focusing on God’s desire to be united with us as we celebrate today’s solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. For us as Christians, God is both immanent and transcendent: within and beyond. The manna with which God feeds the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years foreshadows the Eucharist, the true bread from heaven. During their time in the wilderness, Israel learns to trust the Lord. Moses calls the people to “Remember how the Lord your God has directed all your journeying,” in order that they might learn to depend on God. The “water from the flinty rock” is also a sign of God’s concern for them and anticipates the “living water” given to us in Jesus as seen in John 4, the story of the Samaritan woman.
In the Gospel, Jesus declares himself “the living bread that has come down from heaven.” By sharing in this heavenly food, we receive the promise of “eternal life.” Jesus refers to manna, the “bread that came down from heaven” in the time of their ancestors, but they “still died.” He gives something greater than manna. The bread he gives enables us to “have life because of me” and “live forever.”
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is prompted by some concerns he has about their behavior. One of the problem areas is the manner in which they are celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. In today’s reading Paul reminds them that in sharing in the “cup of blessing” and “the bread that we break,” we share in the life of Christ. Eucharist unites us with each other and with God, for we “though many, are one body.” Therefore we should strive to approach the Lord’s table worthily.
For Reflection: How does receiving the Eucharist impact my life? Do I see myself as united with the Church as well as with God when I share in the Eucharist? Do I reflect on the fact that, if I have anything against my brother or sister, I should first go to them and make amends before I approach the table of the Lord?
FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
On Friday, June 27, we celebrate the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the patronal feast of our Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart. The feast is always celebrated on the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi, since there is an intimate connection between these two feasts: each of them underscores an aspect of the continuing love of Jesus Christ for the Church and for each member of the Church.
We can trace an element of devotion to the Heart of Jesus almost from the first centuries of the Church, although such devotion seems primarily on an individual rather than on a liturgical level. It was only in the 17th century through a vision to a humble Visitation nun in France—Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) that Christ chose to reveal the desires of His Heart and to confide the task of imparting new life to the devotion. These revelations were numerous, but it was particularly the one that occurred on the feast of St. John in 1673 that most of the basis for the feast is rooted. In that apparition Jesus permitted Margaret Mary to rest her head upon His Heart and then disclosed to her the wonders of His love, telling her that He desired to make them known to all mankind. He told her that He had chosen her for this work of diffusing the treasures of His goodness and that he had chosen her for this work. He said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men…instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part of mankind only ingratitude.” He asked her to work for a feast of reparation on the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It took a long time to actually accomplish the goal of a specific feast, but finally Pope Pius IX in 1856 made it a feast to be celebrated by the universal Church.
Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart with a Solemn Mass at 11:40 on Friday, June 27 (no 12:15 Mass that day), and we will sing Solemn Vespers in church that evening beginning at 5:40 P.M. We hope many people will be able to join us to participate in one or both of these celebrations.
FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM
Once again this year the Archdiocese of Chicago is sponsoring special celebrations and prayer services for the Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4, 2014. One of these celebrations will take place here at St. Peter’s with a special Mass on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 11:40 A.M. followed by a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to Daley Plaza for a prayer service and rally. We hope many people will be able to be present for either the Mass or the procession/prayer service/rally or even both if possible.
THEOLOGY ON TAP
Those of you who have been coming to St. Peter’s for at least several years are no doubt aware that we have welcomed being part of the Theology on Tap series sponsored by the Ministry for Young Adults of the Archdiocese of Chicago. We have been pleased not only to host this program but also pleased with the participation of so many individuals who have come for the program in the past.
The St. Peter’s Young Adults (SPYA) is now delighted to announce that once again this year we will be hosting Theology on Tap. These sessions will take place on four consecutive Monday evenings beginning on July 14 and continuing until August 4. The Theology on Tap will begin at 5:30 and will run until approximately 7:00 P.M. Refreshments and snacks will also be served. This program is designed primarily for adults 20-40 years of age, but you are welcome even if you are a bit older. This year the schedule is as follows:
July 14: Dr. Claire Noonan, Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Dominican University, will speak on “Finding God in the Everyday” and then will invite the group to experience this type of prayer.
July 21: Fr. Ed Shea, O.F.M., a friar here at St. Peter’s, will speak on the topic “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He will offer some reflections on the blessings of reconciliation inside and outside the confessional.
July 28: Mr. Wayne Smith, a layman in the Archdiocese of Chicago, will speak on “Mercy—From Blindness to Sight,” sharing his faith journey and inviting us to look at our own.
August 4: Dave and Martha Meus, a young , Catholic married couple, will speak on “Living the New Evangelization,” in which they will help us to understand and then live this call to be Gospel people in the world.
For those who are interested, our St. Peter’s Young Adults meets every Monday evening from 5:30-7:00 P.M. except on holidays and on the final three weeks of August. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call Fr. Ed Shea at 773-892-4134.
SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND
Peter’s Pence Collection
On Easter Sunday 2013 Pope Francis encouraged each person to be a witness of charity. “Let us be renewed by God’s mercy and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation, and make justice and peace flourish,” he said. Pope Francis has continued to remind us through his actions that we must serve our brothers and sisters in order to be true disciples of Christ.
The Peter’s Pence Collection next weekend (June 28-29, 2014) unites us in solidarity with the Holy Father and his works of charity to those in need. Your contribution to the Peter’s Pence Collection will allow Pope Francis to support victims of war, natural disasters, and others most in need of assistance. Please be generous in your response to this worldwide collection which helps so many people in very difficult circumstances.
Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time
Here’s a trick that can change your outlook on life: watch your language. Let me explain. I was listening to parents who were picking up their daughters from dance class. One mom rattled off the day’s activities as though they were a list of punishments: “I have to get Elizabeth from here to the Brownies, and then I have to pick up Jeremy at hockey and take him to the store for new shoes. Then I have to….”
Another described her day differently: “Today we get to spend time at the library, and then Maria is looking forward to trying out her new moves at Tae Kwon Do. Tonight we’re excited to see that new Disney flick!”
One mom’s words reflected dread; the other revealed hope. So watch your language and ask, “Do my words reflect dread or hope?”—Tom McGrath
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
Airman Jones was assigned to the induction center where he was to advise new recruits about their government benefits, especially their GI insurance. It wasn’t long before Captain Smith noticed that Airman Jones had almost a 100% record for insurance sales, which had never happened before. Rather than ask about this, the Captain stood in the back of the room and listened to Jones’ sales pitch.
Jones explained the basics of the GI insurance to the new recruits and then said, “If you have GI insurance and go into battle and are killed, the government has to pay $200,000 to your beneficiaries. If you don’t have GI insurance and you go into battle and are killed, the government has to pay only a maximum of $6000.” “Now,” he concluded, “which bunch do you think they are going to send into battle first?”