June 28, 2020

Transitions in one way, shape or form are a regular part of life. Our Presidents can only serve two terms in office and then there must be a change. Even the best of school principals eventually indicate that they feel they have given their all and so ask that a new principal be sought. We are used to changes happening at the federal, state and local levels regarding our government officials either by retirements, elections, or by having fulfilled the maximum length of time in a specific position. Transitions are a regular part of life in all professions.

Many of you have known for some time that this past year would be my last one as Pastor of St. Peter’s. It is time for someone else to take over the reins of being pastor. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the St. Peter’s friar community and of pastoring this church for the past eleven years. Back in 2009 when I was asked to accept this assignment by Fr. Bill Spencer, who had just become our Provincial Minister after serving as pastor here, I willingly said yes although I was a bit surprised since I had thought I would have several more years at St. Francis Solanus in Quincy. In one sense I felt reasonably aware of St. Peter’s since I had visited many times, and I had always liked the city of Chicago. However, a visit is quite different than living and ministering here.

Now that I am about to hand over the pastorate to my successor, Fr. Michael Fowler, O.F.M., I can tell you that I have thoroughly enjoyed my eleven years here. I have lived and worked with so many wonderful friars who have welcomed me and cooperated so faithfully in developing our ministry together. I have also had a marvelous lay staff all these years to assist in making the ministry happen day by day. Over the years I have met so many people from around the world who have visited St. Peter’s and partaken of the services we offer so readily on a daily basis. I am so thankful to our ministers who serve as readers, acolytes, ushers, greeters, the liturgy staff, workers in the Gift Shop, activities, security personnel—all people who are ready to step up beyond their regular duties when there is a need. And then there are all those who come to St. Peter’s regularly for Mass, confession, counseling, for our renewal programs, for the Gala, to volunteer, etc. I have been blessed, and I want to thank you all so very much.

Little did I think that I would end my days as pastor with the church being closed for almost three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These days have been trying and difficult both for all of us personally and for the church having no regular income, but still many expenses. Thankfully some of our benefactors sent us checks from time to time, but these past days have been trying at best. Some of the friars kid me by saying all this certainly makes my pastorate unique when the latest history of St. Peter’s is written and told in the future. At least we now are beginning to reopen and come alive again, slowly but surely.

Even though I will soon relinquish the pastorate, I will still be able to see you, visit you and minister with you since I will remain at St. Peter’s—at least for a year—on the staff as a confessor. I’ll get a chance to experience what it is like to minister without the added aspects of administration and problem solving. I look forward to that.

Fr. Michael Fowler will take over as pastor on Monday, July 13. He was born in Petoskey, Michigan (I’ll let you guess his actual age when you see him in person). He entered the Franciscan Order in 1969, became a Solemnly Professed Friar in 1973, and was ordained a priest in 1976. From 1976-78 he was Associate Pastor of our Franciscan parish in Harbor Springs, Michigan, Associate Pastor of our parish in Ashland, Wisconsin from 1978-83, and then Pastor in Reserve, Wisconsin from 1983-86. From 1986-93 he was both Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Indianapolis, Indiana, while also being Director of the Internship Year for our temporarily professed friars.

At several different times throughout his ordained ministry Fr. Michael studied Spanish, and he also spent one year at St. Leonard Parish in San Antonio, where many of the parishioners are Spanish-speakers.

He spent a number of years doing Vocation Ministry for our Province: 1995-2000 when the office was located in Cicero, Illinois, and 2000-2004 when it was located on the south side of Chicago. From 2004-2008 Fr. Michael was part of the Formation Team at our Interprovincial Post-Novitiate Friary in Hyde Park, Chicago.

In 2008 he became Pastor of our Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River, Michigan, and from 2011 until the present he has served as Pastor at our St. Anthony of Padua Parish next to our Provincial Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.

As you can tell from all the above, Fr. Michael has had a variety of assignments in culturally diverse settings, so he brings a magnitude of experience and a broad-based perspective to now serving as our Pastor at St. Peter’s. I feel sure that you will enjoy meeting him. He has a very outgoing personality, a positive outlook, a gentle smile and a generous heart. Hopefully by the time he arrives, we will have worked out most of the glitches involved in reopening the church so that he will be able to enter into the flow rather than having to orchestrate the process. I’m sure you will welcome him with open arms (but for now with only an elbow embrace). I don’t know whether being in St. Louis for almost the past decade has made him a diehard Cardinals and Blues fan, but if so, conversions can still be in order! He tells me, however, that deep down he has always remained a Detroit Tigers fan.

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 Today’s Second Reading elaborates what Paul has been developing in Romans 5: the contrast between two humanities because of Adam’s sin and Jesus’ death and Resurrection. While the former brings about human violence and death, the latter brings about the capacity to become just. To emphasize this fundamental change, Paul uses the language of death and life after death. Those who have accepted Jesus’ free gift must live differently; they must not continue in sin but must live as if they have died, because sin is connected with death.

Paul illustrates this further with Baptism and with Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are baptized into Jesus’ death, and the resurrected Jesus will no longer die. Put differently, sin and death are now behind us, and the life we have through Jesus has its end not in (another) death but in God.

What does it mean to live in God and in justice? Such living involves what we do for the vulnerable and those in need—for those whom Matthew calls “the little ones” (Mt 10:42). That may be expressed in providing food and shelter for a stranger, such as what the Shunammite woman did for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-17), or by giving aid to a destitute person to enable the individual to survive, as Elisha did earlier for a widow (2 Kings 4:1-7). Instead of condemning and killing each other, we welcome and help, especially those who cannot repay us. This should not be surprising. Paul has reminded us that God’s love for us becomes evident through Christ’s death for us while we still were sinners (Romans 5:8). We did not deserve what God has done for us through Jesus; it is actually unreasonable. We need to praise God as the psalmist does in Psalm 89; better yet, we need to give extravagantly as God has given to us.

The Shunammite woman looked after Elisha’s needs, offering him food and a comfortable place to stay. Appreciative of her hospitality, Elisha asked God to provide a son for her. God rewards those who are patient in need and constant in prayer. Jesus explained to his followers that they would be rewarded for even giving a cup of cold water to a disciple. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Romans 12:9-13 as it explains that Christian charity should be genuine, and hospitality should be practiced.

The reading from Romans instructs that Baptism brings us into life in Christ. As the author states, we were buried with Christ so that we too “might live in newness of life.” The Catechism states that through Baptism “we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church, and made sharers in her mission” (#1219).

Just as Jesus lived for God, we hear in Romans that we are to do likewise: “Consequently, you must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” Baptism, the Catechism explains, is the fundamental and first place for conversion, which, prompted by God’s love and mercy, continues throughout our lives (##1427-28).

For Your Reflection: In our Faith assembly, what type of hospitality do we provide visitors and newcomers? Does the hospitality that you show provide a glimpse into the kindness of God? Would another know that you are living your life for God?

CHURCH REOPENING

 St. Peter’s is reopening this Monday, June 29, for Mass. The doors will open at 11:15, Masses will be celebrated at 11:40 and 1:15, and the church will close at 2:15. We remind you that in order to participate in Mass you must reserve a place by calling the Parish office in advance at 312-372-5111. The receptionist will ask you for the date and the time of the Mass you plan to attend. Ushers will escort you to an assigned place in church. The celebrant of the Mas will give directions during the Mass to assure social distancing at all times. A mask or a face covering are required to be worn during the entire Mass. Cleaners will disinfect the pews after each Mass.

Confessions are heard on the lower level of the church Monday-Saturday from 10:30-3:00. Again a mask or face covering must be worn whenever you are inside the church building.

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2020

Friday, July 3, 2020

Once again we are ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, (this year the civil holiday is on July 3), one of the biggest holidays of the year. That’s partially due to it occurring in the middle of summer with the possibility of going to the beach, having a family reunion, grilling with a picnic, or just chilling out in some other way. We always think of fireworks, parades and weekend trips. But this year we will celebrate the holiday very differently due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. So many things cancelled, but here in our part of the country we still expect high temperatures, lots of sunshine and glorious humidity.

What do we celebrate? During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

            The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of

            America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations

            as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of

            deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized

            with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and

            illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward

            forever more.

 Adam’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

How things have changed between (1776) and now (2020). We were thirteen colonies (states); now we are fifty. We were a nation of patriots and pilgrims; now we are considered the most powerful nation in the world known for freedom, equality, equal opportunity and a high standard of living. At the time of the Declaration we were 2.6 million people living in the newly independent nation; now we are 328,239,523 million people on this 4th of July 2020. We still have our struggles, we still have our disagreements, but we strive to live what we declared those many years ago. As a thankful nation, we pray: God Bless America!

 We invite you to include in your holiday plans to join us for the Eucharist at 10:00 A.M. here at St. Peter’s. The church will be open only from 9:00-11:00 on July 3rd so that the friars too might enjoy a day of rest and celebration. There will be no confessions on Saturday, July 4—the church will be closed all day for the holiday weekend.

A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE

 A fellow tries to cross the Mexican border on a bicycle with two bags balanced on his shoulders. The guard asks, “What’s in the bags?” The fellow says, “Sand!” The guard wants to examine them, so the fellow gets off the bike, places the bags on the ground, opens them up, and the guard inspects…only to find sand. The fellow packs the sand, places the bags on his shoulders, and pedals the bike across the border.

Two weeks later, the same situation is repeated. “What have you there?” “Sand!” “We want to examine.” Same results…nothing but sand, and the fellow is on his way again.

Every two weeks for six months the inspections continue. Finally, one week the fellow didn’t show up. However, the guard sees him downtown and says to the fellow, “Buddy, you had us crazy. We sort of knew you were smuggling something. I won’t say anything, but tell me, ‘What were you smuggling?’”

With a smile on his face, the fellow answers, “Bicycles.”