From the Pastor’s Desk

August 1 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I love to eat!  You can tell that by just looking at me!! I’m about 65 pounds heavier than my ideal weight.  You’ve heard the expression some eat to live and others live to eat – I’m the latter. Being almost 70 years old, I am considered a senior citizen.  I’m wishing that the senior citizen appetite would kick in soon and I too would be taking home a box from the restaurant with half of the meal I didn’t eat! But I still hold what my mother taught….no dessert unless you clean your plate!

Longing for food is more than a popular human pastime.  In today’s first reading the whole community of Israel complain to Moses and express their longing for good food.  They have their new freedom, but the menu that goes with it is sparse. The slavery of Egypt is behind them, but they now remember the country of bondage as the place where “we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat to our heart’s desire.” The Israelites are tempted to make a U-turn to Egypt, to follow the compass of their stomachs rather than focus on the way to freedom through the wilderness.  Slavery with good food looks more attractive to them than freedom of a starvation diet.  God hears the complaints and promises that they shall eat meat and have bread to their heart’s content.

In today’s Gospel, another crowd follow the instructions of their stomach and express their longing for food.  This time it is the crowd of Galileans who, on the previous day, ate to their heart’s content when Jesus offered them a meal of barley loaves.  Jesus tells his hungry pursuers that they are only following him because they have enjoyed the food that physical satisfies – they should work he says, for the food that endures to eternal life.  The one work which earns this food is believing in the one God has sent.  They Galileans promptly ask Jesus for a sign to aid their belief in him – a sign like the manna their fathers ate in the desert.  When Jesus points out that is was God, not Moses, who supplied the manna, he compares himself to the God who now gives bread from heaven.  Jesus declares that he himself is the bread of life, the bread came down from heaven.  Whoever believes in him will never be hungry.

The promise that Jesus held out to the Galileans is one that is held out to us today.  It is a promise fulfilled in the Eucharist we now celebrate.  If there is one thing we all share in this assembly, it is the same hunger.  We hunger for a love that does not disappoint; we hunger for a word that does not fade away; we hunger for bread that does not fail to satisfy.  In this Eucharist the love of a tender God is offered to us in word and sacrament.  In coming here we declare that we cannot fall back on our own resources: we need Jesus, the bread of life, to sustain us!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

July 25 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first Church-wide celebration of a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is today.  Established by Pope Francis this past January, the celebration takes place close to the memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne (July 26), the grandparents of Jesus.  The Holy Father said he instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.”  He emphasized the importance of grandparents and grandchildren getting to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents seeing their grandchildren dream,” while “young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

We have started a grandparent ministry at Our Lady of Mercy and have joined the Catholic Grandparents Association.  For further information and to become involved in our grandparent ministry, please contact Deacon Tony Martini and his wife Allyson who initiated this ministry at OLM.  Deacon Tony: tonym@olmercy.com

Anything on your mind about living in Aurora or the Fox Valley?  Any concerns or issues you would like to see addressed?  I have met a couple of times with representatives from the Fox Valley River Initiative.  This is a relatively new organization to the Fox River Valley area, similar to DuPage United that was formed many years ago to address issues in DuPage County.  One of the best known issues that DuPage United addressed was homelessness in DuPage County, making the public and political leaders aware that homelessness did indeed exist in wealthy DuPage County.  As a result, PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) was established.

Fox Valley River Initiative is seeking input from residents of the area about the issues you feel are important and need to be addressed.  If you are interested in speaking by phone with a representative from the organization, please e-mail me, and I will put you in contact with one of the representatives.

Have a Blessed Week

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

July 18 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I bet many of you have had a travel nightmare!  Flights delayed then canceled requiring an unexpected overnight stay in a city not your destination.  Frustrated and hungry you end up in accommodations miles from the airport, and by the time you got to the hotel you discover the restaurant is closed.  This happened to me on a flight from California to Chicago via Dallas.  Storms in Chicago forced the cancellation of my flight home and there were no other flights that evening.  Others and I ended up at a hotel in Fort Worth, starving, and the restaurant is closed.  The hotel staff, recognizing the need of the many stranded travelers, surprised us by ordering several extra-large pizzas for us to share.  It was like a miracle!  It surely was manna in the desert to us that night!  We all fell asleep grateful instead of grumpy!

In today’s first reading, the Israelites are hungry.  They are truly in need of physical nourishment and God provides for them by sending them food in the form of manna.  In the Gospel, however, the people searching for Jesus are no longer physically hungry.  The passage follows immediately on the heels of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  As the crowds return in search of last night’s miracle worker, Jesus knows that their stomachs are full and that they likely had eaten breakfast before getting into their boats to travel across the sea.  Jesus knew that the people, having had their physical needs met, were now able to accept the true bread from heaven.  They were now free to hear and receive the good news that Jesus had to offer them, the bread of life, a relationship with him.

In our efforts to be missionary disciples, we often get it backward.  How many times do we harshly judge those not in our pews before meeting their very real needs for food, clothing, shelter or health care?  St. Mother Theresa often described the loneliness and emptiness of people in the West as a hunger more difficult to satisfy than physical hunger.  How often do we not recognize that hunger and fail to nourish those who are lonely or hurting?  In spite of our best intentions, do we sometimes find ourselves quoting the Catechism rather than first seek to understand their situations or their pain?  Pope Francis often speaks of the church as a field hospital.

Today’s readings show us that God truly does start from the ground up.  God met the Israelites need for food in the desert.  Jesus met the crowds’ need for food in Galilee.  Only then did Jesus offer them the true food, the bread from heaven that was his very self.  God uses us, the body of Christ, the church, to do as Jesus did!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

From the Pastor’s Desk

July 11 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WE’RE STEPPING OUT IN FAITH!

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples on mission telling them to take NOTHING with them.  In other words, to trust in Divine Providence that their needs will be taken care of.  And so it is with us at Our Lady of Mercy!  We trust that the needs of the parish, God will provide for through the generosity of our parishioners.  Today I want to share with you a message about the financial status of our parish, as the fiscal year 2020-2021 ended on June 30, 2021.  I am pleased to inform you that we did have a positive end to the fiscal year primarily for four reasons – continued generosity of our parishioners, a reduction in staff salaries, a reduction of expenses due to a lack of use of the facilities, and reception of a PPP loan, which has been forgiven.

I want to say a word of profound thanks to all of you who, during the pandemic were able to continue your Sunday contributions, especially through online giving.  Prior to the pandemic, our average Sunday collection was $32,000 weekly.  During the pandemic and currently, our average Sunday collection is $27,200 weekly.  As I said, we were able to weather that loss in income for the reasons mentioned above.

The new fiscal year 2021 – 2022 just began on July 1st.  With most Covid protocols no longer in effect and capacity restrictions lifted, we are gearing up for a return of in-person participation at Mass and our parish organizations and ministries. This will require the re-hiring of custodial services from Buck Services and daily maintenance of the building in addition to purchasing supplies for organizations and ministries. We are re-organizing our RE staff and office and are planning to hire an additional youth minister to focus especially on evangelizing our teens.

So, here is where we are stepping out in faith!  To cover these expenses in our new fiscal year, our financial council has budgeted our average Sunday collection to be $30,000 weekly – an increase of $2,800 from where we have been during the pandemic, but still short of the $32,000 we were averaging prior to the pandemic.  It would be great to get back to that pre-pandemic level!  But, we feel with our faith in you, we will reach our goal of $30,000 weekly!

God bless all of you for however you can support OLM financially and with your time and talent, and with your prayers!

Father Don

From the Pastor’s Desk

July 4 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, with parades, fireworks and barbecues we celebrate our Independence – an Independence which was won and is maintained by the sacrifice of many lives.  However, our independence is not absolute.  Our nation was founded on belief in God.  Our Independence is DEPENDENT on God.  This dependence on God is clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights….And it ends “with a firm reliance on Divine Providence we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor…..”  As a nation founded on belief in God, our President takes the oath of office by placing his/her hand on the Bible, the Word of God, and ends with, “So help me God..”  In our pledge of allegiance we say, “One nation under God.”  Engraved on our money is “In God we trust.”  Our Congress has a chaplain, begins each session with a prayer and provides for chaplains for the Military.

Our Founding Fathers may have opted for a separation of Church and State but not for a separation of God and State.  There is no brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God.  The division of life into the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy.  There is not now, there never was and there never will be the purely secular, that is, anyone or anything which is not dependent on God.  Atheistic capitalism would suffer the same fate as atheistic communism.

What the Constitution guarantees is not freedom FROM religion but freedom OF religion, freedom to practice religion.  Thankfully, we can choose to let the values of the kingdom of God have an influence on the values of our nation.  We can choose to accept the peace and healing of Christ that they bring peace and healing to our country.  We can receive the body and blood of the Lord so that all the children at God’s table will be fed and receive their due in life.  As we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, we become Christ’s body, to be in the world and serve it, but not to be totally of it.  We are thankful for our country and our independence, but as Christians, we must remember our ultimate home, now and forever, is elsewhere.  While we may be citizens of the United States, our ultimate citizenship is in heaven!

I wish to express my thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers at the time of my surgery on June 10.  The surgery to remove my cancerous thyroid went well.  I will in the near future need to have the radioactive iodine treatment, and then the process of getting the right dosage of thyroid replacement medication determined.  Thanks as well to those who sent cards and prayer enrollments.  I appreciate your concern!

Happy Independence Day!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

June 27 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

At this time of the year, parishes throughout the Diocese often experience a change in staff.  OLM is no exception.  It is with mixed feelings that I announce that Jean Rehmer who has worked as secretary in our Religious Education office for the past 18 years is retiring at the end of June.  I say mixed feelings because retirement is a happy thing to look forward to, but Jean will be sorely missed!  Jean has been a huge behind the scenes support to our staff, catechists, and leaders in the Junior High (EDGE) and High School (LIGHT) religious education programs for our parish youth and teens.  Taking care of all the details for Confirmation and many other celebrations and programs, Jean has been the one to answer all your calls and questions.  She has especially enjoyed meeting and working with our parish youth and teens, always offering support and encouragement to them.  Jean has also worked with and coordinated the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) for the past 15 years.  She has also covered the parish office reception desk and answered phones when needed.  Jean has always been gracious and willing to perform any needed tasks.

Jean and her husband Deacon Phil (who retired a few months ago) have also been great witnesses to their faith.  Members of OLM for 28 years, both volunteered in baptismal preparation ministry for many years.  Jean also was a catechist for several years prior to employment at OLM.  Both Jean and Deacon Phil have been powerful witnesses to justice and peace ministry with their commitment to Hesed House and PADS.  They will continue to coordinate our Hesed House/PADS ministry at OLM during their retirement.

So, Jean, we thank you for all you have done for us at OLM and wish you all the best in your retirement!

God Bless Jean Rehmer!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

June 26 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

At this time of the year, parishes throughout the Diocese often experience a change in staff. OLM is no exception. It is with mixed feelings that I announce that Jean Rehmer who has worked as a secretary in our Religious Education office for the past 18 years is retiring at the end of June. I say mixed feelings because retirement is a happy thing to look forward to, but Jean will be sorely missed! Jean has been a huge behind the scenes support to our staff, catechists, and leaders in the Junior High (EDGE) and High School (LIGHT) religious education programs for our parish youth and teens. Taking care of all the details for Confirmation and many other celebrations and programs, Jean has been the one to answer all your calls and questions. She has especially enjoyed meeting and working with our parish youth and teens, always offering support and encouragement to them. Jean has also worked with and coordinated RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) for the past 15 years. She has also covered the parish office reception desk and answered phones when needed. Jean has always been gracious and willing to perform any needed tasks.

Jean and her husband Deacon Phil (who retired a few months ago) have also been great witnesses to their faith. Members of OLM for 28 years, both volunteered in baptismal preparation ministry for many years. Jean also was a catechist for several years prior to employment at OLM. Both Jean and Deacon Phil have been powerful witnesses to justice and peace ministry with their commitment to Hesed House and PADS. They will continue to coordinate our Hesed House/PADS ministry at OLM during their retirement.

So, Jean, we thank you for all you have done for us at OLM and wish you all the best in your retirement!

God Bless Jean Rehmer!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

From the Pastor’s Desk

June 20 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This being Father’s Day, we extend a special greeting of gratitude not only to our dads, but also to our Spiritual Father, Fr. James Guarascio.  Today is Fr. James’ first anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.  From his “spiritual grandfather” I want to tell him what a delight it has been to have him minister with me here at Our Lady of Mercy.  His humor, enthusiasm for the priesthood and love for the Church has truly been an inspiration for me.  He will be a great pastor…..probably within the next three years!!

We also extend this blessing to all our Father’s…….

Blessed are You, Lord and Father of All life, who has given to us the gift of the father of our family.  Today we honor him, and we thank You for the numerous good things that are ours because of him.

His love for us has been a sign of Your divine affection and a sharing in Your holy love.  His continuous concern for our needs and welfare is a mirror of Your holy providence.  And so, as we honor him, we praise You, Father of All Peoples.

Bless him this day with Your strength and holy power that he may continue to be a sign of You, our God, and a priestly parent to our family.  May we who have the honor of bearing his family name do so with great pride.

May we, the members of his family, assist him in his holy duties as a parent with our respect, our obedience and our deep affection.

Bless him, Lord, with happiness and good health, with peace and with good fortune, so that he who has shared of his very life may live forever with You, his God and heavenly Father.

This blessing and all graces, we pray, descend upon the father of our family: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  +Amen.

(Blessing Prayer reprinted with permission:  “Prayers for the Domestic Church” by Edward Hays”  Forest of Peace Publishing, Leavenworth, KS)

Happy Father’s Day!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

June 13 – Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks in parables.  Parables were Jesus’ favorite way of teaching.  He used parables because parables force you to think.  You have to pause and use your imagination to consider how the kingdom of God is like two sons, or ten virgins, or a treasure found in a field.  Today Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  What is he trying to say?  Parables always have multiple meanings.  I suggest to you one possible meaning of this parable today of the mustard seed is that Jesus is telling us that small things matter.

The parable is very clear on this.  The mustard seed is the smallest possible seed.  Yet, once it is planted, it grows into a sizeable plant that can give shade to birds.  The mustard seed is very small, just a speck.  It would be so easy to lose it or to ignore it or to discard it.  But doing any of those things, we would miss the opportunity to see how it would grow and what it would become.  The lesson of the mustard seed is important, because we live in a culture that values what is big and impressive.  We get excited about a new car or better clothes or the most recent laptop or smart phone that at times we overlook what seems to be less.  That is unfortunate, because small things matter.  They matter because God uses them, and they matter in two different ways.  They matter in the actions that we do, and they matter in the things we receive.

As we live any day of our life, we should never discount the small things we can do: a word of love or support to our spouse, a few moments to affirm a son or daughter about something they are good at or something that they have achieved, a phone call to a friend who is grieving the death of a loved one, or even a thankful smile instead of a vacant stare as we approach the cashier in the supermarket.  These are small things, tiny; things, things that could seem to have no significance.  Yet they can be important because God can choose to use them to build up some person in our lives and to increase the goodness around us.  We should never discount doing small things in the course of every day!

But neither should we overlook the importance of receiving small things each day.  For each day there are people in our lives who give us signs of love and support.  How much richer our lives would be if we were open to accept those signs and take them in….the smile of a 3-year old child, the person who breaks to let us into traffic, a friend who says to us “How are you? How are you really?”  All of these are signs that God is using to show us that we are loved and that there are reasons for hope.

Big and flashy things always seem important.  But small things matter.  Things a little as a mustard seed can shape our lives.  We can be the farmer who plants the mustard seed or the soil that receives it – the giver or the receiver.  In both cases, small things like a mustard seed can make a difference.  God uses the small things in our lives to build the kingdom of God.  SMALL THINGS MATTER!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

 

From the Pastor’s Desk

June 6 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today we celebrate the foundational Catholic truth that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, which unfortunately during this COVID pandemic, which started in March 2020, many have been deprived of receiving. Today we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus – our communion with Him through the Eucharist.  As I said, many, for various reasons have not be able to come to Mass and are spiritually starving!  Technology allowed us to livestream Mass to watch on television and mobile devices, but technology cannot provide for receiving Holy Communion.  During the pandemic, our bishop gave a general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.  I suspect the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will be re-instated soon (if it already hasn’t been since I’ve written this article).

One of the aspirational values we are encouraging our parishioners to embrace is the Primacy of Sunday Eucharist.  We dream to be a parish where everyone hungers to be nourished by the true presence of Christ in Word and Eucharist, giving priority to coming to Mass every Sunday.  That means not attending Mass only if we can fit it in our schedule between kids sporting events, projects we want to get done around the house, and any of the numerous reasons we can find for not attending Mass.  Instead, we attend Mass BEFORE (or after) doing all the other activities in our schedule.  Why?

Can you recall what was your most memorable meal?  This question was posed by a hostess at a dinner party, and she received a variety of answers.  One couple said that their most memorable meal was a three course dinner which was made by an executive chef for them on their honeymoon while on a river cruise in Paris.  Another couple said that their most memorable was the first time their children served them breakfast in bed on their anniversary.  A man who had been a boy scout said his most memorable meal was a meal of hobo hamburgers, which he prepared in tin foil over a campfire.  A mother of three said her most memorable meal was a meal at which she ate nothing.  It was the first time she nursed her newborn son.

I would add that your First Communion should be included in your list of most memorable meals!  The truth is that the Eucharist is the perfect meal!  Because, in this meal we share the body and blood of Christ, the real presence of our Savior.  Christ is the source of life and therefore the source of all the blessing in our lives, which we commemorate in all the other meals we celebrate.  The Eucharist is the meal which is the source of all our meals, because in the Eucharist, we encounter the author of life who is the source of every blessing.  Through Christ we are blessed in our family, our friends, our talents, and our possessions.  All of these gifts come for Christ.  In the Eucharist we encounter Him and celebrate the blessings we have received!  That should have priority in our Sunday meal plans!!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don