From the Pastor’s Desk

Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!

August 19, 2018 Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The most important belief and teaching of the Catholic Church, that distinguishes us from all other Christian denominations, is faith that Jesus is TRULY (not symbolically) present – body, soul and divinity in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.  And to make a point of how important this belief is, we have been hearing what is known as “the bread of life” discourse from the Gospel of John for 4 Sundays, with one more to go. And imagine, it all began with an unnamed boy giving what he had – 5 barley loaves and 2 fish!  As we have progressed over the weeks, Jesus has given us the model for evangelization.  In the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Jesus fed the physical hungers of the crowd, but he knew there were much deeper hungers to feed as well.  But before people could be open to the spiritual food Jesus would offer, he accepted first where they were at physically, emotionally and spiritually. He took care of their immediate needs. Only then could he gradually offer them a bread that would satisfy the much deeper hungers.  While most of us are well fed physically, we all have spiritual hungers that we need to satisfy as well.  We at Our Lady of Mercy are in the preparation stages to undertake an evangelization initiative this fall/winter that will speak to both, the physical and spiritual hungers of people.  This initiative is called Alpha.  In preparation to launch Alpha, currently the Parish Pastoral Council members and parish staff are experiencing Alpha with a weekly meal (dinner for the PPC and at lunch for the staff) and view a video and join in discussion afterward. The goal is to come to know Jesus.  Not academic head knowledge, but a deepening personal relationship.  Alpha is for those who have never heard of Jesus and his mission as well as for those in the pews that have a static or no real relationship with Jesus.  Coupled with Alpha, we will also be embracing what is called a paradigm shift to the way we think about being parish.  You will hear more about all this in the coming weeks and months.

In today’s gospel story, we are told that the people quarreled among themselves about how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat and blood to drink.  While that quarrel continues today among some Christians, let us embrace the mystery and come to feast on the body and blood of Jesus who gives us true food and drink.  This food leads us to the eternal banquet!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

Correction to last week’s article….the substance of bread and wine DO change into the body & blood of Jesus….but the elements do not change…they still look like bread and wine.


August 12, 2018 Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues his teaching that he is the Bread of Life.  In my homily for First Eucharist, I ask the children why it is necessary to eat every day?  And of course they know the answer:  to help us grow, be strong, and keep us alive.  Then I tell them there is another part of us that needs to grow, be strong and kept alive – and that is our spiritual self.  I tell them that the Eucharist is the original “soul” food! That Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine to feed our spiritual self.  What do you believe about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?  A 2010 Pew Forum study found that 45 percent of U.S. Catholics did not know that Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, yet 63 percent of Catholics said they believed in it.  Only 46 percent of Catholics know the teaching about the Real Presence and believe in it.  Yet, from 800 AD to less than 25 years ago, over 175 Eucharistic miracles have been recorded and recognized by the Church.  And while we are not obliged to accept them as matter of faith, they can certainly bolster our faith and strengthen our belief in the Real Presence.  Here are just two of the miracles recorded:

   Lanciano, Italy around 750 AD: A priest, who had doubts about Christ’s real presence, was celebrating Mass.  When he consecrated the host, it transformed into flesh and blood.  Over the years, samples of the tissue have been scientifically tested.  The last testings were done in 1971 and 1981.  The flesh was found to be from the myocardium, the heart muscle that pumps blood.  The blood was human and the type AB positive.  The white blood cells showed that it was from living flesh.  Moreover, the sample indicated that the person had been in trauma consistent with a person who had been beaten about the chest.  The scientist performing the study did not know the source of the sample.  You can see this miracle in Lanciano, Italy today.

   Buenos Aires, Argentina, St. Mary Church, 1996, in the diocese of our present Pope Francis.  A woman brought an abandoned host to the priest after Mass.  He put it in water to dissolve it so it could be disposed of properly later.  When the priest checked the next day, the host had not dissolved, but he saw a bloody substance there.  He contacted the bishop.  The matter was kept silent, and the host was kept in water until October 5, 1999, when samples were taken for testing.  Findings were the same as with the Lanciano sample, including heart muscle, blood type and living tissue, indicating that the Eucharist was still bleeding.

The Church teaches that at consecration, the substance of bread and wine do not change, but the essence does.  These Eucharistic miracles are testimony that we do receive the living Christ in the Eucharist.  In Communion, we receive the bread of life from heaven.  We receive Christ – his strength, his love, his compassion.  We share in his divine life.  And in doing so, we shall not die!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don

August 5, 2018 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

Hurray! It’s Vacation Bible School Week!!  Welcome to all the children who will attend and be Shipwrecked only to be rescued by Jesus.  A big thank you to all the adult and teen volunteers who will lead our children through a week of fun, games, and learning about Jesus.  VBS takes place from 9:00AM to 12:00Noon this Monday – Friday.

Today is the annual Seminarian Send-Off sponsored by the Serra Club of DuPage County.  Founded in 1958, the members of the Serra Club encourage and affirm vocations to the priesthood and religious life through prayer and active fellowship.  Though a member of the international vocation apostolate Serra International, the DuPage club devotes most of its energies to fostering and promoting vocations in the Diocese of Joliet.  For 41 years, they have proudly sponsored the Diocese of Joliet Annual Seminarian Sendoff each August before the men return to the formal studies, priestly discernment and formation.  Nearly 400 people attend including the seminarians and their families, bishops and priests of the diocese, Sarrans, and many others who support vocations and the priesthood.  Today’s event is held at the Krasa Center on the campus of Benedictine University in Lisle.  If you are interested in joining the Serra Club, contact: for more information.

So today we send-off parishioner Dave Diesem, who spent part of his summer in the Holy Land, to begin his 2nd year of theology at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein.  Also, our intern seminarian, Senovio Sarabia, Jr. will be returning to St. Mary of the Lake to begin his 3rd year of theology.  While seminarian Ramon Sida didn’t have any ministerial responsibilities at OLM, he lived here this summer while he and Senovio did a chaplain intern program at Northwestern Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.  He will begin his third year of theology as well.  We wish Dave, Senovio and Ramon all the best, along with all our diocesan seminarians, as they continue their studies and discernment for the priesthood.

I hope you all enjoyed the Newman Singers with their director Joe Mattingly from the University of Iowa who led us in song at all the Masses on the weekend of July 14/15.  And their concert on Sunday evening was truly beautiful and inspirational!  I want to especially thank parishioner Carrie Nadziejko who arranged for them to be here and took care of all the details surrounding the Newman Singers visit.  Carrie sings in our choir, but has a special fondness for the Newman Singers, as she sang in the choir back when she was an undergraduate at the University of Iowa.  As St. Augustine said….those who sing pray twice!!  And as I say….if God gave you a rotten voice, give it back!  SING!!

Have a Blessed Week!

Father Don

July 29, 2018 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend I am celebrating Masses at St. John the Baptist parish in Healdsburg, California and will be back in the office on Wednesday, August 1st after my 10-day vacation. It’s hard to believe that June and July have passed by so quickly.  With August on the horizon, kids will soon be heading off to college and high school – some for the first time.  Grammar schools will be starting mid to late August, and it seems that summer will be gone!  But wait!  Let’s not rush it!  We still have Vacation Bible School coming up at Our Lady of Mercy August 6th through 10th.  We look forward to welcoming our children for “Shipwrecked – Rescued By Jesus” for a half day of fun, games, music, crafts and learning about Jesus. Thanks to Jill Levine, Mary Jo Trapani, and all the adult and teen volunteers for making VBS an enjoyable experience for our children.

In today’s Gospel reading we remember that most famous picnic in religious history.  How many people were there?  Some say 5,000.  Did that include women and children?  We know there was at least one child – girl or boy, nobody knows for sure – who was vital to the story.  This event wins the prize as scripture’s number-one picnic because the New Testament narrates a version of it six times: twice each in Matthew and Mark, once in Luke and once in John. Today we hear John’s rendition.  John’s story involves a variety of characters.  First, Jesus looks at the mass of people.  Then he brings Philip into the action, asking him where they can buy food to feed that crowd.  Philip responds as a pragmatist, not-so-gently reminding Jesus of the limitations of their funds.  Then Andrew enters into the conversation, saying that there’s a child who has five barley rolls and two fish.  Altogether that adds up to seven morsels – the number symbolizes completeness, but in this case it seems more like complete inadequacy.  Now we are at the heart of the story.  Just when the disciples have pointed out the absurd limitations of their ability to respond, Jesus has them tell the people to recline in preparation for a feast.  While thousands look on, Jesus take the food and prays.  John says that Jesus “gave thanks.” That implies that he acknowledged that the food he held came from God and belonged to God.  Once the child handed it over and Jesus gave thanks over it, it was recognized as God’s food, and it was therefore God’s goodness that the crowd was going to share.  No evangelist describes how the bread multiplied and the how is not the point John wants to make.  The point is that God met the hunger of the people, beginning with the unstinting generosity of one of the least among them – a child.  So what does this story mean for us today?  Some understand it like the miracle portrayed in the movies when bread shoots out of baskets like popcorn.  That interpretation gives God the responsibility to do everything.  Many people who know poverty see it a different way.  People who have passed the end of their rope and still survive, recognize this as an example of God’s providence.  They can tell story after story about how God sent someone at just the right moment; how someone found the money for rent on the morning before eviction, how a donation came in on the day the orphanage ran out of food….how God comes through again and again, through some often unsuspecting, usually unexpected, generous soul.  This story reminds us that God can work wonders with the little we have if we are willing to give it all – like the child in today’s Gospel.

Have a Blessed Week!

Father Don

July 22, 2018 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

This weekend and next I will be away on a 10-day summer vacation to where else but Sonoma County California!  I visit and stay with a friend Tony who lives in Santa Rosa.  He works in the tasting room of Ferrari-Carano Winery outside of Healdsburg. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning about wine from listening his “spheel” as he pours for the guests at the several wineries where he has worked over the years.  And I have certainly enjoyed the “perks” of his wine industry discount when we visit other wineries throughout Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties.  And in the many years I have visited, some of Tony’s friends have become mine as well.  I look forward to spending some time with Fr. Sean Rogers, pastor of St. John the Baptist parish in Healdsburg and seeing some of the parishioners I’ve gotten to know.  I will be celebrating Mass there on July 21st and 22nd and July 28th and 29th to give Fr. Sean the opportunity to get away for a weekend, as he is the only priest in the parish.    Fr. Sean graduated from the University of Notre Dame and played and was on the football team.  He has been a priest 11 years.  His family owns a fruit and veggie stand with a small market in Santa Rosa.  Always a great place to stop for fresh fruit, sandwiches and snacks before heading out for a day of wine tasting!  I look forward to seeing Vernon and his two Chiweenie dogs.  They are the cutest little things!  A cross between a Chihuahua and a Dachshund.  Vernon, originally from Hawaii, manages a Starbuck’s Coffee Shop in Windsor and last time I visited we went whale watching. I hope to catch up with Travis and learn about his new position promoting tourism in Mendocino County.  Previously he worked at Handley Winery in Philo.  I hope to catch up with Michael (originally from Chicagoland and a Cubs fan) and his wife Rose.  Michael sells wine barrels.  During my visit last summer, he gave me a tour of the cooperage.  Really interesting how wine barrels are made!  My favorite will be spending time with Anne Vercelli.  Her father Joe was part of the beginning of the wine industry in California.  Back in the day he worked at Italian Swiss Colony.  A name revered by old-times.  Anne teaches culinary arts at the Santa Rosa Junior College, organizes several prestigious wine tasting events, judges wines and bakery competitions at the Sonoma County Fair and other events.  Some of her classes are taught at Shone Farm where the kitchen is named after her father.  In addition to all that, Anne works as hostess on Sunday at a delightful bakery/breakfast/lunch place, Costeaux in Healdsburg.  But the BEST is that whenever I come out for a visit she hosts and prepares a 6 to 8 course meal at her house with different wines with each course and invites all my CA friends!  It’s an amazing evening!!  So that diet that Fr. Mark announced I was going to start a couple months ago will just have to wait to August 1st!  I look forward to hiking in the Armstrong Redwood grove in Guerneville and walking the oceanfront.  Perhaps a canoe trip down the Russian River. Oh! Did I mention the wine tasting??

Whatever you and your family are doing to enjoy summer, please be safe and enjoy God’s wonderful creation!

Have A Blessed Week!

Father Don