From the Pastor’s Desk

Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!

September 9, 2018 Twenty-Third Sunday Ordinary Time

Kind of a boring picture of me without Heidi isn’t it! I wish to express my sincere appreciation to all who have reached out to me in various ways offering support and prayers at the death of my 15-year old dog Heidi.  On August 23rd, due to her failing health and quality of life, I had her euthanized.  Your kind hugs, words, cards, flowers, cookies and sweets have all made the grief journey more bearable.  Many have asked am I going to get another dog?  I don’t plan to at this time.  Seven years passed after I put my dog prior to Heidi down before getting Heidi.  I need some time to grieve and with retirement on the horizon in 2022 and not yet having decided where I will be living upon retirement, I wouldn’t want to get a dog now and later find out I couldn’t keep it.  I am tempted however, next time I visit Fr. Mark’s farm so sneak a piglet home – they have 15,000 of them….surely they wouldn’t miss one! Would they?

Included in today’s bulletin is the annual financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.  The Diocese requires pastors to provide a yearly report to parishioners so that they are aware of the financial state of their parish. The report shows a robust increase of 10% in the Sunday collection over the previous fiscal year.  Your overwhelming response to my request last year for an increase in the Sunday collection put our parish at the top parish in our Diocese to increase their Sunday collection.  Thank you for your incredible generosity!  And because of your generosity much has been accomplished this past fiscal year. I’ve been concerned about the safety and security of children attending RE classes, as well as all who use the Parish Life Center.  There has been no way to communicate throughout the building an emergency situation such as a tornado or other life threatening situation.  We have now installed a public address system in the hallways that can be heard in the classrooms and throughout the center.  We have also install a security camera system throughout the building.  WI-FI is now available throughout the PLC enabling access to internet programming for RE classes and adult formation programs.  Our phone system, computers and monitors have been updated.  Video screens have been installed in the lobby on the PLC and narthex of the church which display information about upcoming programs and activities as well as funeral information for parishioners who have died.  So a lot has been done to enhance our communications efforts.  Some new ministries were started.  Moms & Tots enable young mothers to come together in support and prayer.  Fit Shepherds, a men’s exercise group enable guys to bond in friendship and masculine spirituality.  Mary’s Squad is the women’s version of the men’s exercise group.  But most of all, the increase in the collection has allowed us to hire a full-time Director of Evangelization and Communications.  Evangelization is the next area that we are going to focus on in the coming months.

So, I am asking for your continued financial support of OLM.  Next weekend, September 15/16 is our annual “Commitment Sunday” for your weekly/monthly support of our parish through the Sunday collection.  You will receive your commitment card in the mail this week.  Please pray about your financial support and the parish and fill out the card and bring it to Mass next Sunday.

Again, I thank you so much for your support!

Have a Blessed Week!

Father Don

September 2, 2018 Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

I find myself saying on every Labor Day weekend – “Can you believe that summer is over already!”  While summer is over in the sense of outdoor swimming pools and beaches we know summer doesn’t officially end until September 22 this year, so we still have time to enjoy God’s gift of the beauty of summer.  Don’t put those BBQ grills and patio deck chairs away just yet!  And one of the great things I enjoy about Labor Day weekend, it kicks off the college football season.  Go Irish!  But just as on Memorial Day weekend that unofficially starts the summer season, we don’t want to forget there is a reason for this holiday.  On Memorial Day, we remember those who have died defending the ideas and principals of our nations.  Labor Day, started in the 19th century honors the American labor movement and the contribution that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of our country.  Our Church, through the teachings and proclamations of several popes and American bishops promote the dignity and rights of workers, as well as fair and just salaries.  So on this holiday weekend, let us not forget those who are un-employed, under-employed, and all who struggle to make ends meet.

As I did last year on the weekend after Labor Day, I will be speaking at all the Masses next weekend to share with you the annual fiscal report for the fiscal year July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. I will share with you some of the highlights and good news for the past fiscal year as well as some of the budgetary needs for the current fiscal year that just started July 1st.  As always I am so very grateful for the sacrificial support you have given to Our Lady of Mercy as well as the sharing of your time and talents in our various ministries and outreach programs.  The weekend of September 15th and 16th will be our annual stewardship commitment weekend for your financial support of OLM through the Sunday collection.  In the week prior to commitment weekend you will receive in the mail your commitment card.  As you review the materials and consider the needs I will outline next weekend, I ask you to prayerfully consider your weekly or monthly contribution, and if possible make a small increase to help us reach our goals for the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year.  Please bring your completed commitment card to Mass the weekend of September 15/16.  We will have cards in the pew in the event you forget your card.

Again, Fr. Mark and I are so very grateful for the spiritual support and affirmation you have given us, and we have seen that support by the increase in the Sunday collection for the year.  Please be assured that we remember you and thank God for you in our daily prayers!

Have a blessed Labor Day weekend!

Father Don

August 26, 2018 Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today is the conclusion of the “bread of life” discourse from the Gospel of John.  We have been hearing this discourse for the past four Sundays.  Today’s reading focuses on the responses of different people to Jesus’ proclamation: that He is the true bread come down from heaven; that  he gives his flesh for the life of the world; that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will never die.  Overall, the people were not impressed.  Their responses include grumbling, disbelief, rejection, and betrayal.  The Twelve however, in the name of Peter make a confession of faith to Jesus and remain committed to following him. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus that his followers begin to grasp the kind of intimacy with God that Jesus offers through the Eucharist.   At the Last Supper, Jesus leaves us his legacy.  “Do this in memory of me.”  How do we listen to Jesus’ challenge?  We often limit our thinking so that “Do this” only references the blessing, breaking, giving and sharing of the bread.  Jesus calls us to more.  What if we interpret “do this” as “Do my whole life” – healing, forgiving, including outsiders, challenging wrongful authority, taking time to go away and pray, serving others by washing feet – so that it is we who are blessed and broken open so that we can give and share of ourselves to feed the world?  Jesus still patiently waits for us to grasp the power he left within us.  When we act in loving ways we are using that power, the power of the Holy Spirit.  In my article last week, I shared with you that in the “bread of life” discourse, Jesus gave us a model for evangelization.  I informed you that we are in the preparation phase to feed both body and spirit of those who hunger for God, for love, for acceptance, for meaning by undertaking the Alpha initiative.  Our Lady of Mercy is preparing to be a new force of evangelization to Catholics, non-Catholics, non-believers, the lost, the lonely, the abandoned not only in our parish, but in our local community. All will be welcomed here!!

In the year and two months that Fr. Mark and I have been here, many have remarked to us of a re-vitalized energy and enthusiasm within the parish.  Praise God for the Spirit working and moving among our parishioners!  We have identified two areas that we realize we can’t do alone.  Evangelization and Communications.  A unique opportunity has arisen to hire an individual that can assist us – and you – become evangelizers and communicators.  I am pleased to inform you that I have hired parishioner Zara Tan as Director of Evangelization and Communications.  Zara has already been volunteering in the development of the new parish website and APP, as well as leading adult faith formation programs.  Zara graduated two years ago from the Lay Leadership Program at Mundelein and has a burning desire to reach those who don’t yet know Jesus and our Catholic Faith.  Zara will begin her position on September 3rd.  Please welcome her to our staff!

Father Don

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