Dear Friends in Christ:
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Sunday that falls in the Octave of the Solemnity of Christmas is always dedicated to celebrating the Holy Family. The Readings for this Sunday focus on the rights and responsibilities of family members toward each other, and the Gospel focuses on Saint Joseph, who cared for and protected the Blessed Mother and infant Jesus through the dangerous early years of Jesus’ childhood. The primary purpose of The Feast of the Holy Family is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families.
I have shared this in the past but I believe it bears repeating that there is a traditional saying in Italy, “La famiglia é tutto,” which means, “the family is everything.”
Family life today is experiencing a crisis of stability, partly caused by economic hardship, but often by other factors like lack of generosity, or too much insistence on getting one’s own way. Today’s feast invites us to meditate on our own contribution to family life. In the words of Sirach, we read how Jewish families in Our Lord’s time applied the Fourth Commandment as a promise of blessing. Then from Saint Paul we hear words of advice and encouragement for kindness within the family. Finally, the Gospel offers us the story of the flight into Egypt showing how even Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the best of all families, had to cope with dangers and hardships, which they faced together with the help of God. They faced it all together as a family!
How fitting it is for US then on this Feast of the Holy Family, in collaboration with our Knights of Columbus Sante Fe Council #2978 that we are inviting ALL families in our parish to celebrate this feast day by a special consecration of your family to the Holy Family. It is our hope that consecrating your family to the Holy Family will help your individual family to be strengthened in the bond of love and that through this spiritual exercise we as a parish family will, likewise, be strengthened in grace and love.
The Knights of Columbus together with your Priests invite each family of our Parish to be consecrated to the Holy Family and to devote yourselves to the ideal model of familial love set forth by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Consecrating yourselves to the Holy Family provides you great intercessors to help you as a family to follow their model of living lives obedient to God’s Will, strong in faith, persevering in prayer, diligent in work, and generous towards those in need.
We will invite all families to consider standing up at the end of Mass this weekend and reciting the Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Family. Our local council has purchased prayer cards for you to use during those Masses and take home with you.
On this Feast of the Holy Family I wish to express my deepest and profound gratitude to all of you who assisted the Advent Giving Tree Program in helping our brothers and sisters in their time of need. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we need one another, we should rely on one another, and we should help one another. Well, my friends, you have once again made an extraordinary act of love in your outreach to the less fortunate this Christmas. Our Advent Giving Tree was a tremendous success thanks to your generosity and your care and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Your constant support and generosity to the less fortunate continues to be a great hallmark of our parish family, and for that I thank you! I am told by those who coordinated this effort that the presentation of the gifts was impressive. Thank you for caring enough to take the time to make the packages look special.
I want to share with you one story that occurred this year regarding the package seen in this photo. I was notified by one of the helpers to our Advent Giving Program through an email that said “Someone found tag in S & S lot. Anonymous generosity to be commended.” Curious!?!?! I was! So I asked was the tag returned with the gift item? He replied “yes they bought the gift too!” The tag was rewritten by the Anonymous person and it reads “Hi—Someone must have dropped this in the Stop and Shop Parking Lot. I saw it and picked it up so the baby boy would be sure to get his gifts. You might want to make another one though. Merry Christmas.” WOW! What a beautiful, generous, and loving act! May God reward this person’s generosity! May this story inspire each of us to seek ways in which to make a difference in the lives of others.
A word of special gratitude goes to Tina Kurtz who generously said YES when asked if she would take over the Advent Giving Program this year. Devorah Olewnik has served as the chairperson of this program for many years and to her we say a HUGE thank you! The work of the Giving Tree really goes for months in planning, preparation, execution, and delivering. Thank you Devorah for your years of selfless, generous, and extraordinary leadership and for your assistance in this time of transition this year. Thank you Tina for your unwavering commitment to the success of this effort and your willingness to chair such a great program in our parish life.
We also say thank you to all those who helped in countless ways this year. Some say it takes a village and the Advent Giving Tree is proof it sure does. To those who helped Tina in this effort including Devorah Olewnik, Cee Cee and David Johnson, Stacie Nole, Margaret Hardner & Steve Burner, Yan Yan Beach, Ronnie & Sheldon Pollock, Nancy & Bruce Humiston, Leah & David Judge, Jim Gragnano, Marcia Schoepfer, Cindy Smith, and Pat Figliola. Thanks too to the students from our parish who took time to cut out the stars for the tree.
Your generosity provided over 200 gifts to Saint Vincent DePaul Shelter & Soup Kitchen, 30 gifts to Carolyn’s Place, as well as gifts to the 23 residents at Marbridge, and gifts to the 139 families served by the Cheshire Community Food Pantry. Cheshire Academy, once again, gave books to the children of these families. The responses of those who benefited from your generosity was truly heartfelt. Again, please know of my personal gratitude to each and every one of you who give from your hearts to support those in need.
The New Year is approaching! This coming week we celebrate and enter into a New Year, 2020! Wow, how time flies by. Don’t forget January 1st is also a Holy Day of Obligation, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We will offer Mass at 5PM on Tuesday, December 31st in Saint Thomas Becket Church, and at 8:30 and 10:30AM in Saint Bridget Church on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.
Let us enter into this New Year mindful that it is a time of new hope, a time of new enthusiasm, and a time of new energy. It is a time of new opportunity, as well, as we continue to discern how God is calling us to live out our call as missionary disciples today as individuals and as a family of faith here at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish. This is going to be an amazing year for our parish family; I just know it. With the new Youth Minister, Regis O’Neill, among us and already beginning to reach out to the youth of our parish family, and our efforts to partner with id 9:16 Ministry to reach out to our Young Adults, I am confident we will see much fruit as we continue to grow together in faith as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.
So, as we embark on this New Year in God’s grace, let us pray that we will do so in the understanding that there is nothing that should hinder us from following the Lord completely. May I offer some 8 suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions? Here they are:
1. Read the Bible…we encourage you to read the bible. Can you read a chapter a day during your prayer time?
2. Get to know the Saints…read the book Rediscover the Saints which we gave out at Christmas, or go to Amazon and purchase a book on the lives of the Saints or start with just one Saint perhaps your patron for Confirmation.
3. Come to Eucharistic Adoration…it happens every Friday from 1-4PM in Saint Bridget Church. Come by for a visit with the Lord Jesus.
4. Commit to daily prayer…make a commitment to the Lord to spend time each day in prayer no matter what time of day, but make a commitment and keep it.
5. Celebrate the Sacraments…come to Confession more! Participate more frequently in the Eucharist! If you are doing both perhaps you can increase your prayer time?
6. Join a group…perhaps one of our Adult Ed Programs, our Parenting Circle, a book club, a bible study, or one of the many other opportunities we have in our parish.
7. Start fasting…fasting isn’t just for lent, it is a way for us to be conformed to Christ every day. Perhaps you can start by performing some act of penance every Friday throughout the year! It is only 52! You can do it.
8. Forgive…wow. There it is. “I knew he would throw that in there,” I could hear some saying right now. Yes I did. “He doesn’t understand how hard it is,” perhaps some are thinking. Yes I do. We all need to realize that forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling. Let’s all make a resolution to forgive one person for whom we have been harboring resentment and add them to our prayer intentions. It’s a good start!
As we continue to move into the New Year be sure to stay connected to the parish. Be sure you have visited our user-friendly website at www.stbridgetchesire.org. Through the website you will find out what is happening in our parish family. You can also “like” us on Facebook @stbridgetofswedenparish, and don’t forget to sign-up for our parish app by texting APP to 88202 and searching for our parish through the application. We are really hoping to better utilize these means of communication as a way to get information out to you in a timely manner. Of course, for more information on the life of our parish family and the many spiritual and social activities and events throughout the year, including a parish calendar, simply visit the parish website.
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world. Happy New Year!