Pastor's page

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dear friends,

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shares with us three parables about the kingdom of heaven. 1) The person who finds the treasure buried in a field, 2) the merchant searching for fine pearls, and 3) the fishermen and the net thrown into the sea and they catch “fish of every kind.”.  What do these parables share in common?  Joyful discovery which leads to the person devoting himself or herself to the pursuit of that end.  The kingdom of heaven is our lived encounter with God.  Once we have experienced the love and mercy of God, we want to love Him more and more.  We commit ourselves to following His will and renounce all that is contrary.  We “buy in” totally and completely.  This is what it means to be radically, passionately, head-over-heels in love with God - to participate in the kingdom of heaven.

It should be noted that the term “kingdom of heaven” always has a two-fold meaning.  In one sense, it is the future coming of the eternal kingdom of heaven at the close of time, where we will live forever in union with God, free from all pain and suffering. 

In the other sense, the kingdom of heaven pertains to the here now.  It is God’s Presence as experienced on this side of eternity.  The kingdom of heaven is realized in the wonder of the Sacred Liturgies, the smile of a loved one, the beauty of a sunset, or in the faces of the poor, sick, elderly, and oppressed.  In a special way, it is our vocation to make heaven present here on earth. 

It is also in this sense that the kingdom of heaven is like the net which collects “every kind” of fish.  At the end of the age, on the day of judgment, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.

So, in examining your heart, have you discovered “the treasure buried in the field” - the great love and mercy of God?  Have you set your heart on “the pearl of great price” - eternal life with God in heaven?  Have you committed yourself totally to following His will and abandoned every vice and distraction which would hinder you from achieving your end?  What type of fish are you?  Righteous or wicked?  Thankfully we trust in a merciful and loving God but do we really place all our trust in Him?  Do we truly try our best?

August approaches, our young families are busy preparing for the new school year.  This is a good time for all of us to take stock in our lives.  What goals do we have for the coming year to grow in wisdom and grace before the Lord?  If you need ideas, check out our directory of ministries on  www.StPaulChurch.com or contact Nancy Kissane at the parish office.  We would love to help.

In the meantime, let us pray: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!”

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Father Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends,

For many people, it is impossible to reconcile the concept of a good and loving God in a world filled with so much evil.  Today’s Gospel gives us insights (Mt 13:24-43).  God created us in His image with a free will.  Part of having a free will is that our choices have consequences.  Sometimes we only seek our own good and fail to consider the needs of others.  At the end of time, we will all be judged by what we sowed.  How can you better share the love and mercy of God with others?

Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (1900-1981) and his “ABCs of the Crusade of Love” serve as a good source of inspiration:

1. Respect everyone - Christ resides in everyone. Be sensitive to others - they are your brothers and sisters.

2. Think well of everyone - think ill of no one. Try to find something good even in the worst circumstances.

3. Always speak well of others - do not cast a slur on anyone. Repair any harm resulting from an uttered word. Do not provoke strife between people.

4. Speak to everyone in the language of love. Do not raise your voice. Do not swear. Do not vex others. Do not provoke tears. Reassure others. Show a kind heart.

5. Forgive everyone everything. Do not hold grudges. Always be the first to extend your hand as a sign of reconciliation.

6. Act always to your neighbor's advantage. Do good things to others, as you would like them done to you. Never give a thought to what others owe you, but always to what you owe them.

7. Be actively compassionate in time of suffering. Be quick to offer consolation, counsel, assistance, kindness.

8. Work conscientiously - others benefit from the fruits of your labor, just as you benefit from the labor of others.

9. Be active in your community. Be open to the poor and the sick. Share your goods. Try to see the needs of those around you.

10. Pray for everyone, even your enemies.

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Father Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends,

One of the great blessings of hiking deep in the mountains is that there is no cell phone coverage, newspapers, or radios.  I’m completely unplugged.  And it is glorious!  Now believe me, I wouldn’t mind being able to keep in touch with family and friends and certainly my family would feel better about my hikes if I had the capability of calling out in case of an emergency ... but ... it is really good to be unplugged.

This is especially true when it comes to the news.  It can be so disheartening when you hear of how some people seem to really enjoy hurting others ... the war and terror overseas, the systemic persecution against Christians, the violence on our streets, the assaults against human life, the prejudices and bigotries which are rife in our society ... Then when we think of some of the wholly inadequate proposals to provide adequate and affordable physical and mental health care to the poor and elderly, ensure quality education to our children, enact reasonable gun laws, protect our environment, address the radicalization of our youth ... it is all so overwhelming!!!

We are in crisis.  It is within this context that our second reading really stands out:  “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us.  For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:18-19).  We are called to walk in faith ... to trust in our good and merciful God ... For truly “all creation is groaning in labor pains” and indeed “we groan within ourselves” (Rom 8:22-23).

What can we do?  1) Pray.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  2) Model our faith through all you say, think, and do.  If you make a mistake, err on the side of charity.  3) Do all you can to help those in need.  Remember, “Blessed are the merciful.”  4) And contact our representatives to let them know how you feel on the issues you care most about (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials).  Be a part of the solution rather than the problem. 

Let us all be the fertile soil of the Gospel parable.  May the love and mercy of God not only take root in our lives but bear abundant fruit!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Father Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends,

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  We believe that “rest” is not only a gift from God but is the third commandment given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Keep Holy the Sabbath day.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes: “The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite.  It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC, 2172). 

The Sabbath is a day dedicated to the Lord.  Since the apostolic age, Sacred Scripture and unbroken Sacred Tradition have mandated that we gather for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  Think about it.  It is the least we can do.  God has showered His blessings upon us and asks so little in return.  The least we can do is gather to worship and adore Him, to listen to His Word, pray for our needs and those of the world, and share in His Sacred Meal.  He has given us so much and wants us to give us so much more each and every Mass, yet how difficult it can be for us to give Him an hour of our time!  As a good friend and mentor of mine once said, “It breaks the Lord’s heart when we miss Mass.”  I agree!

Of course, keeping holy the Sabbath day is not limited to the celebration of the Mass.  “The faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body” (CCC, 2185).  The entire day should be a day of rest in which we are called to share quality time with those we love, help those in need, partake in spiritual reading and reflection, and simply relax!  Of course, some of us have to work on the Sunday.  Be sure to make the time later in the week to rest from your labors.  Indeed, rest is not a luxury but is vital for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. 

We should do our best to avoid shopping and other activities which not only distract us from the Sabbath but prevent others from enjoying the Sabbath with their loved ones.

The same is true of vacation time.  It is not a luxury but something we all need if we are to be healthy.  As you plan your vacation be sure to check on line for the nearest churches for Sunday Mass.  There are also a number of excellent apps available.  I like Mass Times.  Not only are you fulfilling the precept of the church, but will have a wonderful opportunity to give witness to your faith while experiencing the Divine Liturgy in a different community.  (Be sure to take a bulletin home to share with me.  I love to read how God is working in our sister parishes!)

As you read this, I’m hiking in the San Juan Mountains by Durango, Colorado.  It is like a retreat ... sharing quality time with my nephew and dear friend while praying, celebrating Mass, and enjoying God’s creation on the trail.  Know you are in my prayers as well.  May God bless you and your loved ones in your travels.  If you aren’t traveling this summer, may you take the time to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God’s creation here in Florida this and every Sabbath day!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

My friends,

Last week I went with a group of parishioners on an amazing pilgrimage to Mexico to see Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It was an experience of a lifetime!  We arrived on Monday and celebrated Mass at the beautiful baroque Church of St. Felipe de Jesus, the first saint and martyr of the New World. 

On Tuesday, we spent the entire day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The sacred image of Our Lady is truly breathtaking ... a living miracle!  Our Lady appeared four times to San Juan Diego December 9-12 of 1531 and left him this miraculous image as a testament of the great love and mercy of God!  As a result, millions of people gave their lives to Christ and there was a unity of faith between the native peoples and the Spaniards.  Today she is the Patroness of the Americas.

Wednesday was very interesting.  Many people forget there was a fifth apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe ... to San Juan Diego’s uncle Bernardino.  She healed him, confirmed her message to Juan Diego, and referred to herself as “Holy Mary of Guadalupe.”  After Mass, we climbed the Pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacan and visited the 16th century Monastery of San Agustin Acolman.

The next day we traveled up to Tlaxcala to visit the miraculous shrine of San Miguel del Milagro, where St. Michael the Archangel is said to appear to Diego Lazaro in 1631.  We also visited Octalan where in 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego Bernadino and showed him a miraculous fount which healed the people of the plague.

On Friday we stayed in Mexico City. We went to the 16th century church of San Diego where we celebrated Mass before the image of Divine Mercy and fount in which St. Juan Diego was baptized.  We then visited the Cathedral of the Assumption, the largest cathedral in the New World.  It was simply breathtaking!

The following day we went up to the city of Puebla, truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  We visited the Cathedral, St Francis church and the incorruptible body of St. Sebastian, Santo Domingo and the beautiful Rosary Chapel, and Santa Monica and the miraculous statue of El Señor de Maravillas. 

Finally, on Sunday we celebrated Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe before heading home.

The highlight of the pilgrimage for me was the Masses and the great blessing of being able to share the experience with my 17 year old nephew.  During the pilgrimage, the Lord really touched his heart and he decided to become confirmed and receive his First Holy Communion this year!  It is an answer to years of prayers!  God is so good!

 

In April, we will take another pilgrimage ... this time to encounter Divine Mercy in Lithuania and Poland.  (See this bulletin for more information.)  Please come and bring your grandchildren and nieces and nephews.  Who knows?  They may also discover the great love and mercy of God!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

My friends,

Today is the day of “farewells” and “hellos.” 

Today we say “farewell” to Fr. Stephan Brown, SVD.  He leaves today to begin a retreat before beginning his new ministry on July 1 as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Bishop Parkes felt that he was the best priest to serve the growing needs of this largely African-American community.  Although he will be sorely missed, we are so grateful for the time he shared with us and are delighted for the people of St. Joseph.

In the same breath, we will say “hello” next weekend to Fr. Victor Bartolotta.  Ordained for the Diocese of Rochester, he has spent much of his life serving the people of Texas.  Widowed at an early age, he is blest to have two grown daughters.  Please join me in praying for him and his family as he begins his new ministry at St. Paul Catholic Church.

Today we also say “farewell” to Lizette Espel, our Baptism Coordinator.  After much prayer, Lizette has decided to devote more time to her family and her new grandchild.  Lizette has faithfully served our parish for 17 years and has been a beloved and valued member of our parish staff.  We offer our prayers for Lizette and hope our prayers will continue to cross in service to the Lord. 

In the same breath, parishioner Elizabeth Hays has graciously accepted our offer to serve as our new Baptism Coordinator.  Liz has served as our head sacristan for a number of years and is a recent graduate of the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute (LPMI).  She is bilingual and brings a wealth of talent and experience as she begins her ministry to our young families in need of baptism and shepherds our Nursery Ministry and Children’s Liturgies.  Let us offer a song of thanksgiving for Elizabeth!

We also welcome Ana Garcia as our new Youth Minister.  Ana is no stranger to St. Paul.  She has been very active in our Youth Ministry program during the past year and in addition to being bilingual, she feels strongly about developing a team approach to teen ministry.  She will be coordinating ministry to our young people in grades 6-12.  Please call her at the parish office if you would like help share our rich faith with our teens.  May God bless our youth!

Although we are still looking for a new Director for our Preschool, Martha Aguiar has graciously agreed to stay on until we find the right person.  She is incredibly gifted and we will need someone with rather “large feet” to follow in her footsteps!  Please keep our Preschool and the Search Committee in your prayers.

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

My friends,

Today we celebrate the source and summit of our faith ... Jesus Christ ... really and truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.  The Bishops of the United States reflect “The Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’ (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called ‘real’ not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374). The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood” (USCCB, June 2001).  Let us thank God for the gift of the Eucharist and I thank everyone who helped make this year’s 40 Hours and Corpus Christi celebrations so meaningful!

On another note, some have questioned why we celebrate the liturgy in other languages.  It is important to recall that our mission as a Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and to meet the spiritual needs of the people of God, not to teach English as a second language.  Historically, the Catholic Church in the United States has always been an immigrant Church and the liturgy has always been celebrated in the language of the people.  Those who came to our shores throughout the years have gathered in their communities and celebrated Mass according to their language and culture.  Think of the German, Irish, French, and Polish parishes of our northern cities.  In the south, there were Spanish and African American parishes alongside English speaking parishes.  Over time, the immigrant populations assimilated and the people moved out of the neighborhoods.  Many of these churches are now being closed.

In some cases, the local Church was unresponsive to the needs of the immigrants.  For example, despite the pleadings of the Vatican and Polish bishops, some dioceses refused to offer Mass in Polish.  As a result, the Polish National Church was formed.  In other cases, the people simply joined Protestant churches which were more responsive to their needs.  That has happened in many cases with Spanish-speaking immigrants.

In order to best serve the needs of our immigrants, the most common approach is for the local parish to open its doors to the immigrants and whenever possible, offer services in their language.  To avoid forming a “parish within a parish,” pastors strive to provide multi-cultural services to unite the people and to bridge the linguistic and cultural divide.  Thankfully with inexpensive printing and projection systems, this is easier to do than ever before.  

Why is language such an important issue?  Language, culture, and spirituality are inextricably interconnected.  Our American English language and culture have affected our spirituality.  That is one of the reasons why the Church is so alive the United States as opposed to other developed nations.  In a similar way, the spirituality of the Brazilians is affected by their language and culture.

It is also true that every translation is an interpretation and there are many concepts which are impossible to accurately translate.  This is especially true of prayers and theological concepts.  That is why we use so many foreign words such as “Eucharist” to express our faith.  The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic (the original language), Greek, Latin, English, Spanish, and Portuguese ... is significantly different.  Likewise, on a psychological level, people often feel most comfortable talking with God in their mother tongue even though they may be fully bilingual.

Does that mean we should all learn another language?  Yes and no.  We already know the universal language ... love.  We just need to be sure we always speak it with clarity and charity!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

The Most Holy Trinity

 

My friends,

Today, on Trinity Sunday, with humble hearts, we reflect upon the central mystery of our faith ... our belief in one, true, eternal, infinite, unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable God, a unity of three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC, 202).  We believe God is a family of persons, a family of love, who unceasingly pours forth His merciful and creative grace into the world.  Created in His image, the more we come to love and understand about God, the more we discover about our true nature and the purpose for our existence ... to come to know, love, and serve God so that we might live with Him forever in heaven.

This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year as we celebrate our annual Vacation Bible School.  This year we will be traveling onboard the “Queen of Mary Express” as we explore the mysteries and messages of our Blessed Mother.  Each morning is packed with lots of fun and adventures in learning for our children and volunteers.  For more information, stop by Monday morning before 9am!  (By the way, next week, we will be hosting the PSA All Sports Camp.  Please see this bulletin for details!)

This Thursday at 7pm, we begin our annual 40 Hours in preparation for the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  The traditional 40 Hours devotion begins with Mass followed by solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for a 40-hour period.  It is a special time for us as a family of faith to gather together and to spend quality time with the Eucharistic Lord. 

I strongly encourage every member of our parish to make a commitment to stop by and adore the Lord for at least one hour.  During that hour you can pray the rosary, offer the chaplet of Divine Mercy, read a chapter of the Bible, reflect upon one of the Eucharistic prayers or another Mass text, or bring some spiritual reading.  But most of all ... just spend time with the Lord ... listen to Him with an open heart ... and I know that you will hear His voice!

Forty hours will begin on Thursday with the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy at 7pm.  After the Mass, there will be a short Eucharistic procession followed by Eucharistic Adoration until midnight.  On Friday, adoration continues after the 7:30am Mass through to the 5:30pm Saturday vigil Mass.  This will also be the closing Mass for our Vacation Bible School.  Weather permitting, after this celebration, we will process with the Blessed Sacrament through our Peace Path, blessing all of our parish ministries.  We will conclude with a parish pizza party in the Family Center.

Please be sure to mark your calendars and come!  This is also a great event to invite others to join you.  Who knows?  They may be looking for an opportunity to grow in faith!  Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros

Pastor

 

 

Pentecost Sunday

 

Happy Birthday!

Today, Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the birthday of the Church.  On this day, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples huddled in fear in the upper room.  Filled with God’s grace, they were then emboldened and empowered to fearlessly go forth and proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all.  Let us pray for the same grace!

Pentecost is the time of disciple making!  Perhaps this is the best time for us to review our recent Disciple Maker Index.  If you recall, we are part of a national pilot project to reform parishes into communities of disciples.  We took the index earlier in the year as a follow-up to the initial survey in 2015.  We received 353 responses.  The results were very encouraging.  Our parish improved in every domain!  We also scored better than the national averages of large parishes, suburban parishes, and diocesan parishes in every domain except one!

This is confirmed by the fact that our Mass attendance continues to grow (4% above last year), the number of active ministries continues to increase, Faith Formation programs have also increased attendance, our Preschool is thriving, and offertory donations have grown. 

The “comments” section was interesting.  The vast number of responses were extremely supportive.  There were some wonderful suggestions such as providing equipment for the hearing impaired and forming a parish retreat program.  A handful wished that homilies were more relevant, people were more reverent, kids were more respectful, and the liturgies were more reserved.  A few struggled with the notion of inclusivity and tolerance: that our mission is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all people, and not just those who look, sound, or act like us.

It was interesting to see how few report that they are comfortable sharing their faith with others.  Only a handful stated that they have invited others to join them for Mass.  In other words ... many of us are still huddled in the upper room.  It is important for us to reach out to others and share the reason for our hope and our joy.  Jesus Christ is alive!  Share how the Lord has touched your life.  Invite others to join you for Eucharistic Adoration or for one of our many parish activities.  Better yet, invite them to come with you to the Holy Mass ... to listen to the Word of God and be fed by His Body and Blood!

St. Paul IS an amazing family of faith where ALL are welcomed!  Share the Good News!  

Happy Birthday!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Ascencion of the Lord

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My friends,

Please join me in thanking our Faith Formation team: Carmen Cayon, Lizette Espel, Theresa Adams, Kim Smith, Ana Garcia, Maria Costa, Deacon Carlos, Fr. Bob, Silvia Rivera, and Sr. Theresa, as well as our dedicated catechists, teachers, parents, children, teens, and adults for another wonderful year of Faith Formation.  I’d also like to thank Martha Aguiar, our Preschool Director and her amazing team of teachers and staff and our preschool parents and children for another delightful year of learning.  May God bless you all!  It is such an honor for me to serve the Lord at your side.

Summers provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy quality time with those you love while continuing to grow in faith.  Remember, there is no vacation from our vocation.  Please be sure to go to Mass each and every weekend.  Local Masses are easy to locate online or using our St. Paul app under Pray icon or searching in the web for “Mass Times for Travel.”  Attending daily Mass is a great way to jump start your day.  Read the Bible and discuss what you heard each day.  Begin a family tradition of praying at least a decade of the Rosary each evening.  You will be glad you did.

There are lots of fun day “pilgrimages” you can take with your family.  Go to St. Leo’s Monastery, the Franciscan Center, the House of Prayer, or visit our Cathedral.  A visit to Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando is always fun. 

Another idea is to choose a “family ministry day.”  You could visit a local nursing home, help an elderly neighbor spruce up their yard, pick up a beach, or sort through old clothes and toys which can be donated to local charities.  We can always use help with our Vacation Bible School and Movie Series!  These are all great opportunities to experience the joy of giving!

For our teens, there are still opportunities to attend Covecrest, Steubenville Conference, and the Good Samaritan Project.  All three are life-changing experiences.  For more information, contact the Faith Formation Office.

We recently received the results of the Assessment of Children/Youth Religious Education (ACRE).  I’m happy to report that our fifth graders scored above the national parish average in every domain but one.  This is a dramatic improvement over last year’s scores.  That being said, I’m concerned about the small number who read the Bible or talk about God with their peers.  They are concerned about cursing, cheating, and the lack of honesty.

Our eighth graders fared considerably worse.  They scored below the national parish average in every domain.  Few read the Bible and they struggle to practice their faith.  They are also confused as to important moral issues such as cohabitation before marriage and euthanasia.  I think many were profoundly touched by our retreat at the end of the year.  Next year we will offer another at the start of the year and will supplement our catechetical materials to be sure that they are able to develop a true passion for our Lord and our faith.  We also need to increase the number of catechists in order to decrease our class size.  This year, we had to end a 5th grade class early because we couldn’t find a catechist.  If you would like to help, please see Carmen in the Faith Formation office. 

May God bless you and your loved ones.

Growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 21, 2017

My friends,

First of all, please join us tonight (Sunday) at 7pm as his Excellency, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Papal Nuncio to the United Nations, confers the Sacrament of Confirmation for about 90 young parishioners!  Archbishop Auza was born in the Philippines, the eighth of twelve children.  Prior to his ordination in 1985, he earned licentiates (Master degree) in Philosophy and Theology, and Masters in Education.  After ordination, he studied at the Angelicum in Rome where he earned a licentiate in Canon Law and Doctorate in Sacred Theology.  He then began his studies in the Vatican Diplomatic School.  He has served in Madagascar and the South Indian Ocean, Bulgaria, Albania, the Vatican and then the United Nations.  He was consecrated Bishop in 2008 and served as Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti.  Since 2014 he has served as Permanent Observer to the United Nations.  He is known for his profound love for the Lord and His Church, his gentle nature, warm sense of humor, and passion for peace and justice in the world.  Please come!

If you cannot come to the Confirmations, please be sure to offer a special prayer for those to be confirmed.  May they open their hearts to the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit throughout their lives!

Also, please offer a prayer to newly ordained Rev. Father Elixavier Castro Cruz as he begins his ministry today.  We ask God to shower him with the graces needed so that he will always serve as a holy and faithful servant of God!   May God bless you!

As long as you are on your knees, please join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for our wonderful Faith Formation team, dedicated and talented catechists, and faithful parents as we conclude another year of Faith Formation.  I am so very grateful for all you do to share our rich faith with our children and young people.  May God bless you always!

This Thursday at 7pm, we will host another “Town Hall” meeting.  This is a great way to learn more about how God is blessing our parish as well as raise your questions and concerns.  Our Parish Council, Finance Council, School Advisory Board, and Building Committee will be presenting their reports and I’ll be sharing about personnel changes, construction projects, the recent ACRE results, the recommendations of the V Encuentro/Encounter, progress on our parish strategic plan, and goals for next year.  Please be sure to come and be informed!

May God bless you and your loved ones.

Growing together in Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Dear Friends,

One of the most difficult decisions a bishop has to make involves the appointment of priests to parish ministries.  I am delighted to share that Fr. Bob and I will be joined by Fr. Victor Bartolotta of the Diocese of Rochester, New York.  He will begin his ministry here at St. Paul this June.  Unfortunately, we need to say farewell to Fr. Stephan Brown, SVD.   He has been asked to serve as parochial administrator of St. Joseph Church in St. Petersburg.   In a special way, he will be asked to reach out to the African American Community in St. Petersburg as well as the college students at Eckerd.   His last weekend with us will be June 24-25.  Please keep Bishop Parkes and all the priests of our diocese in prayer.

In the spring of 1916, nine-year-old Lucia dos Santos, her eight-year-old cousin Francisco Marto and his sister six-year-old Jacinta were watching their sheep outside their small villages of Fátima, in central Portugal.  As they had stopped for lunch and to pray the Rosary, a bright light flashed and a young man appeared who said “Do not be afraid!  I am the Angel of Peace.  Pray with me.”  He appeared two more times over the course of the year, teaching them to pray for peace and for the conversion of the world.

 

Then on May 1917, the three children were again in the fields with their sheep when there was a flash of light and a lady dressed in white appeared.  She shone like the sun and told the children to pray the Rosary every day to achieve peace in the world and promised to visit again in a month.  All in all, she appeared six times, culminating in the “Miracle of the Sun” on 13 October 1917.

While much has been written in regards to the three secrets, the heart of the devotion of Fátima is pray.  Pray the rosary every day, as a family or alone.  Our Blessed Mother also asked us to observe five first Saturdays.  She promised that she would “assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation,” all those who, shall confess, receive holy Communion, recite the five decades of the Rosary for five successive first Saturdays. 

I encourage you to embrace this devotion.  You can begin today by lighting a candle and crowning your favorite Marian image in your home or room.  Then, gathering with your family and friends, offer a Rosary (five decades if possible), for your favorite mothers, living and deceased.  One of the things I like to do is to offer a “Hail Mary” for each mother I know ... my Grandmothers, Mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces, aunts, cousins, friends ... you get the idea.  If you do this is as a family, you can go around the circle, inviting each person to name a mother, living and deceased.

I think it is providential that the 100th anniversary of Fátima occurs on Mother’s Day weekend.  Our Lady of Fátima is our Blessed Mother who loves us and always intercedes for us before the throne of God.  May our Lady pray for us and all our mothers, living and deceased!

On a completely different note, in two weeks we will celebrate the confirmation of an amazing group of young people.  Please keep them in prayer.  Our young people face so many challenges.  They have been preparing for this Sacrament for over two years and truly believe they would like to be sealed in the Holy Spirit and are ready to serve as disciples of Christ.  May they truly open their hearts to the many gifts of the Holy Spirit!  May God bless you and all mothers!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Friends,

Please join me in giving thanks to God for the gift of Fr. Bob Romaine, as he celebrates 25 years of faithful service to Christ and His people as a priest.  Fr. Bob is a holy priest, caring friend, and faithful disciple of Christ.  May God continue to bless him and all those he serves!

We also warmly welcome our Shepherd, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who joins us to celebrate Fr. Bob’s Silver Anniversary.  Please join me in praying for him and his ministry as Bishop of our wonderful diocese.  May he always walk in the footsteps of the holy apostles!

This Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of our Lady to three young shepherd children in  Fatima, Portugal.  Our Lady asked the children to pray the Rosary every day.  She returned each month, for five months, revealing to them her Immaculate Heart and encouraging us all to return to the Lord and pray for peace in the world. 

First Saturday Devotions.  Our Lady of Fatima also asked that on the first Saturday of every month, the faithful pray in atonement for the sins of the world.  Those who on five first Saturdays confess their sins, receive Holy Communion, meditate and pray the 5 decades of the Rosary with the Blessed Mother’s intentions, would receive special graces, especially at the hour of death.  In her honor, for the next five first Saturdays, Fr. Bob, Fr. Stephan, and I invite you to join us in this devotion.  

Healing Mass.  In honor of Our Lady of Fatima, we will also host a special Healing Mass this Friday night beginning with the Rosary at 7pm.  Afterwards, we will celebrate the Holy Mass, adore the Eucharistic Lord and celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  There will also be healing teams available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese languages.  Eucharistic Adoration will continue throughout the evening.

Anointing of the Sick.  On Saturday morning, we will again offer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick during the 8:30am Mass.  This Sacrament is for anyone who is gravely ill or advanced in age.  Those who are scheduled for an operation in the coming month are strongly urged to be anointed before being admitted to the hospital.

Many Faces of Mary.  After the 5:30pm Vigil Mass, we will pray the Rosary in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.  You are encouraged to bring your favorite images of Mary for a special blessing at the conclusion of the Rosary.

Mother’s Day.  Of course, next Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Our First Communicants will honor our Blessed Mother by crowning her at the start of every weekend liturgy and our Respect Life Ministry will offer a decade of the Rosary before each Mass.  Be sure to enroll your favorite moms, living and deceased, in our novena of Masses throughout the month.  Cards and envelopes are available in the narthex.  Give the inner envelope and card to the mother of your choice and return the outside envelope with the names of all your mothers and a monetary gift to the church so we can place the envelopes on our altar for the rest of the month.  What a beautiful way to honor these wonderful women of faith!

May God bless you and all mothers! 

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Third Sunday of Easter

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Come to Eucharistic Adoration every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and bring your entire family!

My Friends,

Throughout the Easter Season, our parish is glorying in the gift of the Eucharistic Lord.  Every Wednesday and Thursday from 8am to 9pm and every Friday from 8am through 8am Saturday morning we have the great blessing and privilege of being able to come and adore the Lord.  Please be sure to come and stop by, even if for a few minutes, to offer a prayer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  In addition, this Sunday night (April 30) at 7:30pm we will offer a Spirit-filled Eucharistic Adoration which is sure to appeal to our youth and young at heart.  Please be sure to come and bring your entire family!

Recently I had the opportunity to sit with brother priests and to share how God is working in my life.  I feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful family of faith.  These past four years have presented an amazing opportunity to grow as a disciple of Christ and as a Catholic priest.  As I shared during our Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday night, it has been a special grace to serve with such an amazing team of priests, deacons, religious, lay staff, and faithful volunteers.  You inspire me and challenge me to grow in so many ways.  Hopefully, you have seen the difference you have made in my life.  Thank you and I pray that in some small way, I have been a help to you as well!

Looking ahead in the month, we will be celebrating First Holy Communions, Confirmations, Baccalaureates, Graduations, Mothers’ Day and our own Father Bob Romaine’s 25th Anniversary to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ!  How incredibly exciting!  As you read the bulletin, please mark your calendars and join us in celebrating these important milestones in our journey of faith.  God is so good to us!

May God bless you and your families!

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Friends,

Our celebraion of the Easter mystery continues as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  Requested in 1931 by our Lord in a private revelation to Saint Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, the Feast of Divine Mercy is not only a day designated for the worship of God’s mercy, but also a day of grace for all people.  Jesus promised, “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, especially for poor sinners.  On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fountain of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession, and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.  On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened” (Diary, 699).  “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life (Holy Communion) on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary, 300). 

To that end, St John Paul II granted a plenary indulgence to all those who 1) in a church this day, 2) pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”) or perform an act of mercy, 3) go to Confession, 4) receive Holy Communion, 5) pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed), and 6) renounce any attachment to sin, including venial sin.  The Chaplet of Mercy is found in this bulletin. (page 10)

You are cordially invited to attend today’s celebration of Divine Mercy at 3pm in the Family Center.  (Remember, you are welcome to receive Communion twice in one day.)  To help you prepare, there will be a few priests available for confessions from 2-2:50pm.  I also encourage you to join one of our Cenacles of Divine Mercy (see page 7 of this bulletin for more information).  It is a wonderful way to be “immersed in the ocean of God’s mercy!”

On another note, on Wednesday night, April 26 at 7pm in the Family Center, I will be sharing about my recent mission to Kingston, Jamaica and my service with the Missionaries of the Poor, helping the poorest of the poor.  I would like to invite you to join me for another mission January 23-28, 2018.  There is a very limited number of spaces available so if you are interested, please come to the meeting on Wednesday night.  This mission is one more example of how our parish family is living the message of Divine Mercy.

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurecction

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Alleluia!!  He is Risen!! Alleluia!!

Happy Easter!

Welcome! Whether you are a first-time guest or a parishioner for many years, we warmly welcome you to this celebration of Easter joy and we thank you for choosing St. Paul Catholic Church as your spiritual home.  Your presence is an eloquent sign of your love for the Lord, gratitude for the many blessings received, and your desire to grow ever deeper in faith.  May God bless you!

This past year has been very troubling for many of us.  Many feel angry, frustrated, disillusioned, and discouraged by what is happening in the world, our country, and even in our own homes.  Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ was victorious over sin and death.  He is the antidote to prejudice and violence.  He is the Light of the World and Hope of the Nations.  When all seems lost and hopeless, Jesus reminds us that goodness and truth will triumph.  Our task is simply to have faith, to trust in Him and to be merciful to others as He is merciful.

Easier said than done, right?  That is why we have Church.  Church is not an institution.  It is a family of people like you and I ... imperfect, broken, sinners ... one and all.   Although we are all fallen, we are also willing to pick ourselves up and to try our best to help one another, especially those most forsaken.  Church is a family where all are welcome, and I mean ALL.  It is a place where people care for the poorest, most vulnerable, most oppressed, most marginalized.  In our parish, we are blessed with over 80 ministries which strive to make the difference in the world through worship, faith development and sharing, community building, and reaching out to helping those most in need.  I encourage you to get involved and if we are missing a ministry you are passionate about, please help us form one!  We care!

Next weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday when our Lord promised to St. Faustina that the floodgates of His mercy would be opened to all who seek it.  He asks only that we ask for His mercy, be merciful to others, and completely trust in His mercy.  This week, we will offer the Novena at 3pm, the hour of mercy, in our beautiful Santo Niño Shrine.  The Novena will culminate next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, with confessions at 2pm in the Family Center and Mass at 3pm followed by the chaplet before the Eucharistic Lord.  Please be sure to come.  For more information, please visit www.stpaulchurch.com or download our parish app.

 believe, with all my heart, that this Easter, our Lord is inviting you to grow in faith.  If you aren’t already doing so, pray every day, fully participate in Mass at least every weekend, and faithfully and regularly meditate on God’s Word.  Become involved in our parish.  If there is anything we can do to help you, please let me know.

On behalf of Fr. Bob, Fr. Stephen, our deacons and religious, the entire staff of our parish and preschool, and our faithful volunteers, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a most Blessed Easter and a Joyous Easter Season.  May God bless you! 

Growing together as disciples of Christ!

 

 

 

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Welcome!

Thank you for choosing St. Paul as your spiritual home as we begin Holy Week with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. In a special way we welcome all those who are here for the very first time, those who have been away for a while, and our returning college students.  May God bless you all!  We pray that you feel right “at home” at St. Paul!

Today’s liturgy is very striking as we begin by joyfully welcoming Christ into the Jerusalem of our hearts and then a few minutes later are crying out “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  It would seem manic if it wasn’t for the fact that this is exactly what we do every day.  One minute we profess our undying love for the Lord and the next minute, nail Him to the cross with our sins.  Jesus died for us, to atone for our sins, and yet we still choose to disobey God’s will ... again, again, and again!  Yet, the measure of a person is not the number of times he or she falls, but the number of times he or she turns to God for forgiveness and tries again!  Let us turn to Him and try harder to be faithful!

Seder Supper: On Monday evening at 6:30pm, we will celebrate our annual Seder Supper or traditional Passover Meal.  This family celebration commemorates the liberation of the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt and forms the basis of both the Last Supper and our Mass.  Call the office to see if there are still any available tickets leftover.  This is a wonderful event for the entire family!

Via Crucis: Join us on Wednesday night at 7pm for a special living Stations of the Cross enacted by our Amor de Jesus Grupo de Oración.  It is a very vivid and striking commemoration of the Passion of Christ.  Bilingual programs are available.

Sacred Triduum: Holy Thursday marks the beginning of the Sacred Triduum: the holiest days of the liturgical year.  Children who attend services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil/Sunday Mass will get a special gift from me next month. 

Holy Thursday begins with a special Mass commemorating the Last Supper at 7pm.  Afterwards, Fr. Stephan is leading a group to visit the local churches while the rest of us remain in our “Garden of Gethsemane” adoring the Lord until midnight.

Good Friday: I encourage you to take the day off and reflect upon the sacrifice Christ made for you and your salvation.  Living Stations offered by our youth begins at noon.  Then we have the first day of our Novena to Divine Mercy at 2:30pm followed by services of the Passion of the Lord at 3pm, 5pm (Spanish), 7pm, 7:30pm (Portuguese).  At 9pm, we will again offer the Stations of the Cross along our peace path.  Bring a candle or flashlight from home!

Holy Saturday is a time of breathless expectation.  At 10am we have the Easter Egg hunt, 11am blessing of the Easter Baskets in the Family Center, 3pm our Novena, and then the great Easter Vigil begins after sunset at 8pm.  Please note there will NOT be a 5:30pm or 7:30pm Mass on Holy Saturday.

Easter Sunday Masses follow our normal Sunday schedule with the addition of a Mass in Portuguese in the Family Center at 12:30pm. Overflow services will take place in the Family Center. Parking will be limited so please come early and use the parking in the Cascades Parking Center as well as in the Medical Clinic across Stall Road.  Please do not park in our neighbor’s yards or in the PDQ parking.  (We don’t want to give them the occasion to sin!)

Please be sure to invite your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and classmates to join you for our wonderful Holy Week services.  Offer to pick them up and take them with you.  They will be glad you thought to share the graces and blessings of this week with them.   Growing together as disciples of Christ,

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Dear Friends,

As we come to the “home stretch” of Lent, we are invited to listen to Jesus as he beckons us to crawl out from the dark tomb of death, to be unleashed from our bindings of sin, and to begin life anew in Him.  How is this possible?  First of all, pray for the grace to be attentive to the voice of our friend Jesus.  Second, make every effort to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week.  It is being offered Monday through Thursday evenings throughout our deanery at 7pm: Monday at Most Holy Redeemer, Tuesday, here at St Paul, Wednesday at Corpus Christi, and Thursday at St. Timothy.  Third, take a good look at what is binding you.  It could be grief, unforgiveness, bitterness, depression, anxiety, addictions, lust, gluttony, avarice, pride, sloth, envy, greed ... Ask God for the grace to be unbound, freed from all that prevents you from truly being the person God has called you to be.  If you need help, seek counseling or spiritual direction.  God created us to be people of freedom, of joy, and of peace.  I pray that this week will be one of healing for you!

Next weekend is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  We are so blest to live in Florida with so many beautiful palm trees.  Please bring a branch from home so that you can welcome the Lord into the Jerusalem of your heart with style!  (We will have the normal commercially purchased palms on hand as well.) 

Palm Sunday also marks the start of Holy Week.  Please see this bulletin or the Lenten Highlights 2017 magazine we mailed to you for all the other events of Holy Week.  The Seder Supper on Monday night at 6:30pm is a must for anyone serious about their faith.  The Living Stations on both Wednesday night at 7pm and Good Friday at noon are not to be missed.  The Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7pm, Good Friday with all of our services, and the great Easter Vigil and Sunday Masses are certainly “must attends” for us all!  Please mark your calendars and invite your friends!

On another note, we have installed a new bathroom in the St. Michael Cabin to serve you better and completed the new doors by the choir.  The Shrine in honor of Our Lady of Good Health is coming in nicely and we are completing the designs for the renovation of our piazza this summer.  We have upgraded the sound system on the Peace Path and are in the process of extending audio/video capabilities in our Family Center.  The installation of a life-size outdoor crucifix, Padre Pio statue, and statue of the Madonna and Child are in the works.

We are presently interviewing for a new Director for our Preschool and Youth Minister.  If you or anyone you know is interested in either of these positions, please contact the parish office.

Finally, thank you for completing your pledge to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  Your generous donation funds so many vital ministries throughout our diocese.  For example, whoever we hire for the Preschool Director and Youth Minister will work closely with the diocesan offices.  They will provide training, support, and guidance in order to help us provide the highest quality education and faith formation for both our youngest parishioners as well as our teens.  In addition, your donation financially supports our parish since what is not raised through pledges must be paid through our offertory.  Since APA funds are not assessed, every dollar given to the Appeal is like giving $1.20 to the parish.  Thank you for your generous donation.  Pledge envelopes are in the narthex of the Church.  Thank you and may God bless you!

Growing together as disciples of Christ,

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Dear Friends,

In today’s Gospel,  we hear the story of the man who was blind from birth.  At the time, people felt that if something bad happened to somebody, it was because either he or one of his ancestors had sinned.  They believed he was “born totally in sin.”  Jesus explained that sometimes bad things happen to good people.  But our God is a loving and merciful God and often he uses the bad things to create wondrous things.  In this context, the healing of the blind man has led to the healing of countless people who have suffered from spiritual blindness.

What is spiritual blindness?  It is the inability to see God’s hand at work in our lives, to see His presence in the sacrament of the moment.  I believe that while we may have 5 physical senses and perhaps a 6th sense of intuition, those who are enlightened also have access to the 7th sense ... a spiritual sense which allows us to experience God throughout our daily lives.  A newborn baby asleep in her father’s arms, a beautiful sunset, the weathered face of a farmworker, the wrinkled hands of a grandmother, the laughter of a child, a cool mid-summer night breeze ... all become revelatory - not just pretty images.  As Catholics, most of us have that 7th sense when it comes to the Eucharist.  It is not merely a wafer and wine.  It is an encounter with Christ - a sharing in the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ!

How can you be healed of your spiritual blindness so you can see God clearly?  1) Pray for the grace.  2) Spend time each day in prayer - share your heart but also listen to him!  3) Read the Sacred Scriptures ... just a paragraph a day and remember God always speaks to us when we read the Bible.  4) Be attentive to His presence.  How?  I take a step back and open my heart and mind to God.  A friend once told me that life is theater.  If that is true, then being attentive to God means watching Him as both the playwright and the leading actor.  Another way of looking at it is seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling from the heart ... rather from the head. 

Am I making any sense?  I hope so!  In any case, I pray that we will all be healed from our spiritual blindness and that as we journey through this fourth week of Lent, we may grow ever more in love with Christ!

Let me also share that the Parish Mission to Panama was a huge success.  Our medical team worked closely with the local clinic to serve the needs of the poor while our two teams of youth and adults cleaned a vacant building so it could be used by the parish, visited four communities and painted two chapels on remote islands, worked with children in two remote villages, shared the message of Divine Mercy in three villages, and shared the faith with the children preparing for First Holy Communion.  It was an amazing experience ... truly life changing ... We will be sharing our experiences with the parish in the near future.  Please watch the bulletin for details. 

Finally, please, please, please, complete your pledge to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  We have only raised half of the necessary funds and as we begin to prepare our budget for next year, I’m not sure what we would cut in order to pay this bill.  The Annual Pastoral Appeal funds vital services for the poor and elderly, education for children, adults, seminarians, and priests and deacons, and help for those most in need.  Please be generous and you will certainly be blest!  Pledge envelopes are in the narthex of the Church.

Thank you and may God bless you!

 

 

Third Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Panama Mission update!

On March 10, the team arrived safely in Montijo, Panama - what a welcome! The following day, they were ready for the first day of mission in the clinic and parish center.

The medical team and local medical staff served medical needs, and the rest of the team cleaned the parish center. After Mass and lunch, they visited the river San Pedro. At night they led the Stations of the Cross and went to Florentino to share with their small community the miracle of Divine Mercy! The next day some Panama friends joined in!

The team travelled to remote islands where the islanders are only able to celebrate Mass with a priest a few times a year. They received such warm welcomes. They painted their chapels, provided medical care, distributed reading glasses, celebrated Mass, and distributed rosaries & at night shared the message of Divine Mercy.

On March 12, the team joined the family of Montijo for Mass and their Family basis catechetical program. Afterwards the team led them in activities and games, ate lunch and then visited the colonial church of San Francisco and the Cathedral of Santiago.  At night, they had another Divine Mercy mission in San Cristobal. 

Fr. Bill and the Panama Mission Team are expected to arrive Friday, March 16.  We can't wait for them to tell us all about this wonderful experience.  If you would like to travel next July 2018 with this team please contact PanamaMission@StPaulChurch.com

 

Second Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My dear friends,

As we celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent, we are invited to join our Lord and to summit Mt Tabor along with Peter, James, and John (Mt 17:1-9).  Like our faithful companions, we are invited to experience the Transfiguration and to be fortified on our Lenten journey to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Last week, Fr. Carl Arico introduced us to contemplative prayer.  Through this profound form of meditation, we can more readily recognize “Transfiguration moments” in our lives and hear the voice of our Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  Even if you missed the retreat, be sure to join Sr. Theresa for the follow-up sessions during the following Wednesdays at 11:15am.

Our parish Lenten theme is “forgiveness.”  Hopefully, you have your Lenten “Forgive” cross and Dr. Allen Hunts’ book “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody.”  I’ve really enjoyed the book and it has been an extra blessing to host the online discussion on my Facebook page.  If you want to join, just be my friend!  (Bill Swengros).

Today we begin our online study of “33 Days to Merciful Love” by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.  During these next 33 days, we will journey with St. Thérèse of Liseaux, “The Little Flower,” as we prepare our hearts for consecration to the Heart of Jesus on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23rd.  To join us, secure your copy of the book from the Lighthouse kiosk in the church narthex and join me on Facebook!

In the same vein, next Sunday we will offer a special showing of “The Face of Mercy” at 7pm in the Church.  (Note that the Lenten Highlights has the wrong time!)  This wonderful documentary explores the history and relevance of Divine Mercy.  Please be sure to put it on your calendar and bring a friend!

As you read this, I am with a group of fellow parishioners on a medical and evangelical mission in Panama.  We are doing this for a number of reasons.  First of all, it is what Jesus asked us to do: to share the Good News and to help others in need.  Second, I think it is very important for our young people to develop an understanding of how our brothers and sisters live in other countries.  Too often we take for granted the blessings of living in our country.  Third, we have much to learn from others.  While our neighbors may not be materially wealthy, they are rich in many other ways!  I for one, always feel I receive far more than I give when I’m on a mission!  Please keep us in prayer and be assured we are praying for you!

Finally, I thank you for your generosity in responding to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  With only a fraction of our parishioners participating, we are well on our way to reaching our goal of $437,000.  Why should you pledge?  Because you want our children to know and love Christ and His Church, you are concerned about our elderly, you want to help those who have unexpected or difficult pregnancies, you want to get the homeless off the street and back into productive life, you want to provide for the education of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests and deacons.  In sum, you care!  Please complete your pledge today.  Pledge envelopes are in the narthex of the Church.  Thank you and may God bless you!

Growing together as disciples of Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

First Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 3, 2017

My dear friends,

With the passing of Ash Wednesday, we have begun our annual Lenten pilgrimage with the Lord to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Far more than simply 40 days of foregoing things we enjoy, it is an opportunity to truly grow spiritually.  The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and works of charity.

Prayer Communication is essential in every relationship, including our relationship with God.  Prayer is communicating with God, sharing with Him all that is in our hearts but also, listening to Him as He shares His heart with us!  To help us develop our relationship with the Lord, I’ve asked Fr. Carl Arico to lead us in our annual Lenten Mission this week.  Sr. Theresa, a group of parishioners, and I met Fr. Carl on our parish cruise last year.  His presentations were so inspiring.  I encourage you to make every effort to join us Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights beginning at 7pm.  He will also be preaching at the 12:15 daily Mass.  This is a rare opportunity to truly deepen your relationship with the Lord.  Be sure to come and bring your friends with you!  Details are in this bulletin as well as our Lenten Highlights which was mailed to you last week.

Fasting is very different from dieting.  The New Testament records that the Early Church used fasting to “supersize” their prayers.  They prayed and fasted before making big decisions, when they had special needs, and when they wanted to simply grow in faith.  The same is true of us.  In addition, fasting reminds us that everything is a gift from God and helps us to stand in solidarity with the poor who live with constant hunger.  I encourage you not only to abstain from meat on Fridays, but truly fast ... from food, yes ... but also fast from those things which prevent us from truly being open to God’s grace ... anger, rush to judgment, foul language, procrastination, sloth, gluttony, lust, inordinate and immoral use of media, impatience, unforgiveness, etc.  If you need ideas of what you can do, talk to a family member or a good friend!

Almsgiving The Early Church was known for its charity.  Almost every letter in the New Testament has a request for the community to share their resources with those in need.  It is amazing to count up the number of times Jesus refers to money and the need to be charitable.  Works of charity or almsgiving is an essential part of the Christian life. 

When we speak of almsgiving, we should certainly remember our spiritual home, St. Paul.  Many do not realize that you are our sole source of funding.  We do not receive funding from the government nor the diocese.  Thank you!  I also encourage you to remember the Annual Pastoral Appeal or APA.  Our diocese provides vital services throughout our five county area.  The diocese also tithes in support of charities in our country and throughout the world.  Many people do not realize that the diocese provides support to the Holy See so that the Pope can fulfill his mission as spiritual leader of the Church Universal.

Our Lenten food drive to replenish our Food Bank is also a great way to help those in need.  I also encourage you to volunteer next week after Mass to help sort all the bags of food received.  Thank you!

Forgiveness  Perhaps the greatest work of charity is that of “forgiveness.”  St. Paul challenges us all to be “ministers of reconciliation.”  I hope you received your Lenten “Forgive” cross and copy of Dr. Allen Hunt’s book “Everyone Needs to Forgive Somebody.”  (Both available in Spanish.)  (I’m doing a study of the book on my FaceBook page.)  Think of the people you need to forgive and ask for the grace to forgive them.  Not because they deserve it, but because it is what Christ calls you to do.  Also, think of those you have hurt.  Ask for forgiveness.  If that is not possible, pray for them, that they may be healed of the wound you inflicted.

Know you are in my prayers.  May this Lent be one of the best ever for you and your loved ones!  Growing together as disciples of Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Dear Friends,

As you read this, I’m on mission in Kingston, Jamaica with Father Richard Ho Lung and the Brothers of the Poor.  Father Richard was born in Jamaica in 1939 of poor Chinese immigrants.  In 1959 he joined the Society of Jesus and on July 4, 1971, was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  He taught in St. George College, University of the West Indies, and Boston College.  While serving as a parochial vicar the Lord called him to serve the poor in a radical new way.  In 1980 he left the Jesuits and dedicated his life to serve the rejected and destitute.  In 1981, he formed the Missionaries of the Poor and serve the very poor in the slums of Kingston.  Today the order has grown to well over 600 brothers serving in missions throughout the world.  Their principal charisma is “Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross” with special care for the destitute homeless, orphans, elderly and sick.  In a sense, he is the “Mother Teresa” of the Caribbean.  Please keep me, Fr. Richard, and the Missionaries of the Poor in prayer as I will you!

Tuesday is often called “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras.”  Here at St. Paul, it is a celebration of the wonderful diversity of our parish family.  Please be sure to come for a wonderful evening of fellowship, free ethnic food, music and dance beginning at 6pm.  This is one evening you won’t want to miss!

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast and abstinence from meat.  Today we will be marked with ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday as a sign of our humility and total trust in God.  At Mass we will have copies of our Lenten devotion: Allen Hunt’s book entitled “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody” and our Lenten forgiveness cross.  Questions: Who do you need to forgive?  Who do need to ask for forgiveness?  Also, what works of prayer, fasting, and acts of charity will you embrace for the next 40 days?  (See this bulletin or www.stpaulchurch.com or our parish app for Mass times!)

Thursday is the first of our series of V Encuentro/Encounter meetings.  The goal is to share ideas on how we can better serve our youth, young adults, and families.  Join us from 7-8:30pm in the Family Center.

While we may not eat meat on Friday, we will feast in other ways ... Mass (7:30am, 12:15pm, 7:30pm), Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross (3 and 7pm), and our Fabulous Fish Fry (5-7pm).

At our weekend Masses, we are blest to welcome my good friend Fr. Carl Arico who will introduce us to the following parish Lenten Mission.  Between 8am and 1pm you will have the opportunity to donate blood with the “Big Red Bus” and our Society of St. Vincent de Paul will kick off their annual food drive!

Whew!  I’m exhausted just reading all this!  This Lent promises to be one of the best ever!  Please take the time to look through our Lenten Highlights 2017 booklet which was mailed to you and this bulletin.  Mark upcoming dates on your calendar and invite friends and family members to join you.  May this Lent be a time of spiritual growth and enlightenment for us all!

Growing together as disciples of Christ,

Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 19, 2017

 My Dear Friends,

Last year, Bishop Lynch shared how our diocese had fared during the past twenty years.  Since 1996, the total population in our five county diocese increased by 30.9%.  During the same period, the total number of registered Catholics increased by 15.5%.  In regard to Sacraments, the total number of baptisms has decreased by 20%; the number of first communions has decreased by 20.7%, the number of confirmations has decreased by 15.5%, and the number of marriages decreased by 58.8%.  Unfortunately, this conforms to the national trends.

When Allen Hunt from Dynamic Catholic was here last month, he presented another disturbing picture.  Of the 1.7 million babies baptized in the Church last year, statistically only 1.4 million will receive first communion, 1 million will be confirmed, and seven years later, only 150,000 will marry in the Church.  How sad!

While thankfully, our parish is doing better than the national and diocesan averages, I’m still concerned.  For instance, last year we had 268 baptisms, 236 first communions, 157 confirmations, 41 marriages, and 73 funerals.  Perhaps more disturbing is that after being confirmed few continue with faith formation.

What can be done?  First of all, please pray for our youth and their families.  May they grow in love for Christ and His Church.  Pray for the leaders and catechists who serve our Church.  May they be filled with the wisdom of God!

Second, please complete the Disciple Maker survey from Catholic Leadership Institute.  Your feedback will not only help our parish but parishes throughout the United States.  You can take it online (www.stpaulchurch.com) or pick up a hard copy in the narthex.

Third, please participate in the V Encuentro/Encounter meetings which will take place every Thursday evening in March from 7-8:30pm in the Family Center.  The primary objective of these meetings is to discern what we can do to better serve our youth and to be more effective disciples.  While you don’t need to attend all five sessions, all five have a unique focus.  (Please call Jim at the parish office to let us know you are coming!)

Last but not least, please don’t be afraid to share your faith with our youth and their parents.  Encourage them to open their hearts to the love of God and the richness of our Catholic heritage.  Joyfully invite them to join you for our Sacred Liturgies and parish events.  Let them see what a difference Christ has made in your life.

On another note, thank you for your pledge to the Annual Pastoral Appeal.  Your generous donation is a sign of your love for God, your support for our parish, and your concern for those in need who live within our diocese.  Thank you for caring enough to share!

Growing together as disciples of Christ,

  Fr. Bill Swengros, Pastor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online Book Study with Fr. Bill begins Tuesday August 1.  We will be using   "The Life of Faustina Kowalska: The Authorized Biography" by Sr. Sophia Michalenko, smgt. Be sure to get your copy and share this invite with your friends and family!.

Download full book study reflections for the online study of The Story of a Soul HERE

Congratulations Fr. Bill on your 26th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood! May 18, 2016

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